Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands. 2 The desert will sing and shout for joy; it will be as beautiful as the Lebanon Mountains and as fertile as the fields of Carmel and Sharon. Everyone will see the LORD’S splendor, see his greatness and power. 3 Give strength to hands that are tired and to knees that tremble with weakness. 4 Tell everyone who is discouraged, “Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…”
Isaiah 35:1-4b (TEV)
At least once a week, therefore, each and every head of household is responsible for asking and questioning closely the children and household workers, one at a time, as to what they know or are learning and, where they lack in knowledge, seriously to hold them to it.15 For I still remember the time—indeed, even now it is all too common—that one daily found crude, ignorant, older, and age-worn people who knew absolutely nothing of these things. Yet, not knowing them even now, they go to baptism and the sacrament and use everything the Christians have, even though those who go to baptism should by right know more and have a more complete understanding of all Christian teachings than children and pupils chasing their ABC’s. To be sure, for the common crowd, we have not gone farther than the three articles,16 which has been the custom from ancient times in Christendom, but seldom rightly taught and practiced.
Once when I arrived at a new mission, fresh from experience of painful and humiliating failure, feeling heavy and useless; on the first day my Superior introduced me to a man we were caring for. He immediately took my hand and led me to another, who was dying. He said; ‘Norman, we have a new Sister and she understands us’. In that moment, I became aware of how my own personal sufferings bonded me to them in their suffering. I saw the cross as precious, a sign of greater love. Miracles happen in the times of our greatest sufferings. This is true even if we do not suffer well.
As a pastor, I love what Luther encourages (the purple quote) that the head of the household invest time in building up the faith of those in his care. Not only those who are his children, but those he works with, who are his “employees”. He does so, not by lecturing, but by questioning them, helping determine the places where they need to grow.
It is a different form of “teaching” a form that must be different, for what is being taught is different. It is not doctrine that is being taught, but faith. It is not data, but that we can trust and depend on Jesus, and on the Holy Spirit who is active in our lives. It is something that is experienced not just memorized, it is something that is shared with those we love, not just drilled into them.
It is what Isaiah refers to, the lessons of faith that enable us to see the Lord’s glory, which is actively giving strength to the tired hands, and the trembling weak knees, It is the life lived within the truth that discouragement is not conquered by determination and inner-strength, but rather in the fact that God has come to rescue us.
That is what the young nun realized, as she went to minister to those who were suffering. That is what the moms and dads, the employers, the teachers are called to “teach” by asking the questions that reveal the lack of knowledge of God’s presence and His work in our lives, for that is what is revealed in word and sacraments. It is that work, that love that causes us to trust, to depend on, to have faith in God.
Is this what we teach? Is it what we work and guide people in developing? Is it what those we count as mentors and pastors, teachers and “fathers” in the faith give to us? Will we/they walk alongside those (including us) understanding the broken, for we have seen God work in our brokenness?
Will at the end of the day, and at the end of life, they know they can depend on God, for they know His presence?
If they do, then we have taught them well…
Lord Jesus, help us to teach those who are part of our “homes”, the people who are family by blood, and those who are just family. Help us stimulate their trust in You, asking them the questions that help them find themselves in Your presence, and rejoice in Your caring work in their lives. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 189–190). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 185). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:18-23 (NLT2)
4 What about those eighteen people in Siloam who were killed when the tower fell on them? Do you suppose this proves that they were worse than all the other people living in Jerusalem? 5 No indeed! And I tell you that if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did.” Luke 13:4-5 (TEV)
If we have an openness and are willing to learn, we can come to recognize the voice of God with assistance from those who are familiar with the divine voice from their own experience. On the other hand, we should understand that it is in Satan’s best interest to make an inherent mystery of God’s word coming directly to us. In this way the power of God’s specific word for our lives can be hindered or lost. Without qualified help working alongside our desire to learn and readiness to cooperate, God’s direct word may remain a riddle or a game of theological charades.
This is generally the condition of the church today, I suspect. This would explain why there is such great confusion and difficulty about what it really means to walk with God.
As a father, yesterday I wonder if I failed yesterday.
We had a nice rolling earthquake as we were watching a movie. 100 or so miles away, it must have really rocked and rolled. But for us, it was a long drawn out thing, enough to cause us to wonder what was coming next.
The day beforehand, I panicked with a similar long distance quake. I flashed back to January 17, 1994, and our apartment in Canoga Parker/Warner Center. Not far from the epicenter of the Northridge Earthquakes. THat too was a longer quake, but we were closer, and the damage to our apartment and community was intense.
Here is where my failure occurs, as we tried to calm down after yesterday’s rolling quake. As we talked, as I mentioned my almost moving to Arkansas after Northridge ( I would have moved anywhere after that – even Texas!) I think my fear and anxiety affected my son.
And the 12 year old child I struggle to see as a child, (he is 5’11.5″, 170 lbs and has a IQ like Einstein) got anxious. Enough so at bed time he could relax, came into my bedroom and we talked. Plate tectonics, distance from epicenter, fault effects, etc. And then the question…
“Why does God allow earthquakes?”
I stumbled to remember where the Tower of Siloam passage was above, and tried to show the law and the gospel in it. We need to keep our relationship with God a priority, the priority, because we don’t know what comes next. And while God doesn’t cause the earth to groan. Thanks to Apostle Paul for that reminder – that creation is subject to God’s curse, and it groans under the pressure of the sin it is subjected to! Such “groaning” God will use to remind us of the shortness of life, and that He is indeed with us.
He is there, in the darkness, in the anxious times, in the times were we shake or the ground does. in the moments where we don’t get that He is, and He is with us. In the moments where our kids pick up on fear and anxiety, and we fail to be the strong, wise, shameless heroes we want to be for our kids, God is with us there.
Willard is correct, theology can often become a charade, an act we ut in place when we can’t find the answer. When we are as shaken as the land our in Searles Valley. (an odd connection to my home back east there) Theology, and Biblical guidance must point us to the presence of God, that we walk with Him, that we depend on Him when our anxieties mount, when we ourselves fail. Whether it is when we don’t see what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to in scripture, or how to react to trauma, or frustration.
He is there, bringing comfort and peace, love and mercy and forgiveness…
Walking with us. Even standing in the doorway, or seeking protection under a table, or sitting on a bed trying to explain what doesn’t make sense, He is there! And depending on Him is the answer we need to come to, and know this. God will bring us to that answer, that He is the answer.
Lord Jesus, remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, in our lives. When we are full of anxiety, fear, or just don’t have the answers, Lord bring us peace, and help us to be a peaceful presence in others lives. AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
35 Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life. Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. 36 Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were killed by the sword. They went around clothed in skins of sheep or goats—poor, persecuted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground. 39 What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, 40 because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:35-40 (TEV)
The Bible contains stories of salvation which are completely paradoxical. In the tales and the stories of the world, we learn that the heroes were young, beautiful, strong and that they set off on an adventure. In the Bible, they were old, sterile and powerless and God chose them (e.g., Abraham and his wife Sarah). For us it always starts on the wrong foot! What is important in the Bible is not so much to be healthy or ill, but to be with God. One is healthy and holy when one is with God Who comes to meet us in our weakness. The place of our wound, our vulnerability, is the place where God meets us
There is a picture that people post on the internet that annoys the heck out of me. Well, actually there are a lot of them, but one in particular drives me up a wall.
It is a drawing of Jesus, surrounded by “superheroes”, Spiderman, Hulk, Captain America, those kinds of guys. And it contains the quote, “and that is how I really saved the world.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I like the Marvel and DC ficitonal superheroes. They are a cool escape, and I understand their role in our society, giving people hope, and possibly giving them some moral lessons. But they are simply modern fables, they are nothing more than that.
Jesus on the other hand, and those who follow him, are more than that. Living in fellowship with God the Father and depending on people, they really save people’s souls, and oftne their lives.
They aren’t perfect either, as the quote in purple points out, their brokenness is declared clearly in scripture, which makes their work, done depending on God, all the more phenomenal. They don’t have a weakness – they have all of them.
They even doubt God at times.
But they depend on Him, and they dwell assured of his presence
For He has come to dwell with us, to heal us, to reasue us, to support us. To not just fly in and out, but to really care and help us in our lives, especially the dark and challenging parts.
Not just a symbol, but a God who inspires us all to depend on Him, even as we serve others.
And those who do depend on Him, whether old fogies like Abraham, or the ladies who teach preschoolers to sing, “Jesus loves me”, or the pastors in the inner city, caring for those too often left behind, or the missionaries in the Sudan and Cameroon and Nebraska – they are my real heroes. So are they who have gone through the darkness, those abused, those broken beyond imagination, those incarcerated, and those ill ( one lady who has battled cancer for 7 years – 5 years past the time doctors gave her and is going strong) These who found God waiting for them in their darkness and simply hang on.
They know God loves them, they know He is faithful and they go where He sends.
May the Lord help each of us to realize He has done the same with us!
Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 112). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Concordia Lutheran Church
February 10, 2019
Don’t Worry, Be Catching
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May the grace, the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so comfort you, so put to rest your worries, that you can go fishing with Jesus!
If you teach a man to fish…
Every once in a while, you hear a saying that someone says comes from scripture, but when you start to think about it, it is actually quite contrary to scripture. This one came to mind in regard to this sermon.
If you give a man a fish, you fed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish….
he has to buy rods, graphite reels, lines, boxes, boats, trailers, coolers, sonar fish finders and a whole catalog of other things!
I suppose there is a corollary, if you teach a man to fish for men, you have to build a church, call a pastor, pass budgets, elect board members, hire musicians, plan woman’s teas, family fun nights etc..
But not let’s get ahead of ourselves!
In our gospel today, Jesus is going to do some pretty incredible things. He’s going to teach the massive crowd, he’s going to cause a miraculous catch, but there is something much greater that will happen, so incredible that Peter and his partners will leave a once in a lifetime catch to rot on the beach.
And God will do to you the same thing today….
But first, we have to witness Peter freak out…
What caused Peter to stress out?
I must wonder about Peter, who spent his life working as a fisherman, as he first dropped the nets as this silly rabbi instructed.
I get the feeling he did it with a little sarcasm and even more disbelief. Yeah, you want me to go right back to where we dragged our nets, all night long, as if all of a sudden, during the hottest part of the day a thousand fish…
Got love Peter, because every once in a while he gets it.
I mean, I don’t think he listened to the Rabbi teach all that much, he may have even fallen asleep in the boat.
Hear it again, “When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.”
Peter collapses in fear, he begs Jesus to leave. In Greek, the phrasing pictures fear
Get out of here, don’t you know what a sinner I am? If you don’t leave, I am a goner!
It is a common story in scripture, whether it is Isaiah in our Old Testament reading, or Moses, or Elijah, whether it is David or Paul on the road to Damascus or John as God gives him the vision of Jesus in Revelation. Even those who encounter angels panicked, stressed out, and realized how ill-prepared we are to be in the presence of God
We are sinners, we don’t belong in Almighty, most Holy, most pure God’s presence.
And Peter realized it, and begged God to leave him.
Would we do the same, if we realized the depth of our sin, or the heartache it caused God?
Or do we take our sin to casually, just as if we think God will forgive this one again, that the damage we do will be taken care of?
What does Jesus offer us?
And as Peter collapses in the boat, Jesus says something quite amazing,
Fear not. Let’s go and catch something that really matters.
You see, unlike the times I go fishing, the word in Greek isn’t about sitting there with a rod in one hand and a drink in the other. It wasn’t like that for Peter and friends there. The words for fishing were “catch” and “harvest”
Jesus, knowing the cross is in the future, knowing that everyone one of Peter’s sins will be atoned for, knowing the forgiveness, even when Jesus would betray Jesus as Peter would tell people, “I never knew the man,” will be forgiven; says to Peter,
Don’t worry, don’t be afraid, don’t let being in my presence cause you anxiety.
Let’s go catch some people and bring them into the Kingdom of God.
What an invitation, to be partners with God! To engage in His greatest project, to redeem the world, to catch people and watch, as God begins to heal their broken and often tortured souls. To see the promises of God poured out on people you love, or will come to love, as they are united with Jesus in baptism. Ask Susan what it was like to help baptize one of her students, or ask Chuck why he demands to be the deacon on duty when we baptize someone.
Or ask the elders what it is like to help feed people the Body and Blood of Christ here at the altar.
There is something incredible about helping someone come to know God’s love. It drives Bernie to the Sudan and even more… to places like Texas and Minnesota. Or Pastor Davies to the mountain jungles of Papua Guinea, or even my friend Matt to a university in Nebraska where he works with students from around the world.
You and I are called to walk with God, fishing…
That is the greatest thing in this passage, the invitation to help others know Jesus, to draw them in, as a fisher draws in his nets.
I tell you something, there is no greater way to know the blessed, unexplainable peace of
Lutherans don’t give “normal invitations” at the end of a sermon.
But I will give you one today, and invitation I pray you can’t refuse…
Don’t worry, be catching….with Jesus
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
17 For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Rev. 7:17 HCSB
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.
The ancient Celtic prayer that ends a section of my devotional time each day is one I to often overlook. Especially the part I emphasized with Italics.
I need to place the words on the door from my garage into the house? I need to come home with an inventory of where I have seen God at work during that day.
I need to remember the blessings, the wonders, the things that caused me to stop and pause, and consider the presence of God.
Things like a week ago, when a five-year-old, hearing her grandpa talk about how the church needs ot help us with my wife out of work, took our her change purse, put one of her precious dimes in an envelope with a picture she colored for me and left it on my desk.
Or the guy who needed to come home to his church, to find the peace he knows is here for him, as he is dealing with so much brokenness. (He ministers in a bunch of places – but this is his home)
The odd thing, at least to my mind, is not how incredible these things are, but how they surprise us. We know Jesus us the One who shepherds us, we know that He loves and cares for us, but we don’t always take the time to see the Spirit at work in our daily lives. Yet we confess He is with us, we chant it, sing about it, hear it in sermons, read it in the Bible, as God reveals it to us.
Or maybe we do see it, but we don’t remember it, at the end of the day.
We need to! One might say we desperately need to remember God at work in our lives.
From hearing our sins are forgiven by His command, to seeing His handiwork in nature and the skies, to the wonders of the miracles we too often overlook.
He is here… working…through us.
May we remember the blessed wonders we see, and may we see them! AMEN!
Where have you seen God working in your life in the last day or two?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 HCSB
The heart is like a home. There are houses that are open because they are at peace; they are welcoming because they have warmth. They are “not so tidy” as to make people afraid even to sit down neither so untidy as to become an embarrassment.
The same goes for the heart: the heart that has room for the Lord also has space for others.
The words in red above are the last words of the Epistle of James.
The is no final blessing, nor is there the usual list of greetings and please say hi to that conclude Paul’s letter to the churches.
Just this comment about facilitating the return of people to Jesus, to the Truth, and the incredible blessing it is to be involved in saving someone and removing the guilt and shame that is caused by our sin.
What an incredible blessing! To be involved in such a work! What an amazing God who would use broken people like us to help bring hope and healing to those who are broken. Realise, it is not the perfect people that are involved in Evangelism, it is those who God is healing form their own brokenness. It is those who know the amazing hope found as they experience God’s love, and see the healing that is happening.
I love Pope Francis’ words about the heart that has room for the Lord. It rings so true.
For years I remember hearing (and saying ) that every person has a Jesus size hole in their lives, Something only He can fill, an emptiness that only He can heal. Yet, as He does this, we begin to realize there is a ton more room in our hearts, a room that needs to be filled with others who help to us and are helped by us. As Pope Francis notes, the heart that has room for Christ finds it has space for others.
THe help, of course, is pointing to Jesus, to His work restoring our relationship with the Father, bringing God’s family together. Doing the work He promised to do…
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19 HCSB
and which he tasked us to do as well…
21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 (NLT2)
This is our incredible work, this is the blessing we have, of seeing sin consumed by the cross, and freedom come to those who have walked without God, but are welcomed back to the journey.
James’ last words are ones we need to hear!
Heavenly Father, as we walk this day with You, help us see the people we can help you rescue, restoring them, and assuring them of Christ’s blood, poured out ot cover their sin, and claim them as righteousness. AMEN!!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 312). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. 21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments. 22 Then Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who performed skillfully before the LORD. They ate at the appointed festival for seven days, sacrificing •fellowship offerings and giving thanks to Yahweh, the God of their ancestors.
23 The whole congregation decided to observe seven more days, so they observed seven days with joy, 2 Chronicles 30:18-23 HCSB
462 The power of charity! If you live that blessed brotherly spirit, your mutual weakness will also be a support to keep you upright in the fulfillment of duty—just as in a house of cards, one card supports the other.
I have read this Bible passage before. and yet it struck me this time as a critical part of the love that is shared between God and His people. What amazing lesson about God and His people!
Despite the sin of the people, and despite them following the proper methods and rites for being cleansed of those sins, the prayer of Hezekiah was heard, and those who were supposed to be shut out were welcome to the feast. (even the foreigners and aliens among them if you keep reading down to verse 25)
The people prayed for weren’t pure, they weren’t holy, they shouldn’t have been included according to a strict reading of the Law of Moses. Hezekiah should have just told them – forget about it, take a year, study more, ensure you know the right way to appear before God, then we will welcome you back.
He didn’t. He prayed, acknowledging the sin, and asking that God would provide the atonement, the satisfaction, the healing that would allow these people to enter into the celebration of God and His people, and the life that is ours as we dwell in God’s presence.
And as James would right centuries later,
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT2)
God heard the prayer, healed His people, and the party began. A party that was supposed to last a week, and lasted two. A party that resulted in people giving away their riches, of the congregation having more money than the people could give, and of those who were previously unclean going home, and removing from their lives of all of their idols. (see Chapter 31)
Not by command, they just knew this was how they could live, assured they were God’s people. This is the power of charity, the power of love. You see it in the prayer of Hezekiah (would all church leaders have this heart!) who prays on behalf of these people. You see this charity in God, whose love Hezekiah knew so well that the Spirit could lead him to pray on behalf of those who were sinners and unclean. You see this love in the people, bound together in celebrating the love of God, and in their charity/love in their destroying their idols
This needs to happen in the church today, for this is how the church is revived, how it is renewed, how it returns to its First love!
Let us pray †
heavenly Father, cause the hearts of your leaders to be so filled with your love, that they think of those who are cut off, who the world says aren’t clean enough. Lord, help us, for their sake, pray that they would know that Jesus has fully atoned for them, that they are welcome to this feast of those who love You, who would walk with you, depending on your love. Move our hearts Lord, and may all those around us come to dwell in Your peace, in Your Presence. AMEN!
NOTE: If you have been made ot feel like an outsider by the people of God, please forgive us,
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1128-1130). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Walking with Jesus through Trials to The Triumph
EnJOYing the Walk!
† In Jesus Name †
As you walk with God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may the gift of their love and mercy sustain us, and bring us great joy!
Where is the joy?
Verse 11 in our epistle reading often leaves me wondering. Specifically, the part that says, “so NOW we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God.”
Did you guys get this memo? That because of your wonderful new relationship with God we should be rejoicing, that we should be overwhelmed with joy? I think somedays I need to be strongly reminded of that, and somehow, I don’t think I am the only one.
As we walk through this season of Lent, as we walk through these trials to The Triumph, we need to experience this joy, not just because it will prevent us from burning out, but rather because the joy is the basis for where we live..
We, who dwell in the presence and glory of God, are to live joy-filled lives. It is the fruit of the Spirit Paull will tell the church in Galatia, and the Thessalonian church will hear “rejoice always!’
What an odd paradox for Lent, to preach on the fact that we should rejoice, that we should live our lives full of joy, even as we grieve over our sin. To talk about the joy we should be experiencing is far greater than the joy experienced by winning a gold medal in the Olympics, yet which at times seems as unlikely as me winning said gold medal.
Then again, if we were all full of joy, why would I need to preach about it, or why would St. Paul need to write about it?
A Paradox indeed, this idea of joy!
Endurance leads to confident hope…. For we know
Then again, this passage is full of challenging things to understand, like the fact that when we encounter problems and trials, we can rejoice as well!
As if the problems and trials are the sources of that joy.
They aren’t, and it doesn’t say they are the source of the joy. They just say joy should be expected, that the result of problems and trials results eventually in our confident hope of salvation being strengthened, being made sure, as we realize the breadth and width, their height and depth of God’s love.
We need to get that, for I think most of us look at these problems trials and at points wonder where God is, or why He would allow such a thing to exist? We stagger in the doubt and anxiety that such problems and trials, these oppressive times, and at times fall into sin, looking for relief from how they dominate the landscape.
Luther noted this challenge in dealing with problems and trials when he discussed the first commandment and what a God was,
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
It is all too easy to take refuge in something, especially in those things that are powerfully addictive, from drugs and alcohol to work, sex, politics, technology, social media and even security. It moves from temptation to sin when those things become our primary refuge, the place we go to first always. Where do we run when life is challenged, when life is difficult? That is our god, and far too often, that is not Jesus. These refuges will draw us in, more and more until we realize them for the trap they are. By that time, we are helpless.
Then we need to be saved more from our refuge far more than we need to be saved from the problems and trials that assault us.
But when we were helpless!
We aren’t without hope though, and that is part of the process. For enduring these challenges can only be accomplished as we are drawn to Christ. When we realize that when we didn’t deserve the privilege of having peace with God, when we realize that when we were utterly helpless Christ came and died for us.
That is where the spiraling into the refuges of idolatry ends, when Jesus comes and rescues us, an unbelievable action, considering he is rescuing us from betraying him!
This is where the joy is found, in that while we were still in rebellion, while we didn’t give a rip about God, and sought out sin rather than depending and listening to Him, He still loved us, He still died for us. He still cleaned up the mess we’ve out of our lives.
That is amazing! That is something to be astounded by! That is something to be thankful for!
He loves us. God really loves us!
And even more, because Christ’s blood cleanses and paid for all our sins, we have the promise of sharing in the glory of God!
That is what we rejoice in, this incredible, mind-blowing idea that because of Jesus, because of His love, we have this relationship with God, where He calls us His friends.
A relationship that is revealed when we can’t make it through these problems and trials when we realize that relationship is called a friendship. A relationship that is full of peace, and in that peace, we can rejoice in what Jesus has done, and what God has prepared for us, a place for eternity, dwelling and sharing in His glory.
This is worth rejoicing in, even in Lent, Yes? AMEN
Devotional Thought for our Days:
14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. f 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 HCSB
113 Don’t wait until you are old to start becoming a saint. That would be a great mistake! Begin right now, in earnest, cheerfully and joyfully, by fulfilling the duties of your work and of your everyday life. Don’t wait until you are old to become a saint. Because—I insist—apart from its being a great mistake, you never know whether you will live as long as that.
So it is Monday, and most of us are weary from the time change. (Even though we got an extra hour of sleep yesterday!) Already encountered a number of irritable people, and I know several more who will be irritable as I deal with them today.
Such is life! Not just Mondays, but every day we live.
Yet Jesus calls us to be the light of the world. Please understand, Jesus isn’t saying that He is the light of the world here, nor is He commanding us to be.
He is stating it as a fact.
We can cover the light up, we can hide it, we can waste it away. We do this all too easily when we forget that we are in God’s presence when we choose to ignore the fact that we dwell in His glory. insted of realizing the blessings, we get dismayed, irritated, tempted and exhausted by the things of this world. But we still are the light of the world.
Jesus, in uniting us to Himself at the cross and in our baptism had made this possible. The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, nourishing us, comforting us, is the guarantee of
Yeah, today is Monday, and not even as especially good Monday. Never the less, the Lord is with YOU.
So, be a saint, walk with God, know His love. and dwell in His peace. And when you think you can’t be, cry out, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner!” And know He has. That is why you are a saint, why you are the light of the world. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 599-604). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
14 Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15 Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)
Do not limit your patience to such or such kind of injuries and afflictions, but extend it to all such as it shall please God to send you. Some are unwilling to suffer any tribulations, but such as are honourable; for example, to be wounded in battle, to be a prisoner of war, to be persecuted for religion, or to be impoverished by some lawsuit determined in their favour. Now, these people do not love the tribulation, but the honour which accompanies it; whereas, he that is truly patient, suffers tribulations indifferently, whether accompanied by ignominy or honour.
As I write this, in the background is Anne Hathaway’s version of “I dreamed a dream” from the movie version of Les Mis. I can’t help but think of the character, and the background found in the novel. ALothough in the beginning a victim of her own sin, others make her misery and despair far more oppressive.
Some, like Val Jean, do so without thought. Others, like the Innkeeper and his wife, or the supervisor in the shop, do so with evil and malice.
Either way, the suffering is real, the oppression stifling, the pain incapacitating.
As I read St. Francis De Sales words this morning, it, this idea of unnecessary suffering started dominating my thoughts. How do we deal with the suffering we don’t deserve, the pains that are caused by others, or whose biological cause cannot be blamed on anyone.
Things like my genetic heart issues, my dear friend’s ongoing battle with cancer, the unknown victims of terrorism and their families, those who suffer from PTSD, or some other mental illness and those who suffer with them.
This is different than the cyber-crusader who looks and desires and rejoices in his being “persecuted for rightness ( not righteousness) sake.” Those people love the honor they receive from being a victim, and they deserve the persecution and the problems.
But what about the innocent who suffer? Or those who suffering is so compounded by others neglect or deliberate harm?
As one, I’ve learned the hard way, through many sleepless nights, and times of tears that I cannot justify the suffering, I cannot find the “why” that I so desperately want to know. I can strike out in anger, I can slip into the deepest of depression, I can, and have at times, hoped the suffering would simply end.
Those thoughts don’t diminish the suffering, if anything, it gives the suffering more power over me, increasing the anxiety. Nor am I strong enough, on my own, to avoid those feelings.
I need to be patient, with these things I cannot explain, with the pain I can’t bear on my own. I need to have the patience De Sales calls for, I need the assurance of God’s empathy and benevolence of a God who invites me into HIS presence. I need to have the confidence to look to HIM, to understand how His innocent suffering had a purpose, and that somehow God will use mine for good.
It is not an easy task, coming to this conclusion, gaining this confidence. It is one I often fail to achieve, as this day or that is spent letting the darkness enclose me. Devotion is the answer, not devotions (remember – my strength had already failed), but devotion. Considering Christ’s devotion to me, and as I do, growing to adore Him.
There is the answer. Considering the depth of Christ’s devotion, there I find the hope that enable the patience I need, the strength to endure, the ability to take my mind off of my problems. Being encouraged by others, who endure, and hear my words and find the same strength to endure. That helps me realize the depth of Christ’s empathy. As odd as it sounds, I can embrace the suffering, knowing His suffering that He embraced. For He embraced it for a simple reason. He loved you andI.
Will I need the encouragement of others, pointing me back to the cross? Yes! Will I still struggle at times? After 45 years of dealing with this, the answers is, yes. But I know I will come out of the depths, sustained by Jesus, who volunteered to suffer so that I would know His empathy, HIs love, and ultimately, His peace.
This is my goal for today, to walk confidently into His presence, to accept His invitation to walk with Him.
And to pray you will boldly, confidently walk with our God as well.
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.