Devotional thought of the day:
26 This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26 (TEV)
437 If one of my fellow men had died to save me from death … God died. And I remain indifferent.
On Friday, I “shared” a picture on FB. It was a picture of men, paratroopers in a World War II airplane. The right side was the original picture, the left was a picture of men who had served then, but today. It was an amazing morph, the men in their youth, young, excited, ready to jump out of a perfectly functioning airplane. That side of the picture was black and white. Contrasting that picture was the older men, pictured in color, their weary bodies not overloaded with combat uniforms and packs, but ties and blazers, their grey hair covered by berets.
More than other picture I have shared or posted, this picture has been liked and shared by more people than any other picture. Maybe it is because people are realizing that memorial day is about more than barbecues and beaches, that it is ore than the unofficial kick-off to summer.
We remember that some men have given their lives to free others who were mistreated, who were oppressed. Surely that wasn’t the aim of some of them. Some were more about revenge, or gaining fame. But many simply fought, bled and died, because that is what they were called to do.
And some lived, and suffer for years for what they’ve seen, or what they’ve had to do. Those who sufferi from Post Traumatic Stress, (those who’s sleep is at best is uneasy because of the memories, the pains, the guilts and shame.
We need to remember these men, for no matter their motivation, they have served, and all have been wounded in their souls…. war creates victims without any rationale. Maybe that is why the picture was shared so many times. Gratitude on our part, and a desire for those who served to find peace., to be able to face that which they’ve tried to bury, so that they can know peace.
This morning the blue verse above was in my readings. I was struck by it, because of the timing, because of the context of Memorial Day Weekend. St. Josemaria is correct We stand in awe of those who have died or embraced suffering for us. If we know some wh’ve served, we might worry about the demons they didn’t leave on the battlefield, the pains and hurts. We put flowers and flags at their grave sites. We have parades and concerts and flies flags in their honor.
Bow much more should we remember the death of God? The suffering, the sacrifice that was embraced with full knowledge and pure and holy intent A sacrifice that not only liberates those who are the victims, but liberates those who were the oppressors, A sacrifice that brings peace that that a war’s end cannot imagine.
A sacrifice that can even bring healing to those who were broken by war…Like my dad, who didn’t die, but one could say that a part of him. Who struggled to receive the Lord’s Supper, often crying as he faced the love of God, who would give His life, deliberately to assure my dad of God’s love for him, to assure dad of a place in heaven. I just know the mixture of pain and relief and joy of being loved all was there, as my dad knelt at the rail, and remember Christ’s sacrifice as he shared Christ’s Body and Blood For a second there was God’s peace, overwhelming everything else. A peace that now he knows.
We need to remember Christ’s love, first and foremost. We need to celebrate it, and the freedom and peace it brings. We need to see it as powerful, as overwhelming as awe-inspiring as those who understand the depths of pain that it relieves.
Pray for those who are serving, those who have served. That they would know the Prince of Peace, AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1074-1075). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Football Season Starts Soon: Whose side is God On? (and in other rivalries as well)
Discussion and Devotional THought of the Day:
13 When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” 14 “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” 15 The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. Joshua 5:13-15 (NLT)
759 You complain that he shows you no understanding. I am certain he does as much as he can to try to understand you. But what about you? When will you make a bit of an effort to understand him? (1)
It is getting near that time of year when men pray more consistently on Sundays. They thank God more often, they pray too him more deeply, the acknowledge His presence and ask His blessings (and quote all the passages about cursing and defeating their enemies…)
Well, those men who are football fans, and those who are fanatics.
I wonder if God ever tires of those prayers, if he ever gets tired of the rivalries that He is included in by prayer? As if God really had a favorite football team, as if he really has a favorite team or a favorite player, or even a favorite sport?
I think of Joshua’s words above – he wanted to be sure this soldier was on his side…… and that was even before he knew the Soldier was Christ Jesus.
Whose side are you on?
Which football team is favored by God? Neither.
With that out of the way – let’s get on to what is important. I am here.. you are here, therefore this is Holy Ground.
The purpose of God isn’t to have this team or that team win, or even this nation or that nation be the dominant power. People will get mad at me, but it is not whether the Ukraine or Russia prevails, whether ISIS is in power in Iraq, or some other group. Or who is guiltier in the war between Hamas and Israel.
Even if those who oppose God are “victorious”, or seem to be, that doesn’t mean God is not working in their lives. That is why God raised up Nineveh, why Jeremiah 29:7 talks about praying for oppressors, why Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Do we understand people enough to see their need for God in their lives? Do we see that we, as His people, as to be beacons, to bring light into their darkness?
Those steps are needed, but first we desperately need to know that we are in the presence of God. That it is not our agenda, or even our nation’s agenda that is important. There is only one agenda, there is only one will that matters. God’s.
It is His – that none should perish – but that all wold come to repentance, as St Peter instructs. Raider fans, Bills fans, Broncos Fans, even Patriots fans. Russians, Ukrainians, Iraqi’s of every ethnicity and culture, Palestinians, those in Hamas, even the Israeli’s.
That they would come to know they live in God’s presence, that the Holy Spirit would replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, that they would have the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, give them life.
That is why Joshua would meet the pre-incarnate Christ, it is why Israel was loved, and protected, SO that we could heed the words of King David in the second Psalm,
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. Psalm 2:11-12 (NKJV)
Lord have mercy on us!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3155-3157). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Hope Amidst Distant Wars, Rumours of Wars, and Your Personal Battles…
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
1 How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1 (NLT)
756 I advised you to inject a great deal of supernatural outlook into every detail of your ordinary life. And I added immediately that living with other people provided you with ample opportunity throughout the day. (1)
I’ve heard a lot of speculation recently on Israel and Palestine, people trying to justify the killing that is going on, from one side or the other. Even the passages from scripture, about wars and rumours of wars have been used to justify war, ( I think those passages can bring us comfort and solace – but to justify it?) The same kind of speculation about what is going on in Iraq, and in the Ukraine, and in a dozen other places around this world.
Yeah, there are going to be wars. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it! It doesn’t mean, that like Pope Francis, we can’t pray diligently that these brothers would stop warring against each other. (It amazes me For them to realize they are brothers and sisters, that who they are killing are their own.
(Yeah, I realize that what I am saying is going to tick them both off at me – but hey – it just proves that they can agree on something!)
Its hard for them to see, I realize, that they are all related through Noah, and perhaps through Abraham. That even more, as people who Jesus Christ was crucified to redeem, they could be brothers via the application of His blood for all the sins that separate them. After all, we see such an example in people like the Apostles Matthew and Simon the Zealot, and of course in the Apostle Paul
Peace, real peace, not just a passing cease fire, or a UN mediated true, has to come spiritually, It has to come from the One who died to end sin, to bring hope, to establish peace in our hearts. As St Josemaria wrote, we have to increase our awareness of the supernatural, of the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Only then will we see our brothers and sisters in a different light, only then will we see them as children of God, as righteous in Christ, and realize that to cause them sorrow, is to cause ourselves sorrow. Consider these verses, and God’s call to love your adversaries,
14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:14-16 (NLT)
That is true whether we are talking about national and international battles, or the battles that can rage in our workplaces, or homes. Or the relationships that cause us stress, anxiety, even mild cases of paranoia.
Is it possible to live at peace? I do not know. I know it is possible to live In peace, the peace of Christ.
May you find yourself drawn into that peace, and may you draw those you are “at war” with, into that peace as well.
And pray, for the peace of Israel, and for those who oppress them! (Jeremiah 29:7)
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3142-3144). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Do I Really Have to????? Yes! Love Them!
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
7 And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray for her, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.” Jeremiah 29:7 (TLB)
760 All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added. I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to? (1)
I am on vacation, and we’ve driven a bit here and there, and my memories go back to my childhood vacations in the lake region and in White Mountains of New Hampshire. Three kids in the back of the old Chevy Malibu, and later in the Monte Carlo. God a bit cramped back there, and let’s just say it is was about as peaceful as the Holy Land. There was even the innocent victim (me) caught in between the rival factions.. I can still hear my dad and mom instructing my siblings to get along, to love each other, sometimes even to give each other a hug… a nice gentle one.
And the loud pitched, whining reply, ‘do I really have too???????”
Move forward to today. Even if we are not caught into a political and historical mess like Israel and Palestine, we find ourselves in serious disagreements, We have rivals, we have those we don’t like, and we have those we are seemed destined to hate, because they hate us. We are at war, sometimes in our workplaces, other times in our neighborhoods, with distant family, and sometimes, sad to say, in our homes.
We justify our anger, we get protective to stop the pain, to defend our reputations, even our families. There is a meme going around, saying that if they drop their guns, there will be peace, but if we drop ours, we will be annihilated. Not sure how true this is, but we take it is as truth, and apply that truth in our lives. We want at least the personal version of Mutually Assured Destruction.
We don’t realize how damaging this is, this dealing with enemies, this always defending ourselves.
Israel was in captivity when Jeremiah wrote these words, with the ancestors of those they have been engaged in hostilities with for centuries. The prophet’s words are different, they don’t call for strategy, they don’t call for defensive posturing. I chose the translation from the Living Bible because it identifies the city, these enemies. Here it is, as we would normally here it,
7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 (NLT)
Do I really have to? Do I really have to love them, to pray for them? Do I have to sacrifice time and energy to work for their peace and not just survival, but prosperity?
Do I really have to?
I mean St Josemaria described them so well, “All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added.”
And the response, read it again,
I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to?
Here is a way, similar to the words above, that helps. Hear Jesus words from the cross, Father, forgive (insert your name), for they know not what they do. See Him utter those words, even as He is dieing, even as the pain wracks His body, even as the blood drips to the ground. Now, Look at your adversary, see Jesus on the cross, begging the Father to forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing as well. Let this thought be pondered in your heart for 10 or 15 minutes…. really dwell on it. Not just picture it for a second – go that’s nice. But dwell on it until the tears come, till the pain is pulsing in your body, and then purged of it, the peace rushes into your soul.
See both of you, broken there… yet being lifted by Christ. For in Christ, that which divides us is broken, in Christ there is mercy, in Christ, there is healing.
That’s why Jeremiah calls for us to pray for those who oppress us, because as God makes Himself known to them, as He calls them to be His children, as He blesses them, the blessing to us is beyond compare.
St Paul mentions this in his words to the Church in Galatia…
27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28 (NLT)
There is our goal, this is our mission, our apostolate, to long for this healing, this reconciliation. Tough? Yes. Painful? Yes? Calling us to sacrifice beyond our means? Yes.
In Christ, there is no other choice. It is our vocation, our life.
We pray, “Lord, have mercy on us sinners!”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3158-3162). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
God, and the Problem of Evil
Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end. 7 Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. Matthew 24:6-7 (MSG)
54 As the members of the Council listened to Stephen, they became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. 56 “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!” 57 With a loud cry the Council members covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, 58 threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. 59 They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died. Acts 7:54-60 (TEV)
Yesterday was a hard day for so many around the world, and many closer to me.
There were the stories that made the news, the Malaysian plane shot down, the conflict in Israel, the conflicts in Sudan and Nigeria.
There are the other stories as well, that will not make the news, My friend whose memory is failing him. The family of a lady I visited in the hospital, whose heart is beating…yet whose body is shutting down, leaving her family without the one they count on for strength. There are parents whose children are facing procedures to could reveal the possibility of a lifetime of pain,
And yes, there are the martyrs like St. Stephen, and St Paul. Men whose faith is testified to, even by their enemies. Men of peace, who would give people the hope found in trusting Christ.
Which brings about a question, how do we survive the evil we encounter in the world? How do we cope with news that shatters hearts, that could shatter our faith? That could make us cuss and scream and yell at God. How can we imitate the faith of those who the Letter to the Hebrews describes,
33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. Hebrews 11:33-38 (NLT)
As a pastor, as someone who has served as a chaplain in jails, hospitals and with a hospice and homecare medical group, I’ve seen people do survive in such hard times, and not only endure, but be a blessing to those around them. Do they have some secret? No, save that they know Christ They know Him so well, they realize His promises.
They walk with Him,
We can even see them go through the stages of grief
Abraham bargained with God, even as he realized the evil of Sodom and Gommorah
Jeremiah was angry with God, even accused God of deceiving him, because of the ministry to His people.
Jonah deal with depression over God’s work to save people he didn’t like or trust
Job’s friends were awesome at encouraging denial of the truth,
just because we trust in God doesn’t mean we avoid evil – that we avoid the horrible days… but it means we move with Him through them. Guarded by Him, comforted by them, knowing His promises will be fulfilled.
For as they moved through the valleys of the shadows of darkness (evil) they learned not to fear, for God was there… and He will be with us.
That is how we deal with God and the problem of evil.. with the problem that things are wrong, messed up, screwed up, painful.
We look to Jesus, the author and One who perfects our trust in God.
FB Behavior and the Theology of the Cross…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them. 15 Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow. 16 Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. Do not congratulate yourself on your own wisdom. 17 Never pay back evil with evil, but bear in mind the ideals that all regard with respect. 18 As much as possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be at peace with everyone. Romans 12:14-18 (NJB)
4 Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, 5 it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. 6 Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. 7 It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NJB)
Never reprimand anyone while you feel provoked over a fault that has been committed. Wait until the next day, or even longer. Then make your remonstrance calmly and with a purified intention. You’ll gain more with an affectionate word than you ever would from three hours of quarreling. Control your temper. (1)
How quickly we are ( okay – I am) to send a scathing rebuke across the cypberwaves!
We see something really idiotic, or vicious, or heretical posted, and we re-create the cyber version of MAD – mutually assured destruction.
Please read carefully, it is not that we shouldn’t respond, but it is how we should respond. With love, with caring, with the goal of reconciliation and not just confrontation. ( Yeah I know I am preaching to me more than everyone else) But if we don’t hear this, if we aren’t reminded to love, if we don’t bear the cross we’ve been given – for their sake, we find out that we will also suffer.
For we will have abandoned the peace of Christ, we will have walked out of the fortress, that mighty fortress that is our God. We will have tried to become the conquering savior of FB or twitter… and chosen a path to deliver it from evil that is not the cross. At the cost of destroying each other.
So today – if you have to do it – maybe not wait a day – but take a five minute walk… before hitting enter.
And while you do, pray,
“Lord have mercy on me… a sinner”
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 185-187). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Do they know of your trust in God from your FB postings? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Facebook, Memes and Christlikeness (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Grateful to be used… (justifiedandsinner.com)