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There is only one way to deal with Mondays: with our eyes opened!

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the day:

When the servant of the man of God got up early and went out, he discovered an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. So he asked Elisha, “Oh, my master, what are we to do?”
16 Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.” 
17 Then Elisha prayed, “LORD, please open his eyes and let him see.” So the LORD opened the servant’s eyes. He looked and saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  1 King 6:15-17  HCSB

 

26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:26-29 (NLT)

404    You say you’ve failed! We never fail. You placed your confidence wholly in God. And you did not neglect any human means. Convince yourself of this truth: your success—this time— was to fail. Give thanks to our Lord, and try again!

There was a great desire to sleep in this morning, to pretend Monday didn’t exist. While Mondays are a study day, I have to admit Holy Week exhausted me.

And while I didn’t feel like a failure yesterday, today I am not so sure!  (This is called the Elijah syndrome – after major spiritual victories we want to hide!)  But I’ve often dealt with failure, especially on Mondays. Not just the feeling I’ve failed, but the knowledge I have failed, or I am actively experiencing failure.

In those moments, I feel like Elisha’s servant, all I see around me is pressing in on me, and there is no escape.  “Oh no, it’s Monday, what are we to do!!!”  And the sake of being alone, and without hope rises like the tide and we fear it will drown us.

At least that’s how my Mondays and several other days a month often feel.

It’s as if I’ve forgotten the promise in Romans 8:28, that all things work for good, including Mondays.  That I can’t picture God doing something in the present circumstances, so I can’t understand my success is found right in the midst of the failure.  Just as the time between the cross and the resurrection was not a failure in the true sense of the word, neither is this time or failure, or anxiety about it, a true failure.

We need to have our eyes opened to this, just as Elisha’s servant did.  We need our trust in God rekindled until we can go through the dark times, and trust that the good times are coming.

For God is with us, Jesus is risen indeed, and that means we are given life and a life where the plan all works together….

His plan, not mine.

This is why I adore Him (when I can remember this!) This is why I praise Him, for He is our God, and we are the people whom He loves.

Just need to remember that on Mondays…. and every other day that has a d in it.

Let me pray for you ( and please pray for me)
As our Lord opens your eyes to His presence today, may you rest, as you dwell in His peace!

Question of the day….. how does knowing you are loved help you through the hardest of days?

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1013-1015). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Christian, Are You This Courageous? Do you have this strength?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thoughts for our days:

10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us;  the God of Jacob is our refuge.  Psalm 46:10-11  TEV

A mighty Fortress is our God, A Bulwark never failing; Our Helper He amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great. And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth His Name, From age to age the same, And He must win the battle.

This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking through the history, and how it affects the Church today.  Not just my congregation, or my denomination, but the entire family of God’s children.  And what it means to reform.

For example, in my news feed, this morning was a great story of Pope Francis and liturgical reform. If I dare say, it is very Lutheran.  At the same time, there are those who are trying, with intent or ignorance, to divide the church further.  Not in the hope of reform, but in the desire to keep what they know pure.  And in the process, lose what Luther found the greatest comfort in, the love and mercy of God. 

Ninety percent of the time I hear Luther’s classic hymn quoted in green above, it is done with the power and energy of a military anthem.  Full crescendo Organs, loud brass, even clashing cymbals, as if it is a call to battle, something to unite the forces of good behind as we go to war.

Given that it is derived in part from Psalm 46, I am not sure that interpretation is valid.  It is not a mighty anthem, but a recognition that we are not that strong, that we need a refuge, that we cannot have confidence if we are dealing with Satan or the World.  I see Luther, inspired by the Psalm, writing this to a soft broken melody of one who knows despair, who is confused and hurt, and who is beginning to realize his hope is found in the one who was nailed to the cross, the Lord Jesus who is portrayed on the crucifix he sol tightly grasps. I see this as the resolution of a man who has searched for hope, finding it with his last gasp… the music of reeds and deep strings.. as the words are whispered out…. from broken, contrite spirits that are finding refuge… and rest.

We have to have the confidence to hide in CChrist we must depend on Jesus’ mercy and his patience and to seek and find refuge in Christ, who we are united to in our baptism.  

So stop fighting the world, stop striving against the powers of evil, (or those you just think are evil.) Have the courage, the confidence to trust in God.  He is dependable, He is the one who has the victory, and in Him…

we are safe.  we can rest.

TO do so takes a lot of courage, a lot of strength, to stay firmly planted in Jesus, despite every temptation to fight or flee.  It, in fact, takes far more to endure, to wait on Him.  Yet the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For the Spirit works through the church to remind us of this fact.

the Lord Almighty is with you, and God is your refuge.  AMEN!

Martin Luther – A Mighty Fortress is our God

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print

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Why Being Spiritually or Emotionally Weary Isn’t a Bad Thing.

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

The Good Shepherd, Carrying His Own….

Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:

8  GOD also says: “When the time’s ripe, I answer you. When victory’s due, I help you. I form you and use you to reconnect the people with me, To put the land in order, to resettle families on the ruined properties. 9  I tell prisoners, ‘Come on out. You’re free!’ and those huddled in fear, ‘It’s all right. It’s safe now.’ There’ll be foodstands along all the roads, picnics on all the hills— 10  Nobody hungry, nobody thirsty, shade from the sun, shelter from the wind, For the Compassionate One guides them, takes them to the best springs. Isaiah 49:8-10 (MSG)

“And I have grown weary of Christ’s words not to worry about tomorrow.  But in His grace I have surrendered to God’s sovereignty and His providence, and it has made me free! (emphasis mine)  (1)

778         “I know some men and women who don’t even have the strength to ask for help”, you tell me with sorrow and disappointment. Don’t leave them in the lurch. Your desire to save yourself and them can be the starting point for their conversion. Furthermore, if you think about it carefully you will realise that someone also had to lend you a hand.  (2)

I came across the quote above in green this morning, and it resonated with me.  It was in a devotion extolling poverty, nor because of the suffering it causes, but because of the clarity it gives, the dependence we need to have on God.  It actually made begging sound like a deeply spiritual experience, one leaving us in awe.

I understand to an extent. Though not financially, I’ve spent most of the last year emotionally drained, impoverished you might say. Too much grief, my own and the grief that is shared among friends and church family.  We’ve dealt with a lot of illness, too much death, too many people dealing with too many family troubles, financial problems, burdens for others.  In the midst of it, I understand the joy of knowing God has provided , I can see hat He has done, how He has sustained, how He will continue to work through it all.   I understand that cry of the beggar when he says he’s grown weary of those words of Jesus, the ones that encourage our trust and dependence on Him.

I almost feel like I am one of those Josemaria talks about, the ones who don’t have the strength to ask for help.  Or definitely in the group in Romans, where I have to depend on the Holy Spirit to “translate” some of my prayers, because I am not sure how to pray.

That doesn’t mean I don’t trust in God anymore, I do. Matter of fact, perhaps more than I have ever before.

Because He is there in such times, I have seen it,  Isaiah’s words are dead on accurate.   I know it better than ever. Because He has answered, He continues to form me, He continues to use me to reconnect people to Him.  He does walk us through the valley of the shadow of death.

The writer of the prayer in the Celtic Book of Prayer was right, by grace we surrender to God’s Sovereignty  and Providence.  Big “churchy terms” that need to be broken down, that we need to understand.  Simply put, we know that He is here, that our Master is in charge, that He will care and provide for us.  He will see us through the storms, for sure.  He will also see us through the times after the storms.   The times when the weariness sets in, when we catch our breath and realize how drained we are.  So drained we can’t cry out, we don’t know what to say, we don’t even know if we are where we should be anymore.

We simply need to remember God’s promise.  That He is here… that He will handle it, that He will provide.

These times, they aren’t the worst of times, they are among the most spiritual… for we realize how dependent we are, and can be, on our God.

 

 

 

 

(1)  Celtic Daily Prayer – Meditations day 30

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3222-3225). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Paradox of a Christian’s Strongest Moments…..is When We are Broken.

Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)
9  But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10  I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (TEV)

26  In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27  And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Romans 8:26-27 (TEV)

1  Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)

141 As, sooner or later, you are surely bound to stumble upon the evidence of your own personal wretchedness, I wish to forewarn you about some of the temptations which the devil will suggest to you and which you should reject straight away. These include the thought that God has forgotten about you, that your call to the apostolate is in vain, and that the weight of sorrow and of the sins of the world are greater than your strength as an apostle… None of this is true!  (1) 


From the earliest days I remember hearing men and women preach and teach about Jesus, in ever denomination I have been associated with, there has been an encouragement to become people of great faith.  Some held up Bible figures, Samson and David, Moses and Elijah, Peter (not the one who would break betraying Jesus, but the one who was the only one ot walk on water, and preached at Pentecost), Paul the greatest missionary that ever lived.  Some held up saints that had gone to make their mark on the world, whether Patrick or Francis, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mother Theresa or Billy Graham.   Some hold up the modern heroes now, the Rick Warren’s, the Pope Benedict’s.

I have no problem with us walking in the steps of those who walked before, just as they imitated Christ.

But it is where we imitate them, and where we are encouraged to imitate them, that I find challenging.

You see, every saint is such because of the trust they have in God.  The deep conviction and confidence in God, in knowing His presence.  That trust, that faith is often born in moments of despair, in moments of failure. Joseph in the prison, Gideon hiding out in the whinepress ( pun intended), Elijah in the cave, Peter in tears as the rooster crows and later on the beach, where three times he answers Jesus…not hearing the words that follow.   it’s Billy Graham, having failed as a pastor, or Luther, trembling at the mass, and appearing as a raving lunatic as he took on Satan.  It’s Paul as he bears the thorn in his flesh, and as he agonizes over his countrymen.

It is as St Josemaria says, as we look out on the brokenness of the world, of the brokenness of the church. of our own brokenness and sin.

When we feel handicapped, paralyzed, when our hope in view of the challenges… seems diminished.

We need rest – not just physical, but spiritual. We need to sit in the presence, in the glory in the peace of God and allow Him to heal our brokenness,  As we see Him do that, as we realize what He did to us in our baptism, and we are nourished by His precious Body and Blood, as we hear those precious words, “my child your sins are forgiven,”, we find our trust in God growing, our faith becoming substantial,  We know we can turn to God and depend on Him, that not only will He not condemn us, but He will not allow us to be separated from Him. We learn of his compassion for us, and His call to us, to ensure us He will be our God.

We can’t always hear those words, when we are struggling with the cacophony of life around us, when we are facing temptation, and the guilt and shame of sin.  When we are anxious about those we love, and the life-situations that assault and try them.  It is in those times, that we need to be strong, but a strength based on confidence that God is indeed with us.  With strength that flows from our trust that God will ensure all turns out for good for those who love him.  You see, our strength isn’t ours, it is His.  Much like a astronaut working on the space station depends on it for Oxygen and is tethered to it, so to our ability to endure is tied to Christ.

That is the thing we need to emulate of those people of great faith we are encouraged to imitate. The results of the work we do?  Everyone is different, and for every saint we know of, there are millions whose work was different, who challenges to trust in God were as great, who endured, not because of their strength, but because they trusted in God more than they clinged to life.

They prayed, “Lord have mercy!” confident that because He had, He would!  AMEN

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 788-793). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

They Weren’t Supposed to be the Heroes….except in God’s mind.

Discussion/Devotional thoughts of the Day…

 20  Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” 21  Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? 22  If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure 23  and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? 24  Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people. 25  Hosea put it well: I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. 26  In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!” they’re calling you “God’s living children.” 27  Isaiah maintained this same emphasis: If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled “chosen of God,” They’d be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by (God’s) personal selection. 28  God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus.    Romans 9:20-28 (MSG)

They appear in some of my favorite books an movies, Bilbo Baggins, (not to mention his nephew Frodo), Thomas Covenant, Nicholas Seafort, the apprentices Pug and Thomas and Jimmy the Hand. Arthur Dent…..the quarterback in Longest Yard, the general in “the Last Castle”.

Bag End, as used in the Lord of the Rings films.

Bag End, as used in the Lord of the Rings films. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is, I suppose, a special genre…. that of the Anti-hero.  The ones who succeed despite themselves, matter of fact it is their weakness, and their mistakes, that endear them to us… and because of which, they find success.

But they are also my favorite people in scripture, REAL PEOPLE – like Gideon, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Hosea and of course, the last person anyone would have thought would have been a hero (except maybe in his own mind) – the apostle Peter. They too are the people that were not considered the brilliant, the connected, the famous, the wealthy and powerful.  Yet God used them, incredibly, as He formed them, empowered and equipped them to do what others could not do.

And everyone is surprised… as if God can’t work through the means He chooses.

Which brings me to you and I.

We are God’s artwork, His masterpiece (see Ephesians 2:10)  We may not be much (or some of us, like Peter and I – often – too much!) but God uses us, and uses us to do extraordinary things.  It may be what we accomplish, it may be what we endure.  It may simply be the example of trying to cling to God’s hand with our last remaining bit of strength – then realizing we are safely nestled in the palm of His other hand.  It could be that we are the forefront of a major revival – one where the church is reformed because we were the remnant not to surrender to dreams of past glory, or the machinations to create a future one.

We don’t know – we cannot… we can only trust in God… we can only walk with Him, dance with Him, be cleansed and strengthened by Him…loved by Him.

That is the time – when He receives glory, for the like the cornerstone which the builders rejected – we are found to be an essential block (in my case blockhead) in His building the New Sanctuary… the Body of Christ, those who have been brought to trust in Him, and cleansed by Him.

We are His people – we are His clay…

and He is at work in and through our lives.  AMEN

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