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A Forgotten Prayer? A forgotten desire?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
10  Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. 11  Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. 12  Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Psalm 51:10-12 (TEV)

326      Invoke the Holy Spirit in your examination of conscience so that you may get to know God better, and yourself also. In this way, you will be converted each day.

71 The old man therefore follows unchecked the inclinations of his nature if he is not restrained and suppressed by the power of Baptism. On the other hand, when we become Christians, the old man daily decreases until he is finally destroyed. This is what it means to plunge into Baptism and daily come forth again.

The words sound familiar, they have been part of the liturgy for centuries,  They were sung over and over in the 80’s and 90’s, as they were one of the beloved praise songs.

Yet I wonder if we’ve forgotten the words, forgotten the consuming desire to be holy. We’ve forgotten the fear and the wonder which comes from finding ourselves on Holy Ground.  

We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, not just so we can see miracles and manifestations that are supernatural, but because we need the Holy Spirit to make us Holy, to cut away the shame, the grief, the hatred, the anger to remove from our hearts the sin that so easily oppresses us and robs us of life.

This isn’t something that happens in the theological classroom, it happens in the midst of brokenness, as we realize that without the Holy Spirit’s intervention we are hopeless.  It is the cry of a heart weary from injustice, from the weakness of our heart in regards to temptation.  

It is both a cry of despair and a cry of that keenest faith.  Despair because we realize what we’ve let fade away, and faith, because we know, to see our hope and joy restored.

The church needs this, each one of us who calls themselves a Christian, a follower of Christ needs this,  More than just a quick prayer at the beginning of our services, or after a sermon that tugs on our heart strings.  Escriva and Luther tie this into the work of the Holy Spirit, the promise of our Baptism (also see Titus 3:2-8), a work that goes on every day of our lives.

That is critical to know and understand – this work of transformation isn’t a simple snap of a finger, although the promises are ours.  This is why Paul tells us to strive, to work out our salvation, why Peter warns us to be on guard because the Devil is wandering about trying to find someone to devour.

Even as I write this blog, names and faces come to mind, people who need to see the Spirit working in their life, bringing them to the point where they are cleansed, where they are healed of their brokenness, where they are comforted because the Holy Spirit is at work, overcoming their sin.

SO let us pray, asking God to renew our hearts, asking Him to cleanse us, asking Him to remind us of His presence.

And let us rejoice in our salvation!


Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1296-1297). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.  LARGE CATECHISM 

Crying Out Loud

Crying Out Loud

Featured imageGalatians 4:4-7

IHS

We are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father!”

A Lightening Strike….
a great quote!

A few weeks ago, at 3:40 in the morning, a loud thunderclap woke up people from here to Irvine, and all the way up to Santa Monica.

I know, for immediately afterward, my phone was going off with facebook messages about it from those two places, and everywhere in between.  People were posting about the children and their dogs flying into my friend’s bedrooms, diving under their covers, trembling and scared.

I figured it would eventually make for a great Pastor Parker Parable, and with our readings today, it does.

How many of you remember that happening, either the invasion of your bedroom, or invading your parents’ bedroom, after a particularly loud thunderclap, or a frightening strike of lightning?

Well, Christmas is somewhat like that thunderclap.

For it sends us racing to the Father’s arms, the place we belong, not just when we are anxious or scared.

Because of Jesus, it is the place we belong….

For we’ve been given the right to cry out loud, to use the name of the Lord, to call out to Him in prayer…  and in praise.

That’s the point of Christmas, of the name of Jesus which means Yahweh Saves, and His  being Immanuel – God with us,

It is the point of Paul in our 2nd reading as well…

This What the Right Time is about!

When the time was right Paul says, when the moment was perfect, when the plan came together, and every aspect that God had promised, revealed in the Old Covenant and the words of the prophets,, when that time happened.

It was Christmas… Mary gave birth to God and Man, one being, yet… beyond our ability to comprehend.

He was born within the very covenant relationship, yet fully representing both sides, the Sovereign Lord, and the man God would bind himself to, for eternity.  I love how one theologian-pastor put it:

Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust and of love for the Father who loves us. Both these crucial affirmations speak to us of the sending forth and reception of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen One which makes us sons in Christ, the Only-Begotten Son, and places us in a filial relationship with God, a relationship of deep trust, like that of children; a filial relationship like that of Jesus, even though its origin and quality are different. Jesus is the eternal Son of God who took flesh; we instead become sons in him, in time, through faith and through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation…. He destined us in love to be his [adopted] sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:4).[i]

What amazing words, we who had chosen to rebel against God, who sold ourselves into slavery by choosing to sin rather than obey God, are welcomed as children, His children!

No matter that threat of the storm, we are invited to life in Christ, He’s opened the door, welcomes to live as His very own children.

Knowing we will be the children who struggle, who get frightened by storms and thunderclaps.

It will take us a while to learn to run to Him, but that is what children need to do.

The Blessing of being the Trinity’s family!

That is why I love to talk about baptism, that time when God makes it all right.  He joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection, It is that point where the promise of God’s work is made clear, as the Holy Spirit is given to us, the Spirit sent into our hearts to convince us that we are the children of God.  Another Christian leader put it this way:

“With Baptism we become children of God in his only—begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Rising from the waters of the Baptismal font, every Christian hears again the voice that was once heard on the banks of the Jordan River: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22). From this comes the understanding that one has been brought into association with the beloved Son, becoming a child of adoption (cf. Gal 4:4–7) and a brother or sister of Christ. In this way the eternal plan of the Father for each person is realized in history: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

You are God’s son, you are God’s daughter,

We are the children of God, given the ability to cry out loud for our Abba, Father.  Indeed we are expected to, whether the cry is the cry for comfort and protection; or whether it is the cry, when we realize we have come home on that holy day when Christ brings us home.

The pastor went on….

It is the Holy Spirit who constitutes the baptized as Children of God and members of Christ’s Body. St. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth of this fact: “For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13), so that the apostle can say to the lay faithful: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27); “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Gal 4:6; cf. Rom 8:15–16).[ii]
That is the Holy Spirit’s job, to bring us into the family, to bring make us one with Christ,  To bring us to faith. He makes it happen, as we become aware of our part in the body of Christ.

That is what Paul is talking about – why Christmas and being a Christian is like a lightning storm’s ear shattering thunderclap – for we know where our comfort, our peace, our family belongs.. in the presence of our dear heavenly Father, for there, there is peace.

Even as we look forward to the day when we cry our loud – “Abba Father!” and we hear in reply, “welcome home, my dear children!”

AMEN!

[i] Benedict XVI. (2013). General Audiences of Benedict XVI (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[ii] John Paul II. (1988). Christifideles Laici. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Salvation is More Than Forgiveness of Sins

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

14  Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15  Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16  But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.” 17  Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 (TEV)

10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

298      My Lord Jesus has a Heart more tender than the hearts of all good men put together. If a good man (of average goodness) knew that a certain person loved him, without seeking personal satisfaction or reward of any kind (he loves for love’s sake); and if he also knew that all this person wanted from him was that he should not object to being loved, even from afar… then it would not be long before he responded to such a disinterested love. If the Loved One is so powerful that he can do all things, I am sure that, as well as surrendering in the end to the faithful love of a creature (in spite of the wretchedness of that poor soul) he will give this lover the supernatural beauty, knowledge and power he needs so that the eyes of Jesus are not sullied when he gazes upon the poor heart that is adoring him. Love, my child; love and hope. (1)

As i came across the quote from St. Josemaria this evening (above in blue), I had to think through it several times. It’s not that I don’t know this, but it seemed so different from the conversations among Christians and pastors on-line recently.

So often are conversation is about justification, whether it is evangelicals trying to be missional and covert people, or whether it is Lutheran theologians attempting to focus on our ineptitude to obey Christ (and applying that to the redeemed as well as the unregenerate).  In either situation, salvation is reduced to the forgiveness of sins.  There might be a mention of eternity in heaven as opposed to hell. Even that seems to be diminished these days, in light of glory of being righteous in the eyes of God.

But we can’t describe heaven well, apart from what isn’t there, and a vague idea of God seated on the throne, and the activity around Him, like the praise songs being sung.

But what makes our lives the work of art that Paul tells the church in Ephesus about?

What did theologians talk about, when they mentioned the life of the baptized?

What is this transformation that the Corinthians hear is happening to them, this work of the Holy Spirit that happens as we reflect the glory of God.

That means something is going on now, this transformation in our lives, this work of art, this being created (re-created) in Christ Jesus to do that which God ordained us to do.  Not to sit and argue about, not to dismiss because it makes us uncomfortable.  The idea of being close enough to Christ to experience His glory, to reflect that glory to a world, broken and comfortable in darkness is a challenge.

I like how Pope Francis put it,

“”We feel safer in our sins, in our limitations, but feel at home; leaving our home to answer God’s invitation, go to God’s house, with others? No. I’m afraid. And all of us Christians have this fear hidden deep inside … but not too hidden.” (from a quote from “Divine Office” on facebook)

We want to hide in the comfort of our sins, as Israel did. We want a veil that keeps us at a distance….

God will remove that veil, enabling us to walk in a relationship trusting Him.  He will make our lives that masterpiece, He will transform us into the very image of Christ.  He will walk with us, and we will be so amazed by that, we may not even notice the rest of what He is doing…..

That is His love for us.

That is the baptised life….

That is salvation.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1211-1218). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Humility Needed For Ministry: Christ’s

Devotional thought of the DayThe Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

25  God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26  This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:25-29 (NLT)

6  “I have made you known to those you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me. They have obeyed your word, 7  and now they know that everything you gave me comes from you. 8  I gave them the message that you gave me, and they received it; they know that it is true that I came from you, and they believe that you sent me. 9  “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those you gave me, for they belong to you. 10  All I have is yours, and all you have is mine; and my glory is shown through them. John 17:6-10 (TEV) 

291  The Lord has shown us this refinement of Love: he has let us conquer the world for him. He is always so humble that he has wished to limit himself to making it possible… To us He has granted the easiest and most agreeable part: taking action and gaining the victory. (1)

It seems there is one more blog this week about humility, and the role it plays in our relationship with God our Father. Our relationship with God, what some would call our faith, But ministry, like reconciliation and faith, it doesn’t start with us.

It is about Christ.

His humility, His gift to us of sharing His work with us. of working through us.

The words of Escriva in my devotions this morning sent dozens of passages through my mind, from the Carmen Christi hymn of Philippians 2:5-10, to Isaiah 52-53, to Psalm 139, to the description of Jesus going into hell to preach to those captive there in Peter’s writings, to the very promises of the Incarnation.

Why would Jesus share His ministry, His work of reconciling, of redeeming the world, of restoring in us what we were created to be, the children of God?  What do we have to bring to His work, that He already isn’t?  Can we love as purely?  Sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others?  Can we speak as eloquently, or heal those who are broken?  Do we have the wisdom, the knowledge, and the depth of love?

Why does Jesus share with us the work to achieve that which the Father desires?

Why would He humbly step aside, and give to us, His people, the responsibility to ‘take action and gain the victory?”

Why would He give us the opportunity to share in His glory, in His work glorifying the Father?

Why would He trust us to work with all we are, to present every man complete as they are joined to Him?

it is something incredible to contemplate, to wonder about the love of God that is shown to us in giving us this ministry of reconciliation.  Think through this day the relationship you have with God, where He would entrust you with that which He desires. Think of how He must see us, as we are joined to Christ.  Consider how complete God’s work is, a true masterpiece in His opinion, as He united us to Christ’s death and resurrection in our baptism.

This trust God would place in us, as Jesus entrusts to us (and we are empowered to do this work by the Holy Spirit!) with His own work, with bringing the message of His love, His mercy, His grace.

That is why ministry isn’t about law, why serving others isn’t a command, it is a moment of unity with Christ, of walking with Him, of the unity of His resurrection and ours, lived out in our very lives. It is about the gift of the Holy Spirit, where we do this work, not by our own strength, but the Holy Spirit working in us, revealing the glory of God at work in us. as we find ourselves striving to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Even as God humbles Himself to allow us to be partners in ministry, He ensures the work is done through us…. amazing….

Ministry? It is about walking humbly with a God, who humbles Himself to walk with us.

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1400-1403). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Sharing God’s Love

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

27 God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV)

671      Jesus says: “He who hears you hears me.” Do you still think it is your words that convince people?… Don’t forget either that the Holy Spirit can carry out his plans with the most useless instrument.  (1) (referencing Luke 10:16)

It is amazing to me, as I sit in an apartment overlooking a city of 12 million people in China, that God uses people like me to tell of His love for you.  If you saw us, those who are called to be pastors, as we are, simple fallen human beings, then you would be amazed as well.

We toil and struggle, sure, but so does every other believer.  We are trained, but it is not the training that makes a man a pastor, or an evangelist.  In my case, I have known since I was a child, yet, I still wonder about that.

Not because I doubt God, or the call, but because I look in the mirror.  It is at those times I have to remember the incredible grace of God, which flows through me – like water through a pipe.  The pipe doesn’t add anything to the water, to the conversation, and if it does – well – you don’t want to drink.  that water!  It is about the source, the message of God’s love – and that He will do whatever is required to communicate it. As St Josemaria says, the Holy Spirit can use the most useless instrument.   You see that recognition in both Paul and Peter, in their epistles, in their actions – the source of their words is run home.

This idea – that people are hearing God, hearing Jesus when a pastor speaks, isn’t just about pastors though.  Each of us has been called to share – to be a light in the world, salt – bringing flavor and preserving those with whom we interact.  Remember though – the words are to be His – the words that reveal Him.  The words that bring people the comfort of the Holy Spirit (and reveal their need for that comfort and peace.)

So today, talk of God’s love – to those around you.  For they need to hear it as much as those that hear Pr. Bernie preaching for me in Cerritos… or my sermon here in Mei Lin…

Let His mercy reign in us!  AMEN

Evangelism and “not taking God’s Name in Vain”

Discussion/Devotional thought of the Day.

7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vainExodus 20:7 (ESV) 

When the above commandment is mentioned, most people think of someone who hit his hand with a hammer, or gets cut off in traffic, and with a exclamation utters the name by which all are saved, Jesus Christ.  Or perhaps they use God’s name to condemn (damn) something.  That is what pastors call a “sin of commission”.  We actually violated the command by doing exactly what it says we shouldn’t.  To misuse God’s name, to blaspheme, to denigrate the name of the Lord who died on the cross because He loves us.

But we don’t talk about sin only as sins of commission, but sins of omission as well.  That is – we take GOd’s name in vain, not only when use it to curse or swear or to impress or intimidate others, but also when we fail to use it when we should.  Luther spoke of it this way:

We must fear and love God, so that we will not use His name to curse, swear, cast a spell, lie or deceive, but will use it to call upon Him, pray to Him, praise Him and thank Him in all times of trouble.

I was thinking the other day, regarding the proper use of the Lord’s name, and verses came to mind about the Lord and His name and the people that bear His name, or will be given it.  Then one in particular came to mind…

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Matthew 28:18-19 (NLT) 

If we are to use God’s name rightly, in marking people as His, in making disciples who bear His name, then indeed, when we fail to be about that, or disdain the sharing of the word of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit in using God’s word to bring people to life in Christ, then we have another place where we have failed to use His name, indeed, in lacking we have used it vainly.  For His word will not return void, it will not return in vain.  It is His to be used as we praise Him for His wonderful work in our midst, to pray and give Him the very burdens that distract us.

So use His word, use His name as we ought, loving people enough to share with them the very words of life, and see them marked in the name about all names, as God cleanses them.

Godspeed!

 

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