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June – the time of Job… and Jeremiah

District photoDevotional Thought of the Day:

“Why do you still trust God? Why don’t you curse him and die?”
10 Job replied, “Don’t talk like a fool! If we accept blessings from God, we must accept trouble as well.” In all that happened, Job never once said anything against God.  Job 2:9-10 CEV. 

Give your whole self to God and to His images, your brothers and sisters. Risk. Be crazy. Hold nothing back. Don’t be reasonable. Don’t be an investor. Be a lover.
Tell God right now that this is the one thing you want above all: the gift of loving Him completely. Tell Him you will never let Him go until He blesses you thus. Tell Him that even in eternity you will not let Him go until you are 100 percent love. And then you will never want to let Him go.

“when the creature failed, he flew to the Creator. He evidently felt his own weakness, or he would not have cried for help;”

This week I one of the lectionary readings to preach on what has become, if not a favorite passage, at least a life theme.  No, it’s not the Job reading above.

It might be worse,

Here it is.

7 You tricked me, LORD, and I was really fooled. You are stronger than I am, and you have defeated me. People never stop sneering and insulting me….9 Sometimes I tell myself not to think about you, LORD, or even mention your name. But your message burns in my heart and bones, and I cannot keep silent. Jeremiah 20:7,9 (CEV)

I have to admit there have been times where I have felt this way, seriously felt this way.  Not enough to assent to Job’s wife’s demand, but where situations cause despair and distress that is overwhelming and makes you want to yell at God.

just like Jeremiah did.

Sort of like I wanted Job to do…

Jeremiah did… Job didn’t.

What made Job able to do it?  What made him able to accept the curses as well as the blessings?  What is the difference between these readings that always seem to coincide in my life.

And why can’t I be more like Job?  Why can’t I help others to be more like Job?

Maybe Job was more like Jacob, displaying the attitude Peter Kreeft describes at the end of his best book. (One of the top 5 books in my life, I think – just finishing it, I need to read it again!) May Job understood what Spurgeon described, the need to cry for help… that was so great you couldn’t hold it in… and God listened.

Jeremiah was young… maybe Job had experienced it before.. and knew. he could cry.. and God would be there.

In times like this, I need to hold on, to demand that God can only be free of me when he helps me love Him, and those who bear His image, completely.  Nothing else need matter except that, and truly, that is what I need to hold on to, to the fact that God can change us, and will complete that work.

I just need to hold on, to trust, to demand the blessing of being transformed into the image of the One who loved that purely.  (That probably means I need to pray for the strength to do that as well. That I can do it year-round, not just in my annual encounter with Job and Jeremiah…)

I am pretty sure you need this as well, so let’s pray for each other, let’s beg God on each other’s behalf…

Lord, help us hold on.

AMEN!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 225.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Can We Demand A Blessing from God?

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

22  That same night Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two concubines, and his eleven children, and crossed the Jabbok River. 23  After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, 24  but he stayed behind, alone. Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. 25  When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. 26  The man said, “Let me go; daylight is coming.” “I won’t, unless you bless me,” Jacob answered. 27  “What is your name?” the man asked. “Jacob,” he answered. 28  The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.” 29  Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.” But he answered, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob. 30  Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel. Genesis 32:22-30 (TEV)

70         You asked me if I had a cross to bear. And I answered, “Yes, we always have to bear the Cross.” But it is a glorious Cross, a divine seal, the authentic guarantee of our being children of God. That is why we always walk along happily with the Cross.  (1)


I don’t like to wrestle with God, yet I find myself doing it far too often.

Often the wrestling is because I am too much like Jacob, I want things the way I want them.  Often times the way I want them seems quite logical, quite loving.

I want couples to grow together, not fight each other.  I want my family and friends to be healthy, not dealing with heart issues, or cancer, or even the effects of aging and it slowing them down.  I want my friends to be fellow disciples – studying and knowing God’s love, and desiring to spend time in worship and in service, and realizing that those two things, are really the same.

These things aren’t bad, are they?  Why can’t they simply happen?

I am tired of wrestling with God over them, there are days, where I want to just walk away, to give up, to let people go there way, and find some nice “normal” life.  Like Jeremiah, I have to rant and rave at times:

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. Jeremiah 20:7 (TEV)

I can’t  I have to wrestle with Him, I have to fight, I have to realize how He has blessed us.  Until I do, like Jacob, I cannot give up.  I have to find that blessing, I have to demand it,

I have to realize what it is….I have to realize the nature of the cross that He has chosen me to bear, even as you bear one as well.

The wrestling with God is all about the cross St Josemaria mentions;  Jeremiah’s being deceived gives us the answer as well. Here is how Jeremiah sees the matter resolve…..

9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:9 (TEV)

It is seen in Jacob realizing the answer to the unanswered question,  Who was this man?  Jacob’s realization – it is God, I have seen His face.  I even wrestled with Him, and He and I survived.

God came to me, He is here.  He has come to you as well, and sometimes, the battle is on.  We fight him, we try to forget Him, we do everything we can…. and He is still here.  King David describes this as well in Psalm 139 – where he tries to flee God, and realizes His silliness.

The blessing?  The reason we fight Him?  It’s found in the very fight. He will wrestle with us, without destroying us.  He comes to us, and engages with us, and cares enough to see the battle through.  To let us rant and rave, and yeah – even sometimes cry, but in the end…. realizing His presence… we find peace.

That is the blessing..

A blessing that makes the cross glorious, that makes the struggle amazing, that makes God’s message, something we cannot dismiss or ignore… for it burns inside us.

To realize God has come to us, to you, to me.  That He is here, with mercy and comfort, love… and a peace that we cannot explain.  Even as we are exhausted from the fight, and weary from the burden of the cross… and though we still don’t get the entire story…. we know all that matters…..

He is here…and that is our blessing.

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 514-517). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Let’s get ready to rumble…. with God!

Eugène Delacroix - Jacob Wrestling with the An...

(this sermon was written by one of my vicars and good friends, Mark Jennings…. who is also an incredible artist…. check out his work at:  http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/mark-jennings.html )

LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!

 

Welcome one and all to the event of the century! Two men enter and one man will be victorious in this battle, in a wrestling match for the ages!

In this corner hailing from Haran, a farmer and shepherd and ninety plus year old man, the challenger and underdog Jacob.

In the opposite corner coming from Heaven, we have God in the form of a man or in some translations, an angel or as I was always taught the pre-Incarnate Christ.

I wonder what the line in Vegas would have been for this event?

The outcome seems like a done deal doesn’t it? I mean really, a 90 plus year old man is going to wrestle with God. How could he even have a remote chance of winning?

It would appear that God is going to give Jacob a smack down!

So let’s turn to our Old T lesson, ring the bell and get this match started and find out.

We tune in at verse 34 and it says, “This left Jacob alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, He touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of the socket. Then the man said,” Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

A frail, puny human is able to struggle and wrestle with God and beat Him?

Yes!

A creature that God created was able to wrestle and struggle with the Almighty to at least a tie if not the win?

Impossible? Yes! But yet possible through God!

So let me ask you this. Do you, like Jacob, wrestle and struggle with God?

Do you wrestle and struggle in what would seem like impossible situations or maybe they are possible situations that you don’t concern God with. Maybe like the undercard before the main event? They are not important enough to bother God and besides you can handle can’t you?

Sometimes it may feel like the more impossible a situation may seem the more we can be tempted to pray without hope. Is this prayer really going to do any good or do we just go through the motions.

So again let me ask you, do you struggle and wrestle with God?

Are you ready to step into the ring?

Do you wanna wrassle?

The thought of wrestling with and struggling with God is a scary one. How can we wrestle with God? Doesn’t it sound sinful and rebellious and defiant?

But in answer to that it is God who allows it to happen.

I mean really when you think about it how could Jacob truly wrestle God and win?

First off how could have Jacob done this if faith had not been given to him from God? If you don’t believe in God and are not confident in the certain hope of the relationship forged and crafted for you then who would you pray to or attempt to struggle with. Just in that very idea, you see God working for His children.

We are able to wrestle with God jut like Jacob did because our Father sent His Son to do just that at and on the cross. Jesus took our sin and struggled in pure agony and wrestled the pain of death on the cross and bought victory for all people proven at the empty tomb.

Through the Incarnate Christ you have been given faith.

Jacob wrestling God is an awesome account of God working in us and through us and as we see the struggle of Jacob wrestling God, substitute this word instead of wrestling-substitute the word prayer or praying.

If you go back into Jacob’s life you will see that we living right now have a lot in common with Jacob. He had successes and he had failures. He had a family. He had good times and bad times. He had betrayal and loyalty. He was a sinner and he had faith.

See any similarities to your lives?

Jacob had all these things but he also had faith! So much faith that he was able to wrestle God and prevail.

As he was wrestling with God, something crucial happens. They wrestle until dawn as neither will quit. Finally the man knows that Jacob will not give in or give up and he touches Jacob’s hip and it is wrenched out of the socket. I know one person here today for sure who can empathize with the pain of a broken hip ( Chet).

When this happens all Jacob can now do is hold on for dear life and grasp the man never letting go for fear of falling. Now he needed the man for support! No fancy wrestling moves like the full nelson or the flying elbow. All Jacob can do is hold on and no matter what, Jacob wasn’t going to let go! As the man asks to be let go, Jacob replies,”I will not let go until you bless me!”

Ir almost seems like Jacob’s opponent cheats doesn’t it? He knows He can’t win so he cripples Jacob.

Did God cheat? Quite the contrary, He does this so Jacob having faith now must depend on the man to even stand at this point. Jacob must depend on the man.

Jacob must depend on God.

So do you struggle and wrestle with God, dependent on Him or do you hold on to something else and wrestle with it such as false gods and false idols which wrestle you and win and take the place of God?

Your sin is trying always to defeat you and pin you to the mat like an insect pinned to a board as a specimen.

Our Lord wrestles with us and cripples us in the way that we become fully dependent on Him and that nothing else matters. When God wrestles with us it is not as an adversary trying to pin us and win the match but instead it is to build us up and empower us through His beloved Son so that we will have victory over the adversary who is prowling around trying to consume and devour us in sin.

We have been given victory. We can struggle and wrestle with God in prayer and through Him we can pin Him and hold Him to His promises to us through Christ.

As you wrestle and grapple with God through prayer in the faith given to you in Baptism, God wants you to hold onto Him and pin Him with His promises. These are the promises of forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life bought and paid for by the Christ with His blood.

This is the promise come to fruition in the work of our Savior who frees us and calls us to faith in Him. This faith is what allows us to take everything to Him in prayer grapple with God and depend on Him.

Jacob struggled with God and overcame not because he was a superhero or all powerful but because God was and is always faithful to His people with His promises and because he had given Jacob faith.

At the end of their wrestling match, God tells Jacob, ” Your name will no longer be Jacob. From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and won.”

Jacob, whose name meant heel or button, asks for a blessing and God changes His name to Israel meaning one who contends or struggles with God.

It is no coincidence that the priesthood of all believers is called through Christ, the new Israel. After all is there anyone here today who doesn’t struggle with God?

You see the real meaning is that yes you do struggle and wrestle with God through prayer and the Word not to gain an advantage over Him or but to take advantage of His promises given to you.

You have faith and you can trust in His promises. This wrestling match began at your Baptism.

Our Father in His love, compassion and kindness wrestles with us in order to show us that His promises are complete and ironclad. He needs to show us how all these other things that we put our confidence and trust in are and really just how useless they are.

Hold on to God like Jacob held on. There was nothing that was going to make Him let go of God in their wrestling match not even a crippling injury!

Hold on to His promises. Pin Him with His promises! This is want our Father in Heaven wants! This is great joy for Him when you who are His children pin Him with His promises so that He can call you Israel-he who struggles with God and overcomes through Christ in that life giving faith, certain hope and confidence knowing that you are His forever!

Trust and wrestle with Him who loves us so much that He gave us salvation through the sacrifice of His only Son and whose promises never fail. Wrestle with Him and know our loving Heavenly Father who wrestles with His child expecting to pinned by those perfect promises!

In other words trust and depend on Him as Jacob did!

So, do you wanna wrassle?

 

Alleluia, amen

 

 

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