Images, Filters, and Reconciliation


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
5  Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. 6  It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. 7  If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 (MSG)

592    Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?  (1)

For the last few days, I am seeing more and more of my friends pictures with filters over them.

Some filters are rainbow colored.  Some are black and white.  A lot I’ve seen are a translucent copy of the papal flag, Even seen a few confederate flags the week before the supreme court decision.

And I guess I don’t understand it.  Either personally or pastorally.

First, personally.  When I am relating to friends and people, is what your filter speaks of the most important thing about you?  Is it what symbolizes you so much, that it must block who you are?  Is that what you want to divide you from me, what must stand between us getting to know each other, getting to care for each other?  Is that filter the primary lens through which you want to be viewed?

Or can I get to know all of you – not just the one aspect that filters the rest of you from me?

Secondly, as a pastor, I am concerned about the same issue.  About people seeing you through just one lens, about it hiding who you are from others.  Like I said, I have friends with just about every filter there is.  And I have people I struggle with, who also “wear” those filters.  They range all over the map, different personality types, different careers, talents, hobbies,  Some are nice, some annoying.  Yet the effect is dividing FB and other social media into groups, hiding the diversity, hiding who people really are.  What is worse is that these groups divide people, not reconcile them. It isolates us from each other, or it causes us to put on masks, so we aren’t seen opposing others.  I know not many are putting on these filters to divide themselves from others, but isn’t that the effect at the end of the day?

As a pastor, as I was thinking about these filters this morning, Paul’s image of us being a bunch of ordinary pots, unadorned, unpainted.  It is what inside us then that makes the difference.  Just like in St. Josemaria’s garbage can.  You can have a pot filler with glorious flowers, or one filled with fertilizer.  You can have a pot that is cracked that is filled with gold, and you can have a beautifully painted chamber pot.   (those were the pots that were used prior to the invention of indoor plumbing) We can be garbage cans, filled with trash, or cleaned and repurposed for something.

it is scripture that tells us what it takes to take something common, ordinary (the original definition of profane btw) and make it something beautiful, something incredible.  It’s not the filter that makes us special, it isn’t our pride, or that in which we take pride that makes us more valuable.  In fact, it in our humility, where we reach out to other for help, when we realize we need to sit down and talk rather than force our views down the throats of those who have different filters, or are unfiltered folk.

Yes, that includes bluntly discussing some things, like morality. We need to approach each other, even in disagreement, peacefully, desiring the best for each other.  Will we disagree on what is best?  Perhaps!  But unless we drop the filters, how will we ever know if someone has something we need to hear?  How will we be able to offer them something that will help them?

And for my fellow believers, are those filters helping you do what God has called you to do?

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1413-1416). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Necessary Ingredient for Faith in Troubled Times…


Devotional Thought of the Day
8  No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NLT)

16  Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 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. 20  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:16-20 (NLT)

581    How humbly and simply the evangelists relate incidents that show up the weak and wavering faith of the Apostles! This is to keep you and me from giving up the hope of some day achieving the strong and unshakeable faith that those same Apostle s had later.  (1) 

The simplicity and pastoral care with which the Fr. Josemaria Escriva wrote his simple sentences astounds me.  I may not agree with everything he writes, but there is so much which resonates with me.  Simply put, he often puts the words to what I know and struggle to explain.

This is true today, as I struggle with how the church (myself included) struggles to reflect the love of Christ into a broken and dark world.  We get so caught up in our own pain, the sense of betrayal we have felt, our own anxiety and paranoia that we fail to trust God, to have faith in His promises.

The task to have a world, a country, a community that glorifies God seems overwhelming, and even impossible. The world wants what it wants, its version of justice, its version of freedom, its version of love and hope, and we seem surprised that it is at odds with what we know from scripture.

And rather lament over the brokenness of the world, we lament over the loss of power and the loss of our dreams. As we do, or faith wavers, we doubt, we give way to our feelings.

To this loss, the words in blue above speak strongly.  We aren’t alone when we struggle; the apostles struggled just as much as we do.  They walked for 40 days with the Lord Jesus, after he rose from the dead, after being beaten, crucified and a spear strike into his heart and lungs.  And in Matthew’s gospel, it tells us, their faith wavered, they doubted, they knew anxiety and fear.  (What else did they need – they had Jesus, risen from the dead!)

That they did, that God continued to work through them, that they would go on to grow in their trust of God is amazing.  10 of 11 of the men there would die, brutally, because they took the task Jesus commissioned them for very seriously.  They made disciples, they baptized people and taught them to treasure what God had given them in Christ Jesus.

But first they doubted, first their faith wavered, and Jesus even rebuked them a time or two… for not trusting Him, for not turning to God.

That is where humility comes in, of knowing we are children of God, people who are his, and are welcome to depend on Him.  Even when we don’t understand the world any more than it understands us. It is at that point where we need to be humble, to be meek, to find our confidence, not in our strength, not in our ability to argue, not in our witty meme’s or comebacks.  We need to be humble, to walk with God, to seek out the justice of the cross.  To know the love of God, shown in Jesus bearing the wounds that would bring healing to all the broken people, all the broken relationships in the world.  Including us.

As we find that healing in Christ Jesus, we can help others heal.

That requires trusting God… and being humble enough to admit our need, our dependence on Him.

Lord Have mercy on us!

1.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1387-1389). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

True Confessions… A Sermon Based on Matt 16 (text only)


True Confessions

Matthew 16 13-19

In Jesus Name

May you see revealed to you, the grace, mercy and peace of God the Father, that comes from knowing Jesus, and knowing He is the Anointed One, the Son of God sent to save us!

 The Confession of Peter

The Supreme Court decision on Friday will not change the bottom line of this sermon, it won’t change the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  As the Christ, He  the one chosen and put in place to deliver us from sin.

But the decision on Friday did impact this sermon and what I am going to say.  It did help clarify and focus the message on Peter’s confession, and what it means for us, and to us.

It will help us to know where we stand, what is our confession, what we can rely on, what we can base our life upon.

On Friday and Saturday, I heard over and over a part of our gospel reading quoted over and over.  It was used with the intent to rally the church, to comfort those plagued by anxiety and fear, those feeling hurt and betrayed. It was to rally them, to give them some hope that despite an attack to what they know of life and religion, that God was still in charge.

I also hear it used triumphantly, as some Christians saw the decision as proof that God was blessing their position.

Either way, the confession that everyone pointed to as their hope was this,

upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

or to hear it the old way,

upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it!  (KJV)
That the gates of hell can’t stand against the church, is true but it is not why we have hope, they are not the good confession.

This is the conversation that gives us hope

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

and knowing that, trusting in that, making that your rock, your foundation in life, is what matters.

The “other confessions”
The Prophets of Law….
It’s not that they aren’t needed…

When the people of God in Jesus day looked at Jesus, they struggled to figure out who He was.  That is the first question Jesus asks, as he uses the word from which we get logic.  Who do they reason I am?  Not just say as in passing, but when they really think about it.

The answer the apostles gave was John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.  Three prophets, three men, it can be said, brought an uncomfortable message of hope in a time where people didn’t want to hear it, yet held out for the hope it offered.

What the people saw in Jesus, based on their answers, is someone who could be with them in the present, but also looked with great hope for the future.

Let me say that again,

What the people saw in Jesus, based on their answers, is someone who could be with them in the present, but also looked with great hope for the future.

They were hoping for a prophet that would call those sinners back to God.  They were hoping for a change in their society, in their life, and those prophets promised that it was coming…

And just a promise would have been such a great thing, to hope for the fulfillment of the promise was more than they could imagine. Never mind how the fulfillment of the promise would change everything.

Even Peter and the apostles, who had revealed to them by God the Father that Jesus was the Christ, the chosen One, couldn’t understand.

That the gates of hell cannot withstand the church is something really great, really encouraging.

But it is nothing compared to the fulfilled promise, the rock on which we base everything, the true confession we need to understand.
The Confession… the Christ!

Would it have been bad if Jesus was another Jeremiah?  Another Ezekiel? A second John the Baptist?  Perhaps not, and we constantly need people who call us on our own sin.

But even more we need the Christ, the one chosen and anointed to deliver us into the presence of God our Father.

I guess I can put it this way.  Nancy and Bob yesterday celebrated their 50 year reunion.  When they got engaged, it was a good thing.  But imagine if they had remained engaged for the fifty years, never getting married.

That is the difference between being those promised the Christ, somewhere in the future, to those who have a relationship with God the Father, because Jesus came to us.

He came to us, the Anointed, chosen One of God came to us.  Then the Father revealed to us, as Jesus taught, as He healed, as He did miracles, that Jesus was more than just a prophet.  God came to live among us, to give us life, to make us His.  He came to prove to us His love, His commitment to a relationship that would survive our sin.

That is or hope, that is why we have confidence in God.

He is the Christ, the one chosen to deliver us from sin, and into the presence of the Father.  He is our Savior, our Redeemer, the One who Reconciles us to the Father, our Life, the Lord who calls us His beloved, who tells us we are no longer without a home, no longer without a family.

Because of Jesus, we know our Father in Heaven, the Creator of the Universe listens when we talk to Him, when we pray.

He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

And it is as we know this, as we begin to understand the love this takes, the love He has for us, that we see the church being drawn together.  God begins to build His home in us.  His love is so strong, that it can’t stop us from raiding hell, to bring back those who sin has damaged, whom it is broken.

Because He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

That is our confession, that is why we have hope, that is why we plead with people to be reconciled to God.  We want them to know that love, that brings a peace that passes understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

True Confessions A Sermon Based on Matthew 16 (audio/video)


The manuscript for this video is posted seperately.  Since this is the first time I’ve tried recording this with video and audio, I would appreciate your feedback, whether the video feed was helpful.  Thanks!

The Challenge of Preaching this Sunday:


Devotional Thought of the Day:
..simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts. Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you. . 1 Peter 3 (Phillips NT)

32  And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself. John 12:32 (NJB)

But only when this message is preached does the real sin manifest itself, the sin of which it is stated here that it makes all the difference, namely, that “they do not believe in Me.” For the world does not want to hear such preaching: that they are all sinners before God, that their work righteousness has no validity before Him, and that they can obtain mercy and salvation solely through this crucified Christ. This unbelief toward Christ becomes a combination of all sins; it leads man into a damnation from which there is no rescue.  (1)

As I have watched the internet and twitter today, I have grieved over the entire situation. I have contemplated and prayed about how I and the other pastors (I met with over 200 this morning, as well as laypeople representing churches all over Southern Cal, Arizona and Nevada.  We did not meet about this, it was our every three year meeting. But the decision was mentioned).  I have wondered about writing about this, knowing I must.

Knowing as well that there will be expectations about sermons on Sunday, and I imagine many pastors will be re-writing their sermons tomorrow.  Our sermons will need to confront all sin, and call people to be reconciled to God.  People will have different expectations, some thinking we should fall on one side of the issue or the other.

I have to disappoint them, The decision and reaction to it are not the sin we need to talk about on Sunday.

The sin we need to talk about is the one that robs us of our hope, the sin that sucks life out of us, the sin where we forget, or indeed rebel against God loving us. People who agree with the Supreme Court have sinned, as have those who do not agree with the Supreme Court.  All have sinned; all have experienced the brokenness of life.

We need to examine ourselves individually and find the Spirit granting us repentance of the sin of not loving God, about not trusting Him to keep His promises.  Promises like:

28  We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good. Romans 8:28 (NJB)

and just a few verses later,

38  For I am certain of this: neither death nor life nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, 39  nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NJB)

My reaction to the Supreme Court will not reveal to people Jesus, who lived and died for them.  It won’t share a love that drove him to suffer and die on the cross to give all sinners the hope of being righteous.  All sinners, including gossips, slanderers, idolators, haters, adulterers, people who are so envious of others it consumes them, and those who are so bitter that they cannot love people enough to desire reconciliation and healing of relationships.  From sin, we need to be cleansed, to be transformed, not just from individual sins.  Sin, as Luther wrote above, is not trusting, not having faith, bot believing God.

My friends, we are called to give the reason we have hope, why we expect something greater that the division of our country and the world. To do so, we have to realize our mission is to not demand purity, to plead with people to be reconciled, to let God draw them to Christ Jesus.

We need to be saved from sin – not just from sins.  We need to find the life He promised, that the Holy Spirit gives, the hope that comes in Christ Jesus.

That’s what He does… He embraces us, brings healing to our battered lives, brings holiness and sanctity to those who sins He has died for, to free them.

He is our hope, no matter how shattered or communities, our neighborhoods, our families and our churches.  Yes they are shattered, and the sin of our unbelief, our distrust of God is what shattered them.  But that sin of unbelief is why He came.

Be reconciled to God, I plead, for there, in His love, there is hope.

The Hope we are commanded to give, the hope that is the reason we preach and administer sacraments.  If we do that, if we lift Christ, the hope of sinners, high, if we reveal Jesus on the cross, because He loves us, Sunday will be a day of joy for all who are drawn to Him.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s Works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 342–343). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Do We Live by Faith?


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
17  For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.” Romans 1:17 (NAB)

1  As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. 2  For God says, At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (NLT)

No. 3232c: Description of Luther’s “Tower Experience”
Between June 9 and July 21, 1532

“The words ‘righteous’ and ‘righteousness of God’ struck my conscience like lightning. When I heard them I was exceedingly terrified. If God is righteous64 [I thought], he must punish. But when by God’s grace I pondered, in the tower and heated room of this building,65 over the words, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’ [Rom. 1:17] and ‘the righteousness of God’ [Rom. 3:21], I soon came to the conclusion that if we, as righteous men, ought to live from faith and if the righteousness of God contribute to the salvation of all who believe, then salvation won’t be our merit but God’s mercy. My spirit was thereby cheered. For it’s by the righteousness of God that we’re justified and saved through Christ. These words [which had before terrified me] now became more pleasing to me. The Holy Spirit unveiled the Scriptures for me in this tower.”  (1)

578    It is Saint Paul who tells you, apostolic soul: Iustus ex fide vivit—“He who is just lives by faith.” How is it that you’re letting that fire die down?  (2)


For five centuries, the impact of Luther’s transformation described above in green have been a blessing to those haunted by trying to live perfectly. It is the core doctrine of my branch of Christianity.  We do not earn or merit our position as being justified before God, but instead we recognize that we are found righteous as we trust in Christ’s work.  We are counted righteous, just, because He did the work, and all we do is stand amazed by this work.

I firmly believe that, and it is for that reason I “became” Lutheran going on fifteen years ago. There is a great relief in our realizing our failures can’t separate us from God.

But there is more to this passage than our justification.  There is what could be called our vivification, or our quickening, our being brought to life by the Holy Spirit, who gives us faith, The Spirit who causes our transformation, our repentance.

And then, trusting in God, having faith in Him, we live.

WE LIVE!

I am not sure we understand this all that well, at least in our minds. We might understand it in our soul, in our heart of hearts, but how hard is it to explain the difference that happens, when we know what God has done to us.  When we recognize the love He has for each one of us.  

It enables us to live, to live.

That life is often beyond our words, beyond our thoughts, it is the relationship with God that we can sort of describe, but the description never is better than the reality of what it is.  It is as we get distracted from this work of God that our light seems to fade, our living seems to become more oppressed, more complicated, more stifling. Less free… less like life.  Yet. just remembering our baptism, and the promises there, or seeing a chalice and being reminded of the gift we are given in the Lord’s Supper, we know there is something different about life… about living.

The righteous shall live.. by trusting in God……knowing His mercy, His presence, His love.

The righteous live… breath, move… in Christ.

That is who we are… for He loves us.

W(1)   Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 54: Table Talk. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 54, pp. 193–194). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

(2)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1381-1383). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God? Don’t You Care? A sermon from Mark 4


God, Don’t You Care?
Mark 4:35-41

May this sermon help you search out the richness of God the Father’s love you, show in Jesus, confirmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit!

What Should They Do Next Time?

This morning we are going to try and walk a mile in the apostles sandals.

Or maybe it would be better to say we are going to take a turn at the oars of their boat.

I want you to think through the storm again, to feel the panic of the apostles, to be up to you waste in cold water, to feel the 80-knot wind. The time in our gospel is now a distant memory, a couple of months back, and yet you find yourself in the middle of another storm.

You heard Jesus’s words, echoing through your brain, as you again battle the elements,

“Why are you afraid?”

“Do you still have no faith?”

And as another wave crashes over the bow of the boat… what are you going to do?

What would a person who has faith in God do differently?

Or, What should they do the next time?

Don’t answer yet…

Or let’s make this personal.  What is your trust in God going to cause you to “do” the next time you encounter such a storm?

At the Right time….

Before we decide on how we and the apostles should act during the next storm, I want to switch from the gospel to Paul’s letter to the church in 2 Corinthians 6.  There, Paul continues the theme of our pleading with people to “come back to God.”  Indeed, he says there,

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.

I suggest that this is the same concept as we find Jesus talking in the gospels about. He challenges the apostles, questioning their faith, and here, Paul says, why are you ignoring the gift from God?  The letter to the Hebrews asks the same question in another way,

3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4  And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. Hebrews 2:3-4 (NLT)
Here are these guys in the boat, and the one person who can do something, whom they have seen do all sorts of miracles, is left asleep.

Here are these guys in the boat, and the one person who can do something, whom they have seen do all sorts of miracles, is left asleep.

Whoops!!

(The same thing happens to Job, the one thing his friends never did – was actually ask God why everything was going on!)

They had forgot the mission of Christ! Why he came!  To establish the Kingdom of God, to create for God the Father a people that would be His.  All the miracles were done, not to maximize Jesus reputation, but to convince people that the Father was there, in their midst, ready to bless and save them!

And, they left Him asleep!

They didn’t trust him enough to even bother waking Jesus up, they forgot about His love, His presence, His desire to reconcile them to the Father.  They saw the waves, and got scared.  Someone probably even said, “don’t worry, God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”  Of course they were wrong.

God didn’t say that He promised something different,

“At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

But they didn’t think of that, and their cry to Jesus was even worse,

Lord, don’t you care about us?  Are you going to let us be destroyed?

Imagine saying that?  Actually, I don’t have to, I’ve said it.  Eventually, usually through another believer, but sometime as we study God’s word, or in a prayer or vision, we hear Him…

This question is a hard one to face, because we struggle to see God, not just physically, but actively in our lives.  We wonder if he is asleep, or on vacation, because sometimes we don’t hear His voice.  We don’t feel His comfort.

We need to stop, and breath… and be still and know He is God.  TO be still enough to hear His voice. That is hard to do, but that is why we are a church.  So if I am struggling, Al or Chuck or Wanda is there to help, if you are struggling, we all are there for you.  To remind you to listen, to help bring you to calm waters, So that you can hear God’s voice.

“Trust me,” God tells us, “I love you, I am here, I will help….  I CARE!”

Which leads us back to the question…

What do you do the next time…

The next time the storm is attacking, and that may be right now, How should you handle it?  Given Jesus’ loving correction to those whom He loved, what should we do?

Should we

1)  Try to command the storm to stop on our own, using our great faith?

2.) Let fear overrule our trust in God, our knowledge of His love, and become so confused that we forget the presence of God?

3.  Or Should we remember that Jesus is here, that He loves us, and then put everything we are into His hands?

The lesson of faith is not to try and calm the storms, but to trust the One who is Lord over everything.  Faith doesn’t try to manage things on our own, faith runs to the one whom is our shelter in the storm, our refuge in battle, our deliverer, our salvation,

Our goal is to remember He cares, to remember He’s promised to never leave us or forsake us,

He cares, He really cares, and in our baptism, He gives us His Spirit, the Comforter.  He is the God who lifts up – that is the very meaning of His name, the paraclete.

That is our ministry together, as we remind each other that He is here, as we call others to experience that grace.  That’s Paul’s discussion as well. It is the very presence of Christ that keeps him moving, despite opposition, despite bodyaches, despite those who would physically assault him, as he preached the gospel.
He can go on through these storms, because of God’s presence, …..

So once again, in the storms of life, don’t bother trying to have enough faith to endure them by yourself, and don’t forget in whose presence you dwell, but continually encourage each other to know this….

The Lord is with you, and He cares for you….

Knowing that, dwell in the indescribable peace of God, for there you are safe, your hearts and minds guarded by Christ Jesus.

AMEN.

Can You Hear God Now? Why You Need to!


Featured imageDevotional Thought of The Day:

28  About a week after he had said these things, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a hill to pray. Luke 9:28 (TEV)

42  They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (TEV)

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God. (1)

There is a joke (at least I hope it is a joke) about an elderly gentleman and an odd sense of romance.  He was asked by a newlywed how often he told his wife he loved her. The old guy thought for a moment and said, “the day we got engaged.”  Seeing the shocked look on the young man’s face, he followed that up with, “and I told her if I changed my mind, I would surely let her know!”

I can’t believe there exists a woman for whom this would be satisfactory.

And so I wonder why many of us settle for that kind of relationship with God. It’s not that He doesn’t tell us constantly that He loves us, for He dearly wants us to know He loves us, to be aware of His presence.

That is what all of creation is about, about our relationship with Him.

Imagine for a moment that the old man’s wife told the young couple, “Oh, don’t worry about us, I am too tired to pay attention to my husband telling me he love me.  It’s too much work to drop what I am doing, and read a loveletter he carefully wrote me.  I don’t want his comfort, or for him to treat me special. Are our excuses for not spending time with God, with His people, any better?

Are our lives so perfect that we don’t need to be comforted by the Holy Spirit, that we don’t need to be encouraged by our brothers and sisters in the church?  Are we somehow more mature than the early church, who gathered regularly to pray?

If this letter is producing some guilt, that is not its intent. We have been given an amazing gift, a blessing beyond compare.  The presence of God, and in scripture, the proof of His love.  A gift we need to use, a gift that is a life changer, to know we walk through life with God.

Spending time in prayer, in readying and stuyding His word wih others, in celebrating the Lord’s Supper – it isn’t about duty, it is about knowing we are love… about hearing and seein that love…. Together, as His family.. And there is nothing better…

1.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God Knows His Plans For You, Are You Ready for The Hope They Bring?.


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

11  I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for. 12  Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you. Jeremiah 29:11-12 (TEV)

545    Live a special Communion of the Saints, and at the moment of interior struggle, as well as during the long hours of your work, each of you will feel the joy and the strength of not being alone.  (1) 

The above quote from scripture (the red quote) is often used to lift people’s spirits,  It appears on cards and meme’s with beautiful sunrises and glorious backgrounds.  People share it with those they know need a spiritual boost, a holy “pick me up,” assurance.  jeremiah, the prophet of troubling messages assured us of a light at the end of the tunnel.  He promises, as God’s spokesman, that there is hope, and it is found in the presence of God.  The presence that we are believers dwell in, for we are His people!

He will hear our prayer, He has a plan, He has an answer, and all of that is true.

You might ask where the fine print is, and there is something in the context of this verse that you need to hear. Read this carefully,

7  Work for the good of the cities where I have made you go as prisoners. Pray to me on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too. Jeremiah 29:7 (TEV)

Read the verse again?  Do you realize that God is tieing the future of the Babylonians to the future of the Jewish people?  That God’s people are to pray for their enemies, their persecutors, that the future and hope of both Jews and Gentiles is linked?  That the people of God should work hard to benefit those who oppress them,

We are called to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute.  That is what we do, as we trust in Jesus’ promise to us in the sermon on the Mount.  And it is nothing really new.  That kind of love Israel was supposed to show people back in the Old Testament.  It is very radical, it is not logical by man’s standards!  Yet in 1 Cor. 5 we are told that we don’t judge men by those standards, but by the value Jesus has placed on them. They will become part fo the Communion of Saints, the very people that will lift you up.

God has radical plans for you, plans that are beyond awesome.  Those plans include all He brings into His family, all He wants to bring into His family.  That includes those people, the ones you struggle to love.  The ones who take every bit of trust you have in God to deal with, and then some.

Pray for them, do everything you can to help them… trusting not in their response, but in God’s role in your life. You will be amazed at His plans, at the reconciliation and restoration he accomplishes!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1317-1319). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What the Game of Thrones Can Teach Us About Death…..


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
54  So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!” 55  “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt? 56  Death gets its power to hurt from sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. 57  But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (TEV)

383 The scholastics do not teach the righteousness of faith. They interpret faith as merely a knowledge of history or of dogmas, not as the power that grasps the promise of grace and righteousness, quickening the heart amid the terrors of sin and death.

(disclaimer, I haven’t watched GoT yet…. but please keep reading)

Last night my Twitter and FB feeds went crazy, I mean really crazy. Like 1000 posts in five minutes crazy. 

Everyone was talking about someone dying, reacting the way I remember us reacting when the Challenger exploded, or perhaps when the way people did when Kennedy was shot.

Turns out it was a character on a television show called Game of Thrones. ( I vaguely remember a similar incident when someone shot JR, but then again, I didn’t watch that show either!)

One of my much younger friends tried to explain it to me.  She was kind of shocked that I hadn’t watched GoT yet and tried to convince me I MUST watch it. We “chatted” across FB for a while, and I went to sleep thinking I might be able to watch and episode or two… maybe in August?  

But I thought about it, apparently this show, like a few others this last year, have made a point about people dying who are someone special to the show.  Someone died in Gray’s Anatomy (McDreamy McSteamy, McBlasphemy?) , And I think there is some other show where they regularly kill off a character. I suppose if BlackList (the only show I regularly watch, and I am a season behind)

All this shock of death, even the death of a fictional character is, in my mind a good thing.  We can learn from it, that death is fleeting, and that life needs to be taken in a proper perspective.  That the relationships, we count on can be horribly marred by death, Whether that death is a friend in their 90’s or infant still in the womb. Whether it is the death of a dear friend whom we will miss for years or of someone across the world.

Dying sucks.

It can cause fear as well, I can testify to that.  Because of a genetic heart condition, I’ve faced it for a long time though since 1998 the threat has lessened because of surgery.  Even so, death has an incredible power over us who live. It threatens us, it hurts us, it damages our psyche as we try to cope with our lives being shorter and more tragic than we want to admit, that we want to face.

Yeah – a character can be killed off.  Even more importantly, a friend can die, or you can.  An accident, a cardiac arrest, food poisoning, cancer, war, civil unrest.  No one is immune.  No one.  (as GoT so aptly proves!)

In the quote above in blue, a man named Phillip Melancthon talked about belief, about faith, in a way that can give us some comfort.  Faith is what gives us peace in the midst of death and dying,  It isn’t just knowing some facts and figures, it isn’t just about thinking about God, or trying to behave well.  It is clinging to God in a way that brings hope, even in the midst of tears, and anger, and trying to make sense out of this life, and the terminal nature of it.

Faith clings to the God, who promises that death is not as brutal, that there is something more to life than ending in death.

It clings to the promises God has made, that He has revealed, that He sends the Holy Spirit to confirm to us and to comfort us and to be our guarantee of eternity. When we have faith, we count on God more and more, and He sustains us, comforts us, holds us close.  And nothing, not even death, can separate us from His love.

So if GoT caused you to grieve, to be angry, to hold onto speculation that the character really isn’t dead, to go even into a small depression, maybe that’s a good thing.  Take the time to think through your reaction, to realize the power of death, and the only way to break its very real hold on you, is to hold on to Jesus.

He’s promised to protect your heart and your mind… and surround you with the incomprehensible peace of God our Father.

You’ll be okay.  He died to make sure of it!

God’s peace!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 165). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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