Do You Struggle To Live as a Christian?


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
11  But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12  Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT)

12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

155    Jesus is never satisfied “sharing.” He wants all.

156    You don’t want to submit yourself to the will of God … and instead you adapt yourself to the will of anybody and everybody.

Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. (2)

A few days ago, my facebook history brought up a blog I wrote about the crucifix.  How some churches and believers avoid it, how we would prefer to have an empty cross, I’ve also been thinking about what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

What would our reaction be if that read, “let yourself be crucified as you follow me”?

That makes the question very real.  The question then challenges us greatly.  Let myself be crucified?  Willingly submit to suffering and being a sacrifice?  To what end?

St. Paul tells us we have seen crucified our passions and our lusts (Gal 5:24) if we know Christ.  That our sin has been crucified, that we have died with Christ (Romans 6:1-8) That is part of it, and it is no error that concept arrives above in Timothy’s case. It is also the kind of life St Josemaria advocates, in giving ourselves completely to God, to letting Jesus take “all”.

It isn’t optional, it is what really happens in our baptism.  It isn’t a requirement of our salvation, as the Augsburg Confession testifies.  St Paul agrees with that when he says we strive to possess that which already possesses us.

But we do strive, we do struggle, for it is a struggle.  Satan would distract us, the temptation would draw us away, our own pride and brokenness will oppress us.  It takes effort to keep our eyes on Christ, to confess our sins, to gather with others in prayer and worship, and to pray on our own. It takes efforts to walk with Christ, to abide with Him.

It may seem less beneficial than working out, or writing some theological or political manifesto,

It isn’t, nothing is more important than communing with God.  That is what this is all about.

Walking with God, being His kids, enjoying the peace that comes from that…. that is enough.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 494-496). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.Augsberg Confession, The

(2)  Augsberg Confession, The

Prayer, Holiness Mission and the Unplugged Cellphone


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
8  O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.  Psalm 62:8 (NLT) 

107    Sanctity without prayer? I don’t believe in such sanctity. 

109    If you’re not a man of prayer, I don’t believe in the sincerity of your intentions when you say that you work for Christ.  (1)

I woke up this morning and reached for my cellphone to see what time it was. I unplugged it and tapped the screen three times to turn on the screen.

Immediate I got a warning, less than 5% power remaining, and it shut itself off. No power and it didn’t work. No phone, no internet, not even the simple information about what time it is.  Apparently, while I ensured I plugged the one end of the cord into my phone, the other end wasn’t plugged into the wall.

No problem, I’ll just switch to my tablet.  It had power, and I found out it was 8 o’clock here, or 5 am at home.  Okay. I got what I want.

But then during my devotion time, I came across a number of passages about prayer, and the necessity of it.  Then a blog post that talked about all of the different conferences and things that help pastors become more missional, more serious about the apostolate.

I started to wonder, how many of these conferences have a focus, not just a section or a speaker, I mean an entire conference,  If it were, would pastors and church leaders come?

Do we see the correlation between time spent in conversation with God, bi-directional conversation, and effective ministry?  The Apology of the Augsburg Confession (one of the basic documents explaining the Lutheran understanding of our relationship with God)  encourages prayer, even naming it as a sacrament because then men may pray more.

Because we need it.  It is not just our source of power; it is our source of life. It is the source of our mission as well. Without an active conversation with God, our life becomes stale, our wisdom is reduced to dry knowledge, and there is no relationship we can share with others. Like a cellphone with a dry battery, a believer without prayer is dead.

But an active prayer life helps us understand the will of God, His desire to love all of us, to show us mercy so we could realize that love. It brings healing to our brokenness. Healing so great it drives us to others, with the compassion to share the healing with them.

One last thing.  Don’t read this and start praying so that you will be a more effective evangelist, to be a better witness of God’s mercy.  The more time you spend with Him, the more the zeal for inviting others to the conversation will occur, not forced, but naturally.

Just walk with God, pouring out everything to Him, and hear him pour out His heart to you.

Have a blessed day…. with Him!

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 399-402). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who Am I? Who are You?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

36  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. Romans 11:36 (NLT)

Your boat—your talents, your hopes, your achievements—is worth nothing whatsoever unless you leave it in Christ’s hands, allowing him the freedom to come aboard. Make sure you don’t turn it into an idol. In your boat by yourself, if you try to do without the Master, you are—supernaturally speaking—making straight for shipwreck. Only if you allow, and seek, his presence and captaincy will you be safe from the storms and setbacks of life. Place everything in God’s hands. Let your thoughts, the brave adventures you have imagined, your lofty human ambitions, your noble loves, pass through the heart of Christ. Otherwise, sooner or later, they will all sink to the bottom together with your selfishness.  (1)

It is amazing how much our identity is wrapped up in things. Who we are is wrapped up in what we are able to do far more than we think.  Far more than is good.  

You don’t believe this, lose your driver’s license on a trip!!  You can’t rent a car, you have trouble checking into your hotel ( lucky I am staying with someone), There will be a myriad of things that will become impossible, others that just become difficult..  Take away the mask that we thought was our identity, and we think we lost our identity. We get stressed ad anxious; we try to come up with a million logical options for replacing what was lost.

Not the driver’s license, or the tablet, or the home.

Our identity.  Or what we perceive our identity to be.

WE have to remember that our identity is found, not in things, but in Christ.  For if we died with Him and have risen in Him, then He is our identity.

St Josemaria understood this, as his early ministry was spent in a war-torn state, where he had to hide his priesthood from those where killing priests, as he left his beloved homeland.  The lesson is not one easily learned, but it is one we need to be reminded of daily.

Before I am Pastor, before I am Dt’, before I am Kay’s husband, William’s daddy, before I am a son.  Before I am a driver and resident in the state of California.

I am His.

That’s enough to get me through this life.

It will be enough for you as well.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Friends of God (Kindle Locations 540-545). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Transformation of Easter: Part 1 The Change to Our Church


Featured imageHow Easter is Transforming Our World!
The Change to Our Community

Acts 4:31-35

IHS

May the Grace of God our Heavenly Father and our Risen Lord Jesus strengthen you, even as it transforms us.

Change versus Transformation:

I am about to tell you something is coming, and I want your reaction to the word I use.

What is coming, what will happen to us here at Concordia is “change”.  You will not be able to resist it, you can’t stop it.  Resistance is futile.

If you are like 90 percent of the population, hearing that might make you a little anxious, or you might wonder if there is anything that can be done to stop it.

Some of you might even begin to wonder what is changing.  Some will automatically look and think of negative changes.  Some of you might be thinking of things that could change for the positive.  And what is ironic – you might be thinking of the same exact thing!

For the rest of Easter, we are going to be looking at the changes that happen to a church, matter of fact that are happening at our church.

But to alleviate the stress, the worry, the concern, how about if I use the word transformation instead?  A transformation so complete, we might not even recognize ourselves, or our church, when God is through with us!

Today’s observed transformation

In our reading from the Book of Acts this morning, we see an incredible description of the change that will, no, the change that is happening to us.

It talks there of a church, the people that trusted in God that became united in both their heart and their mind.  In every part of their existence.  They were one in the way they felt, in the ways they thought. They desired the same thing; they reacted together to what was going on, and they identified themselves, all 8000 of them or more, as sharing the same life.

Luke tells us the uniqueness of this church; they were of one heart and mind to the extent of sharing everything they had with each other.  I love the way the word pictures describe this; everything is held to be common, nothing special and set aside.

Therefore, if there were people in need, the rest of the people found a way to meet that need.  No one lacked, because how can you let your people go without?

What a transformation we see happening to the people who trusted God!  Who continually heard that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! (wait…)

I mean, what kind of people would liquidate their wealth, to help others, people they barely know?

The Change to our Norm

If we look at what God does to his people from the perspective of “before” the cross, the change seems frightening, and the description of the early church doesn’t make sense.

Give up what is precious?  Trust people with what I treasure?  Give up my security, to make sure others feel secure?

We talked about this when we talked about the Lord’s prayer, and the idea that we trust God to provide everything we need.  It takes faith to live like this, an incredible amount of faith.

You can’t listen to the questions that would raise doubts about our fellow man.  You can’t wonder if people need, or if they will abuse the blessing, or whether someone will be there for you, when you need the help, instead of being able to provide it.

You need to reach out and trust rather than be cynical, you have to have the wisdom to discern need, and the compassion to meet the need.

Our nature, even on the good days hears this and takes it as an obligation.  That God requires us to change our hearts, to reach out with this kind of love, making the sacrifices as proof of our faith.

And if that is our belief, we shall surely fall short.  We need to change…

Our old nature that was once in bondage to sin, Satan and feared death calls for us to protect ourselves, and what we’ve earned, what is ours by right.  That leads to sin, as we struggle to get what isn’t ours, or we overlook our neighbors, and what they need.

The change is not so much in what is individually ours.  Instead, we see what is God’s, and treasure that more than anything else.

The Beauty of the transformation…

Though the vision cast here in Acts is that what it looks like financially to be of one mind, I think we’ve seen here, at Concordia, what it means to be emotionally of one mind.

Paul talked of this too, when he told the church in Rome,

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:15-16 (NLT) 

We’ve become “of one mind” here. We share deeply in each other’s joys, the moments when someone is baptized, or when someone has good news.  We’ve shared as well in each other’s sorrows and griefs, stood beside each other in moments of grief. We’ve cried with each other often; it seems as often as we laugh together over meals we have shared. 

That is the transformation that God works in His church, in His people.  That we respond to each other.  To meet each other’s needs before thinking about ourselves.

It’s come about not by force, but rather by focusing on God’s love for us, the love seen in the cross, and reflected as we share in His body and blood. By sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It’s what happens when we look to Christ, and as Paul says in 2 Cor 3, the Holy Spirit changes us, transforms us into Christ’s image, as we reflect His glory.

This change that happens isn’t our work, just as it wasn’t the idea of the apostles.  It happens when we realize the love of God, revealed in the death of Christ for your sins, in his burial, and in the fact He is risen from the grave.

He has given us life, now and for eternity, living in the glory of His love, with one heart, with one mind.   AMEN.

Our Need for Prayer


Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image3  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? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)

6  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

The more you suffer, the more you are tempted  the more you need to pray; prayer now alone can strengthen you with help and consolation.  Let not pain and fierce temptation paralyze you prayer.  The devil does all he can to prevent you from praying at these times.  But rather than give into weak human nature which absorbs the soul in its paid so that it sees nothing else for the time, turn your eyes to our Lord and speak to Him standing so near.  He is with you, looking on you lovingly, listening for your words.  He tells you to speak, that He is there to hear you, that He loves you and you have not a word to say to Him, no look to give Him.  What ingratitude!  Look at Him speak to Him without ceasing, The deeper your agony, the deeper you must bury yourself in the Heart of your Beloved, and cling to His side with ceaseless prayer!  (1)

I have to admit, while I don’t spend the time i would like, perhaps as much time I really need in prayer, the words in blue resonate with me.

I know them true, and it is why I can desire to spend more time, more hours, more days in prayer.

You may ask why I put the first reading there, about ignoring salvation. Simply put, because salvation isn’t just about the event, where God cleanses us from sin, washing us clean as He promises in our baptism, replacing our heart of stone with a heart of flesh and giving us His Spirit, (see Ezekiel 36:25).  Salvation is rescuing us from and delivering us to something that is incredible.

As we are saved we become something.  We become part of the people of God, daughters and sons of God, adopted and marked as His children, we enter into a entirely different relationship with God, one where He promises to never forsake us, never abandon us, never to stop working in our lives.  We find life, a life lived in fellowship, in community, in communion with God.

And that is what we should never neglect, that is what we need to grow in, the awareness that the Lord is with you.  (and yes, thank you – also with me).  We need to learn to depend up this, not as a fact, but as reality.  He is with us, ready to listen, ready to comfort, ready to heal, ready to reach out into this broken world.

Prayer then becomes the way of life, the very meaning of our salvation.  Walking with God. Please re-read the second scripture passage and the italicized blue above, there is our hope.  our peace, our comfort, our very ability to live.

In the past couple of weeks, many people I know have encountered death of their loved ones. I’ve talked to others, who have lost jobs, or are afraid of losing a relationship.   Just knowing this is exhausting, tiring, painful, the feeling of emptiness and loneliness I observe is… crushing.  For those directly involved, the devotional writer gets it right.  The sorrow and grief consumes us.  Nothing else can matter in that moment.

Until God breaks through, until He reminds us that He is here.  There is a strong correlation between how quickly we hear His voice in those moments, and the time we spend walking with Him at other times.  Even if we feel that there aren’t the other times.  Yet if we neglect this, if we take Him for granted, it may take a longer time to find Him, when only His comfort is the answer.  Don’t neglect Him, don’t

Then we can find rest and peace, dwelling in His love.

So pray my friends, realize God walks with you, and share with Him everything… and spend some time in stillness, and in quiet, and know He is God.  AMEN!

(1) from Celtic Daily Prayer:  Finian Reading for April 10th.

The Challenge of Being Faithful Is Found in the Little Things


Devotional THought of the Day:

37  “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38  If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39  If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. Matthew 10:37-39 (NLT)

24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24 (NLT)

204    Many who would let themselves be nailed to a cross before the astonished gaze of thousands of spectators won’t bear the pinpricks of each day with a Christian spirit! But think, which is the more heroic?  (1)

You hear of the mother of the martyrs, who would share a meal with those who killed her son, and you are amazed.

You hear of the missionaries, who risk their lives, serving those with ebola, or aids, or in places where war is more common than peace, where churches are burnt.

You hear of men and women, giving up lucrative careers, to serve in the ministry, trading comfortable lives fro those who are suffering.

You read the book of Acts and see Peter and Paul, Stephen, Phillip, Dorcas, and the wife and husband team of Priscilla and Aquila doing miracles, preaching to great crowds, ministering to others in ways that reveal the Spirit of God is in them, and you are amazed.

Then you comment that you could never have faith like that, that you admire it, but you know that you cannot be that faithful.

You are wrong.

Faithfulness isn’t about trusting in God to only do the miraculous, and the awe-inspiring.  Faithfulness is tougher than that, because faithfulness isn’t measured by an event, or a moment in time, faithfulness is measured by a life that is lived under the burden of the cross.

Faithfulness is about living in the presence of God, no matter what the circumstances.  To be aware of those around us, and be willing to sacrifice to help them.  To be willing to spend the time to not only note sin and the damage it causes, but to be able to speak of the healing that God’s forgiveness brings.  To think before we speak, understanding not only what we want to communicate, but who we are communicating that message to, so that we can speak with love, so that lives will be healed.  To live under the cross means that we give up trying to justify our sins, or the sins of those we love, but we set the example, running to the throne of grace.

To live under the cross, to strive for holiness on our own merits seems difficult, challenging, impossible.

But it was never meant to be just our work.

This is why we’ve been given the Holy Spirit, who works in our lives through God’s word, through the sacraments, those sacred times when we breathe, and know we are in the presence of God.

The heroic life of faith is one revealed by a change in behavior in the little things.  The words we use, the attitudes we have towards others, the willingness to sacrifice, not in the big things, but in the little things.  Be patient with the antagonist, spending time loving your adversaries, and praying for those who annoy the hell out you.  (they actually do this if you have to run to the Father to find the strength to endure them!)

Even though the faithful life is revealed by these things, it originates in the time we spend with God. In the moments where we realize His love at work in us. We grow in faithfulness when we run to Him, rather than deal with things on our own.  Faithfulness is about our relationship with Him. Knowing He is with us, and so cherishing the time that we make the time to spend it with Him.  Treasuring that time,

Be faithful in what the world considers “little”.  Walk with God, hear His voice, encourage people, lift them up.  Take up that cross, it isn’t as heavy as you thought.  In fact, you might just enjoy it, when you realize you carry it in His presence.

.Godspeed

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 587-588). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power and The Glory: The Prayer of Easter!


For Thine IS the Kingdom,

The Power, and the Glory!

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

In Jesus Name

We need to be Reminded – 

Yesterday, as I was at a loss for words for this message, I received an email from Linda and Tom.

It opened up with these words,

“You just can’t let me forget that God is ever present in our lives.”

Then he added,   

“Don’t stop !”

As I read them, the words that we heard from another letter this morning burned even deeper in my heart

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before.

All of us need to be reminded of the good news, that God is ever-present in our lives.

Solomon once wrote

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2  A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3  A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4  A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 (NLT)

The passage goes on for another 4 verses, 8 more comparisons of what we might say is a contrast between good and bad, joy and sorrow if we don’t hear how the thought ends,

11  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

In Solomon’s time, this is true, we couldn’t father the scope of God’s work. Now, in the Gospel message, in the good news, we see the scope of God’s work as we realize the message revealed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We have heard this message, a message that God is ever-present in your lives.

(wait…)

I said the Lord is with YOU.

Oh! Now you remember.  As Tom wrote – don’t stop telling me this! We need to hear that God is ever-present with us. He died for our sin, was buried and rose again!

Alleluia! He is Risen!

(He is Risen indeed!)

And that means?
(we are risen indeed!  Alleluia!)

in other words
The Lord is With You!
(and also with You!)

AMEN!

The Message of Hope

Hear Paul again,

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

Most important is actually a little weak, it is not only of prime importance, this is foundational. It is the basis for everything else in our lives.

That Christ died – not just that He died, but for you He died but that He was buried and raised from the dead, which is what we celebrate today.
Later Paul will say that if Jesus didn’t die and rise from the dead, we of all people are to be pitied more than anything else in the world.

Jesus death for our sins, Paul tells us, was told about for centuries prior to His being born. Over and over the Old Testament tells us He would die, that God would provide an offering for our sins, and proof of the depth of His love and commitment to us.

The same for His burial and resurrection, and the praises that would result, as God made sure that we knew this wasn’t haphazard, but that this previous weekend was planned before He ever created light.

Jesus would die for our sins, be buried and rise again.

We need to hear this and hear it again and again.  Without the series of events for Holy Week, we cannot hear what we need to,

That the Lord is with you!

The Witnesses

Paul wants to make sure the Corinthians know this well, so well, that they can base their lives on the Jesus’ death for our sins, on His Burial and Resurrection.

Maybe they won’t believe me, he thinks.  No problem.  I’ll refer them to other, for there are so many others who can bear witness.  Peter’s in town, they call him Cephas, he can share how important this message is.  Paul is going to go through all the eye witnesses to the physical resurrection of Jesus so that people will know.

It’s not a dream, it is not something Paul cooked up, it is something that happened, really happened. Five Hundred people witnesses it all at once, not just one hear and one there, 500 at once, and most still lived, in case people wanted to get an opinion other than Paul’s!

And Paul wants us to be assured of it, in order that our lives are based on it.

Paul’s words at the end – it doesn’t matter who tells you, the message is the same, and people like James are more than willing to die, even as they share it.  We don’t know if Paul was there when James was martyred, but we know he was when Stephen forgave him, and all those who killed him, simply because he trusted in Jesus, the one who died for Stephen’s sins, and Paul’s and yours and mine.  As he trusted in the Jesus, who was buried and rose again from the dead.

Whatever we are now!
We often talk of Christ’s death – for our sins, but there is more to the story of Easter than that.  Paul gets to that in verse 10, and what he says of himself, is true for every one of us, read the words with me,

10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me.

For that grace, that very same grace is yours.   It is not special to Paul but is the very blessing that God gives to everyone He calls, every person He pours His Spirit on, making them part of His church.

You see, just like if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead our lives are meaningless, so are they not the same if we don’t realize the change He is making to us because Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and Jesus is Risen!

and, therefore?

We are risen to a new life, a life lived with God, a life that we need to know God is ever-present in.  Something we can’t stop reminding each other of, even in the times where we aren’t sure that God will make these things beautiful.  Sure of that, and that being the foundation of our life, we can understand why the Paul told Hebrew Christians,

23  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)
That is part of the new life of Paul, to continually remind people of the gospel, that Jesus died for our sins, that He was buried, and that Praise God with everything in us, for He has risen!

And that means….

Why we end our prayer with praise

48 days ago, on Ash Wednesday, we began a look at the Lord’s prayer.  We finished the requests on Friday, as we realized that at the cross Jesus delivered us from evil and answered every request.

Which leaves only this to finish that journey today, as we celebrate our life with God.

Let us pray,

Our Father, Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever. AMEN!

Is Easter Wasted? Was His Death and Resurrection Meaningless?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9  But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 (TEV)

3  I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; 4  that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (TEV)

142    Domine!—“Lord!” Si vis, potes me mundare.—“If you will, you can make me clean.” What a beautiful prayer for you to say often, with the faith of the poor leper, when there happens to you what God and you and I know may happen. You won’t have to wait long to hear the Master’s reply: Volo, mundare!—“I will! Be made clean!”  (1)

Yesterday, after seeing all the “He is Risen” memes and comments in my e-mail and on FB and Twitter, I tweeted a question:

“I keep reading; He is risen! But few share the reason that is good news. Because Jesus rose, we will share in not only His death but rise 2.”

You see, if the death, burial and resurrection has no specific meaning to you; for you it is wasted.  For you it simply becomes a historical matter, something to discuss and create papers and blogs and podcasts debating.  But all of that effort is a waste of time, if there is nothing that is gained (or lost ) at that moment when Jesus dies, and rises from the dead.

“He is risen!  Alleluia!”  We cry this, yet there must be more to that praise.

Look again at the reason Christ dies, he dies for our sin! 

Those amazing words come flying out at us. He dies to take on our sin, to be beaten for our iniquities Isaiah tells us.

Don’t bother denying it, God already had John take care of that issue.  If you didn’t sin, you are calling God a liar.  Even worse, by saying it, you’ve sin against God again!  Everyone has sinned, Pope Francis, Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther, St. Peter, St Paul, Abraham, Issac, Israel, you and I.

Yesterday I had a great conversation after church, about the tension between logic and faith.  One of the things discussed was the reliability of faith in God.  The problem is that neither logic nor faith are things able to be proven; they are things to be used.  I gave the following illustration, getting to people to discuss why the glass is either half full or half empty.  While they were discussing this, I took the glass and drained its contents.  “You see,” I said, “you can talk all you want about the glass, but its purpose is to provide a way to drink the liquid we desire.”  (Well it was only water, and I desired something different, but you get the picture)

So it is with faith (and logic)  They are things we exercise, the foundational blocks by which we view and live in the world.  They need to grow in focus; They need to be challenged and refined.  But if faith isn’t used, if logic isn’t applied, it becomes useless, a distraction.

The same thing with the death for our sins, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  It is a nice hobby to have to create philosophical, apologetic and theological treatises about, but that is not why Christ died,

He died so that your sin and mine, would be erased!  That like the man with leprosy, we would be sure of God’s desire to cleanse us, and the fact He has.  To do so took the blood of Christ Jesus, but it did the job perfectly. With Christ’s resurrection, that sin we would deny, no longer needs to be denied, hidden, repressed. We don’t have to call God a liar, or be separated from Him.  He is here…with us, comforting us of our brokenness.

That is something to praise Him for, to shout of His glory and mercy to all the world.

or as we say at my parish,

Pastor;  Alleluia!  He is Risen!

People:  He is Risen indeed1

Pastor:  What does this mean?t?

People:  We too are Risen!  Alleluia!

AMEN

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 463-466). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Black Saturday: Where His ENTIRE church finds Unity… His Grave


Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image20  “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 21  I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. John 17:20-21 (TEV)

4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6  there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 (TEV)

2  Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it? 3  For surely you know that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptized into union with his death. 4  By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. Romans 6:2-4 (TEV)

I spent much of last night in turmoil, not fully asleep, but hounded by grief.

Grief caused by the brokenness of the church.  A Church that is not just divided, but shattered, and continually reacts to the brokenness with fear instead of faith, loathing each other, rather than loving each other, harassing each other, rather than praying for healing.   I see other Christians, including pastors and priests, leading people away from trusting in God, to rail at politicians instead of respecting them and praying for them.  I see the self-righteousness that brings all this division, the condescension of Christians claiming to be holier than the world, and groups of Christians holier than another. (and catch myself at it too… none are immune to this sin)

I wonder what happened to the church described in the Creeds Where is the church that is one, that is holy (set apart to God), catholic (united in our trust of God) and apostolic (sent, even as Christ was sent)

I grieve over what I saw yesterday, and today.  I wonder what those who are being martyred in other parts of the world would think, if they see what divides us.  I long to see the church be one, and yet, am so driven away by pathos, the outpouring of negative emotion, that I desire to no longer be a part of it.

It is black saturday.  The day without the Lord, the day He found rest in the tomb.

The day we should find our unity.

Not because we are without Him, by no mean, we weren’t on the day after he was betrayed, beaten, mocked, abandoned, crucified.

We aren’t without Him on Black Satruday, when He lies entombed, crushed by sin.

We are there with Him, drawn into Him during His crucifixion, drawn into Him by the love poured out like a flood, united to His death in our Baptism – as Paul says.

Drawn into Him, called, gathered, united to Him in His death.

That is where we find unity, that is where we become one church, where we find the one faith, where God is our God, working through all who have been granted repentance, who have come to trust in Him, who know His mercy and love.   You can’t be divided from Him, and as we die to ourselves as we are united with Him, our pride, our anger, our angst, our hurt dies as well.

If we are to be a resurrected people, a transformed people, a converted people, a delivered people, we each have to realise we are there with and that others are as well.

Unity as a church, no THE CHURCH, starts in the tomb.

Does that mean we will all get along, that sin won’t creep into the church, that we will all agree on every article of our faith?  No, we won’t.  That’s not what is promised, yet. But the healing that will be found will overwhelm that sin, the sin already paid for, and allow our hearts to embrace those whom Christ has embraced.

There is hope, even when we are in the grave, a hope we will realize tomorrow, as we exclaim, He is risen!

We are united in that as well, for if we die with Him, if we are united to Him in His death, we will be united to Him as we are raised to a new life with Him.

I am depressed today, mourning for a broken church.  Yet, in the grace with Christ, I know there is Hope for tomorrow.  I know there is hope for His Church.

For we will be one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.  His death, burial and resurrection guarantee it.

Deliver Us From Evil


Featured imageDare We Pray:

Deliver Us From Evil

Matthew 6:13 and John 19:16-42

As you contemplate Christ’s death for you, and how that delivered you from evil, may you understand a little more the love of God our Father,

Intro – Deliver Us

We arrive here, this evening, at the foot of the cross.

To think through what it means for Jesus to die, his wrists and ankles shattered by spikes.  We look on a broken man, one who endured so much pain and agony.  Agony not just of the physical pain, but the agony of being alone, abandoned by those who counted themselves as His friends.  Mocked by those whom he taught to pray

Whom He taught to pray to our Father in heaven these words…

“Deliver us from Evil”

It is the last request of the prayer.
And the most painful, and the hardest to pray.

For it is a confession we don’t want to make.

That we have gotten so entangled with evil, that only God can deliver us from it.  That He had to make the decision to do so.

Life without evil sounds nice, though what it took, and what it takes, is a price that goes beyond what most of us are willing to pay, or for which we will find it easy to pray.

Yet He taught us to pray to the loving Father, “Deliver us from evil.”

And died on the cross to make it happen.

The Problem  Why is it hard to pray this?  What is Evil?

When we think of being rid of evil, it is often evil somewhere “out there” Satan’s work in the world, and as His demons work throughout the world. We speak of those evil empires, or the evil politicians, or the murderers and rapists and real serious sinners in prisons, those who God would never save, or it is a miracle if He does.

We don’t pray, “Deliver the world from evil,”

We pray deliver us from evil.

It is personal. We need the Father to deliver us, His people, from evil.

It is a hard prayer to pray, because we have to admit that evil can get a grip on us.  That we are the sinners, that evil can get its grip on us, affect us, and that we can think, say, and do that which is evil

We do though, when we make decisions about who is righteous in God’s eyes, and who will be judged, (because God won’t save them!) and condemned for being evil.

We do it when we try to make our actions look righteous, even though we know they aren’t, when we try to justify ourselves, or those like us, rather than pray for all involved. When we gossip and assume the worst possible reason for why someone would do something, or say something. We even pat each other on the back, and congratulate each other when we shred our adversaries rather than pray for them.

There are so many ways we in which we sin, in which we choose that which is evil, over that which is blessed by God.

And today we come to the cross, seeking mercy and grace, praying, Father, deliver us from evil.

We can pray it here…at the foot of the cross.

That is why we are here.  To pray, and to remember that the Father has delivered us from evil.
Look at the cross; there is where it happened.  Where God unites sinners to Jesus, nailing their sins to Christ, and transforming us into saints, crediting us with His righteousness.

Look at the cross, where our attempts to justify ourselves, our futile attempts are dismissed, for because of Christ being nailed there.

Look at the cross, and know this prayer the Lord has taught us, an every phrase, every word is answered,

He proves He is our Father
His makes His name is holy, as He uses it to claim us, His children, with the seal of the cross in baptism
His kingdom is revealed to include us, for He purchases and redeems us with the blood of Christ.
His desire, His will is seen, as He enables us to not perish, but to repent and be transformed as we are united to Christ, and given the Holy Spirit

He gives us all we need, and care for us, making everything work for good for those He has called, for those who love Him
He forgives us, and helps us forgive others
He leads us away from temptation, as we look to Jesus, and are transformed into sacrificing servants who reflect His glory and embrace our own cross
and He delivers us from evil.. Cleansing us of it, by nailing it to the cross.

And so let us give Him every burden, every anxiety, every pain… even as we pray, trusting Him to answer…

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