Do We Desire God’s Presence? Do we Desire Eternity?


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day       :This was the church of my parochial school... a beautiful sanctuary in Lawrence, Massachusetts..now used for something else.

4  I have asked the LORD for one thing; one thing only do I want: to live in the LORD’S house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance. Psalm 27:4 (TEV) 

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) 

857 Someone we know well told us sincerely, in confidence, that he had never been bored, for he had never been on his own, without our Friend. It was late in the evening, and there was a great silence… You felt very intently the presence of God… And, in the knowledge of that reality, what peace!  (1)

Each morning that I find myself in my office, I start the day with the morning liturgy from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  Each morning I do so, after remembering my baptism while making the sign of the cross, the very next thing is Psalm 27:4. I read the words and often ask myself a question.

Do I really want only that – to live in His house all my life, for all eternity?

Let me confess, I struggle with that, as I imagine you do.

And if I struggle with living with Him here, in this time and place; I also struggle with seeing that which Solomon mentioned, that God has planted eternity in my heart.  For often my heart and mind are not centered there.  Some things I desire may be good and beneficial, like seeing people given the gift of faith, and the promises that come from Baptism and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.  I desire the church to grow, to find reconciliation where it is so needed.  But anxiety over making that happen.

Is my first desire God’s presence, to be where He abides?

There are times it is, and I can think back over the years and long for those times again.  The quiet sanctuaries of my youth, the incredible retreats I’ve been on, the baptisms, the putting into people’s hands the body and blood of Christ. The holding someone’s hand while they passed away, just silently praying.  Praying again with my son, when he fit in the niche of my arm, praying that God would bless him, and through him many people.  They are my treasured times, they are the best moments of my life.

Yes I do desire this, and I cannot but help look forward to eternity, because of promises like this:

9  However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)

The times are precious, when I can sit and meditate on this, when I contemplate my baptism, or the Eucharist, or receiving the incredible news that my sins are absolved.

It is then I realize the peace the Josemaria’s friend new, the silence, the presence of God.  That which we do desire the most, if we take a moment to realize it.

Be still, my friends, and know there is a God, and you are His…..

It is worth every micro-second.  For there eternity, the eternity planted in our hearts is revealed.

For eternity is yours already.  He is with you…

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3511-3515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

In the Midst of Trauma…You cling to Christ!


Devotional & Discussion THought fo the Day:Dawn at Concordia
7  Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8  He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9  God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:7-9 (NLT)

855         Everything may collapse and fail. Events may turn out contrary to what was expected and great adversity may come. But nothing is to be gained by being perturbed. Furthermore, remember the confident prayer of the prophet: “The Lord is our judge, the Lord gives us our laws, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.” Say it devoutly every day, so that your behaviour may agree with the designs of Providence, which governs us for our own good.  (1)

Twelve years ago, this Sunday, I walked into Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Yucca Valley, and began another transition in my life.  I had been the pastor of a great -non-denomination church in the same town, and served as a hospice chaplain there as well.  It is in the latter experiences that I came to appreciate what I had dismissed for years.  The role of liturgy, especially in regards to repetition done with meaning and emphasis.  All repetition is not vain, itcan easily become so, but it can also become that which drives the message deeply into our heart, past the mind’s memory which can fail, and often does.

I learned this as I would visit people with dementia, or alzheimers, or who were on pain meds to deal with their broken, dying bodies.  They wouldn’t remember my name, or often those around them, but when it came time to pray, something miraculous happened.  Voces that only mumbled would strengthen, their tongues loosen when we read the 23rd psalm.  They would have a sense of calm strength as we recited the Apostles Creed, and oh would their bodies and voices resonate the Lord’s Prayer, or when we would sing “Amazing Grace”, or “It is well!”  Oh and the peace with which they would savor the Lord’s Body and Blood!

In those moments, they found their connection to God, they remembered, deep in their heart and soul, His love.  It for a second or two – or for an magnificent moment, broke through the haze……and they found themselves in the presence of God.

This is exactly what each of us needs, every moment, every day.  To find ours in communion with God, to be Christ’s partner’s. To know His presence to the depth of our souls, to see it shatter the darkness.  This is the glory of Christ, shared with us!

I love what St. Josemaria advises us to memorize.  Oddly, it is a very Lutheran passage.

It notes that God is our judge, that His laws are the ones which govern us, by which we will be judge.  (this is the “Lsw” of “Law and Gospel”)

It then notes that He is our Lord, our King, the One who takes responsibility for us, and will rescue us from the penalty of that law.  (the “Gospel” part”)

We need to know this – we need to have it ingrained on our hearts, our minds, our soul.

We need the fear of being judged, and the calmness that knowing He has saved us brings. We need to cling to Christ in those times where our bodies, our minds, and yes our souls fail us.  To cling to him like someone who thought they were drowning clings to the life guard.  Or perhaps more approariately put – we relax when He clings to us..

May you this day, as you cry out for his mercy, realize that He will keep you strong… that He is faithful to His promises, that He has bound you to Jesus, and therefore you cling to Him.  In that place – there is a peace that cuts through any darkness.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3503-3507). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Necessity of Martyrdom, our Martyrdom.


Discussion and Devotional THought of the Day:Nazarene and Cross
10  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. 11  They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die. Revelation 12:10-11 (TEV)

21  But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the LORD and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.” 2 Samuel 15:21 (NLT) 

I’ve seen all over the Facebook and Twitter the Arabic letter Nain.  Most are putting it up; they claim, in solidarity with the Christians in Mosul and Iraq who are facing persecution and reportedly are being martyred.  The story goes that it is the letter that is being painted on the homes of Christians, to mark and identify them.  It’s a handy little symbol and stands for “Nazarene.”  People are free to harass, persecute and even kill those who live in those homes.

I haven’t seen necklaces and wristbands with the symbol on it yet, but I am pretty sure some entrepreneur will develop them soon.

It’s popular; it’s in vogue, it makes us somehow feel like we are doing something against the evil in their lands.

Most of us aren’t. We may change the photo on our FB.  We might even donate an extra 10 or 20 bucks in the offering plate and designate it for relief.  We might have heard them added to our prayers at church on Sunday, and said amen under our breath. (that assumes we were there, and heard the prayers)

But are we really willing to go to Iraq and stand beside them, and/or take their punishment?  ( Sometime read the story of the martyrdom of Maximilian Kolbe – a catholic saint who did that very thing!)   How far are we willing to take this fight?

And what fight is it?  Is it a fight against injustice, the fight for making sure that no one ever suffers persecution.  It’s a fight that no one ever has to faith death because of their faith?

Or is the fight something against something more insidious, something more evil, evil incarnate, the power of Satan. The power of the one who would accuse us of the sins we have committed and demand that we pay for each and everyone.

Revelation is clear on how that evil is defeated.

1.  By remembering that Christ’s death, the shedding of His Blood cleanses, purifies and sanctifies us.  That God declares us righteous and just because of that blood being shed.

2.  By the words of our martyrdom, the words of  our witness.  It is interesting to note that martyrdom and witness are the same word in Greek. That we are so in awe of #1 that we have to share it with others, That God’s love and desire to save us transforms us into wanting others saved, even at great cost.  For some that means they will dedicate their lives to serving wherever God wants, even if it means forgoing things the rest of us take for granted.  Families, homes. jobs, personal pleasure. For others, it may mean their life.

For all of us, it means sacrificing the idol of self and pleasure.  If we aren’t willing to do even that, can we say we stand in solidarity with those who

3.  #1 and #2 lead to this – that we can’t love our life so much that we aren’t willing to sacrifice, or even portions of it (say a day off or a vacation, or even time with family) that others might know.

Paul talks of standing in solidarity, standing in communion, when he encourages the church to “imitate me, as I imitate Christ.”  He does it again as he asks us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Jesus’ words about those that would save their life must offer it up.   In each, solidarity is not seen apart from martyrdom,  In each we take up our cross, we willingly pay the price that others would know that God can be trusted, even through death

It goes deeper – for we are united with Christ’s martyrdom, with His witness, with His cross.  There is where we find our salvation, our deliverance, in the fact that He didn’t cling to life, but gave up Himself, for us.  You see that Nazarene died for us, even as some die for Him, even as we who live are living sacrifices to Him. Without His cross – without our unity to Him in it, our symbolism is void and worthless.

May we embrace whatever shame, whatever cost, whatever sacrifice is necessary, for the joy that was set before Him and before us.

Lord have mercy on us!

Even if I am a dog, He’s my Master!


Even if I am a Dog,

He is MY Master

Matthew 15:21-28

Kyrie Iesou, Eleison


May you realize that when God is your Master, your Lord, which means He obligates Himself to showing you love, and mercy, so that you live in peace!  

It’s not about tenacity; it’s about recognition

A question for you to start this message.

Does God simply answer our prayers because we are so tenacious?  Did Jesus answer this lady’s prayers just because she followed them through town, or did Jesus answer her to silence the apostles who were whining about her bothering them with her begging?

Is that the way God works, that He rewards those who are persistent, who are tenacious?  Who don’t give up?  Do we have to workout spiritually, so that we can endure, and then receive that which is promised?

We might say, “No, that doesn’t sound right.” But when it comes to unanswered prayer, do we sometimes hear this story, or the parable of the elderly woman and the judge, and wonder; is that the key to getting a prayer answered?

Persistence, dedication to the cause, determination and good old-fashioned stubbornness?

Or is there something else…. Perhaps something like recognizing the Truth?

The truth that it is okay to be a dog; if that means that He is our Lord, that He is our Master?

That is what was revealed to her, which confirmed to her that He was her Lord!

What She Saw:   Lord Son of David!

A little background helps.  When the lady first starts yelling to Jesus “Kyrie Eleison” she is saying something we sang a few moments ago.

The translation phrases it, “have mercy Lord.”  We sing it the Kyrie in the opposite order, but the plea is the same.  Lord, love us and because of that love, care for us.  That is what the word mercy means.  cHesed means to have great love, care for, provide, protect, forgive and do everything in your power to care for and help those who with who you have a relationship.  She demands this of him.

Pour out you love and care on us Lord, she cries, Over and over, she begs this very thing.

She goes one step further; she calls Him Lord! She acknowledges that He is her master.  She lays herself at his feet, and she worships Him as her Lord.

You see, cHesed is that loving-mercy of God.  It is an obligation of the Lord to His people.  I’ve mentioned that word here before, this incredible word that binds a Lord, a Master to His people. He will take care of them, for He has made that commitment to them, as their Lord. He has become their Master.

That is what she wants! That is why she keeps calling Him Lord! Every time she speaks, this is how she addresses Him, as the one who is obligated to care for her.

She wants to be part of His Kingdom, His Household, to be His!

More Precise!

The first time she calls out for mercy, she adds something to it.

Have mercy Lord, Son of David!

Somehow, she knew about this promise of the Messiah.  She uses one of the titles for the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed one of God!  The Lord through whom salvation would come! Salvation to the Jewish people, but also to all who would call out to the Messiah.

When she cries out for mercy, she is crying out to the Messiah!  She is crying out to the long-awaited Son of David! She recognizes that He is the Lord and Master; the One who would bring about what we heard from the prophet Isaiah,

“I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name,
who worship him!”

She knows who Jesus is, she knows the help that only He can offer!  She comes and places herself in His care, begging that He would accept Her!

His response finally is heard.

You are nothing but a dog.

Surprisingly, that is what she is longing to hear!

Dogs are part of the family

Consider this quote, about John Chrysostom, one of the most-quoted preachers in  history.

Chrysostom seems to recognise the shade of meaning conveyed by τ κυνάρια (the dogs of the household). “On the very words of the Lord she founds her plea. If I am a dog (κυνάριον), she says, I am no alien.”[i]

I belong!

She understands these “terms”; that the promises go first to the people of God, those he counts as His children.  She rejoices in knowing that the promise is there for her as well. This Lord has accepted her as part of the household, part of the family of God.

Think about it!  How many people refer to their dogs as their children!

She’ll take it, even as the Psalm 84 talks of a similar attitude:

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. Psalm 84:10 (NLT)

To be the mutt, waiting under the table for scraps, the Kingdom of God is a great place to be, knowing the love of the Master.  As long as she knows the love of the Lord, as long as she is one of the people He brings home, she will be content.

She will trust in her Master; she will bask in His love…she will trust His reign over her life.

Scraps aren’t good enough!

He will at first acknowledge her faith, by providing the salvation of her daughter, freeing her from the demons that afflict her.

That is only the beginning of the fulfillment of His promises to her, and to all of us, who though not physical descendants of Abraham, are the spiritual descendants.  It is just the beginning for those who trust in God as our Lord, our Master!

A blessing for those who know that our cries for His love are answered.  His mercy is always the answer! He hears us and will bring us home.  That woman didn’t get the scraps from the table; neither will any who trust in the promises that are made ours in Christ.

 

She is invited to a feast – one beyond all comparison…the wedding feast of the Lamb, the feast to celebrate the welcoming home of all the people of God.

Including this gentile woman and her daughter.
When we approach this altar, we see this feast in part.  The love of God, the love of our Master, our Lord, and the mercy which makes it possible.  These are not bread scraps and the last drops of wine.  This is the body and blood of Jesus Christ!

This feast is the answer of a God, who would provide for all of His children, for all who will call upon His name.

Yes, I am your Lord.  Come and feast with me!

Yes, dear friends, Jesus says I will be your Lord, your Messiah, I will care for you. I will provide.  That was what the cross was about, not just saving us from our sins, but opening up a relationship for all people with God the Father.  He says,  “You are my people, come and know my peace!”  For this, this peace of God, is promised, which passes all understanding, and in which our hearts and minds are kept safe, by our Lord.

AMEN!

[i] Chase, F. H. (1887). Chrysostom: A Study in the History of Biblical Interpretation (p. 130). Cambridge; London: Deighton Bell and Co.; George Bell and Sons.

A Prayer for my Church, for our People


Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

9  In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10  Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 (NKJV)

St. Aiden’s Prayer for the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (and my prayer for Concordia!)

Lord, this bare island, make  it a place of peace!  Here be the peace f those who do Your will. Here be the peace of brothers serving man.  Here be the peace of holy people* obeying. Here be the peace of praise by dark and day. Be this Island, Your Holy Island! I, Lord, your servant Aidan make this prayer. May it be Your care, AMEN!  (1)

it hit me this morning, as I read the prayer above, that we should be praying like this more often than we do.

Please hear me, I am not saying we don’t pray enough for our people.  Anyone who has been to my church knows of our prayers, and many people who have never been here.

But how often do we pray our churches, our homes, will be a place of peace, a place where people grow in their devotion to God, a place where there is praise, day and night?  Do we desire and beg God that our sanctuaries, our homes would be places that are set aside to be with Him, to be places where people are served, where people learn to obey God ( I prefer the Greek – to guard/treasure His way of life)

Is this not what we are praying for in part, as we pray the Lord’s prayer?  That God’s rule over us would be established, that He would be our Master, that His will would be done. I love how Luther explains this:

Truly, God’s good and gracious will is accomplished without our prayer. But we pray in this request that is be accomplished among us as well. (2)

But do we actively pray this for our people?  For the places where they are set apart?  Do we fervently seek God’s will for them, and ask His guidance?   Or do we reduce our prayers to simple survival?  For healing, that we would get through the next crisis. Do we want to see their praises so inspired, that they cannot stop praising God?  And in those praises, find ways to serve those around them?

I think we do pray for their holiness, but I am not sure we are as conscious of it as we could be.  It is there, but it could be brought out more.  

It is time for that….

Lord, may our people here be holy and set apart.  May our church, their homes, their workplaces, be such places of peace, set apart to see your will accomplished.  May our desire to see this happen grow, and may we dedicate our lives and our fervent prayers to seeing them grow in the grace, mercy and love that is known in you.  AMEN!


(1)  Taken and slightly adapted from Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers of the Northumbrian Community

(2)  Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

Preaching with A Soul on Fire: A Necessity!


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

14  But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry. 15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)

815         You have seen very clearly your vocation to love God, but only with your head. You assure me that you have put your heart into the way you are following. But you say that you are distracted at times, and even attempt to look back. That is a sign that you have not completely put your heart into it. You need to be more sensitive!  (1)

The second requisite for effective preaching is that the preacher not only himself believe the things he preaches to others, but that his heart be full of the truths which he proclaims, so that he enters his pulpit with the ardent desire to pour out his heart to his hearers. He must have an enthusiastic grasp, in the right sense of the word, of his subject. Then his hearers get the impression that the words dropping from his lips are flames from a soul on fire. That does not mean that the Word of God must receive its power and life from the living faith of the preacher; for the Lord says distinctly: “The words that I speak, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63. Moreover, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says: “The Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb. 4:12. But when a preacher proclaims what he has ever so often experienced in his own heart, he easily finds the right words to speak convincingly to his hearers. Coming from the heart, his words, in turn, go to the hearts of his hearers, according to the good old saying: Pectus disertum facit, that is, it is the heart that makes eloquent. This does not mean the artificial eloquence acquired in a school of elocution, but the sane spiritual art of reaching the hearts of hearers. For when the hearers get the impression that the preacher is in full and dread earnest, they feel themselves drawn with an irresistible force to pay the closest attention to what the preacher is teaching in his sermon. That is the reason why many simple, less gifted, and less learned preachers accomplish more than the most highly gifted and profoundly learned men.  (1)

In our midweek Bible Study, I have been teaching about preaching this summer.  Not because my people are going to preach from the pulpit, but because:

1)  It will help them interact with the sermon/homily more, and therefore benefit from it more

2)  It may help me grow in the area of preaching>

As we are going through a very elemental book on the craft of preaching, I came across the quote above in blue.  I very well may take the italicised part of that and hang it above my desk,   It is to become a goal of mine, knowing the context from where the quote comes.

I want people to know what I know, the presence of God.  Gosh I want them to know it.

Why?

Because it seems to me the only way to survive this life.  To get through things like I’ve gone through in life. the pains, the surgeries, the anxieties, the pain.  To deal with things like the sin which the author of Hebrews says so easily ensnares us.  For it does, and the grief and shame of our own sin can crush us, and resentment towards those who sin against us can tear our souls apart.

To be able to deal with death, something I’ve had to deal with since a child, my own hovering over me, and later, ministering to those who are dieing, and those who were left behind.  Knowing God’s promises are the only way to deal with that pressure.  To deal with demons as well, both those who are figurative, the idols we create that drag our life’s focus from God, and the real one’s who work to destroy our life by attempting to destroy our relationship with God.  We see both of those demons at work today, although we can never quite be sure which is which… both are real.

I love Escriva’s words, and I Pray mine would encourage people to believe with their heart (as Paul talks about in Romans 10), to know God, and relate to Him as their Lord, as their Savior.  Not to just know about Him.

Can a sermon be passionate, charismatic, full of zeal and dripping with flames from a soul on fire?

It can, if the pastor, the priest, the preacher has been broken and by God’s loving kindness is healing.

For as we heal – we begin to see the height, the depth, the breadth and the width of the love of God, revealed to us all in Christ Jesus.

That’s preaching…. that’s proclaiming.

And our people, not from pulpits, but in their homes, and their workplaces, in restaurants, coffee shops, in line at Walmart, will begin to do the same.

For such is our glory, the hope that we have in Christ Jesus….

And may we share it with zealous love.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3361-3364). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Walther, C. F. W., Dau, W. H. T., & Eckhardt, E. (2000). The proper distinction between law and gospel: 39 evening lectures (electronic ed., p. 112). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

The Family of God… and death


devotional thought of the day:Sunrise on the day of our combinsed service at Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos Ca (also home to Passion International Christian Church!)

27  At this Peter exclaimed, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What is that going to be worth to us?” 28  “Believe me,” said Jesus, “when I tell you that in the next world, when the Son of Man shall sit down on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones and become judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children or land for my sake will receive it all back many times over, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first now will be last then – and the last first! Matthew 19:27-28 (Phillips NT)

In the last few days, I have been thinking about death a bit.  No, not because of the movie and television star who died, but because of someone important in my life.  Someone I barely knew, yet revealed to me again a truth about family, especially the family of God.

As we stood at her graveside this morning, as her children dropped beautiful red roses flowers onto the urn’s vault, someone suggested that I do, as one of the family, drop a flower into the vault as well.  I flashed back to the service at church, a few days before, and a story where another of her “children”  was told, “you maybe one of my daughters, but I am sure I didn’t give birth to you!”

As I stood there, a rose in my hand, the verse above came into my head.  This Lady whose ashes were being lade to rest – could very well be an elder sister, if not a mother in the faith.  Her husband was surely one of the great father-figures in my faith.  And her six children, they truly are like my brothers and sisters, even though we grew up on different continents, Even though they and their children live all over the world today, even though there is little at first glance that we would have in common, they welcomed me as their brother.  Though I have spent less than 24 hours with some of them, I yearned to bring them comfort as a sibling would in those moments, and felt the impact of their mom’s temporary loss in those moments.

There are two things that can bind people together, (there are more – but these two are the most powerful)  The first is traumatic, the fact that those we love, and we ourselves will die.  It can cause us great despair, despair that is more than individual, yet more deeply felt than anything we feel individually.

But even as powerful, even as final as death seems to be.  There is something that binds us even closer, that is far more powerful, and endures far greater.

The Love of God.  The love which binds us, the children of God, together more powerfully.  That transcends culture, that transcends age, nationality, ethnicity, It is a love reflected in the words read this morning.

3  I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5  And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6  And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. 7  All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. Revelation 21:3-7 (NLT)

We are His children. The lady whose ashes were laid to rest most certainly understands that now – the promises of God to her in her baptism, that she heard all her life, that her husband proclaimed from pulpits, that she taught her children – all of us, that was proclaimed loudly.

For she is one of those brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children  that I have received. 

That message that this couple shared with so many of their children, they shared with their New England born and raised kids, Who didn’t get to know them long enough, and yet knew their home was my home as well – where brothers and sisters welcome me still! .

Truly in Christ Jesus we gain more relatives, more family, and a hope that extends far beyond this life….. into eternity.

We are God’s children….. created in Christ to do good works, to love… to care for each other, to share the hope given to us.

Amen!

Is Desiring Reconciliation Optional for Christians?


Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

11  As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die? Ezekiel 33:11 (NLT) 

23  “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. Ezekiel 18:23 (NLT)

9  The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

18  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NLT)

824         Do you feel as if goodness and absolute truth have been deposited with you, and therefore that you have been invested with a personal title or right to uproot evil at all costs? You will never solve anything like that, but only through Love and with love, remembering that Love has forgiven you and still forgives you so much! (1)

Therefore it is God’s ultimate purpose that we suffer harm to befall no man, but show him all good and love; and, as we have said it is specially directed toward those who are our enemies.  (2) 

It seems like yesterday I had to quote the passages above from Ezekiel a half dozen times, and should have quoted them a dozen more.

In each, people were rejoicing over brokenness.  Some were larger than life, as they rejoiced over victories in war. Some were more organized, as people planned to celebrate larger divisions between people groups. (including the Reformation.)  Some were far more personal, as people encouraged each other to rejoice in division, to rejoice in broken relationships. There were even a couple of situations were those trying to promote reconciliation were attacked and mocked.

Yes I know, that in some of these cases, pain is involved,  But what about those who encourage the joy?  What about those who welcome the brokenness, who encourage it?

It is even more tragic that in each case, the people involved were leaders in the church.  Some of the brokenness was in the midst of the church, Traumatic and tragic, this lack of desire for reconciliation is!

And it is not Christian.  It is not imitating Christ.  It is not being obedient to His giving us the mission of reconciling people to Him, as Paul points out.  For in reconciling them to Him, we find them reconciled to us.

Life isn’t a personal crusade to stamp out evil.  That only turns us into evil people, as we place ourselves in the place of God.

Life isn’t about rejoicing over division, over the bad things which happen to those we consider enemies, adversaries, or just pain in the ass’s.

God has told us to love them, to work for their good, to see them reconciled to Christ.  For that is His will, even though every person who is brought to reconciliation was once God’s enemy, who chose evil over good, and hate over love.

This blog isn’t easy to write.  I have my own people I struggle with, who I have to grow in Christ to love and seek to reconcile with.  But let me tell you, the joy that is there when we do… is amazing.

I’ll leave you with this blessing, knowing that it pleases God when people reconcile:

20  Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— 21  may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen! Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3390-3393). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

 

A Dream for the Church I pastor…


Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:My Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

2  People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. Micah 4:2 (NLT)

“A few places in the world are held to be holy, because of the love which consecrates them, and of the faith that enshrines them.  One such is….”  Celtic Prayer Book, Reading for 8/11)

For the last couple of months, I have been praying about my congregations, the church that gathers here in Cerritos.

As a entity, there are necessary complications to ministry.  How do we deal with an aging facility, how do we accomplish evangelistic outreach and meet the needs of people in our community.  How do we make disciples of all peoples – of those young and old, of the stranger, of our own people.  How do we effectively use all the talents God gives us.  Big questions for sure, and we are working through them as a people.

But the biggest answer for my dream for our church is seen, not in our future plans, but in the green words above.

It doesn’t matter if we have a sanctuary that sits 500.  Or if we have a school.  Or even if there are 50000 people that attend our services and watch them on television, hear them on radio or live-feed them from the internet.

What matters to me is that where Concordia meets, becomes known as a place of holiness, a place where the love of God is known, a place where people’s trust in God’s faithfulness sees them through their lives.  Where people are devoted to God, where His vision compels them to act in others lives, bringing that holiness there. What disciples become crafted, not just through intellectual stimuli, but by worship, by adoring God, by the thoughts about His love.

I think that was what the prophet Micah is referring to, the ways we are taught by God, to walk His way, That is the change that God’s word makes in our lives, it opens up a relationship defined by words like cHesed, agape, phileo, charis… love, mercy, grace.

If the people of Concordia (or your church, or any church) grow in these things, then we have succeeded as a church.  We are a place where disciples are made, where God’s ways are treasured, where people live the life of those cleansed by God, and are immersed in His life. Where they are sure He will be with them, even until the end of the earth!

.

Yes! Come!


Yes, Come!Concordia Lutheran Church

Mark 14:22-33

 Jesus, Son, Savior

 

May you know the grace and peace of God our Father, without which it trust enough to cry out to God to save you!

A Story of Deep Faithfulness. 

Many people see the song we just sang, A Mighty Fortress, as an anthem, a glorious, powerful anthem, a militant march that prepares us to go off to war against evil, prepared to win all the battles in our spiritual war against Satan’s evil, against the storms of life.

A great cry of confidence and faith as we prepare to engage in a warfare that people’s soul’s depend upon.

I don’t see it that way, which is why we sang it the way we did.  I see it as the song of Luther, a man brutalized and battered by the world and by his own battles with sin. Luther who stands on the castle’s walls, relieved that God has taken up the battle.  Luther who can now find rest, and perhaps some peace, for once… some peace.

A mighty Fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing…..

There are days we know we need such protection, such a strong God, and we are immensely grateful for His presence.  When we are grateful beyond description for His presence, for His faithfulness, for His coming to us.

Then there are the other days, when we forget His presence…….

That is the story of faithfulness, that we see in St. Peter’s encounter with God this day:

The Storms of Life

The storm hits, its fury increases, the spray of the waves and wind soak him to the bone.  Peter’s is struggling, the storm is capturing all his attention, as he realizes he is in the struggle for his life.

Catching a glimpse of Jesus, of the one they will later realize again is God, who has come and lived in their midst, Peter calls out to the Lord.

The Lord responds, “Yes,,…. Come!”

Twice in the story this scenario is seen.

A Storm,

Overwhelming Fear
Seeing God

A Cry of Help

The Lord, his Master, answers.

And the storms quiet down, as the disciples once again find themselves in awe of the Lord who comes to them.

The two times the story is seen.

First this happens in the boat, as the disciples have been struggling all night against the storm.  They are tired, and weakened.  They bones ache from the work, or is that they ache because of the cold?  Lutheran answer – both of course!

They took off in daylight – it is 8 hours later now, that they’ve been rowing this boat across the lake.  They aren’t just fighting the winds and the waves, now they are literally fighting against death, against the anxiety.  They might even be thinking, is it worth it anymore.

Jesus comes to them, reaches out to them. Tells them not to be afraid, for it is not some spook, but it is their Lord.  He has come for them.

I AM here….

The I AM being the sacred name of God not just – hey, it’s me.

God, the Creator, the I AM that I AM of Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David….

I AM here…

And therefore everything changes.

A few moments later, the waves crash again, against a rough handed brash man who trusts in God.  These waves cause instant fear, and instant sense of the closeness of death. The fear rises in Peter, not just over time – but instantaneously he knows he has no hope…..

He cries out, perhaps with what he thinks will be his last breath….Lord, save me!

And on top the waves, Jesus reaches down, grabs Peter’s hands, as if answering again…. Yes! Come!

I am your Lord, I am your savior, I am your strength, your fortress, your sanctuary, the place where you are safe.

He Has Come, He is waiting,

That is the thing about Jesus, He comes to us, He hears us call.

He sees us in our struggles, He knows our pains, what afflicts and depresses us.  He knows what causes us anxiety, He knows the fear when we are sinking.

He is here…..

He is reaching our His hand to us,

He is answering our cry, “Lord Save us” as we realize that we can call out to Him, that He is our hope, whether we are in the boat, or whether we are trying what others call impossible.

Do not fear, I am Here.

Yes, come, let us travel this road together.

That’s What King’s do

Peter’s cry, in both circumstances, starts with the word “Lord”.  And this is the key, perhaps more than anything.  He realizes the nature of the relationship, that as His master, as His King, Jesus has the responsibility in the relationship.  That Jesus will provide and protect, who is in control, and who saves, who loves and comes to us.  That is what Lord’s and King’s and Master’s are supposed to do, to care for their people, to provide for them.

This is the nature of the relationship that God has created us to be in with Him. Not one of servants, but that of His children, His friend

We need to realize something else about this story.

When Jesus noted that Peter had “little faith”, it is the same Greek compound word that  Jesus uses when he says,

20  “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”     Matthew 17:20 (NLT)

Peter had enough faith to cry out to Jesus, to plead with Jesus to save Him.

But that is not all faith is for, it is the trust to walk with Him, on water, or to deliver a cup of water, or to share with how the water of baptism brings you the hope, that the Lord is with you and will be with you until the end of the age.  To know that He is Lord, no matter what the situation, no matter what the storm.  It doesn’t even matter if there is no storm, for He is with you – He has come to you, even on the beautifully calm mornings on the lake. He tells you – Yes Come with me, and so we walk, and pray, talking to our Lord along the ways of life!

He is your Lord, and doesn’t even have to walk across a lake to come to you… He is here… He has reached out to you, and taken your hand Therefore you dwell guarded, protected, in the Fortress that is Jesus Christ, our King.

AMEN?

 

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