Football Season Starts Soon: Whose side is God On? (and in other rivalries as well)


Discussion and Devotional THought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

13  When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” 14  “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” 15  The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. Joshua 5:13-15 (NLT)   

759         You complain that he shows you no understanding. I am certain he does as much as he can to try to understand you. But what about you? When will you make a bit of an effort to understand him?  (1)

It is getting near that time of year when men pray more consistently on Sundays.  They thank God more often, they pray too him more deeply, the acknowledge His presence and ask His blessings (and  quote all the passages about cursing and defeating their enemies…)

Well, those men who are football fans, and those who are fanatics.

I wonder if God ever tires of those prayers, if he ever gets tired of the rivalries that He is included in by prayer? As if God really had a favorite football team, as if he really has a favorite team or a favorite player, or even a favorite sport?

I think of Joshua’s words above – he wanted to be sure this soldier was on his side…… and that was even before he knew the Soldier was Christ Jesus.

Whose side are you on?

Neither.

Which football team is favored by God?  Neither.

With that out of the way – let’s get on to what is important.  I am here.. you are here, therefore this is Holy Ground.  

The purpose of God isn’t to have this team or that team win, or even this nation or that nation be the dominant power.  People will get mad at me, but it is not whether the Ukraine or Russia prevails, whether ISIS is in power in Iraq, or some other group.  Or who is guiltier in the war between Hamas and Israel.

Even if those who oppose God are “victorious”, or seem to be, that doesn’t mean God is not working in their lives.  That is why God raised up Nineveh, why Jeremiah 29:7 talks about praying for oppressors, why Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Do we understand people enough to see their need for God in their lives?  Do we see that we, as His people, as to be beacons, to bring light into their darkness?

Those steps are needed, but first we desperately need to know that we are in the presence of God.  That it is not our agenda, or even our nation’s agenda that is important.  There is only one agenda, there is only one will that matters.  God’s.

It is His – that none should perish – but that all wold come to repentance, as St Peter instructs.  Raider fans, Bills fans, Broncos Fans, even Patriots fans.  Russians, Ukrainians, Iraqi’s of every ethnicity and culture, Palestinians, those in Hamas, even the Israeli’s.

That they would come to know they live in God’s presence, that the Holy Spirit would replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, that they would have the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, give them life.

That is why Joshua would meet the pre-incarnate Christ,   it is why Israel was loved, and protected,   SO that we could heed the words of King David in the second Psalm,

Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. Psalm 2:11-12 (NKJV)

Lord have mercy on us!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3155-3157). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Being Spiritually or Emotionally Weary Isn’t a Bad Thing.


The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

The Good Shepherd, Carrying His Own….

Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:

8  GOD also says: “When the time’s ripe, I answer you. When victory’s due, I help you. I form you and use you to reconnect the people with me, To put the land in order, to resettle families on the ruined properties. 9  I tell prisoners, ‘Come on out. You’re free!’ and those huddled in fear, ‘It’s all right. It’s safe now.’ There’ll be foodstands along all the roads, picnics on all the hills— 10  Nobody hungry, nobody thirsty, shade from the sun, shelter from the wind, For the Compassionate One guides them, takes them to the best springs. Isaiah 49:8-10 (MSG)

“And I have grown weary of Christ’s words not to worry about tomorrow.  But in His grace I have surrendered to God’s sovereignty and His providence, and it has made me free! (emphasis mine)  (1)

778         “I know some men and women who don’t even have the strength to ask for help”, you tell me with sorrow and disappointment. Don’t leave them in the lurch. Your desire to save yourself and them can be the starting point for their conversion. Furthermore, if you think about it carefully you will realise that someone also had to lend you a hand.  (2)

I came across the quote above in green this morning, and it resonated with me.  It was in a devotion extolling poverty, nor because of the suffering it causes, but because of the clarity it gives, the dependence we need to have on God.  It actually made begging sound like a deeply spiritual experience, one leaving us in awe.

I understand to an extent. Though not financially, I’ve spent most of the last year emotionally drained, impoverished you might say. Too much grief, my own and the grief that is shared among friends and church family.  We’ve dealt with a lot of illness, too much death, too many people dealing with too many family troubles, financial problems, burdens for others.  In the midst of it, I understand the joy of knowing God has provided , I can see hat He has done, how He has sustained, how He will continue to work through it all.   I understand that cry of the beggar when he says he’s grown weary of those words of Jesus, the ones that encourage our trust and dependence on Him.

I almost feel like I am one of those Josemaria talks about, the ones who don’t have the strength to ask for help.  Or definitely in the group in Romans, where I have to depend on the Holy Spirit to “translate” some of my prayers, because I am not sure how to pray.

That doesn’t mean I don’t trust in God anymore, I do. Matter of fact, perhaps more than I have ever before.

Because He is there in such times, I have seen it,  Isaiah’s words are dead on accurate.   I know it better than ever. Because He has answered, He continues to form me, He continues to use me to reconnect people to Him.  He does walk us through the valley of the shadow of death.

The writer of the prayer in the Celtic Book of Prayer was right, by grace we surrender to God’s Sovereignty  and Providence.  Big “churchy terms” that need to be broken down, that we need to understand.  Simply put, we know that He is here, that our Master is in charge, that He will care and provide for us.  He will see us through the storms, for sure.  He will also see us through the times after the storms.   The times when the weariness sets in, when we catch our breath and realize how drained we are.  So drained we can’t cry out, we don’t know what to say, we don’t even know if we are where we should be anymore.

We simply need to remember God’s promise.  That He is here… that He will handle it, that He will provide.

These times, they aren’t the worst of times, they are among the most spiritual… for we realize how dependent we are, and can be, on our God.

 

 

 

 

(1)  Celtic Daily Prayer – Meditations day 30

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3222-3225). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Hope Amidst Distant Wars, Rumours of Wars, and Your Personal Battles…


Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

1  How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1 (NLT) 

756         I advised you to inject a great deal of supernatural outlook into every detail of your ordinary life. And I added immediately that living with other people provided you with ample opportunity throughout the day.  (1)

I’ve heard a lot of speculation recently on Israel and Palestine, people trying to justify the killing that is going on, from one side or the other.  Even the passages from scripture, about wars and rumours of wars have been used to justify war, ( I think those passages can bring us comfort and solace – but to justify it?)  The same kind of speculation about what is going on in Iraq, and in the Ukraine, and in a dozen other places around this world.

Yeah, there are going to be wars.  But that doesn’t mean we have to like it!  It doesn’t mean, that like Pope Francis, we can’t pray diligently that these brothers would stop warring against each other. (It amazes me  For them to realize they are brothers and sisters, that who they are killing are their own.

(Yeah, I realize that what I am saying is going to tick them both off at me – but hey – it just proves that they can agree on something!)

Its hard for them to see, I realize, that they are all related through Noah, and perhaps through Abraham. That even more, as people who Jesus Christ was crucified to redeem, they could be brothers via the application of His blood for all the sins that separate them.  After all, we see such an example in people like the Apostles Matthew and Simon the Zealot, and of course in the Apostle Paul

Peace, real peace, not just a passing cease fire, or a UN mediated true, has to come spiritually, It has to come from the One who died to end sin, to bring hope, to establish peace in our hearts.  As St Josemaria wrote, we have to increase our awareness of the supernatural, of the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.  Only then will we see our brothers and sisters in a different light, only then will we see them as children of God, as righteous in Christ, and realize that to cause them sorrow, is to cause ourselves sorrow. Consider these verses, and God’s call to love your adversaries,

  14  Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15  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 12:14-16 (NLT)

That is true whether we are talking about national and international battles, or the battles that can rage in our workplaces, or homes.  Or the relationships that cause us stress, anxiety, even mild cases of paranoia.

Is it possible to live at peace?  I do not know.  I know it is possible to live In peace, the peace of Christ.

May you find yourself drawn into that peace, and may you draw those you are “at war” with, into that peace as well.

And pray, for the peace of Israel, and for those who oppress them!  (Jeremiah 29:7)

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3142-3144). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Rejoice, You’ve Been Found, Purchased, and Caught


Rejoice, You’ve Been Found, Purchased, CaughtConcordia Lutheran Church
Matthew 13:44–52

 In Jesus Name

 May this message strengthen your trust and help you enjoy the grace, the mercy and peace for which God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ has purchased you!

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For…   but the Father has

The video starts in black and white, setting a serious tone. It begins in an alley, a man wearing a heavy jacket, his hair pulled back, looking deep in thought.

As the man describes of his life, a quest for something the escapes him.  In between the famous chorus, he speaks of all the things He has experienced, from religious ecstatic experiences, to walking with evil, from relationships to every aspect of life.  A modern version of Solomon’s book Ecclesiastes, where Solomon after searching out the meaning of life, declares all is vain, all is worthless.

Bono’s version of All is Vain, is the haunting chorus, “I still haven’t found, what I’m looking for….”

He hadn’t found a treasure worth selling off all he has to purchase.

He hasn’t found the one gem that is so incredible, he will liquidate all his assets to be able to acquire.

He won’t.

Neither will we.

That is what the three parables we heard in the gospel this morning, and the one from last week are all about.

We can’t find what we are looking for, and we need to realize that.

But we also have to realize that our Dad, our Father in Heaven, has found what He was looking for, purchased it, and is bringing what He was looking for home… a catch of incredible.

So let’s explore, and find the God that searched for us…..

His Treasure Found (Jesus entering the World),

Imagine your salvation depends on you finding something buried in a field. Not just buried, but specifically and purposefully hidden.  The word for hidden is the word from which we get the word encrypted, cryptologist and well crypt.  To make something so hidden it is safe from discovery, and even if it is discovered, it will take great effort to decode and make its secret yours.

How would you find the Kingdom of God and establish it, given that requirement?  Which of us could understand how it all works, how many of us can force God’s hand?    We cannot, and therefore this parable isn’t about us.  There is no hope for us to find that which was hidden, and even less that we will have what it costs to make it ours.

If the field is the world, there is One who has come to it, with the intent of establishing the Kingdom of God.  He searched out the treasure, and he gave up all He had to make the Treasure His own.

The treasure hunter is Jesus!  The Lord, the Savior, the One who would be able to accomplish this incredible task!

But that would mean, the treasure is….. (long pause..)

If Jesus is the One searching for the treasure, the treasure is His Bride, the He was sent to find by the Father!

The treasure is the people of God, revealed to be the Father’s children.

We are part of the treasure, you and I, and all the people of God that Christ can search out and find,

He has discovered us, He has found us!

His Pearl Purchased  (The Father, “selling out” the Son)

As we move into the second parable, it is an interesting side note that the word for pearl in Greek is pronounced… margaritas.

Even more important is the word that describes what the merchant does, when he finds the perfect pearl.  What he does to everything He has, everything He values, everything for which He cares.

He betrays it, He sells out that which He had treasured, to make the pearl His own.  He liquidates it all, basically tossing it aside to purchase that which He counts so valuable!. In modern terms, He dumps it

How people in the world are willing to do that?  How many people in this room are so enamored with God that they are willing to lose everything, just to have God in their life.  Giving up things like chocolate, or that beer?  Giving up your car, or your house?  Giving up your friends, your family?

Are you willing to sell them out, in order to make God “yours”

Again, I would say this parable might be about us, but it is far more true about God the Father.  Having envisioned His perfect pearl, having established what he valued more than everything,  The prophet Isaiah described this perfectly,

4  Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5  But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT) 

A moment later, these shocking words are written,

8  Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. 9  He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. 10  But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Isaiah 53:8-10a (NLT)

It was the Father’s good plan to crush Jesus, to sell Him out, so you and I could be His.  Some translations even translate this passage as it was God’s good pleasure to so treat Jesus in this manner.

Good pleasure?  To see Jesus crucified?  To give up the Son, to gain a Kingdom that is made up of… us?

Yes, isn’t that amazing?

We who have nothing to sell to gain the kingdom of God, have been purchased and claimed by God, at the cost of Jesus.

That’s the way God reigns, that is why He is so worthy of praise!

Because He thinks of us as His treasure, and did what it took to make us His!

We are in this net together!  (the Holy Spirit, ‘catching’ people with the word)

In looking at these parables, I didn’t realize until I got to this section how it is Trinitarian, this description of the Kingdom of God.

We found out we are the treasure found in the field, and the pearl for which a great price was paid, and now we are going to be the fish the Spirit catches with the net of God’s word.

This parable of gathering, like the one of the Wheat and Tares that precedes it, are not as hard for us to see who is hunting and buying.  Much clearer here – we aren’t trying to catch God in a net.

But that is how the Holy Spirit works, that is how God works.  His desire is to save all, and so the net gets tossed wide. Like Jesus coming into the world, into the field, the goal is to gain it all. Like the wheat and the tares, we are gathered up, to be sorted out, that which is living, and that which is rotting, dead and unclean.

We are gathered, the work of Christ at the cross ensures we are alive, that when the sorting happens, we aren’t tossed out.  That is the Father’s desire, His incredible longing for the people whom He treasures.

As we share the message of God’s love, of His finding, of His purchasing and gathering His treasured people, we help in this work.  The Holy Spirit works through us, using what He has given us to make this happen.

This is the nature of the ministry God shares with us, for we are people of His kingdom, and this is how it works, as God provides for His people, His children,

For unlike U2, God has found what He is looking for, He has claimed it, purchased, cleanse and gathered us, His people.

And therefore, secure in Christ, we can rejoice and dwell in His peace! AMEN?

Do I Really Have to????? Yes! Love Them!


Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

7  And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray for her, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.” Jeremiah 29:7 (TLB) 

760         All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added. I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to?  (1)

I am on vacation, and we’ve driven a bit here and there, and my memories go back to my childhood vacations in the lake region and in White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Three kids in the back of the old Chevy Malibu, and later in the Monte Carlo. God a bit cramped back there, and let’s just say it is was about as peaceful as the Holy Land. There was even the innocent victim (me) caught in between the rival factions.. I can still hear my dad and mom instructing my siblings to get along, to love each other, sometimes even to give each other a hug… a nice gentle one.

And the loud pitched, whining reply, ‘do I really have too???????”

Move forward to today.  Even if we are not caught into a political and historical mess like Israel and Palestine, we find ourselves in serious disagreements, We have rivals, we have those we don’t like, and we have those we are seemed destined to hate, because they hate us.  We are at war, sometimes in our workplaces, other times in our neighborhoods, with distant family, and sometimes, sad to say, in our homes.

We justify our anger, we get protective to stop the pain, to defend our reputations, even our families. There is a meme going around, saying that if they drop their guns, there will be peace, but if we drop ours, we will be annihilated. Not sure how true this is, but we take it is as truth, and apply that truth in our lives. We want at least the personal version of Mutually Assured Destruction.

We don’t realize how damaging this is, this dealing with enemies, this always defending ourselves.

Israel was in captivity when Jeremiah wrote these words, with the ancestors of those they have been engaged in hostilities with for centuries.  The prophet’s words are different, they don’t call for strategy, they don’t call for defensive posturing.  I chose the translation from the Living Bible because it identifies the city, these enemies.  Here it is, as we would normally here it,

7  And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 (NLT) 

Do I really have to?  Do I really have to love them, to pray for them?  Do I have to sacrifice time and energy to work for their peace and not just survival, but prosperity?

Do I really have to?

I mean St Josemaria described them so well, “All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added.”

And the response, read it again,

I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to?

Here is a way, similar to the words above, that helps.  Hear Jesus words from the cross, Father, forgive (insert your name), for they know not what they do.  See Him utter those words, even as He is dieing, even as the pain wracks His body, even as the blood drips to the ground.  Now, Look at your adversary, see Jesus on the cross, begging the Father to forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing as well.  Let this thought be pondered in your heart for 10 or 15 minutes…. really dwell on it. Not just picture it for a second – go that’s nice.  But dwell on it until the tears come, till the pain is pulsing in your body, and then purged of it, the peace rushes into your soul.

See both of you, broken there… yet being lifted by Christ.  For in Christ, that which divides us is broken, in Christ there is mercy, in Christ, there is healing.

That’s why Jeremiah calls for us to pray for those who oppress us, because as God makes Himself known to them, as He calls them to be His children, as He blesses them, the blessing to us is beyond compare.

St Paul mentions this in his words to the Church in Galatia…

27  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28 (NLT)

There is our goal, this is our mission, our apostolate, to long for this healing, this reconciliation.  Tough?  Yes.  Painful?  Yes?  Calling us to sacrifice beyond our means?  Yes.

In Christ, there is no other choice.  It is our vocation, our life.

We pray, “Lord, have mercy on us sinners!”

 

 

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3158-3162). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are You Strong Enough to Really Love as Jesus Asks You to Love?


Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
11  “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12  My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. John 15:11-12 (TEV)

749  Your charity must be adapted and tailored to the needs of others… not to yours.  (1)

It sounds simple and nice, this idea of loving one another.

I think we romanticize it, not in the sense of erotic love, but in the idea of some kind of peaceful utopia.  That all we need is love, and somehow the world will straighten out, the Middle East conflicts will resolve, the kidnapped girls in Nigeria will come home, those who have suffered from hurricanes, earthquakes, and drought will find all they need.

Love, and the relationships, the deep intimate relationships that are created and bound in love are the farthest thing from some restful utopia. Ask any mother who has to care for a newborn,  There is a deep level of love, but it isn’t all cooing and cuddling.  It’s waking up every 2-3 hours to feed and change them, it is dealing with sickness, even when you are sick, it is learning to discipline and teach, it is sacrifice, it is work.

Intimate relationships between soldiers are no different (again we aren’t talking sexual – but simply things so close they can’t describe the bond between them, the extend they will go for their brothers, the sacrifices they make, without hesitation, without thought of cost.  It simply is a bond that goes beyond description, that means more than life itself.

In these two examples, and in so many others, the words of St Josemaria are found to be true.  Love isn’t about our needs… its about life lived in community, loving others as much as we love ourselves.  Walking in the steps of Jesus, who did this better than us all.

In the book of Romans, I was amazed by how many times the prefix syn/sun shows up, How many times the concept is one where we are joined to each other, and the Holy Spirit is likewise joined to us.  It is an incredible journey, not just theologically, but together.  We share in our calling, our joys, our sorrows, in prayer, in being gathered in hope, and in prayer.  Romans isn’t just about the mission and the question of predestination, it is not just about Justification and gifts and Israel.

It’s about a life lived in relationship – a deep relationship between God and His people. A life that can be messy, and painful, that can be sacrificial to the point of heroic, a life that is full of Love… May God enable us both to desire this, and to do it… with Him

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3118-3119). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Dirty Dozen, Discipleship, Worship & the Family of God


Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:Dirty Dozen pic

1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. 3  And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you. 4  We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. 5  In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body. 6  So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us. If our gift is to speak God’s message, we should do it according to the faith that we have; 7  if it is to serve, we should serve; if it is to teach, we should teach; 8  if it is to encourage others, we should do so. Whoever shares with others should do it generously; whoever has authority should work hard; whoever shows kindness to others should do it cheerfully. 9  Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10  Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. Romans 12:1-10 (TEV)

729         Men—this has always happened in history—bind their lives together to accomplish a collective mission and destiny. Is the unique destiny of eternal happiness worth less to the men and women of today?  (1)

An odd juxtaposition occurred in the last 12 hours or so, and it all came together in the words of St. Josemaria I read this morning.

The first is one of the books I picked up on my Kindle – the old World War II novel entitled, “The Dirty Dozen”  A movie was based on it, twelve soldiers sentenced to death or life in prison were given a chance to live honorably, in service to their country.  Their leader is tasked with molding them into a unit, despite their differences in culture, in life, and their tendency to violence.  It has some fascinating looks at why men choose evil, or passively accept it.

The second was a question asked by one the seminary students I supervise, part of an assignment, about the connection between worship and witness.  Given the course, I think they were thinking in the narrow sense of both words, how a church service leads us to evangelism.  I prefer to look at it in the large sense, lives given as described above, worship as our reasonable, sacrificial, lives, where each does what they do as they trust in God.  This kind of worship is a living witness – far more powerful than any words we can speak.  This is what worship is, this is what the sacraments prepare us for, knowing our mission is eternal, knowing that the outcome is more than us.  Seeing how Christ’s mercy makes it all possible, for us to live as sacrifices, as we live and serve and love, and respect each other, as our trust in God grows.

In the Book and the movie, The Dirty Doze, such a camaraderie eventually develops.  They will get their mission, they will mourn their losses, the will accomplish their mission  But it is the training and serving each other that will make the biggest difference.  Not the orders given, not the memories of their past.  They will enter into a relationship deeper than they will want to admit to, more than they can even perceive.

We are the same, we have a mission, but that mission isn’t just what binds us together,   It isn’t the hope of being known to be honorable, or being heroes.  The gifts we use, the love and respect we share, that isn’t the intention either.  For if it is that, we will leave people behind, we won’t see them as necessary to the mission, or that they can be redeemed full,

It is the camaraderie, that a bunch of us who could have been given up on, are being forged into His people, those He has called together, bound together in Christ, whom we share the body and blood of Jesus with together.  We will go through death together, knowing that He has led us through it.

On a mission from God….. sacrficing and serving, because of His mercy!
AMEN,

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3042-3045). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Our Need for Vacation, (or the Sabbath) is Really Our Need for Christ


DSCF1083

a nice peaceful sunset off of the Huntington Beach Pier..

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:

1   LORD, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. 2  Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. 3  Israel, trust in the LORD now and forever! Psalm 131:1-3 (TEV)

11  In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. 15  And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession. 16  So let no one make rules about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the New Moon Festival or the Sabbath. 17  All such things are only a shadow of things in the future; the reality is Christ. Colossians 2:11-17 (TEV)

657 Here is a point for your daily examination. Have I allowed an hour to pass, without talking with my Father God? Have I talked to him with the love of a son? You can!  (1)

Today starts my vacation, so it was a coincidence?  Ironic?  God having fun? that my devotional readings switched from focusing on sacrificing to focusing on resting in Christ Jesus this morning.

As I started to read the Psalm this morning, and the other passages and the devotional reading, (with my son at my side – which was great!) I started thinking – how much people look forward to vacation, how much we look forward to a break from the grind of daily work. Even though many of us physically do not rest, do not take a break, but fill as much of our time as we can!

Matter of fact, we spend extra time preparing our work places and lives for vacation, we know we will have more work when we get back, we tire ourselves out during it and… well.. we don’t always get what we need – rest, a chance to breath, a chance to recover and be revitalized. It works against the Human Resources justification of Vacation – that employees will be more energetic and productive with that time away for rest and recreation, That it will reduce burnout, that it will have a positive impact on our work.

As I was thinking through this, I realized what vacations are supposed to be about is why God created sabbath times – not just weeks, but yearly and even sabbaticals where things rested for a year. When all pressure is off, where time is spent simply, without concern, knowing that God is caring for us, protecting us, Where we can find contentment, and peace.  Where we can be still, knowing that it will take a couple of days to do so… to unwind, to breathe, to even gasp.

We need to do this more, setting aside even in a minute or two an hour, an hour a day, a day a month?  And yes – our week or two a year…..

We need our time with our Father, for that is precious and restores our soul… It can give us the strength to face the rest of the hour, the pains of a day, the punishing grind of a year.

My son got it, when we talked of my role as a pastor, and why I need to start the morning with a devotional time.  He said if I didn’t spend time with God, even though the time I spend with people is very good – I can’t really pastor!  (He indicated he was guessing – he knew it was right – but he didn’t know why!)

How can we live as believers, if we don’t spend time, talking to Him with the love and adoration a son has for his dad?

This is why it doesn’t make sense to restrict people to a specific day for such rest, for dwelling in such love. If someone needs that rest on Tuesday night, or on Thursday morning.  We need it.  The Sabbath is about man receiving the peace and rest God would give them.  It isn’t about obedience, but about restoration. That is why some prefer daily mass, and some churches with staff and time enough – have multiple service times across the week.

Well time to wrap this up – need to finish getting ready for some time of rest……

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2756-2758). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Work of Love to Important to Leave to a Few…


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)

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)

Before Christ and my own conscience I assure you that I am speaking the plain truth when I say that there is something that makes me feel very depressed, like a pain that never leaves me. It is the condition of my brothers and fellow-Israelites, and I have actually reached the pitch of wishing myself cut off from Christ if it meant that they could be won for God. Romans 9:1 (Phillips NT) 

622 Do you realise how much depends on whether you are soundly prepared or not? Many, many souls! And now will you cease to study or work with perfection? (1)

There is a attitude in the church today, that needs to be confronted, that needs to be corrected.  It is the idea that our lives are our own, that we have no obligation to work in the Kingdom of God.  We have no obligation to tell people about God’s love, to either them, or to God.

We’d love to leave that to pastors (and pastors leave it to missionaries!) or to the religious fanatics.  We don’t want the obligation and the obligations that come when those people we share God’s love with need to be loved…. by us.  Or the obligation to know God’s word beyond the basic “believe and your will be baptized” type promises, the ones assure us that we aren’t going to hell  The obligation of even praying for people is more than most of us are willing to take seriously.

how do we feel when we read Paul’s despair over the people of Israel?  Is such love a foreign thing to us?

His is not the only love like this – look at Moses making a similar offer to God.  What about Abraham, so worried about Sodom and Gommorah that he would bargain with God, over and over.  These weren’t the best people these men of God tried to save, it was rebellious sinful people.   The same kind of people around us.  Will we hear their cries?  Will we know their pain?

The problem is this idea that satan convinced the church of, that sharing our faith is an obligation, that it is commanded and we must do it.  We buy into that, because it gives us an out – if it is law – we assume our guilt, claim to repent, and go our merry way, assured we are forgiven.

But sharing our treasured hope is not a matter of law – it is a matter of love.  To look at those who suffer under the burden of shame and guilt, who are enslaved to sin, who are broken because of it.  Who try to find their peace in bottles or drugs or anything that will numb the pain, that will allow them to ignore it, or set it aside.  To look on these people is to see the need they have, that we know can be met, that can bring about healing and holiness.

It is a matter of loving them, and remembering when we realized what forgiveness is, what the promises of our baptism brings, what it means to know that God looks at us as His children, whom He chose to adopt.

We look those who don’t know Him, whom Jesus endured the shame of the cross to save… and we know we are called ot love them…..to be the ones who point them to life, to rest, to walking with God. Can we picture them, as the burdens are lifted, as the sins are removed, as the joy fills their hearts?

Lord, you’ve made us your children, help us to be patient, and desire that non perish…..and help us to embrace any sacrifice that will help us lead others into Your family.  AMEN!.

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2629-2631). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

2 days Blog: You Can’t Handle His Truth…… or can you?


Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

WARNING THIS BLOG POST MAY ANNOY THE HELL OUT OF YOU!

21  Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” 22  “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, 23  because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. 24  He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25  The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. 26  The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ 27  The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go. 28  “Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. 29  His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ 30  But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. 31  When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. 32  So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. 33  You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ 34  The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.” 35  And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 (TEV)

569  If you are annoyed at being told the truth, then… why do you ask? Is it perhaps that you want to be answered with your own “truth” so your errant ways can be justified? (1)

It seems the number of FB and Twitter posts recently that talk about how to treat those who sin against you, those who don’t meet your standards f behavior, those that just tick you off are on the rise.

Most don’t called for a counter-attack or revenge, or so it seems.  But they do, as they justify walking walking away, as they justify completely terminating the relationship, as they call for you to slam the door in the face of the one hurting, disrespecting, annoying and sinning against you.  They might even say that they forgive, but can never forget.  Or they talk about forgiveness, but not allowing the person to hurt or disappoint them again.

But that leads to a question – what good is it if there is forgiveness, if there is not the possibility of reconciliation?  If you cut someone off after the 7th sin, how in the world can they sin against you 69*7 more????

Undoubtedly, some are thinking – what about in cases of abuse, where violence has erupted, where there have been criminal acts like murder or rape?  What about where there are atrocities like genocide?   Are you saying that we must reconcile with “those” people?  Do we have to provide them the option of hurting us again?  Do we have to encourage something that we know could end in more pain?

That’s a good question, a very hard one.

But it is one we have to ask!

We have to realize that true forgiveness requires and hungers for reconciliation, for restoration. It may not happen, but we have to desire it.

What can reconciliation look like?  Can it be done with gradually, rebuilding that which was lost? Can we diligently work to restore that which was broken, to see it healed?  ( Not just tolerating the brokenness)  If our absence is necessary (and sometimes it is until repentance manifests) can we grieve over that, rather than triumph in it?  Do we weep as Christ wept over stubborn Jerusalem?

Jesus never said following Him would be easy.  Paul talked about it in terms of suffering like/with Jesus is necessary here – because of the glory we will share with Him there. So there will be sacrifices we will have to make, especially to our pride, especially to our expectations.  We will have to have the attitude of a servant, for we serve God, even as Jesus did.  Our work isn’t to promote ourselves, but to work at seeing His desire fulfilled… the desire that all come to repentance, that all come and are reconciled and restored, that all are presented perfect in Christ.

Look at the servant – forgiven by God of millions, who wouldn’t forgive such a small debt!  He’s talking about us when we separate reconciliation from forgiveness, when we pull back – not to urge repentance, but out of a desire to save ourselves, to guard our pride, or even our reputation.  We have no problem seeing the servant as evil and wrong, yet do we see the same lesson in our own lives. The truth of this parable stings, it hurts, when we realize we aren’t really forgiving, because we demand with the forgiveness that reconciliation isn’t possible.  That’s not forgiveness – that saying they don’t have to pay the debt – but we will still remember they owe us.  That isn’t right. It isn’t the way of the truth.

If we know this is true, Mercy must reign in our lives.  That we effectively use both God’s law and the gospel correctly to witness redemption occur.

It’s a very tough calling – living this way.  Yet it is His call on our lives, it is the truth that we see in Christ.  In fact, it is the truth that we can’t see outside of Him, and without the Holy Spirit’s help – it is impossible to see this truth revealed in our lives. But we need to see it, it will imprison and slowly kill us until we do.

Lord have mercy on us!  Help us handle the truth, that we are called to live a life of forgiveness… as those who forgive and reconcile, and those forgiven and reconciled!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2433-2435). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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