Preparing for Jesus Coming:
We Need to ask:
† IHS †
May Your Christmas Celebration be one where you get the answer from God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, of why me?
Parker Parable – Advent = Sleeplessness nights
It is time for a pastor parker parable, one that is a more serious note.
The parable will help us understand this advent season as it grows to a close, and help us be patient for just a few more days, until we can break loose with hallelujah’s and gloria’s and the most abundant praises our voices and hearts can sing…..
So here is the parable:
Advent is like a sleepless night!
You know, the nights where you toss and turn, and your body finds trouble resting. The same nights when you mind is working fast than lightening, as you process every possible outcome, and how those will complicate life in the days to come?
Yeah – that kind of sleepless night.
We know these nights….
Advent is like that…..
It’s like a question we ask…
Advent is that time where we look to the sky, and ask that question. “Lord, why me?”
Over the years, I’ve asked that question a million times, it’s even caused those sleepless nights, as I’ve pondered why me…..
It’s the question of Advent, as are those dark sleepless nights.
We ask in regard to tragedy, trauma and “bad luck”
We usually ask, “why me?” in those times when it seems like life overwhelms our trust in God.
Maybe we are asking the “why me?” question because we have to deal with the consequences of sin. We can even know God’s forgiveness, and know our eternity is secure, yet we have to deal with the brokenness of things.
We ask because of the broken hearts, broken relationships, things broken by our jealously, envy, hatred, and desire. Often we don’t sleep because of our inability to deal with temptation by our own strength or reason. Sin is a horrid thing, and we think we have two options in dealing with it. Either we struggle against it, or we begin to harden our own hearts, so we don’t feel judged or condemned. Either way the guilt and shame can cause us to question our existence in the dark hours of the night.
Maybe we are asking, “why me?” because we can’t see that God is working in our lives. When we don’t doubt His existence, but we wonder if those promises are for other people.
You know, that promise we hear, that all things work together for good for those that love God?
Or that God will never leave or forsake us?
Paul talks about the fact that God’s plan was kept secret from the beginning of time, and then was revealed. Asking “why me?” is sort of like wondering if we missed that moment when God’s plan from the ages was revealed to everyone else.
Did we miss it? Because we did, did God forget to include us in it?
I’ve had those moments, the wondering, the questioning, the trying to make heads and tails of life. Where you don’t know why you have all the bad luck.
I hate those kinds of sleepless nights, those times of asking why me. Why did I grow up with a genetic issue that affects my heart and spine? Why did I get in a motorcycle accident, or drop out of school, or have a cardiac arrest, each of those times I’ve asked that question, just as all of you have asked those “why me’s”
Just like I’ve had times where I needed to face my sin and confess it, because if dealing with the consequences now is challenging, those same sins have an eternal consequence. Just as we all have….
Good thing that Advent isn’t like those kinds of sleepless nights, that it isn’t about those times of asking “why me?”
That there is another reason for sleepless nights and asking “Why me!”
We need to ask in view of blessings.
Advent is like the sleepless night, or about asking “why me?” But not in the sense of those traumatic nights I’ve mentioned. It’s the kind of sleepless night where your joy and expectation is building up.
Like that restlessness you feel before you go on vacation with dear family and friends you haven’t seen in a while, or the night before you get married.
Or like the night before Christmas when you are a child, and try to stay up, imagining what gifts you are going to get, and who you are going to tell about it, and who you are going to share it with, and how much you are going to enjoy it!
The excitement, the expectation, the joy of the next morning is keeping you up.
When we realize what Jesus coming into our world means, we should ask, “LORD, WHY ME?” in joy, even with a little disbelief as we struggle to believe that God would love us that much!
What have we done to deserve the presence of God? What have we done to deserve these promises that the prophets and apostles reveal to us? What have we done to be included in this plan…
YET WE ARE!!!
Jesus the Messiah came into this world, to live and die, for us.
He died on the cross to free us.
He rose again that we should rise with Him, and even live through this life, every moment in His presence.
When scripture talks about the gentiles being included in His plan, it’s talking about all of us who breathe, who walk, who have been baptized. Who have been made His children? Do we realize it is talking about us?
Advent is like the time, when we can’t sleep, because we are thinking about His gifts, about His presence (and his presents!)
it is the attitude of Mary, as she hears, ““Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!”
It is the joy King David, the repentant adulterer and murdered knows as he hears Nathan say, “Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings!
“Why Me?” they surely asked… and we would do well to ask as well.
Why God, why did you choose me?
While we wait
It is as he begins knowing the depth, the height the width and breadth of this love that Paul can say something we need to hear from this passage, that God is able to sustain us, to keep us strong, not with our strength, but surrounded by His care.
It is the message that must everyone, everyone who doubts God would love them, that believe they are separated from Him need to hear.
To make us strong there, it’s not by causing us to be spiritual superheroes. It’s to support us, confirm us, to establish us and set us in place, to bring us to a state of peace. To know that our place in Christ cannot be challenged,
The “why Me” changes dramatically, from why would God allow this all to happen to me, to “why would God choose you, or me, or cause Jesus to die, for us.
To answer this “why me?” sustains us in those other “why me’s” and reminds us to rest in His strength, to find mercy in His peace, to look forward to His second coming with the anticipation of children awaiting Christmas morning, but doing so, not restless with anxiety and stress… but with joy… and hope, and peace… for we know His love!
Discussion thought of the Day:
26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT)
This particular blog post found some stimulus in a internet discussion group I was invited to participate in, composed of Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox and Lutheran followers of Jesus Christ. One of the discussions the other day was about the encouragement given by Pope Francis for Lutherans and Catholics to talk together. A continuation of what was began under his predecessors.
I will bluntly state that I am all for it, even as I admit that there are some who see such discussions worthless.
I see it as a blessing for the church at large, because of the Bible passage above, which I believe that many in the RCC and the Lutheran church strive to see accomplished in their ministries. It is that hope, of seeing people realize that Christ is in you, that there is a relationship there that results in His sharing His glory with you. Being assured of that, trusting in His promise of that, makes all the difference in one’s life, and as it does, in their living it.
And it is that bond we share in common.
Below are three quotes – two Lutheran, one Catholic (from Vatican II) that discuss this, in view of our mass, our worship services, the times where people are gathered together around word and sacrament. In both cases, these are not the words of a pastor, a bishop, a pope, or some “expert”. They are documents which define our understanding of scripture, and the ministry. While there are things that will divide us in these documents, these quotes show something we might benefit from realizing.
For those of my readers who are more used to a devotional blog, or aren’t Lutheran or Catholic, read these anyways. Feel free to discuss this, to ask questions, to evaluate and see, do all of our ministries do this – do they proclaim Christ in a way the people understand and benefit from them. (Evaluate your own churches as well!) I am not saying this is enough to tear down walls, or to solve every problem. But in this we seem to agree – that people need to have a liturgy that clearly reveals to them Jesus Christ.
Maybe we can start a discussion here, that is beneficial, and not just focused on showing that we have irreconcilable differences. read the quotes – look to what they have in common to say…. especially in view of the Bible passage above!
7 Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.
2 Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.
The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray
“The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.
For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary.
The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.
By means of the homily the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text, during the course of the liturgical year; the homily, therefore, is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself; in fact, at those Masses which are celebrated with the assistance of the people on Sundays and feasts of obligation, it should not be omitted except for a serious reason.“
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 56–57). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press (first quote Augsburg confession Artical XIV, second quote Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIV
Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ 10 Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” Isaiah 6:9-10 (NLT)
540 In the interior life, as in human love, we have to persevere. Yes, you have to meditate often on the same themes, keeping on until you rediscover an old discovery. “And how could I not have seen this so clearly before?” you’ll ask in surprise. Simply because sometimes we’re like stones, that let the water flow over them, without absorbing a drop. That’s why we have to go over the same things again and again—because they aren’t the same things—if we want to soak up God’s blessings.
I probably have written this blog,before, or something like it.
I probably need to hear the lesson again, to make sure it sticks, just as St Josemaria mentions, I need to hear it over and over again, and to be honest, I get frustrated by my inability to hear God…Like yesterday’s blog, about loving people, not just tolerating jackasses.
I know it, I preach it, I teach it, yet I need to hear it again, to realize how in that very thing, it is all about God, about His being my benevolent Master, who wants the best for me. it isn’t just to behave right, or a matter of perfect obedience.
It’s about growing in my trust of God. It’s about hearing Him, really hearing Him. Hearing of His love, His mercy, His desire to create a relationship with us. A relationship with us that is so precious that He will go the ends of creation to make it happen.
He will heal our broken hearts, forgive our sin, comfort us, correct us, call us back to Him, reassure us that we don’t walk alone. He will be patient with us, for He desires our trust, that level of relationship where we count on Him.
In the Romans reading above, the lesson I need to grasp again, is what it means.
Hyper-akuo in Greek. To Hyper-hear God, to be so attuned to His voice, to so hear it, that it forms and shapes us, that we trust Him to the extent that we simply move, guided by His words, the words that reveal His love. That is what obedience/ hyper-hearing Him is all about.
Today He is asking – can you hear Me?
May we respond like children, and run into His arms….
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2034-2039). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
38 Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it. Matthew 10:38-39 (TEV)
21 So the next morning Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and started off with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was angry that Balaam was going, so he sent the angel of the LORD to stand in the road to block his way. As Balaam and two servants were riding along, 23 Balaam’s donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand. The donkey bolted off the road into a field, but Balaam beat it and turned it back onto the road. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood at a place where the road narrowed between two vineyard walls. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it tried to squeeze by and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So Balaam beat the donkey again. 26 Then the angel of the LORD moved farther down the road and stood in a place too narrow for the donkey to get by at all. 27 This time when the donkey saw the angel, it lay down under Balaam. In a fit of rage Balaam beat the animal again with his staff. 28 Then the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam. 29 “You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!” 30 “But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?” “No,” Balaam admitted. 31 Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him. 32 “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the LORD demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. 33 Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.” 34 Then Balaam confessed to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will return home if you are against my going.” Numbers 22:21-34 (NLT)
521 I wrote to you: Though I can understand that it’s not an uncommon way of talking, I’m not happy when I hear people describe the difficulties born of pride as “crosses”. These burdens are not the Cross, the true Cross, because they are not Christ’s Cross. So struggle against those invented obstacles, which have nothing to do with the seal Christ has set on you. Get rid of all the disguises of self!
As I read the words in blue from above at the end of my devotions this morning, I thought of the story of Balaam.
Partly it is because I have been trying to help a lot of people reconcile the relationships that they have shattered. They often consider dealing with each other the cross they have to bear, and they count it a noble thing to do so. They might not call them n ass directly, or publicly, but there is that kind of thought that is given. They will bear up with the frustration, the pain, and will humble themselves to the point where they cannot any longer, and the need for reconciliation becomes ….more visible.
I will confess that I am writing this as much to me, as I am to anyone else. We struggle against them, we proclaim that we will gladly becomes martyrs, we convince ourselves that we will tolerate them, and that is our martyrdom, that is the persecution we will endure, and offer it up to the Lord, as we bury the anger and resentment, and find ways to increase the distance between us.
And we are full of it!
Not that! We are full of pride. (well and the pride fills us with that as well)
They aren’t the cross we have to bear. TO say that is to bear a different kind of cross that the cross of Jesus Christ.
His Cross is one where reconciliation happens, the Cross where mercy and grace is found and celebrated, the Cross where sin is put to death, and we are raised, freed from it and all unrighteousness. That’s the cross we have to bear – to do things to bring about healing, forgiveness, to see God’s grace and mercy and love accomplish this between the asses in our life, and us.
it is then, with eyes wide open, that we see as Balaam did. That perhaps God has used them to protect us from harm, to protect us from sin and disobedience ruining our lives. That their work, whether deliberate or not, has been n incredible blessing.
We need to learn not to think of those people as the cross we have to bear, but instead yearn to take up the cross and follow Christ, for them. Even as He did for us.
It’s a hard lesson, but there is the biggest grace point…. we can’t do it unless we see the cross of Christ, unless we know His love and mercy as we interact with them. Knowing He is there, to heal, to pour out mercy, to pour out grace on us all, turns this from a cross of horrible suffering, into one we can embrace for the joy set before us.
Which is the biggest blessing of all, this need to walk with Christ, to follow Him to the cross, To remember that our life centers in Him – for that is where we meet Him, where we are united to Him, all of us who are called by His name. Remember you baptism, run to receive absolution, find joy in our communion together at His table. together. Amen
So don’t think of them as your crosses, for now you know that is a lie. Bear the cross that brings reconciliation, and learn from our Lord to bear it for the hope sent before us.
Dwell in His Peace!
They aren’t our crosses to bear, to claim so is not a mark of humility, but that of condescension and pride, much as Balaam found out, and confessed. Much as St Josemaria pointed out, .
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1976-1980). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)
513 The secret of being effective, at root, lies in your piety, a sincere piety. This way you will pass the whole day with Him.
It seems like almost daily I get e-mails from well meaning people, who want to help pastors to become more effective. They define effectiveness differently, and often talk of different aspects of ministry. Some on discipleship, some on outreach, some of being more pure in doctrine. Many are willing to be consultants, put one seminars, even become coaches of those who serve the church.
Some of these people have great experience in ministry and rely on their experience. Some have studied it from a distance, and teach and coach based on observing others effective ministries. They all have god ideas, some work better in this place, rather than that place. It is good to have their ideas available, but it takes wisdom born of prayer to know which might work, and when to shift from this idea to that.
But effectiveness as a servant of God, in whatever role, is found apart from methodologies, strategies, and even experiences. For even as Christians are not clones of each other, but are gifted and driven by the Spirit as the Spirit desires, so are churches. Some are great at evangelism, some are great at being resource centers, some are great at ministering to those that don’t feel at home in a church, who need very tender care.
Because they are different, because we are different, the same rules, programs, processes, worship styles don’t work in the same places.
What is needed in every place? Piety, or what I prefer to define simple as “walking with Jesus” or “walking in Christ”. Piety is simply the practice of realize our lives are focused in Christ, they are not lived some how distant from God, and this is a good thing. We need Him!
He is there.
With His grace, His wisdom, His love, His comfort, and yes, He shepherds us. We learn of His heart, and we are transformed into Him image according to Paul in 2 Corinthians 3. The transformation results in working in the ministry of reconciliation, just as presenting our bodies as living sacrifices results in the Holy Spirit using us in certain roles to minister to each other in Romans 12, and receiving the Lords Supper resolves into a similar discussion in 1 Corinthians 12-13.
Walking with God, Abiding in Christ, or even more clearly, the passage from Romans above – it is Christ that is living in us as we trust in His promises, in His work; there is the key to effectiveness, success, and even survival, whether as a church of 20, or one of 2000. Each different, each not just being directed by God as if we are soldering in Afghanistan receiving orders from the Pentagon and White house. Rather we are directed here, where we live, for we live and breath with Christ. There is where effectiveness occurs, there is where there is peace and joy, even in the midst of trauma, tribulation and even real persecution.
Walk with Him… talk, listen, love.. and see where He leads.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1949-1950). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Prepare the Way! It’s All About Jesus
John 1:6-8, 19-28
† IHS †
May You Realize That Life is All About Christ, and As You Do, May You Realize His Life Is All About You!
The New Pastor
I’ve heard the story a number of times, there’s even a pastor who did something similar and posted it on youtube. No matter who did it, it is a great object lesson. It went something like this.
A church was waiting expectantly to hear a pastor they were thinking of calling. He was supposed to come to town in time to preach at their evening service. He was reputed to be an incredible preacher, a great pastor, and one who led churches through times of great blessing.
He wrote them ahead of time, telling them the message would be one to encourage them to love their neighbors. Everyone was looking forward to it.
That morning, a man was sitting outside the church, with a piece of cardboard with the words Leviticus 19:18b written on it. He was unshaven, His clothes were filthy, his hair was messed, the letters on the sign were crooked.
Some people didn’t even look at him, as they passed by. Others looks, and muttered under their breath, A few walked up and tried to hand him a dollar bill, one man even tried to threaten him with calling the police – trying to scare him off the property. He stayed there all morning – and ever as people drove by later in the afternoon, he was there.
That night though, to almost everyone’s relief, he wasn’t there. The new pastor wouldn’t have to see him, and they wouldn’t have to feel guilty about treating him badly.
They were waiting for the message about caring for their neighbors. There was excitement in the air…. But wait, up by the altar, the man they thought was deranged talking to the elders…..and his sign was leaning against the altar…. One person looked it up – Leviticus 19:18B….
Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord (NLT)
They had seen his message all morning – but they didn’t see it. They heard this amazing pastor speak, but they didn’t hear him.
They would repent, ashamed and shocked by the message, and perhaps they were only more surprised, when they heard the pastor announce that he would take their call, that together they would learn to love God and their neighbor
it is a story not unlike the story of John the Baptist that we heard this morning. For he too was not listened too by some, and we see that in the gospel today.
Why Couldn’t They See or Hear His Message.
Who are you the Priests and Levites ask John, not once, but five times.
Who are you, why do you act like a messenger from God, these messengers from the leaders of Israel ask. Men who most likely grew up with John, for his father was a priest as well.
Every time I see this passage, I wonder, why they couldn’t realize who John is.
Why couldn’t they get it? Why didn’t they hear his message? Was it the odd clothes?
We look at them, and ask those questions, but would we treat the odd looking guy in different clothes, whose life was very different from ours any better?
Would we try to drive off a pastor who was dressed like a bum and acted a little weird when we first met him?
Or might we check out the Bible passage on the cardboard sign he held?
Why Didn’t John Answer Them?
As odd as it is that they didn’t recognize John, John’s blunt refusal to consider their question is even odder. Jesus would tell people that John was Elijah. Did John lie? Did Jesus?
Why doesn’t he just say yes, I am Elijah, and over here – the Messiah, the Prophet you’ve been looking for? That’s my cousin Jesus from Nazareth.
Why not just make it easy on them?
Why not just slap them upside the head, and say, “look – the answer to your question is here, right here, right before your very eyes?
I think we find the answer in the reaction of the crowds when they do realize that Jesus claims to be the Messiah. They either try to kill Him, they try to make Him a king that will provide everything on their time schedule, when God is doing something far greater, far more eternal.
But God is about something else – about redeeming mankind, of reconciling everything together.
7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NLT)
Surely they wouldn’t have killed Jesus, if they truly knew He was the Messiah, they wouldn’t have sacrificed Him, and he wouldn’t have borne our sin. They would have honored him, praised him, expected him to lead them in glorious battles, but that isn’t why he was born of Mary, that’ isn’t why he emptied Himself, and lived under the weight of being human.
That is what John means when he says he is the one who cries out get ready for God to come! A cry of despair, a cry of last resort, a cry for God to act, for only God can make the changes needed for people to be ready to in His presence.
if John admits to being Elijah, then the attention is on him again, and not on the message, the message people need to hear.
Are you ready for God to be part of your life? Are you ready to be part of His?
John’s message has to be about our need for Jesus. It can’t be, “look at me, I am Elijah!”
It has to be about Christ.
Without His Incarnation, His Birth, His life, Death, Burial, Resurrection, and Ascension, we won’t be ready when it is time for us to be before the throne of God. We simply can’t do the miracle of reconciling every relationship we’ve broken, every hurt we caused others, every time we’ve betrayed others, and been betrayed by them.
Yet that is why He came. That is the ministry of Christ! That is the work He accomplished, to make our lives, as bruised and battered as they can be, lives that are masterpieces because of what He does…
We know of Him, and His work, and that it was all planned…..
For John testified of his work, as we do, with our words and our lives.
For when we trust God at His promises, the promise of a Messiah, of a Prophet, of our Savior, and what He would do to save us… everything changes, and it begins to make sense.
What changes the most? We go from darkness to light, we go from questioning God to reveling in His presence, we know Him… He’s the pastor, who sees us at our worst, at the moments we aren’t loving, and says, I’ll stay, let’s walk together.
Therefore, knowing why He came, knowing He will come again, trust in Him, count on the promises He has made us, and live in His incredible peace…. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT)
502 If bare justice is done, people may feel hurt. Always act, therefore, for the love of God, which will add to that justice the balm of a neighbourly love, and will purify and cleanse all earthly love. When you bring God in, everything becomes supernatural. (1)
We live in a day where the cries for justice are ringing out, or do we?
At least the cries that sound call for justice.
But I don’t think we know what justice is anymore. If justice is based on an outcome that is demanded, It is justice? if in seeking justice, we have to commit injustice to achieve it, is it right?
Will will seek after justice if we, or our way of life is that which is found unjust? Will we as readily accept our punishment and suffer for what we’ve done, (or not done) that led to unjust actions?
Do we want bare justice? An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, ruination for ruination?
Because if we do, we don’t want true justice, we don’t want the other term scripture uses for justice, righteousness.
God showed His righteousness, His justice at the cross, When the value of those who act unjustly was seen – God’s righteousness, God’s justice meant He had to take on the burden of injustice, and make it just and right. That those who were once unjust, could walk into the presence of God Almighty peacefully.
I don’t know whether the which of those in Ferguson or New York, Cleveland or in the interrogation rooms of the CIA, in the Ukraine, the Middle East, the Ukraine, etc are just in God’s eyes. Well let me re-phrase that – none —- none are.. Yet all who believe, all who have been cleansed by God are now right. for they dwell in the One who determines what is righteous and what is just. ….
Praise God my friends… this is a marvelous thing that brings us hope and peace.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1916-1920). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Comfort your People
† IHS †
May you know the comfort of the grace poured out upon you by God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Can We Be Honest?
Advent is a time for honesty. Brutal honesty.
Because without it, we can’t hear the Voice that cries out of Isaiah the words we heard tonight.
Comfort, comfort MY people….
The honesty requires us to realize, that if we are the people of God, we are the people that the Voice is talking about. We are the ones who need comfort, who need peace.
But will we recognize it?
Do we realize we need Jesus to reveal Himself, just as the shepherds in the field did? Just as the wise men from what is now Iraq did? As much as the people Isaiah prophesied to, the people of God who were about were in slavery and bondage, far away from their home, yet living in view of a promise that would care for them.
They needed the comfort, the tender care, the chance to return to full health.
Advent is about realizing we need it as badly as they need it. Mankind lives in the same desperation, we have the same need for God’s rescue from darkness…
We need to hear this cry, this prayer that God would bring comfort to all of His people. Those who know they are His people, those who don’t know it… yet.
We aren’t lost…we aren’t broken
Even as we hear the prayer for comfort, we hear the why that comfort is needed.
Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!
4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills!
Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places!
These cries of desperation will be repeated as Jesus begins His ministry, as Jesus begins this work. We need to hear that – as He begins His work.
You see most of us spiritually are in the same place where the average man is, when he keeps refusing to stop for directions, when he denies he needs a GPS, when everyone else knows he is lost, and has no clue where or when to turn next. We deny the need for help, we’ve never gotten lost before. It’s funny when you get lost in Oaklahoma, it’s not so funny when you get lost in combat zones of the inner city.
We aren’t just lost though. Sin isn’t satisfied with that, we are broken, battered, stuck in the wilderness on the side of the road, with no direction, no path, no spiritual yellow brick road.
We look at the world and see they are lost, that they cannot even tell the difference between darkness and light. Is torture right? Is violence? Is sex of any kind outside of marriage? Is gossip and slander and disrespecting authority? Too often we find ourselves justifying that we know is wrong. We should know it simply because we have to justify our thoughts, or actions or words.
We need those roads straightened out, we need to see where we are heading clearly, we need to have a straight direction. This is the focus in advent, to know that those cries will be heard, that God will act. That we can hear His voice.
We’ve got to hear His Voice… We Got to Know His word.
Even as we hear that the path needs to be prepared, we have to hear the voice again that cries out for it.
2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone,
and her sins are pardoned.
This is the cry we hear, what will bring comfort to the people whom God the Father call His children.
The comfort is found in the mercy of God, shown in the work of Jesus. For it is His work to straighten those roads, to fill in the valleys, to make straight the path for God.
That is the incredible view of Advent, seeing the work to make God’s way smooth, the way that will bring us comfort, for the way is the one which we travel with Jesus, as He brings us to the Father.
A way of mercy, a way of peace, a way of joy.
That road, smoothed out, is Jesus work, it is the glory of God revealed to us. The glory that we dwell in, with Him. The glory we see together, His children, with nothing in the way.
For He has spoken.
One more thing… who is praying to whomThe Father cried out to the Son, that Jesus would comfort us.
It is why He needed to come…. It is why He would lay in a manger, and die on the cross. It is why we are united to Him in baptism, why He gives us His body and blood.
Hear it again, we aren’t the only people who pray and plead that all of God’s people would find comfort.
The Father cries, “Comfort, comfort my people!” The Son brings us comfort… and peace. So it was at the incarnation, so it will be at His return. AMEN!
Devotional THought of the Day:
15 After they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.“ Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.” 16 A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.“ Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 A third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter became sad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” and so he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” John 21:15-17 (TEV)
9 Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? 10 Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 (TEV)
499 We men don’t know how to show Jesus the gentle refinements of love that some poor, rough fellows—Christians all the same—show daily to some pitiful little creature (their wife, their child, their friend) who is as poor as they are. This truth should serve as a salutary shock to make us react. (1)
I keep hearing that men are afraid of commitment, or they shy away from deep abiding relationships, and that is the reason why they struggle to church. There are even a number of books out there about why men struggle at church, and how to make the church “men friendly”. I even have a couple of friends who mock me (when they aren’t to criticizing me) when I talk about having a relationship with God, and that it has to be a deep, intimate relationship. “Those words will scare off men,” they protest.
But they realize that need is real, that we need that relationship with God. We need to know His love, the perfect love of a Father for His children, the love of Jesus, the perfect love of a husband, for us His bride.
A few days ago, a pro basketball player weeped because a young girl he knew passed away because of cancer. He broke down in a press conference after a game. Isn’t that a level of deep love, we often don’t hear guys expressing? What about the deep love that is show at funerals, or when a friend is hospitalized, or when we see someone hungry and in need? If you are old enough to remember Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo, how many guys didn’t watch the movie Brian’s song every time it came on?
Men are capable of deep emotions, of being dedicated and devoted to people. We may be silent about them, we may be afraid of them, we may not want to admit that we have them. But we are capable of having them, and moe than that we need them.
Especially a relationship with God. For that relationship makes everything else possible. To know His mercy, helps us to be merciful. To know His forgiveness, helps us forgive those who betray us, to know His holiness and presence, helps us to be holy….and to know the height and depth, the breadth and width of His love for us, helps us to have the courage and the love to read out and love others that way.
Real men can love, because in Christ, the fears are set aside because of the need of people to be loved.
We grasp that the little ways we love reflect that love, even as Jesus comments upon dad’s knowing what to give their kids. Even as St Josemaria noted that among the “simple” people of his day.
But loving God means taking care of the people he entrusts to us, finding ways to love them To care for them deeply, sacrificially. It means letting our hearts break when His does, it means bearing our cross to love them, even to the point of confessing the depth of that love to those around us. Peter, had to hear this three times, he had to get past the emotional tug of admitting his love for God, of admitting the intimate bond between them.
May we all find the strength and courage to love the God who cam to us, to show us love, and enkindle it in our hearts.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1907-1910). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the day:
6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.
19 This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” 20 He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” 22 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” 23 John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’ ”24 Then the Pharisees who had been sent 25 asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?” 26 John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. 27 Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.” 28 This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. John 1:6–8, 19–28
This morning a group of pastors and I gathered around an altar, and then a table. During our time for communion, and then later, this passage formed the basis for our conversation. The attitude of John the baptist. This is a summary of my devotion.
You know in this passage there are two types of disciples, and in our own ministry we have to choose which we are, and which type we will encourage our people to be.
The first type of apostle is John. He’s the sent one, the apostle’d one. The one that comes from God to bring a message – a message that affects his very life. He pours his life into the message, and he will have his up and downtimes. But he is not just a messenger, he is a martyr, a witness (martyr is a Greek word for witness – but the witness is willing to die to prove their truthfulness) to the work of God, and to the message God has given him to share. The Holy Spirit is working through him, and the results are evident. Those who hear the word are granted repentance, and will be cleansed of their sins.
That’s not to say he is perfect. We will struggle with faith while imprisoned because of the faith. He trusts in God, and yet, the despair can reach in, and he knows he needs to be reminded again of the promises of God. John knows who he is in relationship to the messiah, yet his message is to point to Jesus, where we will find hope, mercy and the love of God.
The priests and levites (temple assistants) are also sent, but by man.
Look at the attitude of these ecclesiastical visitors, these men who are sent.
They demand to know who John is, they have their checklist, they want to know why John is caring for the needs of the people they were supposed to shepherd and serve. They are all about the examination of John, ignoring the needs that are being met, ignoring the response of people whose lives are being cleansed and cleared of sin. They know the limits of their authority and responsibility only in view of those who sent them, their message is to bring back an evaluation, answers to whether the ministry is done well and proper.
How different is God’s messenger, who humbly gets down in the water, who serves, who doesn’t demand an answer, but gives the answer, the answer full of hope, the answer that will reveal the depth of the love of God. That’s his message, as imperfect and outrageous he is. His message is from a humble man – to other men. Truly a cry of brokenness and despair, a call to make ready the way for the Messiah for everyone.
And people listen, they hear his message and respond…… they know He is there to bring them a message of repentance and yes hope. I really like how Luther explains it:
Build up, build up, prepare the way. “Behold, this person shall become a preacher for you, because one who will trust in Me will be full of the Spirit so that he is able also to teach others.” Now, this is the voice: Build up, as John says, “Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). The preacher must first reprove the world, so that they may repent and remove the roadblocks, that is, their own righteousnesses and religions. The preacher’s first message is to teach penitence, remove offenses, proclaim the Law, humiliate ( I would rather see this as the verb humble) and terrify the sinners. No one can do this but a godly preacher. Hypocrites cannot preach this way because they do not truly feel sins.[i]
John is sent/apostoled/given the mission by God. He knows the brokenness of sin, and the blessings of God’s promised mercy. The apostles of men can’t know that, they haven’t witnessed it personally, they don’t know this love, this grace, this overwhelming peace. That’s the difference, the difference that all of us, sent by Jesus into the world, clergy, laity, pastor, prophet and simple witness need to realize. THe message only gives hope, it can only transform and bring faith and repentance, if it is a witness to the work of jesus..
May we indeed bring a message to others of what we’ve seen God do, that they too may believe!
[i] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah: Chapters 40-66. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 17, p. 277). Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.