Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.
32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32 (ESV)
380 Would that you could acquire, as I know you would like to, the virtues of the donkey! Donkeys are humble, hardworking, persevering—stubborn!—and faithful, with a sure step, tough and—if they have a good master—also grateful and obedient.
In the last few months I’ve had a number of parents of adult and teenage children who’ve come to me for prayer. I hope and pray that my words gave them both hope and comfort.
The issue is often morality, in a couple of the situations, the immorality has led to horrendous consequences. The trauma on the parents is beyond anything I’e ever experienced. In the others, the fear of such trauma is intense, and seemingly unending. In both cases, fear and pain can seem unending, and reactions from those points can cause even more damage. Matter of fact, our lack of wisdom may cause more fear and anxiety. Those thoughts, words and actions we know are irreversible, but they aren’t beyond reconciliation.
So what do we do as parents, as pastors, as we wait for our prodigals to return? How do we deal with the anxieties, as our prodigals are away, enjoying themselves, or living with hogs in the mud? We don’t know all the story. We do the story of the prodigal, and hope that our situations will resolve in the same manner. We look out from our house often, looking down the road for some hope. We hear a car turn into our driveway, and our hearts are crushed, because it isn’t our prodigal.
Where do we find hope in this? What can help us find peace, find healing ourselves? What can help us, between the time they run off to follow strange desires, ignore logical morality, and turn their back on God? How do we avoid taking on the attitude of the cynical older brother, or just giving up hope, declaring the person dead to us?
We have to know the heart of Father, revealed in passages like this:
11 “I, the Sovereign LORD, tell you that I myself will look for my sheep and take care of them 12 in the same way as shepherds take care of their sheep that were scattered and are brought together again. I will bring them back from all the places where they were scattered on that dark, disastrous day. 13 I will take them out of foreign countries, gather them together, and bring them back to their own land. I will lead them back to the mountains and the streams of Israel and will feed them in pleasant pastures. 14 I will let them graze in safety in the mountain meadows and the valleys and in all the green pastures of the land of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will find them a place to rest. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken. 16 “I will look for those that are lost, bring back those that wander off, bandage those that are hurt, and heal those that are sick; but those that are fat and strong I will destroy, because I am a shepherd who does what is right. Ezekiel 34:11-16 (TEV)
This is our God, the Shepherd who diligently searches for His sheep, to bring them to restoration. Who hears our prayers, our cries, our grief. Who longs to rejoice when they come home. Who will never stop working to grant them repentance, transformation. You are not alone in your desire, and knowing that, we can find the patient hope we need to wait. We can find sustenance and rest. We can entrust them to God, knowing His love, and we can entrust ourselves to God at the same time.
Find you rest, your strength in Him. Know the peace of God, and that we can be like the Donkeys that Josemaria encourages us to be like. ( instead of the jackasses we could become! ) Faithful, stubbornly holding out hope, persevering, taking the right steps, one at a time, knowig our Master will guide us, for we dwell in His presence…..
And hopeful, for the Lord Almighty hasn’t forgotten our loved ones for a moment….
Lord, I pray for my friends, who children and grandchildren are caught up in things beyond them. Who have strayed, who have lost for the moment in darkness, in fog. Lord, be with them, and with those they love. Bring hope, bandage the wounds, given strength and sustain them. Help us to realize that You are reaching out to them, calling them to come home, and give us patience until we see them in Your Hands. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior, who lies and reigns with you an the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1488-1490). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven #11
We’re Here! and It’s Time for the Feast!
† IN JESUS NAME †
As You Look into Eternity, May the Grace, the Mercy and Peace of God the Father and our Shepherd Jesus Christ, Bring You Comfort and Build Your Desire for His Return!
Will We Get There… On Time?
Eleven weeks ago, we started on this sermon series, a look at our journey through our life together towards heaven. Today, on the day we celebrate the coronation of Jesus Christ our savior, we come to the end of the sermon series….
We celebrate looking forward to the day, when our journey with Him ends, when we arrive home in His presence and celebrate a feast more incredible than any we have ever experienced.
So this is the one last lesson about our journey in the backseat – on our way toward Heaven.
There is one person in every family, who stands at the door, waiting for everyone else to finally get ready. They are worried about traffic, and being on time. The rest of us are possibly frustrating them, as they don’t want to be late for the plane, or for church, or for dinner. Maybe especially for dinner.
I mean, how many of you want to be late for a holiday dinner?
My dad was the one who waited by the door, or more likely, out in the car. My sister would be hogging the bathroom saying she needed to get ready, my brother watching television, and I probably had my head in a book. My mom would be trying to get us all out to the car… and she had a hard job.
Years later, I would find out my dad’s strategy, when he set the time we “needed” to leave on a car trip, he would always add 20 minutes to his estimation, so that we were actually in the car when we should have been, and we’d arrive on time, a few minutes before the feast would begin.
He would make sure we got there, on time, not because he drove fast, but because he put in place a plan.
God has a plan, and as we look towards the end of this age, and see the plan God has revealed, we will realized that He planned well. We will arrive before the throne of God on time, and the feast will begin!
He has promised this, and He is the faithful shepherd! It is His journey, His ministry towards us.
Distractions Along the Road
As we read Ezekiel 34, our Old Testament text this morning, God commits to going out and find every one of His scattered children.
They are all lost in the dark, in a fog. They have been scattered, they aren’t where they should be, all together, in the presence of the One who loves them. His commitment is to find them, to bring them home, to help them at any cost, even if they as so confused, so stressed, they don’t recognize at first that He is God. That He is their shepherd.
Scattered, lost, in the dark, their minds fogged and confused, the people God loves need help, they need rest, and they to be fed, to be restored. But they have to be found, they have to be rounded up, they need to come home.
In verse 16, the promise is made again, specifically noting that they have strayed away. The word there is the same word in Hebrew for being seduced, being tempted – and the world does that all too well. Think of how materialistic our society has become, and we see one of the ways Satan tempt us, seduces us. We covet power and authority, tempted to believe that if we have it our way, it will all come out right. We make idols our minds, or our hearts, and they demand that we sacrifice everything to satisfy our own desires…..and our hearts drive us away from God, because of sin.
In verse 20 there is another reason why sheep have to be found, have to be rescued and restored.
20 “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will surely judge between the fat sheep and the scrawny sheep. 21 For you fat sheep pushed and butted and crowded my sick and hungry flock until you scattered them to distant lands.
I’ve met many people over the years that describe church in words like these. Some feel driven away, because it took too long to find a way to meet their needs. Others feel that way because the church. Others feel driven from the church, because those entrusted to share God’s grace, do not, but instead condemn those looking for forgiveness.
This is a challenge, because too often we look at the incident, rather than acknowledge the feelings we see develop from the situation. Whether the situations are as the people perceived it occurring or not, the feelings are valid. They feel driven off, they feel broken and even abused by other sheep. Rarely is one side completely accurate, there are two sides to every story, but the feelings are what drive the people away, or cause resentment to build until the pain is too much to bear, and the flock is scattered.
Sometimes this is done intentionally, but more often than not, we can drive people away because we are so hungry ourselves, so in need of God’s love. It is as if we don’t believe God can care for all of us, and so we fight like triplets for our Father’s attention.
When we sin against someone, when they sin against us, those sins can be brutal, and can drive people away from the church, where God’s put His name… so they can know His love! If we realize we’ve done this, we need to ask forgiveness, if it’s done to us, we need to offer it. We all need to seek reconciliation.
I’ve mentioned this before, when Jesus died to pay for sin, He didn’t just pay for those we’ve committed. Yes, He has rescued us, delivered us from the sins caused by our desires. But He has also rescued his people from the sins committed against them, the times where the fat sheep have driven others away….intentionally or not intentionally.
God goes after us, rescuing us from the darkness, rescuing us from that which clouds our lives. Over and over in scripture that is the promise,
Here it with your name placed there, instead of sheep
“For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find (your name). 12 I will be like a shepherd looking for (your name). I will find my (your name) and rescue (your name) from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day.
“I will feed (your name) on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where (your name) live(s). 14 Yes, I will give (your name) good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There (your name) will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. 15 I myself will tend (your name) and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for my lost ones, including (your name) who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak including (your name).
23 And I will set over (your name) one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed (your name) and be a shepherd to (your name). 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people (the church). I, the LORD, have spoken!
This is what God does, He rescues us, makes us His children through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the death and resurrection we are bound to in baptism. He quickens us, brings us to life and faith and repentance, and calls us to journey home with Him.
It is that journey we’ve heard about, as we’ve been asked to “get along back there”, to give up the trash we’ve been hoarding in our lives, as we’ve asked, “are we there yet” and cried “it isn’t fair”, as we’ve realized the beauty of the journey is found in making it with Christ, as we’ve depended upon the Holy Spirit, as we count on Jesus to be our way home, into the presence of the Father, into His glorious presence.
Now it’s time for a feast, a feast that will be complete at the marriage feast of the lamb, when the last prophecies come true, when we hear,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.
Until that day, live in His peace…for there is safety and security, found in Jesus Christ. AMEN!
Here is an audio version of the sermon:
Devotional Thought of the Day:
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)
364 When are you going to make up your mind! Many people around you live a life of sacrifice simply for human reasons. These poor people forget they are children of God and act the way they do perhaps only out of pride, or to excel, or to be more comfortably off later on in life. They give up all kinds of things! And you, who carry the sweet burden of the Church, of your family, your colleagues and friends, motives for which it is worthwhile sacrificing yourself, what are you doing about it? With what sense of responsibility are you reacting?
Maybe it is helping that guy who is begging, not just giving him five bucks, but actually offering real help, and the respect that befits a child of God. Maybe it is going out of your way to bring someone to church, or staying for the Bible study, so they can as well. Maybe it is giving up a saturday morning, or some event you were hoping for, or stepping aside so someone else can do that which you love to do. Maybe it is opening up your house to a missionary who needs a place to stay while in the states, or to someone you know – who can’t live where they did.
Maybe it is forgiving that person who hurt you last week, or 20 years ago. Deciding to let God judge the situation, rather than seek revenge, or hold in that resentment.
Maybe it is simple, sacrificing a meal, or a movie a week or a month, and sending the money to help a missionary in Papua New Guinea, or a Syrrian or Iraqi refugee in Turkey, or a kid in Kosovo learn about Jesus, while learning to play baseball. (btw – I know how to make all those happen – contact me if they strike a nerve) Maybe it is going on the mission field youself, or taking your family on the field for a year or 10.
May it is humbling yourself to go to that person you offended, giving up your pride, asking for forgiveness, intent on seeing one thing happen. Reconciliation.
If you listen to Jesus’ call to follow Him, you will hear a call to sacrifice, a call to humility, a call to go beyond just going to church a sunday a month, or maybe a bible study. You will hear a call to go, a call to be there as He calls people to faith (even at your work, or at a doctor’s office, or at Walmart, or in the Philippines) You will look for people in need, and your heart will break, even as Christ’s broke when he saw the widow mourn the loss of her son, or as he looked out over the city of Jerusalem.
What are you willing to sacrifice? That isn’t the question.
What is worth hanging onto, when Jesus is calling you to hear His word? Will you hear Him calling, when He asks if you love him, not more than things, but with everything you are? Will you hear Him, see Him, loving you that way?
Look to the cross…. hear, see, know His love…..
For as that happens, all you are, will become something you can demonstrate your love to Him with, as you love those around you….
Can you hear Him? Listen…. and Love
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1434-1439). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
26 Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12:26 (NLT)
356 The first Apostles, when Our Lord called them, were by the side of an old boat busy mending the torn nets. Our Lord told them to follow him and statim—immediately—relictis omnibus—they left everything—everything! And followed him… And it does happen sometimes that we, who wish to imitate them, don’t quite leave everything, and there remains some attachment in our heart, something wrong in our life which we’re not willing to break with and offer up to God. Won’t you examine your heart in depth? Nothing should remain there except what is his. If not, we aren’t really loving him, neither you nor I. (1)
Every once in a while, I hear a financial appeal for finances from a mission group. While they may never use the word “heathen”, that is what they are really saying. It may be to a inner city mission, or some foreign field in the middle of a desert, or swamp, or jungle. But the idea is that we must convert them, win them to Christ. Some may say they’ve had so many say a “sinner’s prayer”, or decisions for Christ. Others talk about the numbers of baptisms.
What they are focusing on is that moment when someone “becomes” a believer, the moment they were “saved”.
But the church isn’t in the business of converting people, of a one time moment that changes life, or at least gives us a guaranteed visa to heaven.
That isn’t what Jesus did, not is it what we are commissioned to do.
We are told to make disciples of all nations, not convert them.
Jesus didn’t tell Peter and Andrew, or James and John to just believe in Him. He didn’t ask Matthew the tax collector to do that either.
What God is after, what He desires isn’t a nice photo album of those who repented of their sins at a crusade, or who were convinced by a logical apologetic speech or emotional appeal.. He wants a family, people who are His, who know He is theirs. A relationship where He can bless His children and care for them. Where He can teach them and share His glory with them.
You might say, that’s what conversion does. And yes, there is a quickening, a bringing to life. A baptism, a prayer, a confession of trusting God. But our transformation, that work of the Trinity in our lives takes a lifetime, the promised completion date is Christ’s return.
What does this matter? Why am I saying our goal isn’t to make converts? Why can’t conversion be our mission our goal?
Image a lady, who wants to become a mother. Has she achieved her goal the moment conception occurs? Or is there 9 months of pregnancy, and then years of sacrifices and successes, of joy and sorrows?
Our journeys only begins at baptism, our life in Christ starts there, when we go from not knowing God, to finding Him revealed in our lives so clearly that we trust Him. Where a relationship occurs as we walk with Him, as we are taught by Him, as we enjoy this life He has brought us.
We don’t want to just convert people, we want to see them become our brothers and sisters, we want our Father in heaven to adopt them….. our mission is far longer, far deeper, far more important than winning a debate.
It’s helping them to walk with God….. to know His love and mercy. To realize that nothing else is important, compared to walking with God.
to know when we cry together, “Lord Have Mercy!”. He answers.
That is what being missional is about, about what the apostolate is about.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1406-1412). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 7:21-25 (NLT)
344 For a son of God each day should be an opportunity for renewal, knowing for sure that with the help of grace he will reach the end of the road, which is Love. That is why if you begin and begin again, you are doing well. If you have a will to win, if you struggle, then, with God’s help, you will conquer! There will be no difficulty you cannot overcome!
I have read that Luther advised us to remember our baptism every morning as we prayed, and every evening as we prayed before sleep. There is a reason for it, to strengthen our knowledge and trust in God, because each day has its own evil, because we will be tempted and fail.
Though some would deny it, the miserable battle Paul identifies above in the Christian goes on daily. If we examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11) We must deal with the misery of the guilt and shame we bring upon ourselves, as we fail, as we sin. As I write this, I am listening to the music from Les Mis, and the song where Javert commits suicide. Why? Because he knows the war between justice and mercy. He can’t imagine a world where mercy trumps justice, where love and grace triumph over the law. Such is Paul’s world – the misery he refers to, the danger to the journey towards love that Escriva mentions as well.
We remember our baptism at night so that we can est in peace, knowing God is merciful, and promised to forgive us.
We pray in the morning, remembering and being thankful as well, knowing that this rebirth and renewal will mark our day. That we will expect to see God’s work in our day, in our lives, in our interactions.
For without such, our struggle becomes impossible, we forget that there is no condemnation when we are found in Christ. Instead there is peace, and healing, and assuredness that the Holy Spirit is working there, We would believe that sin or temptation could separate us from the love of God, that God is limited, and can’t make even the sin we repent of work out for good, for those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.
It is as Paul taught Titus:
“But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8 This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.“ Titus 3:4-8 (NLT)
But this is a truth we need throughout our days, the truth of being reborn in Christ, of being forgiven, of being shown grace.
that is the way to a victorious Christian life…. to realize our need for the gospel… in our lives, and the hope of it for those around us as well.
Lord have mercy on us sinners!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1356-1359). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of The Day:
16 “Now come close to me and hear what I say. From the beginning I have spoken openly and have always made my words come true.“ (Now the Sovereign LORD has given me his power and sent me.) 17 The holy God of Israel, the LORD who saves you, says: “I am the LORD your God, the one who wants to teach you for your own good and direct you in the way you should go. 18 “If only you had listened to my commands! Then blessings would have flowed for you like a stream that never goes dry. Victory would have come to you like the waves that roll on the shore. 19 Your descendants would be as numerous as grains of sand, and I would have made sure they were never destroyed.” 20 Go out from Babylon, go free! Shout the news gladly; make it known everywhere: “The LORD has saved his servant Israel!“ Isaiah 48:16-20 (TEV)
Consequently this teaching concerning faith is not to be accused of forbidding good works but is rather to be praised for teaching that good works are to be done and for offering help as to how they may be done. For without faith and without Christ human nature and human strength are much too weak to do good works,call upon God, have patience in suffering, love one’s neighbor, diligently engage in callings which are commanded, render obedience, avoid evil lusts, etc. Such great and genuine works cannot be done without the help of Christ, (1)
333 The best way of showing our gratitude to God is to be passionately in love with the fact that we are his children. (1)
As I read the passage from Isaiah this morning, I was amazed to see the tension between obedience and grace.
God teaches very clearly that what we miss when we disobey Him are the blessings of a life lived in peace, a life lived full of blessings, a life lived content, and flourishing in ways beyond our imagination.
Instead, we treat His law with disdain. Before we come to know His grace, we dismiss it as archaic. We think it has no relevance to our lives. We believe we know better, and we toss it aside the way in favor of what we think i right. (and it seems that everyone of us has our pet sins to declare good, even as we have our pet sins to condemn)
But those that don’t follow Jesus aren’t the only ones to dismiss the life, the masterpiece God has in mind for us. We see that in the blue quote above. For some have been accused of forbidding good works, and some have denied that what God has commissioned should have any influence on the life of those who have been called into a relationship with God. There are different ways this is done, a denial of the third use of the law is a technical way of describing it. Others will talk about being free from the bondage of sin, the power of satan and the fear of death and God’s wrath as a freedom to do that which they want – for God in the New Testament is only a God of law, and not of judgment. There are some who see the issue that we cannot earn or merit God’s coming to us meaning that we should just give up being good, or somehow we will automatically believe and do what is right. (Those who say this ignore that Romans 7 discourse is part of the larger 6-8 discussion about the struggle with sin)
The Psalmist doesn’t leave us thinking of what could have been, if we obeyed. He does hold that out, he does make it clear that the way of life God commissions is not for His benefit – but ours. It is having realized this, that we can then hear the glorious news, God has been merciful, He has saved us. He’s adopting us, cleansing us, claiming us. He has delivered us, saved us, reconciled us, redeemed us, rescued us, loved us.
Obedience, what the lutheran confessions call “New Obedience” then comes from seeing what God commissions/commands as a son taking instruction from his Father, learning the family business and the tasks we work as we walk with Him. Think of a dad teaching his son to play catch, or how to change a bicycle tire, or a mom teaching her daughter to cook (yes I know I am using old fashioned traditional types). The instruction is beneficial, practical and present. Not a Lord’s laws layed down, but a Father’s guidance, which can be heard and put into practice, for when it is heard, the heart receives it as well as the mind.
That’s what grace does. It teaches us that God is our Father, our caring, loving Father who desires the best for us, and is wise enough to know it. Are we gong to screw up, disobey, struggle and even rebel? Yes, but like the prodigal, we will remember Him, and His love.
Obedience, the fruit of grace and mercy, and dependent upon it.
Lord, thank you that you have mercy on us!.
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 46). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1320-1321). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2 Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. Psalm 90:1-2 (NLT)
331 Rest in divine filiation (the love between father and son). God is a Father—your Father!—full of warmth and infinite love. Call him Father frequently and tell him, when you are alone, that you love him, that you love him very much!, and that you feel proud and strong because you are his son. (1)
I have spent this fall in an interesting sermon series, one that has made me go back and look at part of my youth. In the middle of the series, I went home, driving the same roads that I’ve talked about in the series, walking the same paths my Dad and I trod with my son. Re-living those conversations when I was sitting in the backseat – a young child with his siblings.
It has been painful along the way, my dad passed away last year, and many of the journeys, to my old elementary school, to Lake Ossipee, to the beaches at Salisbury, even to the old candlepin bowling alley, brought back many memories, some good, some challenging. Lots of tears, and the odd reversal – now I was the dad, now I had a son.
All of this – there sermon series recounting backseat conversations of childhood, the trip, it all coalesces into a huge lesson of nostalgia, and a realization about God’s presence.
I overlooked – to an extent – the verse above in Sunday’s sermon. There is a lot there – He is our home, or as we heard a couple of weeks ago, our refuge. But to hear God is our home, the place we come to be nourished, to be sae, to come when we are sick and find healing and rest. There is a blessing there that goes beyond explanation. To realize we are the children of our Heavenly Father, that we are on this journey to our home, is overwhelming.
It even overwhelms the overwhelming challenges of this life.
He is our Dad, our Father, the one in whom we trust.
With Him, we are Home.
And He is here… with us.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1312-1315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Backseat Conversationson the Way to Heaven:
This Trip Was So Fast!
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May your confidence in the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be strengthened, and enjoyed!
The Journey Continues as We Draw closer
As we’ve compared our life to a long car journey, often times the journeys included a little conflict as some of the sermons mentioned. But there were times of great fun as well. Times were we competed in quizzes, or saw the glorious surroundings, or just had great times talking or singing silly songs…..
Anyone remember 99 bottles of beer on the wall?
Did anyone ever finish it? The song, not the beer!
There were times when we had so much fun in those journeys that we were disappointed when we arrived at Grampy’s house, or Auntie Lainey’s. We would be so disappointed that we’d have to be dragged out of the car.
It is as if we forgot what was waiting for us when we got to where we were going. The feast of incredible proportion
We would get to the door, and smell the sausages, or remember there were presents or French onion dip awaiting us, and of course the car was a faint memory.
We had forgotten the destination, we were so intent on the fun.
As we look at the psalm that was read earlier, we can see we aren’t the only ones who spend the journey forgetting about the destination.
We so need what the psalmist prays for, in verse 12 where he writes:
12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”
The Trip Is Too Fast to Get it Right!
Have you ever gotten to the end of the week and realized that all the things you meant to get done didn’t happen? Then Friday comes, and as we come to think about the week, we realize all that we’ve done that wasted time, and all the important things that we didn’t accomplish.
Life can be like that, it flies by too fast. One moment I am sitting in a favorite hiding place, reading a Hardy Boy’s book, the next moment I am approaching 50, watching my son read the same story.
Beneath this time issue is an ominous problem. Like the servant with only one talent in the parable today, when the master returns, what will we have to show Him?
Will Jesus find that we did what He’s asked, giving others the message that God has given them the gift of reconciliation? Will He find us making disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Will He see us confessing our sins to one another, that we would be healed? Will He hear of us caring for the sick, the imprisoned, the lame, the widow and orphans?
Or will our lives be like the Psalmist describes?
3 You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals!” 4 For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours. 5 You sweep people away like dreams that disappear. They are like grass that springs up in the morning. 6 In the morning it blooms and flourishes, but by evening it is dry and withered. 7 We wither beneath your anger; we are overwhelmed by your fury. 8 You spread out our sins before you— our secret sins—and you see them all. 9 We live our lives beneath your wrath, ending our years with a groan.
In thinking about how short the time is, do we see a need for God’s desires, God’s will, God’s priorities to be out own? Or do we do what we think is right in our own hearts? If we bother to think about time from God’s perspective, then what follows should be realizing how much of God’s wrath we deserve.
Yes, the wrath we deserve.
We admitted to it, if we meant the words we said during our confession and absolution. Or did you not really mean it when you said you deserve His temporal and eternal punishment? We do. You do, I do. The world does.
What if God, as the psalmist describes, spread out your sins before him, like a card dealer spreads out a deck of cards? Or a thousand decks of cards… or 100,000 decks of cards.
How would you react, if every sin you committed, with all the documentation, was laid out before God?
How would this time that we have been used? Would it be well spent, or would we be in fear for our eternal lives?
That is the question the psalmist is asking,
And the very reason we have to be able to know how brief a time our journey is…..
The Verse of the Day
I am not sure if it is because of time constraints, or why those who choose the length of readings shorten some of the psalms and the readings. I mean I understand Psalm 119 being broken up. But here, as in other places, the breaks don’t quite work.
We ended our reading today, with a prayer that God would teach us to realize that the is short, that life is very brief, so that we can gain wisdom, wisdom to spend our time well, and in a God pleasing way. But how? When we deserve His wrath?
I put part of the psalm in the Alleluia and Verse today, it is a continuance of the prayer to realize how brief the time is…
13 O LORD, come back to us! How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
It is a prayer, that was fulfilled at the cross, a prayer where God did come back, and lived among us., he didn’t delay any longer, but He heard the prayer of His people, and responded, and came to us, and died for us.
A prayer answered as He took pity on us, paying the debt for our sin, and even more, He satisfies us with His unfailing love.
A love that will cause us to sing His praises far into eternity, a prayer that is the result of our realizing the time is short, and spending this journey with God. The psalm goes on, describing the reality of wisdom in prayer,
“15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. 16 Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. 17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful.
This is what Moses meant by understanding the brevity of time when he wrote this Psalm, about the joy and good that God provides for us in our lives. That is what redeeming the time as Paul the apostle calls it. It is about seeing God at work in us, walking with us, and leading us to do work bringing the message of His love, and reconciliation. This is how we fulfill His desire…as we share our lives with Him, trusting Him,
It is then, knowing the value of our time spent with Him, trusting in Him, that we know His peace, and may that peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN? AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 LORD, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. 2 Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD— now and always. Psalm 131:1-3 (NLT)
323 Jesus knows very well what is best… and I love his Will and will do so always. He it is who controls “the puppets” and so, provided it is a means to achieving our end, even if there are godless men who are determined to put obstacles in the way, he will grant what I am asking. (1)
“every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.“
“Then how does one speak of God?”
“Why then, do you speak in words?”
“At that, the Abba laughed uproariously. He said, “when I speak, you must not listen to the words my dear. Listen to the Silence.” (2)
It is the unspoken idol in all of our lives, it is idea that we must be working, we must be cleaning, we must be the sole defenders of the faith. We want to be the heroes, we want our way to be the right way, and then be put in charge of correcting all who are wrong. ( and make them agree with our wisdom) We een justify our Machiavellianism as being faithful to our call, being faithful to doctrine. I am as guilty of it as any other, this idea that it is our responsibility to make life work, to make our denominations work.
As a result, we’ve forgotten God’s desire, we’ve forgotten the work we’ve been given, to proclaim the Kingdom of God is here, that God is in charge, and desires to reconcile all to Himself, to bring all to repentance, to bring all home.
The challenge is one of faith, one of trust. Do I trust God enough to let HIm handle the big stuff, to move the church, and The Church, in the direction it needs to go. Will I allow myself to be quiet, listening to Him speak. Will I put my hope in Him, and not in the princes and leaders of the world. Will I allow Him to deal with those who put obstacles to grace in the way?
Will I encourage others to as well, to seek His face, to find rest in Jesus?
Will I find it myself?
Psalm 103 is a great prayer, may it be our desire to make it ours….
Lord Have Mercy….
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1287-1290). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) FInian Reading for 11/15 from The Celtic Daily Prayer
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT) 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)
319 My God, how easy it is to persevere when we know that You are the Good Shepherd, and that we—you and I…—are sheep belonging to your flock! For we know full well that the Good Shepherd gives his whole life for each one of his sheep. (1)
Interesting thought, speaking the truth in love requires that you love the one you are speaking to….Which means it costs you as much as it costs them when they don’t hear you. (a thought I etched on Facebook recently)
The church has been appointed to a task, chosen for a specific role and ministry in this world. All of the vocations that exist, exist to see this work of God, accomplished in and through us.
Paul calls it the ministry of reconciliation, and it requires great sacrifice and great love. It is one, when we do not see it fulfilled, should bring us to tears, even as Paul cried for his fellow Jews who turned their back on God, and refused God’s grace, refused God’s actions reconciling them to himself.
It’s odd, if anyone had the right to claim he was persecuted for righteousness sake, it was Paul. Yet he wept over his persecutors. he wept over the division between them and God. He even offered up his life, that God would reconcile them to Himself.
As Paul found out, there were times of division, both with those who abandoned God, and within the household of God. Peter knew this as well, yet he would write
15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)
Again, the focus isn’t just about being right – but how that is communicated, how we go to those we consider lacking in that hope, in the trust in that grace, in that knowledge. Realizing that our goal isn’t to win an argument, or create more division, but to see all reconciled to Christ, and therefore to each other.
Such is the nature of our ministry, of our life in Christ.
That is where our joy is found… in seeing all united in Christ Jesus.
Lord have such mercy on us…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1276-1279). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.