Devotional THought of the Day:
25 Then David and the elders of Israel and the generals of the army went to the house of Obed-edom to bring the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant up to Jerusalem with a great celebration. 26 And because God was clearly helping the Levites as they carried the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. 27 David was dressed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who carried the Ark, and also the singers, and Kenaniah the choir leader. David was also wearing a priestly garment. 28 So all Israel brought up the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant with shouts of joy, the blowing of rams’ horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres. 29 But as the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with joy, she was filled with contempt for him. 1 Chronicles 15:25-29 (NLT)
16 “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17 ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ Matthew 11:16-17 (NLT)
1 Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart. (1)
Tonight my church will gather to celebrate the love of God. Perhaps it is more accurate to say God will gather them, for that too is part of the celebration.
We are in the beginning days of Lent, just a week ago we celebrated Ash Wednesday, with a service that…could only be called a celebration. It wasn’t just that we had a much larger group than is our pattern. It was the idea that people gathered, and with reverent smiles they were marked with ashes, knowing that this reminder of their sin, which grieves them, would be accompanied by another trip forward, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, proof that God wouldn’t leave them in ashes, that they would not be left in the dust.
That’s something to rejoice in, that’s something to celebrate, and even…like King David, dance over.
Yes, like Isiah, we are people who sturggle with sin, (and sometmies struggle is a strong word) , who live in a world that more and more rejoices in sin. This is indeed something we should grieve over, it is something that we should never be callous about either. Christ grieved and wept as He looked over Jeruslaem, the prophets wept as they reminded Isarel of what would be the consequences of their sin, especially their abandoning their relationship with God in order to choose idols of their own making. Even so, Jesus went on to the cross, to do something about that grief, just as the prophets would foretell not just of doom and judgment, but of the glory of Christ incarnation, death and resurrection, and what it means.
So to, our journey of Lent, the remorse and grief we find as we review our lives, is tempered by the glory of God. The shear joy of realizing that we will soon be in Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter Sunday! The joy of knowing that our grief has been dealt with, our expectation of God’s promises have been fulfilled. This is also a season of expectation, a season of hope that is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit! How can we not be excited y the promise, and knowing it is fulfilled in Christ.
And so each service is a mini-lent to easter celebration, from the death of sin, to the resurrection to life in Christ, celebrated as we feast together at the altar (and on Wednesday nights, at the table)
Rejioce? How can I not, when the glory of God is present, when His people are gathered together, when He gives us life and shares with us His mercy, His peace, His love?
As we walk through lent, even as the priests and David walked with God toward the Holy CIty, let us rejoice in His glory. As well, may the light of His glory draw all to Him.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishe(1rs. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day::
11 If you come to a town where people do not welcome you or will not listen to you, leave it and shake the dust off your feet. That will be a warning to them!” Mark 6:11 (TEV)
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” Matthew 13:27-30 (NLT)
9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
1 Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart. (1)
It seems as winter comes to an end, as we ready to change our clocks tonight, many of us are struggling with relationships. Even relationships that were broken many moons ago.
I’ve probably heard the top verse, about “shaking the dust” fifteen or twenty times in the past month. From pastors and church leaders, to those who come to church maybe once or twice a year. ( One of the conversations was about wiping the dust of a church off their feet – but I think they met the church as as an entire entity.)
I am tempted, in such conversations, to make them pull out a BIble, and look at the context of the passage. But often, in that moment, the pain they are reliving blinds them to that context. WHat would happen, what has happened, is that they selectively hear me, and continue to use the passage, or add me to those who dust has left their feet.
You see this passage isn’t about getting the people who are negative in our life, and doing away with them. It’s not even about pruning our relationship “tree”, cutting off the dead wood. Or getting those who presently won’t listen to the gospel out of our lives and circles, lest they comehow pollute our world, and our relationships. The shaking the dust off their feet was their ignoring the message of Jesus kingdom being established soon, not about our personal pains, oru brokenness, whether by our actions, theirs or a combination and desire for mutually assured destruction.
It’s not even about their rejecting the love of God, as we present it.
It can’t be, for if it were so, then what about the other passages I placed above, about Jesus commanding His servants to leave the weeds side by side until the Harvest, and about God’s desire and will that none perish. This passage about shaking the dust from one’s feet has to be understood in context with it. Could Peter be wrong about the patience of God? Could Jesus’ parable be set aside, if the people are too evil? That we rip them out of our lives, and refuse to share with them the very love of God, because we’ve closed the door?
You might ask about the two disciples in 1 Timothy, that Paul hands over to Satan, or the people in Matthew 18, that a congregation treats like publicans and sinners. Can’t we do that, we ask ourselves, trying to justify our own defenses. The question is, do you really see them, as former brothers and sisters in Christ? Those who have walked away, and only by experiencing the depth of despair that is found in being in bondage to Satan, will they cry out for mercy? Even then, you must ask yourself – if they repent, are you willing to take them back, to forgive them 7 times 70, or as many times as Jesus forgives…you? Are you willing to bring them and the issue before pastors, and event he chruch, in an attempt to reconcile it?
Are you willing to face the pain, embarassment, struggle, in order that reconciliation can happen?
Is it time to shake the dust off our feet? Are we willing that our action will be a testimony, a witness against them, that would see them in Hell? Or can we trust in Chirst, and with Him, blaze a trail of the glory of the gospel, His light that redeems and reconciles and heals? That covers their sins, not with time, but with the blood of Christ that will cleanse them?
Can we work to bring them to the altar of Christ?
Tough questions this day……
Lord, Have Mercy!
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Treasuring God’s Gifts:
Results in Living Content with What He Provides!
Exodus 20:17, Eph 2;!0
† IHS †
My friends, my desire for us for this Lenten Season is this, that from us is removed all that hides that we are the Masterpiece of Christ. For that is what God’s grace and mercy does, leaving us in His peace.
From now until Easter Sunday morning, we find ourselves in the time of the year know as Lent. Some think it is a time to sacrifice, to give up something, to embrace some suffering, and doing without, to help us realize what it costs to give up pleasure, to suffer. So they give up candy, or caffeine, or some have even suggested giving up all things electronic!
As I look at it, its not about sacrificing that which is good, or even that which we treasure in order to suffer. It’s about seeing our idols sacrificed, the things we give control over our lives, a time of testing them. Because if it is a god, it can be killed off and rise again, without our help, without our desire.
Lent is about purifying ourselves from our self-centeredness, not because we have to, but because we know these things have power over us, they take our attention off of God. In doing so, they rob us of remembering God’s grace, of remembering our access of Him.
As we journey through this particular year of Lent, it is going to be a journey where we begin to treasure God’s gifts to us more, to treasure the promises, and the life He has created us to live, the work of our lives that with Him are glorious.
The works that sin would mar, that self-centeredness would hide from us…
That is why we hear in Luke, that the life God commissions for us, the masterpiece He’s designed can be summarized in two statements.
Love those He brings into our lives.
All of them.
We are going to look at the 10 commandments, in a way that we don’t often talk about them. To see them as God’s blessing of our lives, as the Old Testament version of the Beatitudes. We are going through them backward, seeing them confront our lives, not to condemn or judge us, but to free us, in order to love each other, in order to love each other, and those who so desperately need the freedom we rejoice in.
So let’s get at it.
The Challenge of Contentment
In the ninth and tenth commandment, the issue is described as not coveting, not desiring that which others have been given, the blessings and curses with which they have to live. That’s one of the odder things, we often desire what those who have them consider great burdens!
The opposite of coveting, of desiring what others have, is knowing contentment.
Be satisfied with what you have, not letting some thing or someone so consume you, that your thoughts are consumed, and eventually your heart and mind by possessing it, by getting their affection. To believe that your life will only complete if you get that car, or can live in that kind of house, or get that next promotion, or if can have a relationship like the ones you have with others. Or simply have their life, or their health.
Contentment, a hard thing to have, its completely contrary to the environment we live in, that we’ve been raised in. Today it might be having the Benz, or the BMW, or going to that school, or on that vacation, or having a spouse that looks like, acts like, etc.
The Real Challenge – Will We Trust God Completely?
Do We Believe His promise?
As we will see with every single commandment, there is a challenge that is far deeper than the challenge we see. The “rules”, the shall nots and shalls, are often misunderstood as regulations, even as we often see religion and relationship with God somehow divided.
But the basis of the commandments, or the Decalogue as it used to be called, is not a list of impossible commands, it is the life that God described through the apostle Paul.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago!
The commandments, the Decalogue is about trusting God has made our lives into that masterpiece, into something where we can do the good things that He has planned, to live our lives in His presence, to love Him with all we are, and to love those around us fully, and with abandon.
TO live content is nothing less, than to see God’s blessing of each of us, and to realize He knows what He is doing. That if one person has more, or less, then God has given them a burden. It is there in contentment we find the healing that comes when we give up the desires that dominate and oppress us. The desires that somehow turn into what we deserve, what we have a right too, will slowly disappear as we see Christ, and the cross, and His gifts to us.
Contentment is about trusting God’s wisdom, trusting what He given us, from our talents and abilities, to the blessings of our homes and all in them, to the blessings of the relationships He has called us into, professionally, our family and friends, even our romantic relationships.
As we realize these treasures, given to us by the One we treasure above all, we find ourselves trying to help others realize how they are blessed, more than we chase what they have. More than we let desire consume us, we can help them, and they us, enjoy our blessings, the different things God gives us.
You see, the masterpiece God has commissioned, like a rich person commissioning an sculpture, or a painting, or a musical, is not about restricting us from fun, or living the good life. These commandments are about living a full and abundant life.
Lent is realizing that we need His presence to live this way, to have Him fix the times we fail to, to bring healing to the times we ignore His presence.
We can’t live this way, without Him, we don’t have the strength, or the power, or the ability to. But as we journey to the cross, as we realize His care and His design, and His desire to see us this way….
We find ourselves treasuring His ways, because we treasure Him. Because we know His love, and His work transforming us, and we trust Him because of it.
and there we find peace….
Let us pray..
Devtional THought of the Day:
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. Romans 12:2 (TEV)
2 May your behavior and your conversation be such that everyone who sees or hears you can say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ.
This morning, I found out a good friend of mine is going to be experiencing a massive change this summer, as he returns to the U.S.A from the mission field. His children were born on the field, all they know is living in Asia. It will be a massive challenge to readjust to life here.. Another friend, a Catholic priest, will be also changing parishes, leaving behind people he loves, and taking on some challening responsibilities. Many I know are going through changes of life, as they get older, as they are married, as they leave school and enter the workforce. The change that happens as health crisis threaten.
Change – it is challenging, it is frieghtening, it is ocverwhelming, and based on a lot of experience, it often simply, sucks.
Maybe that is why Lent is such a challenge for us. Because of the changes that we will undergo as we consider our lives. I am not talking about giving up chocolate, or not eating meat on Friday, or of committing to do a good thing every day. These actions, taken with great sincerity, are simply symbolic of what we hope and fear to see coming out of a Lenten season, our of a life that is, to use a fancy church word penitnent. (More than just being sorry, but grieving over sin and the brokenness it causes.
Lent is a season of change. A season of transformation, a season of realizing our desperate, yes desperate need for the presence of God in our lives. For Him to come into our life, into our brokenness, into the deepest parts of our lives. The parts we would rather not face, the pasts we are scared to revisit, He comes there, and takes on the sin, the pain, the brokennes. He consumes it, there on the cross where it is with Him. This is a change as fierce, as daunting, as radical as anything we can undergo in life. For it is death for that part of us, the part we cannot cope with, the burdens we need to be freed from, for they crush the life out of us.
It could be said that this process of facing our brokennes is hard, is extreme, is a process of change that goes beyond our ability to bear. For we have to die to self, and trust that we will coem alive in Christ. It is a re-living of our baptism, for it happened there as well. Unting with the death of Christ………the strkness, the cruelty of the cross.
Yet, on the otherside, there is light and peace… and joy.
For there is God, there is Christ, there is the gift fo the Holy Spirit who walks us through this valley of the shadow of death, to celebrate Christ’s feast.
That is our journey of lent, our journey that changes us, as we walk with Jesus to the cross, and to the resurrection.
May you embrace the change this year, knowing God’s mercy, and allowing Him to clean out the places in your life where you fear to go.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 174-175). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:10-14 (NLT)
1033 Make those reflections of your friend your own. He wrote: “I was considering how good God was to me and, full of interior joy, I was ready to shout out loud, there in the street, for everyone to know about my filial gratitude: ‘Father! Father!’ And though not in fact shouting out loud, I kept calling him so—‘Father!’—in a low voice, many times, quite certain that it pleased him. I seek nothing else. I only want to please him and give him Glory. Everything for him. If I desire my salvation and my sanctification it is because I know that he desires it. If in my Christian life I hunger for souls, it is because I know that he has this great hunger. I say this in all truth: I will never set my sights on the prize. I don’t desire a reward: everything for Love!” (1)
As I was completing my devotions this morning, I came across the quote above my St. Josemaria Esciva, one of my favorite writers. My reaction to it, as I was reading it, was “WOW” – this is powerful stuff. And then I got to the last two sentences and was jarred a bit. Okay, more than a bit.
It seems to clash with the Bible passage above, one of my favorites since I could actually run long distances, back in high school and college.
I don’t set my eyes on the prize, or I do? Scripture should win this, the imitation of St/ Paul, an apostle and the author of scripture. RIght?
But what if the prize that Josemaria is speaking of is different than the one St. Paul is speaking of?
I’ve done enough funerals in my life to know that people have all sorts of interesting images of heaven. Most of which have nothing to do with what scripture teaches. A place of no more sorrow and tears for sure, but the idea of our sitting on the porch of our heavely mansions, sipping tea, or getting our wings fitted so we can play in the clouds, those ideas and many others don’t come from scripture. The peaceful, idealized version of heaven is not the prize we seek.
For Paul, and I believe Josemaria, and I pray for me, that the prize is simply knowing Jesus, to realize He is calling us into a relationship with God our Father. To enter into and bear witness to the glory and majesty of God which is seen so clearly in the depth of His love for us. To build up a level of faith, a level of trust in God that Josemaria describes so well. Where our desires become subject to His desires, because we realize the purity of His love. Where heaven is only a word that describes our cming into His presence. To have our trust in Him become such that His will becomes ours, where His righteousness is ours, where His mission, what Jesus was sent for, to seek and save the lost – is ours.
The prize that both seek is not heaven, it is the Lord of heaven.
It is not a reward for our work, but the reward already won, on a brutal cross.
Where communion with God is more than an event, it simply is life.
Lord have mercy on us, and show us your glory!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3650-3656). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
2 Peter 1:16-21
† In Jesus Name †
May you know the height, the depth, the width and breadth of God the Father’s love for you, as we see it revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we see scriptures?
Maybe I am just projecting my own personality onto Peter, but I think he must have had the hearing of a typical guy, somewhere from age of 4 until the age of 94. In other words, he probably had that dreaded disorder called “selective hearing”, especially at church.
Well, it’s not completely based on my own experience, but on his words in the epistle, look at verse 19.
19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote,
Maybe it is because I am cynical, but I see Peter, prior to the experience of the transfiguration, sitting in synagogue because his mom or wife is dragging him there. As the Rabbi is reading the Torah, or Isaiah, he’s thinking about where he will fish this week, about the taxes he has to pay, about the challenges he faces working with his dad…who happens to be sleeping two pews back…
Let’s be honest, there are times in our lives where the Old Testament scriptures, and sometimes the New Testament scriptures don’t seem as important to us as who will win the big game, or the struggles we face at work, or the challenges that affect those we love. We may have forgotten the wisdom of Leviticus last week already, the often repeated phrase in the midst of the commandments,
I am Yahweh, your God.
Or we might have forgotten the phrase we learned back in January, “Alleluia, He is Risen!” (therefore I am risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Something happened to Peter, up on that mountain. That changed how he looked at scripture, how he felt about those boring Old Testament scriptures… so much so that he encourages us, begs us to pay close attention to them…..
I pray we shall, as we encounter the Christ they reveal to us.
Getting Peter’s attention…As we hear Peter tell of the event, we hear his passion well, how much this event, years later, changed him. It is one of the reasons why I love teaching people how to read scripture, and the bottom line is to read it like you would read to a young child. Let me read it again, but first, consider this.
Imagine someone coming up to you, Al, and asking that all the stories you told, about the joy of baptizing your granddaughter were really true? Or asking any of you ladies if your wedding really happened? Or some event that moved you more than anything else in your life, actually was that important. Now, as you think through that attitude – hear these words.
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
I wouldn’t call it being defensive, perhaps Peter could be, but this is important to him, it is one of those events that you don’t forget, for God is revealed to you in all of His glory. As you realize, like Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and every other prophet, and yes, Peter, James and John that there it is a wondrous thing to be found in the presence of God, and to realize you are welcome there.
Instead of hearing a list of his sins, and the verdict of complete judgment, Peter hears God the Father’s voice, uttered from heaven, sharing about His love for His son……..
And completely foretold in the Old Testament.
Now God has Peter’s attention… but will He have ours?
Words shining in Darkness
So do we need a transfiguration event, an experience like Peter’s to help us take scripture, including the Old Testament writings more seriously? Do we need something to help us pay attention to all the promises of God’s love, to the promises of Jesus coming to deliver us, to carry us back into relationship with God our Father, the promises that God will never abandon us?
Or will Peter’s words, about these stories he tells, that are neither fables or myths be enough? I can point us to the transformation in Peter’s life, the repentance and humility that becomes so part of Paul’s life, the changes in people like King David’s life, the determined hope of Jeremiah?
What will it take for these stories to so impact us, that we can’t wait for Bible Study on Wednesday or church on Sunday, but that we desire and guard our time that we can spend as Paul encourages us; to pay close attention to what is written and proclaimed by the prophets?
Will it take a mountain top experience? I don’t think so, been on enough retreats to know the fervor fades, much as Moses face did coming off of Mt Sinai.
What about the other things Peter witnessed, the miracles, the great teaching, or the things he experienced, the walking on water, or looking into an empty grave?
What will help us see the these words in scripture as a lamp shining into the darkness
What would help us know these words, in order that we could bring light into our neighbor’s darkness? If not for our sake, for theirs, to see them transformed as we have been, as we are in our baptism, to see their joy as they come and celebrate God’s love at the altar, as we commune with the Body and Blood of Christ?
Peter’s answer was simple – the experience made him realize that the scripture was all about Christ’s light invading our darkness, about His coming, the incarnation, about God dwelling with us. When the Nunc Dimitis is SPOKEN by Simeon, he quotes the Old Testament about the light that shines for the darkness.
Similarly John takes up that theme…
14 The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NJB)
They saw His glory, His light invading the darkness. That is what makes the difference, and it is what we need to see, to really think through.
We say it sort of, when we ask how people who don’t know God’s love can survive in life. We realize something has happened to us, but do we realize how much?
Yes, and yet no,
We can’t , until we find ourselves before the throne of God,
Until that day…
Which is why we should pay close attention to scripture, to hear the promises, to see what eyewitness record, to see the lives that are changed because they walked with God, and the lives that were sustained, because they know God is there….
Put simply, the reason we read scripture is to know that our lives, as we walk through them with God, are transformed. That we walk with Jesus, that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we in Him. To know and be assured of the promises that spell out the depth of His love for those He calls to be His own. The very things that life tries to hide.
Those prophets, those writers tell us of His love, of His mercy, of His healing presence. That’s why Luther said he saw Jesus on every page of scripture, because that is who He was looking for there!
You see, that’s what devotional reading of scripture, and even serious study is about. To know as Paul tells it, of the incredible depth and height, the width and breadth of God’s love for us in Christ. It’s not about knowing the theology, its about knowing God.
It’s why it’s not fable or myth – it changes lives to know that love, to understand the promises, to get why this baptismal font and this altar and the words we say here matters.
It’s about God’s love – a love that can’t be stolen from you, a love that will see us to the day when we clearly see Him.
But until that day, of the promises you have been given, I end it with this one,
May you know you dwell in the presence and the peace of God our Father, a peace that can’t be put into words, but indeed a peace that holds us, comforts us, strengthens us, as our hearts and minds secure, for we abide in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN?
So pay close attention to those promises then!
Devotional THought of the Day: 1 God, hear my cry, listen to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I call to you with fainting heart. Lead me to the high rock that stands far out of my reach. 3 For you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. 4 Let me stay in your tent for ever, taking refuge in the shelter of your wings! 5 For you, God, accept my vows, you grant me the heritage of those who fear your name. 6 Let the king live on and on, let his years continue age after age. 7 May his throne be always in God’s presence, your faithful love and constancy watch over him. 8 Then I shall always sing to your name, day after day fulfilling my vows. Psalm 61:1-8 (NJB)
1. A mighty Fortress is our God a trusty Shield and Weapon;He helps us free from every need that hath us now o’ertaken.The old evil Foe now means deadly woe,deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight. On Earth is not his equal.
2. With might of ours can naught be done soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is.Of Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God; He holds the field forever.
3. Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us.We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpower us.This world’s prince may still acowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none, He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him. (A Mighty Fortress is Our God: Martin Luther)
I wasn’t planning on writing about Spiritual Warfare again, about the church being under “attack” by society, until I looked at my devotional reading above this morning. Seems King David was no light weight when you consider the internal and external spiritual warfare he faced in life. THink of the time with Saul, where David’s music calmed his spirit. His sons who died, one because of David’s sin, one because of his own rebellion. The man was surrounded by enemies, yet so often, not did he just escape, but he triumphed.
Spiritual warfar is like learning the passive self defense styles like judo and akido. You want to ask the Master, “what do you mean I need to let him hit/kick/grab me before doing anything else?” “What do you mean that their attack is the beginning of their loss?” Except we take it one step further. A real victory for those who attack us, becomes something we rejoice in, in the same way we rejoice in our baseball team, (the World Champion Red Sox) getting the final out that leaves us victorious.
For their victory isn’t found in their triumping over us, but in Christ enveloping them in His love, in His crucifixion, and in the hope of the resurrection.
That is our goal something possible when we realize that if Christ is our Fortress, that if our trust is in Him, then they have to attack us on our ground. In the fortress where mercy prevails over unforgiveness, where righteousness triumphs over sin, where love overcomes all that is not loving. That when they come to fignt, condemn, mock us, that as we are confident in Christ’s presence, we can point to Him, not as judge, but as Deliverer.
It may be that we have to suffer some, in order to see this happen. It may be that our “rights” are taken away, it may be, as it is in many countries, that Christians will becoem martyrs, their lives given as a testimony to the love and mercy of Christ. It’s happened before, it is happening all around the world. Yet it is in those places, where the church/the faith is under true attack, that there are miracles of reconcilliation, or redemption, of repentance.
May we yearn for that, more than we yearn to prove ourselves, our culture, even our theology, “right”.
Lord have mercy, and help us look on our persecutors with mercy and love.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11 ‘Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you. Matthew 5:10-12 (NJB)
1026 Violent persecution had broken out. And that priest prayed: Jesus, may every sacrilegious fire increase in me the fire of Love and Reparation.
There are times I think, that the church in America has re-written the scripture passage above in their hearts. It goes something like this:
Blessed are those who avoid persecution or complain about it, for religious freedom will be theirs. Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak bad about you, because you say you are a Christian, but refuse to love them, and sacrifice for those you consider evil and corrupt. Rejoice and be glad, for this is how the pharisees operated back in the day.
You may think that harsh, but while there are churches being burnt down with their parishoners inside, we claim the church in America is being persecuted. Why? Because our society doesn’t resemble us, and our nice fantasy that America is primarily a Chrisitan country is being dashed to pieces. And our reaction to our image being shattered? ”It’s persecution? Those people are evil! The church needs to stand up and fight for what is right! We’ve got to restore this country to greatness”
And in taking that attitude, we’ve lost something, we’ve lost the vision of the Savior who came to care for those broken, lost in darkness, We’ve lost the knowledge that spiritual warfare is about freeing those bound in sin and darkness, it is about delivering them into the presence of a God who completely loves them. It’s about giving all to minister to them, even dieing if necessary. It’s about not loving our own lives, so much that we wouldn’t die for the sake of the Lord we trust in, the Lord who called us into relationship with Him.
I love Josemaria’s words here, a man who struggled through civil war, where Chrsitians, laypeople and clergy were killed by both sides. Let the fires of persecution, the sacrileges committed as people are killed because of their faith – let those fires increase our fire, our zeal to love, our zeal to see reconciliation, our zeal to see the gospel free people from all that oppresses them, and open to them the power of God. For the more we see the brokenness of the world, the more we cry out for God to work, the more we depend on Him, the more we are spurred on to show the only hope that only God provides.
That’s why the church in places like the Sudan, in the Ukraine, in the Middle East, in so many dark places in the world grows rapidly, for it is the only place of hope. That is why scripture talks about turning the other cheek, and going beyond what is required by the law, but embracing suffering for the sake of those who are caught up in sin, for those dominated by evil. Because as they see us, they realize there is something different. We see it as Paul and his companions sing praises in Jail, or as saints throughout the ages bless their persecutors like Stephen did.
Don’t whine about perceived persecution. Stand firm in your witness to Christ – and love and work to reconcile them to God. For this is how Revelation describes us,
10 Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Salvation and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the accuser, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down. 11 They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. Revelation 12:10-11 (NJB)
Don’t fight the fire of persecution with counter attacks, but instead with the fire of God’s love.
Lord have mercy! God give us the strength to love our enemies, and to zealously pray for those who persecute us!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3630-3631). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.