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


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

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Godspeed!

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

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


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it is one we have to ask!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A Glorious Sample!


A Glorious Sampling!SAMSUNG

Romans 8:18-27

 

In Jesus Name

 

May the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life not only assure you of the grace and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ that is yours now… but also that is eternal and yet to be fully revealed!

 

Anticipation…..

To be fair, I should start this sermon with a warning.  So here it is.

You are warned, that carefully listening to this sermon may make you very, very, very hungry.

Back in the day when our only television was a 12 inch B/W, there was a commercial that was so well done, that even in black and white, the ½ inch thick perfectly cooked, juicy hamburger was so well pictured, that it could make your mouth water…

There was a poor starving salivating child waiting for it, as a Heinz catsup bottle was hovering over it, taking 20 seconds for the first drop of catsup to lead the thick, rich, delicious catsup stream that would make complete the burger.

If you are old enough to remember those days, how many of you didn’t wait for the catsup, but got out a butter knife to encourage the catsup’s flow?

Anticipation, is making me wait!  Making me wait for this delicious, juicy, perfectly barbecued hamburger, which will be ice cold by the time the catsup leaves the bottle!

I never waited for the catsup – just tossed some onions on it, and started eating!

Some of us have trouble waiting patiently, whether it is for food, or to see God’s will revealed in our lives, and to see our lives become perfect.

Yet, it is a glorious thing when we see it, and knowing us, God has given us a little foretaste of what is to come.  That is what Paul is talking about, in the passage from Romans 8 that we heard a few moments ago….

It is just hard to wait, he is right, we long for the days when we are released from sin and suffering, and our adoption as God’s kids is fully realized.

The Struggle with Waiting!

We have a problem with waiting, probably because the other terms for waiting are not pleasant.  We have to have patience, or to use an older phrase – we have to be “long-suffering”.

Patience means we don’t get what we want, when we want it.

We don’t like that opening verse of the reading,

 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later!

It is a struggle to wait, such a struggle is its own kid of suffering.  We get frustrated, whether it is waiting for catsup to pour out of a bottle, to get a seat at a restaurant, or to wait in line at a grocery store.

We struggle with those little things, and often we pour out our frustration in those situations, because we can’t figure out how to give address other struggles, other heavier, more personal and painful suffering.

Suffering we endure as our bodies cannot do what they used to do.  When we wake up with aches and pains, instead of energy and strength.  The suffering that happens because of age, or disease, or even common things like allergies.

Like the suffering that comes when we struggle to make ends meet, or as we wait for test results, or when our expectations don’t become reality.

There are even deeper sufferings, the pains we feel as we watch people we love suffer, as marriages suffer, as grief weighs on people, as financial struggles crush them, as addictions rob life from them.  Even more so as we look at those we love, who could know God’s peace, and instead continue to struggle to play God, and fail.

Those times where the suffering is so great, we can’t even find the peace or the words to pray, where our very heart is crushed by the suffering. This isn’t even starting to talk about the suffering of martyrdom, the suffering that can accompany sharing God’s love for people.

We aren’t alone in the suffering, Paul tells us the whole creation – the earth and stars suffer as well, waiting for that which we hope for…. The transformation that all creation groans for, as it awaits Christ’s return.

How can we wait patiently, expectantly for that, if we struggle to wait for some tomato paste and vinegar to make it’s way from a bottle onto the aromatic, juicy, perfectly barbecued hamburger?

What are we waiting for? 

I joke about the burger, but we need to see that for which we hope. Hope, not like in hoping that I win the lottery, but more hope as in we fully expect Christ’s return.

Paul uses some incredible words to describe that for which we hope.

“we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering!”

And,

We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us!

Those are a lot better to wait for than that catsup – right?

Imagine – no more body, no more effect of sin on our lives, or the lives of those we love and care for, just the presence of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; who welcomes us home into a life beyond experience, beyond our imagination.

There are days I long for that! There are days I cannot wait…..

Especially when I hear the news of more churches being burnt to the ground, of Christians being threatened with death,

I long to know the glory we will share in, and be done with the suffering of this life…

Then again, I had trouble waiting for catsup!  How do you expect me to wait for eternity to be revealed?  How can we wait for it, when waiting means struggling, sacrifice, and suffering?

How Can We wait?

I warned you at the beginning of this sermon that it might make you hungry, but I wasn’t talking about the hamburger with the Heinz catsup on it.

What I hope you are hungry for, nearly starving for, is that day when we realize how true it is, that the sufferings of our lives is nothing compared to the glory awaiting for us.

I pray you are hungry for the revelation of God’s glory, of our eternity spent with Him, or as Paul explains it to the church in Colossae,

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!     Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

Set your hearts on it!  Put your hope in God!  Expect Him to fulfill all His promises – and know what those promises are!

God provides for us as we wait as well!  Paul describes two ways in which the Holy Spirit work.

The first is as we pray, as we groan and endure, when we are so week, that we don’t even know how to pray.  The promise is that the Spirit is with us, praying with us, groaning with us, pleading for us, as verse 27 states, in harmony with God’s will.

We don’t suffer alone! Our prayers are heard!  God is listening, for the Spirit who dwells in our hearts communicates clearly and the Father hears.

The other, even more significant is that the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life!  I love how the NLT translates it…

23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory

The presence of the Holy Spirit, the gift of God given to us when we were born again in baptism.  The presence of the Lord and Giver of Life, the Comforter, the Advocate, the One who gives gifts to the church to serve the word the good news of Christ.  The One who assures us our prayers are heard by God the Father and answered, the Healer of our souls.

Who is a foretaste, the Holy Spirit who is present in our lives – a glimpse of what to expect when the suffering we now know is replaced by the glory of that day.

May we revel in the presence of the Holy Spirit, may we drink deeply of the love revealed to us, and may it help us realize the peace of God, as we anticipate the glory that is yet to come!

AMEN?

 

 

Anxious About the Future? Don’t Know Every Detail? That’s Good!


Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:A  Picture of our Journey... with Christ

24  The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way? Proverbs 20:24 (NLT)

 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. 2  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. 3  He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Psalm 23:1-3 (NLT)

I talked to you about the horizon which opens up before our eyes and of the road we have to follow. I have no objections, you said, as if surprised at not having any. Engrave this deeply on your mind: there is no reason why there should be!!  (1)

Picture a couple in love, walking through a park together, enjoying each other. They might laugh at that squirrel, or be amazed at the flowers and the beauty of the water which sings in the creek, as it too travels to the pond on the other side of the park.  The might even forget where they are, as they enjoy each other, as they learn about each other, as they share in the love they have.  They live in the moment.  There is a growing trust, growing discovery and revelation of life.

And they know the destination when they get there…. as the sit on the rock, as the young man asks the question that they both know is coming…..will you share my life, will you let me share yours?

Unsure of the future?  They aren’t even looking past this moment. The joy of each other’s presence is too overwhelming

God knows the future, much more than the young man and woman. He directs the steps, knowing the beauty we will encounter, and the times when we will stumble.  We walk with Him, our Shepherd,

Yes, we inherently trust Him for our salvation, but what we are saved to is a life, a relationship where that trust infects every other part of our life.  As He reveals Himself, as we explore and know the height, depth, width and breadth of God’s love for us in Christ,

That means we aren’t going to know every step, we won’t understand this time or that,  We may not want to take the time to rest and pause, we want to fight for control.  We can’t know all the details, any more than the prophets or apostles did.  We need to grow to where we don’t raise objections to the horizon, we need to accept the road, not because it is the road….

But because we trust the Shepherd who will lead us along the right roads, who walks with us.

How do we do this?

Spend time with Him, realize His presence, meditate on and rejoice in the promises that are sure in Christ……

It’s not about having every detail planned out, about preparing for every contingency, this life of those baptized and who walk with Christ.

It’s like the journey along the paths of the park- where a young couple are amazed at the love, at the growing bond between them.  Where they realize their long for love is there.  It’s like that, as we, the bride of Christ, walk with Him.

So enjoy, as the beauty of His creation unfolds before you!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2399-2402). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

 

God, and the Problem of Evil


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

6  When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end. 7  Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. Matthew 24:6-7 (MSG)
54  As the members of the Council listened to Stephen, they became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. 55  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. 56  “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!” 57  With a loud cry the Council members covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, 58  threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. 59  They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60  He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died. Acts 7:54-60 (TEV)

Yesterday was a hard day for so many around the world, and many closer to me.

There were the stories that made the news, the Malaysian plane shot down, the conflict in Israel, the conflicts in Sudan and Nigeria.

There are the other stories as well, that will not make the news, My friend whose memory is failing him. The family of a lady I visited in the hospital, whose heart is beating…yet whose body is shutting down, leaving her family without the one they count on for strength.  There are parents whose children are facing procedures to could reveal the possibility of a lifetime of pain,

And yes, there are the martyrs like St. Stephen, and St Paul. Men whose faith is testified to, even by their enemies.  Men of peace, who would give people the hope found in trusting Christ.

Which brings about a question, how do we survive the evil we encounter in the world?  How do we cope with news that shatters hearts, that could shatter our faith? That could make us cuss and scream and yell at God.  How can we imitate the faith of those who the Letter to the Hebrews describes,

33  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35  Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36  Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37  Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38  They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. Hebrews 11:33-38 (NLT)

As a pastor, as someone who has served as a chaplain in jails, hospitals and with a hospice and homecare medical group, I’ve seen people do survive in such hard times, and not only endure, but be a blessing to those around them.  Do they have some secret?  No, save that they know Christ  They know Him so well, they realize His promises.

They walk with Him,

We can even see them go through the stages of grief

Abraham bargained with God, even as he realized the evil of Sodom and Gommorah

Jeremiah was angry with God, even accused God of deceiving him, because of the ministry to His people.

Jonah deal with depression over God’s work to save people he didn’t like or trust

Job’s friends were awesome at encouraging denial of the truth,

just because we trust in God doesn’t mean we avoid evil – that we avoid the horrible days… but it means we move with Him through them.  Guarded by Him, comforted by them, knowing His promises will be fulfilled.

For as they moved through the valleys of the shadows of darkness (evil) they learned not to fear, for God was there… and He will be with us.

That is how we deal with God and the problem of evil.. with the problem that things are wrong, messed up, screwed up, painful.

We look to Jesus, the author and One who perfects our trust in God.

 

 

 
 

 

 

The Two Cries of a Church That is Alive… (even though others think it is dying)


Devotional & Discussion Thought of the Day:Dawn at Concordia
When the LORD brought us back to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! 2  How we laughed, how we sang for joy! Then the other nations said about us, “The LORD did great things for them.” 3  Indeed he did great things for us; how happy we were! Psalm 126:1-3 (TEV)

Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad. Romans 12:15 (Phillips NT)

 “if this is not a place where tears are understood, where can I go to cry?”  (1)

” I’m going where He goes, out into the world of lonely people:”

“Concordia is the the place where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal!”

There has been a blog going around recently, about the last gasps dying churches.  It is quite popular, not with those who are in the dying churches, but those that observe them, and are waiting for them to die.   I’ve been in those churches, and I’ve seen them come back to life, miraculously in some people’s minds. There is a different view from inside than out, there is a different need perceived, there are different words said, different gasps and prayers. They aren’t as self-centered and waiting for the last one to die, so that they can turn the lights out, as is often alleged.

So what does this have to do with the quotes above?  Well, that is where I find the life in these churches.  The two essential cries of the church, the cries of joy, and the cries of sorrow.

If a church can rejoice in the news of a baptism, if a church can cry as a member or friend dies, then it is not dead, or dying.  Depressed perhaps, anxious or frightened, sincere and yet wrong in their, these places where tears of joy and sorrow run, they are alive.  They may need great care, they may need patient shepherding, but they are not dead…..

Here is where it starts, they need to know that they (actually we) aren’t the only ones who hear those cries.  That God Himself laughs, that God himself cries with them.  That there is a great picture of God in Isaiah rejoicing, where the word is actually dance!  And they need to see Jesus tears, as He weeps at Lazarus’ tomb, and as He weeps over Jerusalem.  They need to see God as one who brings comfort and peace, who celebrates who loves His people.

Whoever they are.

I’ve found that these churches that people assume are dying can minister to people who feel lost and overlooked in the mega-churches, in the churches where lament is a concept, but not an experience.  They can be the family of the single mom, they can accept those who struggle with sanity, they can care for the widow and orphan – not just provide them something.  They are great places for families that struggle – because as a congregation, they can rejoice, and they can weep with those who need more than a hour and 4 minutes of a church service. Bring in a missionary, they will minister to him or her extensively.

One of the churches I served once sponsored a pretty famous Christian/Blugrass musician to play at the town fair.  It was a risk – an incredible 5% of our annual budget (which wasn’t much! went to bring him in for a Saturday night concert, and the following morning to play at our church.  That Sunday, as he played to our 45 or so people – and 5-6 guests, the band asked if they were welcome at the potluck afterward.  Of course – come on down – feast.  It was something they never got to do – big venues mobbed them, and they had to hide. With us, they could be ministered to  they could be welcomed as family.  Though it didn’t have the impact we wanted on the community – this little church – that others told me not to come to -because it was dying… served others.

In my experience, these churches are alive, they need gentle shepherding, and they need to know that it is good to cry, good to laugh, good to cling to each other and slowly, as they look to Jesus, as the Holy Spirit ministers among them, they won’t be gasping, they will be crying…to God, with God, in God’s presence.

They will see people come home, as the Psalmist describes….and they will know the Lord is doing great things there…

 
(1)  Ken Medema; quoted in Celtic Daily Prayer:  Aidan Readings for 7/17

(2)  Ann Kiemel  same source

 

 

Did You Leave God Behind This Morning?


Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:Will new camera 12 2008 167

66  As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. 67  Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NAB)

465         “Just one minute of intense prayer is enough.” Someone who never prayed used to say that. Would someone in love think it enough to contemplate intensely the person they love for just a minute?  (1)

Every morning that I am in my office, I use a morning devotion service from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  I like it for a number of reasons, it is well set up, and is a nice mix of liturgical form and meditation.  Instead of one of the three creeds, there is a simple declaration of faith (same thing really – Creed comes from Credo – I have confidence in) The declaration of faith is simply Peter’s response above, Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”

After using this devotional liturgy for a year, those words are well written on my soul. I have pondered them quit a bit as well in this last week – and wondered how often our lives do not match Peter’s response.  How often do we say that there is no where else to go, no one else’s words that give eternal life? Yet we leave our homes, and sometimes God is left behind.  Or we left Him at church on Sunday.  We run our lives as if he wasn’t there.

If we are honest, maybe we don’t want Him around, getting into our business, convicting us of sin.  Do we want Him answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation, when our minds and bodies are desperately trying to justify submitting to that temptation, or even searching it out.

Do we want to hear the words that give us life?  Do we want a life of continual prayer?  Or do we, like the crowds, want to leave Jesus places. so that we can return to our former way of life?

I’ve heard people ( and have even done it myself )justify their lack of prayer life by saying they pray in bursts, like the one St Josemaria points out.  I have a dynamic deep prayer life of 4 minutes, or I talk to God constantly through the day, so I don’t have to have devotional time.  And we leave Him behind again, preferring the television, or the computer or the company of others to spending time with God.  We play the quality versus quantity card too frequently.  The out for most of us pastors?  We don’t have the time because we are caring for people.

We need to be immersed in God’s presence, we need to realize how much a difference it makes, that this isn’t about discipline like calisthenics or working out in the gym.  We aren’t doing it for being holy for holiness sake. The only way to learn to value this time?  By being in it, tasting and knowing that God is good.

If you think these words are only aimed at you, my dear reader, they are not.  They are for me as well.  They are not to produce guilt, but to hold out to us that which is the most incredible news.

God, the creator of the universe, the One who died to bring hope and healing to the world, wants to spend time with you, to walk with you, to work with you, to encourage and comfort and rejoice and even dance with you.  That the Lord is with you….. and also… with me.

We didn’t leave Him behind, for He dwells with us.

I pray that we would receive the mercy of realizing that presence, and spending both time of quantity, and time of quality, in dialogue we our God, for we are His children!

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2052-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Will We Treat God Then, the Way We Do Now?


Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)

17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)

 16  Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17  But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” Genesis 28:16-17 (NLT)

 2  Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever. Psalm 125:2 (NLT)

470         Our Lord sent out his disciples to preach, and when they came back he gathered them together and invited them to go with him to a desert place where they could rest… What marvellous things Jesus would ask them and tell them! Well, the Gospel is always relevant to the present day.  (1)

Last night, as we studied the passage we are preaching on this week I began thinking of the question that is the title of this post.  I meet with several guys and we work together on the Bible passage for this week, which was talking about the struggles in this life are nothing compared to the glory that is awaiting us.  It also talks about the presence of the Holy Spirit being the foretaste of that glory.  This morning, my devotional readings included all three passages above, further fueling the thoughts and the need to meditate on this – and share it here.

We have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, therefore the places we stand and sit, as plain and simple as they are, are holy ground.  But do we realize it?  Do we realize that God surrounds us, His people – now and forever, Do we realize that as God makes His home in us, as we come to know the measure of His love, may we begin to really live?

Will we rest in Christ, and find the peace our souls depend upon, even as our bodies depend on food?  Will we struggle with the concept of an incarnate God in our lives?  Will we learn to depend upon His presence the way we depend on oxygen in the air we breathe?

A way to ask that is the title – do we expect to treat God in heaven the way we do now?

Will we forget about His presence, will we do what we want, will we go days without thinking of Him, talking to Him, hearing His voice as we meditate on His word?  Will we keep Him at a distance, fighting with others for the furthest row from His presence?   Or will will be in awe of the glory He shares with us? Will we run to Him, will we rejoice as He welcomed us, His children, into His presence?

Will our relationship change, and if so, why isn’t it changing already?

Look again at the above readings, what will change about the relationship, except perhaps that what we know, will also be what we see?

I pray that we would enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Love of God, that we are in awe at the thought of eternity with Him!

Godspeed!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2066-2069). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

Are We Afraid of Intimacy With God?


Devotional Thought of the Day:photo

15  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 (NLT)

456 You belittle meditation… Might you not be afraid, and so seek anonymity since you dare not speak with Christ face to face? You must see that there are many ways of belittling meditation, even though you might say you are practising it.  (1)

Yesterday, in our adult Bible Study, I asked a question…..

“Would it seem right to pray the Lord’s prayer, “Dad in heaven”.

A number of people were squirming!  “It isn’t reverent enough”, As I asked people what difference it would make, “it would make Him seem closer,”,As we talked through the idea, it also became apparent that it would make Him seem to be listening more directly, and more involved in our lives.

After all, besides my friend the seminary president who dropped in for a visit, none of us addressed our parents as “Dear Father reading the paper”, or “Dear Mother in the Kitchen”!

We want a safe distance as we pray, we want to be able to keep God there, over in the sanctuary, or a reminder on the fireplace mantle, or perhaps, we want to see Him in far out in the Galaxy.  Seeing him sitting on our couch, or at our dinner table, or talking to us in the backyard while we are barbecuing?  Would that be too close for you?  What if God shared even more intimate moments with us?

Does the thought of God living with you strike fear in your hearts?  Does it cause you to think first of that time – where your thoughts were impure, or when you couldn’t resist letting your anger, or jealousy, or lust reign in your life?  Are we terrorized when we read that God knows our thoughts?

Why?

What would happen if we looked forward to that level of intimacy, counted on it?  What if our reaction was the same as when a child is waiting for Dad to get home, to share with him the day, to play catch, to tell Him of our heartbreaks?  What would happen if we took to times of meditation and prayer for what they were – times of intimate, deep times with God, even if a word is not said?  ( I remember my times of walking down the shore road with my dad  - neither saying a word for a mile or two – as some of our greatest times…)  What if our conversations with God resembled Andy Griffith and Ron Howard in the closing credits of the black and white television show?  That is the gift promised and given in our baptism!  The presence of the Holy Spirit, for such is the gift to those God claims as His children!

Scary?

think of this – in times of joy – you can cry out – Daddy – come look and see, (as He smiles, for who do you think set up the glorious moment), in times of great trauma – you can cry our Daddy, and know His comfort and healing will be there, as He assures us, promises us that all will work out… for good, because of His love.   And in the between times, we walk with Him…revealing His mercy, His care, His cleansing our lives.  Revealing how deep, how high, how broad – how wide His love is for us.

Why are we afraid of this/

Cry out!

As we sang as children – with great joy, “Lord, be with us!”

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2013-2016). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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