Journey to Awareness Lent Day 40 The Journey comes to a close!

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When the Journey began

NIV 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed

The Journey that began with ashes and a desire to be penitent and repentant comes to its end this year in a service of darkness and a day that ends the week in which the powers and principalities though they had won.  

For forty days and six Lord’s days we have journeyed seeking awareness.  As for me I found awareness of my fallen nature, awareness of my failures and needs, and awareness of God’s presence in the everyday challenges of life.  I have asked others to join me in seeking God.  I hope they have had the times of intimacy the Lord  has blessed me with.  My desire to worship and serve you have grown and I pray will continue to grow and grow and grow.

On Sunday the church year changes.  Easter, the spring of the church (or fall depending upon which hemisphere one lives in), brings our focus on the resurrection.  It calls to us with the blessed hope made certain by Jesus conquering victory over the grave.  It is a time of appearances, surprises, and again, teachings which Jesus has given to us to guide us toward perfection.  Not perfection in the sense this world views perfection, but perfection in desire to holiness and a willingness to live the new life our faith in God who is with us and God’s resurrection offers.

Easter leads us toward Pentecost.  So another journey will begin.  This is purpose.  We were created to walk with God.  It is God’s will for us to join the Divine presence that journeys beyond time and space.  God became one of us so that we might be one with God.   May this motivate us toward a deepening of what we have found in Lent!

NIV Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers

Journey to Awareness Lent Day 39

NIV Ephesians 1:18-21 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,  which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

The above may be a long sentence, but it is also an awesome prayer.  Today is Good Friday.  The good is what is accomplished.  The good is in the sacrifice.

Tonight we will celebrate Tenebrae.  It is the service of darkness.  It is hearing the last seven sayings of Jesus on the cross.  It is also a heart enlightening experience for me.   God first reached me with the reality of death.  Next was the conviction of my own moral failure.  What a joy to find out Jesus could and would and did overcome death for me and took the ultimate consequences of my separation from God on himself.  In his sacrifice I was offered a gift if I would be accept it.

I am not one who believes everything is already predetermined.  I believe we are created by the very breath of God and thus we are beings which will transcend this current reality of time and space.  I believe we do have choice and that God perfect will shall still be what God has determined it to be in a mystery that combines free will and divine providence and foreknowledge.

In Lent this mystery is experienced in a symbolic way in the 40 day journey.  The journey of the 2013 Lent season will end, but the journey itself will continue.  On Good Friday we come to the experiential center of the human experience.  It is the eternal bridge where God is waiting to meet us.  Through the bridge of the cross we move from the captivity of death to the certainty of the promised resurrection.  Jesus is risen!  Christ indeed has risen!

Journey to Awareness Lent Day 38

NIV Acts 2:28  You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.

The above verse is from the Psalter.  It is the ending verse of chapter 16.  The in reality it is the ending thought of a group of four verses:

NIV  Psalm 16:8-11  I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,  because you will not abandon me to the grave (Sheol) ,  nor will you let your Holy (faithful) One  see decay.  You have made (or will make) known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

I needed this verse when I set down to write this entry.  In reality, if God was at my right hand tonight God would have notice that my hand most likely was shaking.  And while even as I type these words the above verses are pulling me away from the pity party I was trying to attend.   It is hard, but it is important when doubts and emotions rise to be careful to not let circumstances or the slow unrelenting heaviness of life pull one away from the presence who is always there.

In the verse from Acts list above, Peter is preaching his Pentecost sermon.  God has shown up.  The Spirit of God has descended in power and the small stones are about to become the giant rock.  The church is born.  God will now be more than with us, God will be in us.  This is the gift that Jesus claimed for us in his death and resurrection.

Tonight, in confirmation class, I asked each of the young people present how they knew God was with them.  Three were very confident and positive.  Three did not know.  I appreciated their honesty.  Did I try to get them saved? (slight laughter at myself)  I don’t get anyone saved.  Only one human being has (notice the present tense) the power to “save” and that human being is also the Creator of everything, the author of life, and God incarnate.  All I can do is follow the example of Peter and tell them what Jesus did and why.  All I can do is talk about how amazing a relationship with God is.  All I can do is explain to them the power God has granted them as free (but accountable) sentient beings.  All I can do is tell them what Jesus has done (does and is doing) for me.

We are getting near the end of the Lenten journey for this year.  The real time journey I have been on apart from these posts has been a pretty wild emotional and spiritual ride.  Through it all I have been aware that: You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.  Amen!!!!!

Tonight the church will gather as did the disciples on the night before the crucifixion.  The sacrament of communion will be shared.  The body of Christ and the blood of Christ blessed and consumed.  In the exercise of this duty (that is reality a delight) the joy of sanctify grace will again fill those of us who come.  How could we not but find reason for joy!

The Journey to Awareness Lent Day 37

NIV Acts 5:29   Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!

I can see a day coming when those who try to live by and proclaim the Word of God will viewed as being totally out of touch with the world and popular opinion.  I can see a day coming when laws will be passed that will seek to limit the influence of the church.  I can see a day coming when those who preach will be arrest for hate crimes if they call certain behavior sinful.  This day is coming.  We need to get ready.

For hundreds of years before the first advent of Jesus those who were faithful and dependent on the teaching of Scripture often were in the minority even among the chosen people of God.  There is a whole theological construct called “the remnant” that speaks to this issue.

God will always have a witness.  We pray we can give this witness living in times of peace.  However, the faithful of God will give this witness no matter what.  We need to remember that the word martyr comes from the ancient Greek word for witness.

NIV Acts 5:32   “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

On this journey of life, to seek to live closer to Jesus, to seek first the Kingdom does allow us to be witnesses (both in eye and in heart) of wonderful acts and revelations of God.  We do have the Holy Spirit to guide us.  We have the presence of Jesus encourage us.  We have the church and the spiritual gifts given to us to build one another up.

May this season of Lent prepare us for whatever the future days may bring.  May our journey make us aware of how our witness is so desperately need now.

Journey to Awareness Lent Day 35

NIV Acts 4:1-2 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

There is one lesson in Lent we had better learn.  It is a lesson we often ignore or avoid simply by not being faithful to our Lord’s instructions.  It is the lesson of animosity.  The world is hostile toward the Gospel because it disturbs the world delusions and deceptions.

John articulates it quite well in John 3:19, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

Way to many people who claim the title “Christian” are afraid of the dark.  They are afraid to openly display or declare the light will draw attention to them.  They might be embarrassed.  They might be labelled as a “holy roller” or “religions freak”.  Standing for our Lord might cost them.  It might cost then social status.  It might cost them a job, a position, or a raise.  They might have to give up something they like or desire.  They might have to give more of their time.

Jesus disturbed people.  Light can hurt when you have been embracing the darkness.

If you have given up something for Lent, or have made a commitment to do something during Lent you probably have found  this effort difficult.  There are always those things we face as humans that test our commitment to our Lord.  Even our own natural nature is disturbed by our desire to grow and live by faith.  If we expect this and prepare for this then we are not as likely to seek to avoid it and thus fearful of it.

May we walk with our Lord in the Light of His Word.

 

Journey to Awareness Lent Day 34

NIV Acts 3:12  When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?

Jesus once made the statement, “If you have faith the size of a small seed (my paraphrase) you could say to a mountain get up and move and it would.  This does not seem possible to us.  Thus the truth of the word “if”.

Faith cannot be forced.  Faith is not always logical to us.  Faith comes through faithfulness.  In the Old Testament, the people heard the reports of how big and strong the inhabitants of the promised land were and they did not believe they could win.  God scolded them for their lack of faith.   So what did they do?  They ignored what God said and tried to prove they could have faith. This ended with disaster.

If we would have faith, we must first know what is the foundation for our faith.  Some would answer, “That’s easy.  Our faith is founded on Jesus.”

Is it?

Jesus was once called upon by a man who knew he lacked faith.  His words were, “Lord, I believe.  Please help my unbelief.”

If we have faith, we too should desire for our Lord to help us with our unbelief.  Perhaps we could start with something easy like believing what God says about tithing.  Money should not matter more than our trust in God.

I am sure I have just made some of you mad.  Why?

It was hard for Peter to learn to really have faith in the Lord.  Peter was a very self sufficient man.  It was not till the Lord confronted Peter after the resurrection while Peter was fishing that Jesus final got through.  Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

If we love Jesus we will keep his commandments.  We will carry out his commission.  We will build one another’s faith as the church.

In the beginning verse, Peter has been called to task because a beggar was healed.  The beggar had asked Peter for a monetary handout.  Peter answered by telling the man, silver and gold I don’t have, but in the name of Jesus rise and walk.  The man did.

We are drawing near to the end of Lent.  Hopefully we have journeyed with Jesus as his disciples.  Hopefully we have learned more about what faith and love and commitment required.  Hopefully we will become instruments of the power of God in this world.

 

Journey to Awareness Lent Day 33

NIV Isaiah 53:10  Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

I watched the episode of the Bible on the History channel today in which God destroys Sodom.  The do take a lot of “artistic” license with the Biblical text (I really doubt God’s angels are so ninja-like).  

And as horrific as the TV version was, I do not think it could come close to the terror of the real thing.

Yes, it is difficult in our “enlightened” (not to mention not politically or academically correct) to talk about the judgment of God.  Our culture today has the idea God could not be that cruel.   A God of love would not inflict pain, torture or suffering upon human beings.  Such ideas are just passed down accounts of a primitive cultic tribe who thought (or create) the idea that God would do such things.

I do not think God is cruel.  I do believe even a God of love can be angry, vengeful, and allow or even order what we would call “acts of violence”.  Do I understand why God would do, allow, or demand such things?  No, other than what the Scripture  teaches and then I am careful to remember my own finite limitations in understanding, my own sin, and the fact that I (as every human being is) am infected with the disease of our ancestors.  We do think ourselves as gods deciding what is good and what is evil.

Isaiah 53 is a hard chapter of Scripture.  It is a hard prophecy.  It places God directly in the midst of human suffering and the effects of the Fall.  It is a darkness that God has self embraced in Jesus.  Next week at this time, Jesus would have gone through the all that this prophecy foretold.

But then there is verse 11:

NIV Isaiah 53:11  After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Justifying grace is saving grace.  It is what makes us right with God.  It is the way God has experienced our darkness.  All that is evil, all that is pain, all that is sorrow, separated, and sick in this world Jesus went through.  Jesus took the worst evil could throw at him and as God made it the greatest good for humanity.  This is the basis for our salvation.  This is what gives hope even when we cannot understand the why.

I trust the Scripture.  I believe what is there has been preserved as it is to teach us, illuminate us, warn and woe us.  I do not get into philosophical arguments about it anymore.  That is not its purpose.  In the season of Lent it is the guide that direct me to penitence.  It calls me to repentance.  It pushes me to commitment.  It opens the good of God to my heart.  It is the map, the guide, the written resource and God’s love letter to my soul and self.  This I believe.  Jesus bears my iniquities.   Jesus turns the wrath of God away from me.  I am loved.

Journey to Awareness Lent Day 32

NIV Isaiah 53:8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

Today’s is a late entry.  The day is almost over.  It has been a hard day.  It has been an emotional day.  I grieve when the members of my spiritual family grieve.  Today there is sorrow.

We live in the valley of the shadow of death.  Death comes and takes those who are apart from God.  Those who are of the family of faith leave this life and travel to the Kingdom that is to come and already is.

“A Kingdom to come and already is”, is the a paradoxical statement?

No, it is the reality for those who have Jesus with them and in them (another seeming paradox that is not one).

The image of death still is hard even for those of the family of faith.  We know we will see our loved ones but we must wait.  Jesus waited almost 800 years for verse (prophecy) to come to pass.  Yet he came to Abraham in his resurrected state.

God does amazing things.  This is our hope in the face of sorrow.

Journey to Awareness Lent Day 31

NIV Isaiah 53:5-6 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Hebrews 9:22   In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

The above verses are not popular in our current culture.  There are even “Christian” theologians who question not only the language but even the idea that such statements were ever needed to be made.  There is a tendency today to downgrade the theological statements that are made in Scripture as being archaic and thus not really authoritative.

The faith we are called to accept and trust does not easily conform to current cultural perspectives or conceptual concerns. At times the faith we embrace does fit with the ethical viewpoints our world considers “proper”.

There comes a point when we must make a decision. We must decide if we will trust the Scripture. We must decide if we believe the creedal traditions of our faith’s heritage.

The cross is not an ethical thing. The reason for the need for the death of Jesus is offensive to human reasoning. However, there comes a time when we must trust that God is a purposeful, active, loving God even when we do not understand God’s acts, lack of acts, and requirements we encounter in Scripture and life.

Jesus trusted the Father. The journey he was on required suffering and the cross. This is the story of Lent.

To be continued………..

Journey to Awareness Lent Day 30

NIV 1 Corinthians 1:7  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

One day while Jesus was teaching his disciples he asked them the question, “Who do people think I am?”  Obviously Jesus was aware of the discussions and speculations about his person and abilities.  Even in a time in which there were no mobile phones, the news of the activities of Jesus spread fast.

Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel.  He was the lamb of God who came to be paid the wages for our sin.  He IS God with us, God incarnate.  Even though the people of Jesus’s day were eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come, they did not recognize him when he did.   Jesus became of us as as a gift, the gift above all gifts.  A gift given out of love.  Those who came, who come, and will come to understand this are blessed.  But it was not an easy task for the to disciples understand and accept.  Perhaps the reality of that time is best summed up in Jesus own words to the woman at the well:

John 4:10  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“If you knew the gift of God”, what a profound truth.  This statement is still valid.  It is valid not only for those who are walking darkness, but also for those who would be true disciples of today as well.

The church of Jesus Christ is in decline.  Why in the world would this be!  Again, is we are to be faithful we must answer in the desire of faith and the drawing of the Spirit the question “Who do we think Jesus is?”  If we really believe he is God, really believe he is the way the truth and the life, should this belief not be obvious in our words and deeds?

“If we know the gift of God”, should we not be trusting in the prayer he taught us for our daily needs rather than making our own security and pleasure our primary pursuits?  This is the prime question needing to be faced during this time of Lent.

The beginning verse is a reminder why these questions need to be asked.  The church has been given the spiritual gifts we need to be successful in God’s eyes.   We are waiting for his return.  Till that at time we need to being active in the understanding of who Jesus is, what Jesus has given us, and avoid the mistakes the church has made in the past.

We need be so careful that we are not like those during Jesus on day who were not ready for God incarnate to come to them.