What is your Cornerstone?

Although it may not seem like it now, our country was built on a cornerstone of faith. Our declaration of independence references God 5 times.  George Washington said:

“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

 Thomas Jefferson said:

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?”

Where is our cornerstone now?  It is sometimes hard to see it among the mass shootings, abortions, sexual promiscuity and anti-Christian rhetoric that floods our country and our media.

God has laid the cornerstone for each of us.  It is up to us whether we allow ourselves to be built upon it:

Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander; like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation, for you have tasted that the Lord is good.  Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For it says in scripture:

“Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.”

1 Peter 2:1-6

God has laid a cornerstone.  And he has chosen each of us to lay our stones upon His foundation, to be built into a spiritual house.  He asks us to rid ourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander.  Why would we want to hold on to any of this?  Believe in Him and come to Him.  That is all He asks.  Believe in Him and Come to Him.  Make Him the cornerstone of your life.  Don’t we all need that?  Don’t we all need to re-center on what is important.  For even when we are rejected in this life, God calls us to Him.  He chooses us.

Lord,

You are my cornerstone.  Thank you for choosing me.  Thank you for providing me with the opportunity of another day to create something beautiful upon your foundation.  Guide me in your path.  Forgive me for the times that I have allowed malice, deceit, insincerity , envy or slander to enter my heart.  Fill my heart with your love.

 

 

 

Discipline and Love

We discipline our children hoping that it will lead them in the right direction, but knowing that one day they will have to make choices on their own.  I don’t enjoy the disciplinarian role of being a parent.

I have often wondered about the Old Testament.  God often feels like a disciplinarian in it.  We hear about Him destroying cities, smiting and raining fire and brimstone.  He feels much different than the loving God revealed by Jesus.  Today the Bible opened to Galatians:

Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed.  Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.  For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:23-29

When we are immature, we need discipline, rules, order to try to keep us on the proper path.  The Old Testament is filled with stories of human immaturity.  We were not ready for faith alone.  As we individually grow, we also go through phases where we need discipline, rules, and order.   Sometimes we are not ready for faith alone.  We need to be confined by rules so that we are in place for faith to be revealed.  But ultimately, like a child, we must grow up and make our own choices.  Ultimately we must choose faith.  We must choose God.   Jesus opened us to faith.  He came into the world so that we might have faith.  So that we could see and believe.  He came into the world to show us love.  The love of our Father.  Despite all of the times that we deserve discipline, God loves us.

Lord,

Help me to be a good parent.  Help me to set rules and order but also to show love.  Help me to have the faith that you have made available.  Help me to grow from my immaturity.  Thank you Father!

Pure Love Through Any Storm

What a beautiful  morning!  Storms are expected to be moving in, but…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.  In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed is God!  He is preserving our inheritance in heaven  — our salvation.  It is imperishable, undefiled and unfading.  Bring on the storm — because what is waiting for us will not fade.  It will not fail.  We may suffer through various trials and be tested by fire, but we will rejoice!  Our faith allows us to rejoice.  All that we experience, all that we endure allows us to give all praise, all glory and all honor to Jesus Christ.  He suffered and died for us so that we would know.  So that we would believe.  So that we would have faith.  So that we would know God.  So that our faith — the genuineness  of our faith — would lead us back to God.

Peter goes on to say:

Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.  He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1:17-21

Jesus, through his precious blood, ransomed us from our futile conduct — from our sin.  He suffered and died, just so we would know.  Just so we would have faith and hope in Him.  God’s love is so immense, so pure — it is greater than any love we can experience.  I want to love like Him.

Peter instructs us:

Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart.  You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God, for:

“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, and the flower wilts; but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

1 Peter 1:22-25

Father,

Although I have not seen you, I believe.  I rejoice in you.  I have joy because of you.  I love you.   Help me to love like you.

 

 

A Highway Thru Harvey

We are not powerful.  When we look at the world around us, at God’s creation.  It is clear, we are no match.  Tonight the Bible opened to Isaiah:

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?

The LORD is God from of old, creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.  He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak.  Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Texas and Louisiana are struggling from Hurricane Harvey.  There are many who may be feeling weak or weary as the rain continues to fall.  And there are many others throughout the country and throughout the world are struggling with their own battles and tragedies.  When a large  tragedy occurs there are many calls to reach out to help  with money and supplies.  Celebrities get involved and it seems that everyone bands together to help.  They need our help.  But money and earthly goods are not enough and it is not enough to only reach out when the tragedy is large.  Whether it is victims of a massive destruction, a single fire or a drug addiction, they all need our help.  They all need our prayers and reminders that God is there.  God does not grow faint or weary.  He continues to walk beside us, no matter how far we walk, no matter how deep the water we find ourselves in.  He gives us power and strength, when we ask, when we believe, when we have faith.  As Isaiah tells us: They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.

This chapter of Isaiah starts with these words:

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.

God’s people need comfort.  Human comfort.  Human evidence of God’s love.  We may not be able to save everyone or make anything physically better, but we can remind those who are suffering that God will give strength, that God loves us, that God does not grow weary.  We can bring comfort.

Isaiah goes further:

Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Isaiah 40:3-5

Harvey is creating a wasteland.  Where does God work better than with those in need.  Straight through the destruction is a highway for God where God’s glory will be revealed.  I often see God more clearly in my darkest days, in my tragedies, in my sorrow.  It is what we make of our tragedies.  Let’s make a highway, a fast lane, a fast pass straight to God.  Let’s turn our fear into faith, our pain into joy.  God gives us strength.  He gives us comfort.  No matter the destruction or earthly devastation there is a pathway to God and when things seem at their worst, it is a highway, a fast pass.  Because every struggle has an end date, we just need God’s help to not grow weary.  We need our faith to keep us strong.  Through every storm, eventually the sun will shine.  And we will see it brighter than we did before.  We will rejoice in it.  For the glory of God is forever.

Lord,

Help those who are struggling tonight.  Help them feel your comfort, help them know your love.  Help us all make a highway to you.

Light will break the darkness

Life is hard.  Pain and suffering surrounds us.  It is impossible to avoid.  In Ephesians, Paul provides us with Rules for the New Life:

Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil.

The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work with his [own] hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need.

No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.

And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.

All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.

[And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

Ephesians 4:25-32

These are not easy rules.  But even in these rules, there is recognition that we will be angry.  Life sometimes stinks.  We will be angry.  But Paul warns do not let the sun set on your anger, do not leave room for the devil.  Be angry.  But reconcile with God.  Don’t go to bed angry.  Anger creates weakness; it creates cracks for the devil to infiltrate.  Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit.  We are sealed with God’s Spirit.  We cannot rid ourselves of Him, no matter how hard we may sometimes try.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.  Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving.  Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.  So do not be associated with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.  Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, or it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says:

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Ephesians 5:1-14

We have all been darkness.  We have all been in darkness.  God calls us to the light.  This life is temporary.  We have a short time to live and love on earth.  We have a short time to fight off the devil and the pain and suffering that exploits our weakness.  This will pass.  Love.  Be thankful.  Expose the darkness — do not hide it away.  Be angry, but do not dwell on the anger.  Bring it back to God.  Live in the light — God’s light.  Jesus has conquered death — we just have to conquer this short life on earth.

Lord,

I do not always understand your ways.  I am sometimes quick to anger.  Forgive me for my weakness.  Forgive me for my doubt when things do not go my way.  I want to live in your light.  I want to live like Christ.  Help me to love more freely.  Help me to reconcile with you when I fail.  It is easy to have faith when things go well.  Keep my faith strong when things go wrong.

 

Strengthen us O Lord

Tonight a friend needs prayers and strength.  And the Bible opened here:

For I long to see you, that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened,  that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith, yours and mine.

Romans 1:11-12

Sometimes we need to lean on each other’s faith.

Lord, I pray that you watch over those who are hurting tonight.  Keep them safe.  Hold them close.  Heal them, Lord.  We believe!  We have faith!  We know that you can do all things.  We pray for your healing powers tonight.

I found my map!

I have been gone for a week on a trip across country.  Packing space was tight.  And I left my Bible at home.  The week dragged on and I realized that I was lost.  I had forgotten my map!

Tonight, after a long day catching up at work and an exhausting week of travel, it felt good to open the Bible once more and read these words:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.  For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly.  Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath.  Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.  Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 6: 1-11

Let me boast in my afflictions!  Work is hard and tiring.  There is never enough time for what I want to do.  The chore list at home keeps piling up.  There are so many regrets and things I wish I would have done.  I am constantly reminded of parenting mistakes I have made or things I wish I could change. Good friends have moved away, others are moving on in directions that will take them away from close counsel and guidance. Too many people are in pain or sick and ailing.  A niece and nephew just lost their caregiver to cancer.  Life sometimes just sucks.  Sometimes everything seems to be a struggle and every task seems meaningless.  The end seems too far out of reach.  And it is easy to put God to the side. My sins and regrets can feel overwhelming.

But I boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Indeed I thank God for the struggles. Thank you God!  Thank you God for reminding me that today’s struggles are temporary.  For reminding me that every affliction, pain and difficulty breeds endurance, and endurance leads to proven character, and character to hope.  And hope allows me to be filled with the knowledge of you and your love and your Holy Spirit.

You loved us even when we did not love you.  I love you Lord!  Thank you for providing me with the map I need.  I am blown away by these words:

“Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”  I have hope in the glory of God!

I believe!

Tonight the Bible opened very quickly to this.  I read the verses all around it, but my eyes kept coming back to this short but powerful verse:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek.  For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.”

Romans 1:16-17

And all I can think in response is: I believe!

Return to Me

How many times does God call out to us to return to Him?  It seems like a recurrent theme in the Bible.  It doesn’t matter what we do, why we turn away, or how many times we turn away.  God is always there patiently waiting and calling us back.

Today the Bible opened to Malachi:

Return to me, that I may return to you, says the LORD of hosts.  But you say, “Why should we return?”

(Oh wow — don’t we do that?  What’s in it for us, we ask)

Can anyone rob God?

I have reread this line several times, trying to understand what it is saying.  God seems above being robbed — how can we take anything away from the one who has everything.  But maybe that is just it.  We take Him for granted.  Because He is always there and we know we can screw up and still return to Him, I think we (or at least I) take Him for granted and don’t pay attention to the hurt that we cause when we turn away.  He has plenty of others who are much better than me, what does He care if I turn away.  As I reread this passage what I am struck with is, HE DOES CARE!  How amazing and important is that?!

But you are robbing me!  And you say, “How have we robbed you?”  Of tithes and contributions!  You are indeed accursed, for you, the whole nation, rob me.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, That there may be food in my house.

Put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, And see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven for you, and pour down upon you blessing without measure!

Malachi 3:7-10

Although this passage talks about tithes and contributions, it seems to be much more than that.  Trust me God says.  Let me show you.  Put me to the test — put your faith in me — let go of your worldly possessions, your money, your fears that you will be without — put your faith in me “And see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven for you, and pour down upon you blessing without measure!”

Dear God,

I am sorry for all of the times I have robbed you, robbed you of my heart, my trust, my faith and my tithe.  I do not want to turn away from you again.  Thank you for calling out to me again and again.

 

 

Evicted! For the Cross

Tonight I watched two Catholic high schools play a baseball game.  And mid way through the game one of the boys from our team was ejected from the game.  Not for fighting.  Not for cursing at the umpire or even arguing with the umpire.  Not for taunting or excessive celebration.  Not for reckless or injurious play.  He was ejected for wearing a cross on a chain around his neck.  Now , yes there is a rule against wearing any jewelry and so yes, he was in violation.  And in some sports a necklace can be dangerous — but in baseball?  When both teams are from Catholic high schools?  It warmed my heart to see this 15 year old proudly wearing the cross.

Fittingly, tonight the Bible opened to Romans:

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.  For the scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Romans 10:8-13

“For, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Tonight on the baseball field,  a high school teenager confessed that Jesus is Lord.

Lord,

Help me to spread your good news!  Help me to spread it not just on an anonymous internet page but in my every day life.  I know that you can save me.  I believe that you will raise me up.  I know that righteousness comes from faith and your grace.  Only you can save me.  You are my hope and my salvation.

Jesus is Lord!

Alleluia!