What “Faith Alone” Does Not Mean!



Devotional Thought of the Day:
20  But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21  assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22  to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25  Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Ephesians 4:20-25 (ESV)

17 On the other hand, it is correct to say that in conversion, through the attraction of the Holy Spirit, God changes stubborn and unwilling people into willing people, and that after conversion, in the daily exercise of repentance, the reborn will of man is not idle but cooperates in all the works which the Holy Spirit performs through us.
18 9. Likewise Luther’s statement that man’s will in conversion behaves “altogether passively”5 (that is, that it does nothing at all) must be understood as referring to the action of divine grace in kindling new movements within the will, that is, when the Spirit of God through the Word that has been heard or through the use of the holy sacraments takes hold of man’s will and works the new birth and conversion. But after the Holy Spirit has performed and accomplished this and the will of man has been changed and renewed solely by God’s power and activity, man’s new will becomes an instrument and means of God the Holy Spirit, so that man not only lays hold on grace but also cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the works that follow.

426      Today once again I prayed full of confidence. This was my petition: “Lord, may neither our past wretchedness which has been forgiven us, nor the possibility of future wretchedness cause us any disquiet. May we abandon ourselves into your merciful hands. May we bring before you our desires for sanctity and apostolate, which are hidden like embers under the ashes of an apparent coldness…” ”Lord, I know you are listening to us.” You should say this to him too.

There is, within the church today, a sense of defeatism.  The church seems to be dying in America; it no longer serves the community as a place of peace, a sanctuary from the world.  It is no longer the place of people set apart to a life walking with Christ.

This is happening, even as American seminaries are be asked to influence the training of pastors in places where the growth of the church is exponential, and that scares me, for what if what we teach them is what has caused our churches, liberal and confessional, traditional and contemporary to diminish in size, and in effect?

I can’t speak to the denominations and movements I know not of, but I can speak, and will speak to those I know well.

In our situation, there is a strange misunderstanding, a problem with one of our prize confessions, the cry of “Faith Alone”, and how it has morphed into something it never was.

It was about conversion; some people think it is about the entirety of our life.  They take another summary of theology – we are simultaneously sinners and justified – and it and what has developed is a theology that there is no need for spiritual growth, there is no need for being transformed into the image of Christ, for growing in faith and holiness.

We see them come to faith, find their seat in church – and leave them there. We remind them their sins are forgiven; we tell them to trust God for their salvation, but we fail to encourage them to live life with Christ.

But as you see in blue above, the early Luther’s never meant that sanctification was optional, that serving alongside Christ was just for a chosen few, that the rest could be passive in how they live life, that a signed check was good enough.

We are meant to be instruments, means of grace as we share the gospel given to us via God’s word, and the sacraments that are tangible means of that grace. Every Christian, growing in faith, seeing themselves set apart to be used by God, interceding and ministering to those who are around them, loving them as CHirst loves us.

Are we going to be perfect?  Nah>

Are we still going to be occasionally wretched?  It’s possible, even probable and in my case. definite. But that shouldn’t stop us from being drawn to the cross, abandoning ourselves into the hands that were crucified, into the life that we died with at the cross, and are raised to, quickened by the power of the Holy Spirit – which raised Christ from the dead.

It is time to return to encourage holiness, to encourage people to live as God intends, as one, holy, called together and sent into a broken world people.

Faith Alone- yes it saves – and brings us into a journey with God -where it sees us made into a holy people…people that can bring God’s healing to a lost and broken world.

Lord, I know you are listening to us, breathe on us, and cause the embers of our desire for your mission and our holiness rage into a holy inferno.  AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 472). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. Formula of Concord: Pt 1 Epitome II Free Will

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1637-1641). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Ministry Of Reconciliation: A Great Untapped Power…


Devotional Thought of the Day:

35 They will say, “This once-desolate land has become like the garden of Eden. The cities once ruined, laid waste and destroyed, are now resettled and fortified.”s 36 Then the surrounding nations that remain shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt what was destroyed and replanted what was desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken: I will do it!  (NABRE Ezekiel 36:35-36)

24 Suppose, now, that the invitation (to confess our sins and receive absolution) were changed into a command that all beggars should run to the place, no reason being given and no mention of what they were to look for or receive. How else would the beggar go but with repugnance, not expecting to receive anything but just letting everyone see how poor and miserable he is? Not much joy or comfort would come from this, but only a greater hostility to the command.
25 In the same way the pope’s* preachers have in the past kept silence about this wonderful, rich alms and this indescribable treasure; they have simply driven men together in hordes just to show what impure and filthy people they were. Who could thus go to confession willingly?
26 We, on the contrary, do not say that men should look to see how full of filthiness you are, making of you a mirror for contemplating themselves. Rather we advise: If you are poor and miserable, then go and make use of the healing medicine.  (1)

That is the way you are, too, he says; that is the way you are interiorly, if we look attentively at ourselves we shall know that this is true. We are interiorly stunted and crippled. We lack interior strength because we live only exteriorly. “Everyman”, who abounded in health and life, was interiorly completely crippled, but he did not know it. In his efforts to draw all life to himself, he had failed to learn what life truly is. There appears now on stage a second female figure, who teaches the dying Everyman how to pray again. Thus faith helps to give strength to his works. Supported by faith, his works can move, and he, too, can move—to move along the right, the true road to salvation. Faith gives him from Christ’s strength what Everyman does not have of himself.  (2)

A pastor or priest sits, and hears people unburden their lives, and we see a miracle happen.  Those crushed by guilt and shame are healed, they are made whole.  They are restored.

We can often see it with our eyes, yet the perception goes far deeper, as the grace of God bursts from their hearts and souls through their eyes.  It is such a thing that Ezekiel describes as he calls watching a once desolate land become the garden of Eden. Or a city laid waste, that has been restored.

Pope Benedict wrote of it as Everyman learning to pray again – the line of communication between God and man cleared of all that blocks it from our inattention, as guilt and shame are flushed away, and we can live again. Luther talks about it as a great treasure, this healing medicine of hearing God speak.

But we would rather look in the mirror and see the filth; we would rather look at works, poor and feeble, no better than filthy rags. Because we’ve let confession (and I mean the entire church) and the precious words of absolution be neglected, we struggle to believe them, to perceive the grace we should look for, the guarantee of mercy we should desire!

This is why pastors and priests must return to teaching about this precious sacrament.  So that its power to heal and restore people no longer sits unused, misunderstood, untapped.  Our people need to have this – they need to be able to share the joy of their salvation, to celebrate that God isn’t far off, but in Him we still live and move and have our very being!  This is amazing grace; this is proof of His unfailing love… these words of absolution, these glorious words that we are free…

God is merciful, the world needs to know this, you and I need to know this.

As we are absolved, let our awe turn into praises and celebration, as God throws us a feast, and as we know we are welcomed in His presence.  AMEN!

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 460). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 233–234). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

* ( DIsclaimer: While it may be true that some in the RCC in Luther’s day are accurately described in his comment, the priests of the Roman Catholic Church I know and admire urge people to go, not just out of obedience, but because of the joy that awaits them as Christ assures them of His forgiveness – there are such pastors in every church body, even as there are those who would deny people of the joy of reconciliation)

It’s Time to Get Up, and Know you are Free from Sin!


Devotional THoguht of the Day:

1  Jesus got into the boat and went back across the lake to his own town, 2  where some people brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a bed. When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the paralyzed man, “Courage, my son! Your sins are forgiven.” 3  Then some teachers of the Law said to themselves, “This man is speaking blasphemy!” 4  Jesus perceived what they were thinking, and so he said, “Why are you thinking such evil things? 5  Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6  I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!” 7  The man got up and went home. 8  When the people saw it, they were afraid, and praised God for giving such authority to people.
Matthew 9:1-8 (TEV)

15 Note, then, as I have often said, that confession consists of two parts. The first is my work and act, when I lament my sin and desire comfort and restoration for my soul. The second is a work which God does, when he absolves me of my sins through a word placed in the mouth of a man. This is the surpassingly grand and noble thing that makes confession so wonderful and comforting.

In Luther’s Large Catechism, we see the words in blue above, as Luther exhorts (begs) his people not give up the blessing of confessing their sin. Only a man who himself experienced the overwhelming crushing weight of his own sin, and the relief he knew writes in such a manner.

Luther’s relief is found all over his works, and he gets a bit testy (okay even violent) toward those who would deny people as broken as he was/is the hope he found and the healing he experienced.

His explanation nails it, our confession and absolution is far more about the absolution that we receive, that we so desperately need, than it is about the crap we drop in the presence of God.  We may fear seeing it revealed, we may fear the surgery that removes it, what St. Paul calls the circumcision of the heart. We may even consider it impossible, a task beyond our ability.

Yet, the emphasis is not on the confession, but the cleansing.  The work is not ours, it is the work of freeing us from the darkness that consumes us. That can even physically inhibit and paralyze us, as the man experienced in the gospel reading. But Christ’s death, and the authority given to Him by the father shatters those bindings, those things that trap us.

The blood of Christ, which binds us to Him, already did this, as He hung on the cross and declared we are free from sin, and even while we get up – perhaps for the first time, His Spirit quickens us, strengthens us, restores that which had decayed and been destroyed by sin.

We need to stop buying into the lie that confession is difficult, a duty that is one that burdens us and breaks us.  It is a moment of incredible promise, a moment of being found in the presence of God, in peace that may be completely unfamiliar – but yet is home.

A little further down the section, Luther emphasised this again,

22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.

This prayer, this desire for mercy needs to be seen as a treasure, not because of the words we say, but because of the words said to us in love.  That changes our plea from one of desperation, to one of expectation, as the glory of God surrounds us, and we dind His love is still deeper, higher, broader and wider than we could have ever thought.

This is our God. We are His….gloriously his. 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 458–459). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Confronting Spiritual Apathy & Indifference


Discussion Thought fo the Day: 

1  So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2  For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4  And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose.
Hebrews 2:1-4 (NLT)

1
 God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it.
Hebrews 4:1 (NLT)

67 Surely it is a sin and a shame that, when he tenderly and faithfully summons and exhorts us to our highest and greatest good, we act so distantly toward it, neglecting it so long that we grow quite cold and callous and lose all desire and love for it.
68 We must never regard the Sacrament as a harmful thing from which we should flee, but as a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine which aids and quickens us in both soul and body. For where the soul is healed, the body has benefited also. Why, then, do we act as if the sacrament were a poison which would kill us if we ate of it?  (1) 

Luther’s stance on communion here may be shocking to some.  To avoid the Lord’s Supper is simply sin, it is shameful!

I hope it is!  I hope it shocks us out of our lethargy, out of the apathetic attitude we have toward being the church, the lethargy that diminished our desire to be gathered around the altar of the Lord, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for us.

The very summons Luther notes, as Jesus draws us to Himself, as He summons us, and would dwell in us, and us in Him is the word used in Greek, which we translate into the word “church”. Ekklesia!!  Thos called out, those called together!  The people of God created in the work of Christ’s obedience in life and death, as we are cleansed and set apart into an incredible, intimate, wondrous relationship with God. A relationship beyond our ability to comprehend, as we dwell in His presence, and are promised His glory!

As church growth theorists and church planters and revitalizers study churches, the one thing that can’t be studied is the source for our life, this “being called”, this being the church.  We want the answers to why churches are in decline in America, we want answers to stem the tide, and the answer is simple….

Take and eat…

Take and drink…

Celebrate the union, the wedding of Christ and His bride, those called to Him, those drawn to Him by His love. Those who are united to His death and resurrection in the sacraments, especially the feast that celebrates the work, the offering being completed.

But the Church, since the days of the Enlightenment, since the days where rationalism has become the dominant philosophy, has set it aside.  We have lifted up the sermon higher than the reading of the gospel, nevermind the feast that is our foretaste of the Feast that will come when Christ returns.

We’ve neglected this salvation, of celebrating it, choosing instead to sit on the sidelines, describing it as if we were announcers at a sporting event.   We’ve neglected it, even as we justify celebrating it every other week or once a month, less it loses its meaning?   I even heard a man justify denying people men who would serve the people of God this precious blessing, because once people only were given the Lord’s Supper once every other month,  and they were very glad they got it that often!

If it is shameful and sin when we fail to celebrate this great salvation,  is it any less sin to not tremble with fear when we think of people who do not experience this relationship?  How much more should we tremble when we realize we have put man-made rules in place that prohibit and blocked people from experience Christ’s presence?

My friends, I leave you with this thought from Luther, describing the need of humanity for the Lord’s Supper,

72 If you are heavy-laden and feel your weakness, go joyfully to the sacrament and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength. (1) 

encourage others to go with you, for they have the same need, a need that will be met there in Christ. 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 454). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  Large Catechism: Fifth Part – The Sacrament of the Altar

The Hope and Healing I Need….You Do as Well!


DevotionalDiscussion thought of the day:
15  I am speaking as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I am saying. 16  The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17  Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17 (NAB)

But suppose you say, “What if I feel that I am unfit?” Answer: This also is my temptation, especially inherited from the old order under the pope when we tortured ourselves to become so perfectly pure that God might not find the least blemish in us. Because of this we became so timid that everyone was thrown into consternation, saying, “Alas, I am not worthy!”
56 Then nature and reason begin to contrast our unworthiness with this great and precious blessing, and it appears like a dark lantern in contrast to the bright sun, or as dung in contrast to jewels. Because nature and reason see this, such people refuse to go to the sacrament and wait until they become prepared, until one week passes into another and one half year into yet another.
57 If you choose to fix your eye on how good and pure you are, to work toward the time when nothing will prick your conscience, you will never go.
it continues…
61 People with such misgivings must learn that it is the highest wisdom to realize that this sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness. We are not baptized because we are worthy and holy, nor do we come to confession pure and without sin; on the contrary, we come as poor, miserable men, precisely because we are unworthy. The only exception is the person who desires no grace and absolution and has no intention to amend his life  (1)

The one thing that kept me going this week could be described with words from a sermon illustration of Tony Campolo, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a comin!”   Except for me it was more like “It’s Saturday,Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but Sunday’s a comin!”  It was a seriously rough week for me, not just physically, but spiritually. And my level of depression was significant, as I observed a depth of brokenness of the church, ( rather in the group of churches I am a member of)  I had not seen before, and I could do little about it.

Let me be honest, I had done what I constantly encourage others not to do, what I tell them often to remember.  That God is with you, that He is your refuge, your sanctuary, your peace.  At times I stopped looking forward to Sunday, stopped looking forward to sharing in, participating in the incredible blessing that nourishes us, that reminds us that nothing can separate us from Christ.

He has given us His Body, His precious blood, He has drawn us to the cross, that our dead, dried out bones can find life.  We have entered into a relationship with Him, where He binds Himself to us in the New Covenant. He doesn’t expect us to heal ourselves, nor does He expect us to be serene when we come to the altar, when we fall at  His feet. 

In a way, I suppose seeing the brokenness is a good thing, for it drives me back to the cross.  After this week, I cannot take my own righteousness for granted, nor that of the church.  We must seek the healing that we need, a healing that is found only in the presence of Christ, the one crucified so that our we could join Him in death and rise again with Him (see Romans 6 and Colossians 2)

And so I look forward to that point, 24 hours from now, when I will hear the people I shepherd utter those incredible words, “and also with you”. (for my RCC friends – and with your Spirit) and I will taste and know the goodness of the Lord.

He is our hope, our refuge, our healing, our ever-present help in times of brokenness.

LORD, HAVE MERCY!

 
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 453). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.(from the Large Catechism:Fifth Part: The Sacrament of the Altar)

Wasting Time…


Devotional Thought of the Day.. err Night… well.. you know…
1  As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3  Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4  For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. 5  Have you forgotten the encouraging words which God speaks to you as his children? “My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you, and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you. 6  Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a child.”
Hebrews 12:1-6 (TEV)

522      Even on those days when you seem to be wasting time, in the prose of the thousand details of the day there is more than enough poetry for you to feel that you are on the Cross: on a Cross, which no one notices.  (1)

In more than one way, I feel like I have been wasting time over the last few days.  Nothing has been accomplished, tasks at home and church are going on without completion, and to be honest, the place I am is one of pain, betrayal, incredible frustration and where I am witnessing the brokenness of humanity in ways I’ve never seen before.

It seems like I am wasting time, just waiting to get off a plane and hug my wife and son, and celebrate the Lord’s sacrifice for me, for those I love, including my birth family, my adopted family, my church family, and for all the world.  Sunday can’t come along fast enough, as we celebrate Christ’s sacrifice for us as we take and eat, and take and drink, the Body and Blood of Christ.

In the meantime there is this brokenness, both that I observe (tears, frustrations,) and the feeling like I am wasting time.

Even here, this is not death I am facing, it is not the shedding of blood, it is an incredible lesson in depending on God. It’s about fixing my eyes on Christ, about remembering His sacrifice, about realizing I have been united to that death, so that I can survive this life, even trying times such as these.  I am driven to the cross to avoid the despair, to avoid the discouragement, for there, standing before my Lord, contemplating His love, in awe adoring Him because of His mercy – there I find the poetry, the craftsmanship that leads me in peace. That poetry Josemaria notes is seen in lives that are broken and healing, in lives that likewise only can find peace there.

The poetry, the poiema of God (the word in Eph. 2:10 which guarantees this isn’t wasting time), healing brokenness.  That I can appreciate, in that I can find hope and peace,  comfort and even joy.   At the cross where He Bled – at the cross where we join Him, at the cross where all is made righteous.

Realizing that, many this LCMS convention is not as much wasting time as I think it is….

Still hurtful, still feel like I have been betrayed… yet God… is working – and that is enough for me to find rest in Him.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1980-1982). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Challenge of Being Right


16  I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17  For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”
Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)

When relating these events in his Gospel, Saint Matthew continually emphasizes Joseph’s faithfulness. He kept the commandments of God without wavering, even though the meaning of those commandments was sometimes obscure or their relation to the rest of the divine plan hidden from him. The Fathers of the Church and other spiritual writers frequently emphasize the firmness of Joseph’s faith. Referring to the angel’s command to fly from Herod and take refuge in Egypt,7 Saint John Chrysostom comments: “On hearing this, Joseph was not shocked nor did he say: ‘This is strange. You yourself made it known not long ago that he would save his people, and now you are incapable even of saving him—we have to flee, to set out on a long journey and spend a long while in a strange place; that contradicts your promise.’ Joseph does not think in this way, for he is a man who trusts God. Nor does he ask when he will return, even though the angel left it so vague: ‘Stay there, until I tell you to return.’ Joseph does not object; he obeys and believes and joyfully accepts all the trials.”8 Joseph’s faith does not falter, he obeys quickly and to the letter. To understand this lesson better, we should remember that Joseph’s faith is active, that his docility is not a passive submission to the course of events. For the Christian’s faith has nothing whatever to do with conformity, inertia, or lack of initiative. Joseph entrusted himself unreservedly to the care of God, but he always reflected on events and so was able to reach that level of understanding of the works of God which is true wisdom. In this way he learned little by little that supernatural plans have a logic which at times upsets human plans.

There are days where it is a challenge to live by faith, to live in view of the brutal world where people are butchered, tortured, and enslaved.  There are days where the pain is much closer, a friend struggling with cancer, a son dealing with the death of a parent, the parent dealing with the death of a child. It can even be more of an irritant, an argument among friends, or even a relationship being broken, a relationship between people who should be united, but can’t get past their brokenness.

Some may dismiss these latter things by noting that we are sinners, that we are supposed to be broken, that what we need to do is be confident in our absolution. Surely that is true for sins in our past, but the danger lies in assuming that such a lack of faith is appropriate for tomorrow.  The lesson that some will hear is that we don’t have to be concerned about loving our neighbor, caring for the widow and orphan, and if we fail to because of self-interest or greed or apathy?  Oh well, confess it, and be confident in your forgiveness.

St Josemaria, in talking about Joseph, quotes one of the key verses for Martin Luther. The just shall live by faith!    But what does that mean?  Does it mean that we are simply quickened (as the old Creed says) and are alive because of faith, or does it mean we actually LIVE, day by day, moment by moment, dependent on God, trusting Him for what He has promised, revelling in the joy of His presence, even when life sucks?

That is life by faith, life in Christ, real life, the kind of life that accepts what comes to us, trusting and depending on God. This was ultimately freeing to Luther, not just in absolution, but in living.  For Joseph, Escriva claims it gave him the strength to obey the angelic visitation that occurred in dreams (unlike Mary who encountered the angel face to face.)  He just went, because he trusted God.  He went depending on God, despite the oddities, despite the lack of answers, despite the appearance that God didn’t care.

You want to be right?  Live this way, dependent on God, so dependent that obedience becomes more natural, and that when we fail, we run for forgiveness – in both cases dependent on the promise of God… How does this grow?  Through encountering Christ through His word, through sacraments like the Eucharist, and through prayer and meditation on Christ.

For this is life!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1355-1371). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Possibility of Effective Confrontation?


Devotional Thoguht fo the Day:
1  Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2  Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:1-2 (NLT)

455      You will only be good if you know how to see the good points and the virtues of the others. That is why when you have to correct, you should do so with charity, at the opportune moment, without humiliating… And being ready yourself to learn and to improve in the very faults you are correcting.  (1)

There are times in our lives as believers that we need to correct others.  To call them to repentance, to help them  understand the grace of God with greater clarity.

It isn’t easy, and i think that shows up in the way we go about this divine task.  The first is to come in with condecension and even anger at those who just don’t get it. We become crusaders, giving our opponents a chance to repent or be left as our road kill.  Let’s be blunt, such coercion rarely results in true repentance.

The other option is simply to be apathetic.  To assume there is no option but the former tactic, and to give up trying, leaving the person to suffer without the hope of the gospel. This is not proper either, for the obvious reason, how can we love our neighbor if we are willing to leave them to struggle in sin and in error?

Paul calls us to do such correction with gentleness and humility. And with the concern that we don’t fall into the same trap into which the enemy ensnared our beloved brother and sister. St. Josemaria notes this as well, encouraging us to self-examination and to improve our own lives.

I think the reason for this is that the reason the sin that irritates us, that concerns us maybe in the very same family as the sin we struggle with in our own lives.  Whether it be pride or lust or some form of idolatry, we need to be aware of the grace that delivers us from the power of that sin,  We have to become aware of the grace that covers our sin, that heals us of the damage it does.

As we consider our own need for grace, and the joy of being rescued, as we kneel before the altar and given the most incredible feast, then we are prepared, with humility and the gentleness needed to confront our brother or sister.  And so prepared, we have a chance to see the miracle that happened in our lives, happen in theirs, the blessed gift of repentance and reconciliation.

This indeed is our ministry. This indeed is a gift of God.

Lord Jesus, help us be aware of the mercy you have on us.  AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1743-1746). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

IS This What Christlike Means?


Devotional Thought of the day:
1  Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2  Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.   Philippians 2:1-5 (NLT)

That is what Jesus Christ teaches us. Mankind awaited the coming of the Savior for centuries. The prophets had announced his coming in a thousand ways. Even in the farthest corners of the earth, where a great part of God’s revelation to men was perhaps lost through sin or ignorance, the longing for God, the desire to be redeemed, had been kept alive.

When the fullness of time comes, no philosophical genius, no Plato or Socrates appears to fulfill the mission of redemption. Nor does a powerful conqueror, another Alexander, take over the earth. Instead a child is born in Bethlehem. He it is who is to redeem the world. But before he speaks he loves with deeds. It is no magic formula he , because he knows that the salvation he offers must pass through human hearts. What does he first do? He laughs and cries and sleeps defenseless, as a baby, though he is God incarnate. And he does this so that we may fall in love with him, so that we may learn to take him in our arms.

We realize once again that this is what Christianity is all about. If a Christian does not love with deeds, he has failed as a Christian, besides failing as a person. You cannot think of others as if they were digits, or rungs on a ladder on which you can rise, or a multitude to be harangued or humiliated, praised or despised, according to circumstances. Be mindful of what others are—and first of all those who are at your side: children of God, with all the dignity that marvelous title entails.  (1)

I have been struggling a lot this week.   Serious, soul wrenching struggle.

I originally thought the struggle was with other men, other men who, like me are called to shepherd the people of God.  I thought my struggle was with them because of actions and words that I have seen that divide the church more.  In one scenario, men are in opposition, not directly, but from bunkers of anonymity.  Both claim this is necessary because of a “fear of reprisal”. They actually both use that phrase, but I am not sure who they are afraid of, each other or some mythical third party?

Part of my angst, my struggle is found in wondering if this is Christ-like, or more specifically, if the adversaries think it is Christlike.  Even though I resonate with one side more than the other, I am repelled by the actions and secrecy of both sects. To be honest, there are days I want to utter a Shakespearean curse, “the pox on both your houses”.

Until I realize my angst is with neither group, my struggle is not in their ethical challenge.  My struggle is with my trust in God, the God whom Joseph had faith, telling his brother that what they meant evil, God used for good.  Or the promises of Paul that all things work for good for those who love God, and nothing can separate us from His love.

As I enter the arena of the discussion between these two sects, it must be with an attitude that Paul describes in the red above. Imitating Christ by being on one mind striving for that in love.  it is too easy to harangue and argue, to be dismissive and even paranoid.  It takes great faith to work for the reconciliation that Christ wants to see in the life of HIs people. If we see that we are reconciled to Him, then er can realize, and only then can we realize, we are brothers and sisters, the family that God loves,

Lord have mercy upon us, and may we love and pray for each other,

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1227-1239). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Ministry is About Enabling All to See and Hear


Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4  Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. 5  Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!”  Isaiah 40:3-5 (NLT)

397      Don’t place obstacles in the way of grace. You need to be convinced that to be leaven you must become a saint, and must struggle to identify yourself with Him. (1)

Some may recognize the passage from Isaiah 40 quoted above as being fulfilled in John the Baptist. For he was the first to cry out that Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior was near, that the glory of His cross would soon be revealed to everyone.

John’s call for repentance leveled the playing field, for no man could stand higher than another, and when Christ was lifted up, all could see him.  No longer would wee little men need to climb trees to see Jesus.  All would be drawn to Him; all would be able to know the hope of salvation.

The problem is that we forget that we share in this ministry of making Christ accessible. The problem is that many of the obstacles, the hindrances, the mountains and canyons are ones we built.  Perhaps not intentionally, perhaps to give us a better view, but they still block the view, they still delay people who are bring drawn to the cross.

We have to stop treating ministry as if people are to serve it, rather than it serve the people.  It is wrong to make the one being drawn to Christ detour for miles or weeks or years to get around the trenches we dig, the barriers we put up to keep things safe and neat. We need a call to repentance, especially among those who are to shepherd the church, or who serve the church as the priesthood of all believers.

We need to hear these words, Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all the people will see it together, and recognize that in these words our commission is clear.

They need to see.

We cannot continue to get in the way, but rather, we are called to help them respond to Christ drawing all of us to Himself, to hear the answer to our prayer,

Lord, have mercy upon us, sinners,

 

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1548-1549). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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