Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Thing that Matters….


The Thing that Matters

Luke 10:17-20

† In Jesus Name †

 

May you rejoice in the grace, that incredible love and mercy that God our Father pours out on your, whose names are engraved in heaven.

The Meaningless Touchdown

 

It was late in the fourth quarter, when the young running back finally got his opportunity to get in the game.  He listened to the  quarterback call the play, and with great excitement, he took his place in the backfield, looking down the long field to the goalposts in the distance.
The quarterback took the snap, turned and slammed home the ball into his stomach.  He ran ahead, and noticed a hole, ducked through it and took off, eyes still on the goal posts as they seemed to rush toward him, more than he was running toward them.   His dad he thought, would be so proud!  Maybe now that girl he had a crush on would notice him, and weren’t there scouts at the game tonight!  He would score his first touchdown in front of them all.

Which he did, just as he heard the final gun sound…

He fell to his knees, the tears of joy, the emotions overwhelming him.

After a moment he wondered where the cheers were, where his teammates were, why weren’t they pounding him on the back?  Why was the team heading off the field, and the few people left in the stands leaving?

He looked at the scoreboard, 63-3, and then he realized, the quarterback had told him to simply take the ball and fall safely to the ground…the game had long been decided.

 

I think the way he felt, is the way the 72 disciples may have felt, having come back from their mission trip, as they needed to be refocused on “the thing that matters.”
As we look at this day, as a man is put into office to serve God and the church, as we look at the battles we have faced over the years, both the incredible victories, and what we thought were defeats, yet were revealed to be victories, we need to grasp this very thing…

our names are written in heaven!

and that is what matters!  That’s what we can really rejoice about!  Our names – engraved in heaven!

Why we are excited… God working, through us?

There are days when I think about what goes on in this place, that I can understand the joy that the disciples felt that day when they returned.

To think that babies and adults have come to this spot, and their eternities changed as God cleanses them from every sin they have or ever will commit.  Literally millions, if not tens and hundreds of million sins washed away in this very spot. And here, at this rail, the comfort and peace of Christ’s body and blood given for us to eat – the greatest of celebrations, and the lives touched as God’s love for us sinners has been revealed to people from here…all of the prayers answered here as God heals our hearts and minds, and sometimes our bodies, this is incredible!  Imagine if these walls continued to echo the praises that were sounded here over the years!

No wonder we come to treasure our church buildings, they are places that over and over we have seen miracles that go beyond our comprehension.  It’s not that the building is special, but it is the place where God has put His name, and given us hope and forgiveness.

God works through us all, and it is amazing when we see that work happen.  It is mind-blowing that He would take us, and change people’s lives here.


What’s been invested in us – isn’t minor stuff

         

This is not to say the work that God accomplishes through us isn’t incredible, nor that how we see people freed from that which oppresses them isn’t worthy of praise.  The list in these three verses is incredible. Consider these things.

First, we have the ability to free people from what oppresses them – to pronounce them forgiven and cleansed  – even from demonic forces that would oppose them.

In a similar way, we have the power to tread over serpents and scorpions – although in the context the term snake could refer to those men who are evil and whose work is that of the snake in the garden, to cheat people out of their relationship with God by deceit.  I thought that made sense – but scorpions?  In the Revelation, those who would spiritually oppose and torment humanity are described as locusts and scorpions,  Even so, such powers and opposition cannot stop the people of God, as they are appointed and set out to bring God’s message of love and mercy,
Not only are the minions, the low level plans of Satan frustrated but look at verse 19, “all the power of the enemy!”   Our enemy being all of the powers and principalities of darkness, the very power of satan had to yield to these 72 disciples, and there was nothing that could be done about it.

What they learned, Paul described so clearly in Romans 8

 

8:37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39 (NLT)


Which is what Paul ends verse 19 with, our translation says “nothing shall hurt you,” but the Greek goes even further in demonstrating God’s provision – “nothing against you unrighteous (or unjust). Satan cannot come against us and persecute us, or accuse us of being unrighteous, nothing can take us our of the hands of God.  Our defense is sure, Christ will keep our hearts and minds in peace, for that is why He died.

But it is incomparable.

 

Even as that seems so incredible, that even the demons and Satan are subject to us because we are in Christ, that isn’t the thing we should rejoice in the most.  It doesn’t matter how powerful our ministry, is, whether it reaches here or around the world, whether we have a nice building or the cathedral on the corner. Whether we baptize 50 or 10,000 – though these things would be mind blowing and incredible.

These things – this power invested in us, that is demonstrated as people are freed from bondage, freed from the guilt and shame of sin, are the like the touchdown at the end of a blowout.  Nice, and kinda cool – but nothing in view of the main victory, the incredible truth that we are God’s people, that we are in fellowship with Him.

I love how 1 Corinthians 2 describes what we should rejoice in,

What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him;
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NJB)


What does it mean that our names are engraved in heaven?  Think about it as on your home, on the mailbox there is a sign with your name on it.  It’s where you belong, it is where the God who loves you has made your home, with Him.  It is the life, promised long ago, that His people would never be forgotten, that the people of God would never be without hope – for their names are engraved and kept in a very special place.

49:15 Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you. 16 Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your ramparts are ever before me.
Isaiah 49:15-16 (NJB)

On the hands that bore the marks as they were pierced, as the body of Christ was pinned to a cross, our lives were carried with Him, forever united there as He cleansed us, as He bore our sin, and our shame and everything that oppressed us, that we might be home with the Father, forever.

That is what we rejoice in, that is why we share this message with the entire world! The message that is proclaimed in the Bellflower, and Cerritos, and even in Norman and Lincoln – for it is in what the message contains that is what we rejoice in!

It is why Chuck and Jim were installed as elders today in Cerritos, and Mark is installed as the Vicar of Our Savior.

The work he will do at your side, the work we all do together as the people of God is incredible, for it is God working in and through us…proving to us what matters, a place to call home

In Christ, we belong with the Father, living in His love and that is why we rejoice!  AMEN?

Angels and Spiritual Warfare…it is not what we think!


Devotional thought of the day to be discussed.

This week in liturgical churches, we celebrate the Feast of St Michael and all Archangels.  (Yes even in Lutheran Churches – check your pericope!)

Now, with the obvious disclaimer that we do not worship these beings, we can and do interact with them.  Jesus talks about children having such angels in heaven, and we see one in action in the life of the prophet Daniel, and in the life of Moses. One such discussion is noted in the Epistle of Jude:

1:8 In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings. 9 But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) Jude 1:8-9 (NLT)     

Herein lies a great challenge for us, for whether it be spiritual battle, or dealing with those that antagonize or berate us, we want to strike back accordingly.  We want to take justice into our own very creative hands, and trash those who hurt us, or more often, hurt others.  In doing so, we engage our own falseness, we do so in our weakness, we do so in a way, that is sure to find us defeated, demoralized, bitter, broken.   Or we come back that way, but disguised with a sense of triumphant joy.  “We showed them”, “we pounded them into the ground”, “Got’em!” we cry, and we fail to see that both they and we are bleeding from the fight.  There is no winner, just more division, more pain, and another battle to fight another day.

Michael the Archangel fought Lucifer in a different manner.  He didn’t go head to head – could he have?  Perhaps, but we will find that angels primary vocation is not to do battle.  We love to picture them, either as weak cherubs at valentines day – piercing hearts with arrows to cause love. (Interesting thought there -change the love from erotic to agape – that’s how the Holy Spirit works) or a valiant towering warriors with swords laced with purifying fire.  But scripture primarily talks of them in two ways.  One – bringing a message to God’s people.  Secondly, and this is really their place – before the throne of God. leading the hosts of heaven, with the 24 elders, adoringly declaring the praise of God.

So Michael, who like us was designed not for battle, but for worship and fellowship, keeps it simple.  “The Lord correct you!”   and the battle is over.

When we put justice into His hands.. the outcome of spiritual battles is assured.  Christ’s power simply overwhelms Satan’s, because Christ’s power is life, not death.  It is reconciliation of God’s people with God and each other, not division.   FOr someone used to living in the presence of God, the battle is simply a matter of turning it over to our Lord, who died on the cross, that no other need die, that no other need be broken.  It is when we realize this, that gathering together becomes more than a country club like gathering .

But to get to that place, means we have to let Christ deal with our own “demons”.  To break the power of sin and satan over us, for believers, to realize that is what happens in the sacraments, in baptism, as we feast, as we confess and are absolved.  Josemarie Escriva wrote well,

“You, who see yourself so badly lacking in virtues, in talents, in abilities… Do you not feel the desire to cry out like the blind Bartimaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”? What a beautiful aspiration for you to say very often, “Lord, have pity on me!” He will hear you and come to your aid.”   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 882-886). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

If we need to deal with our own pain which oppresses us, if our “personal demons” (which usually aren’t demons in the way we picture them) need to be dealt with, the cry of Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, will see those “demons” rebuked and their hold broken, and our souls and heart and minds and bodies – freed to worship.  It is a prayer that God always answers, for the promise and fulfillment of the prayer is what the cross is always about.

So Lord, have mercy on us, rebuke that which oppresses us, help us live as Your body, your people.  AMEN

Amazing Love… How can it be…


Thought of the Day:

“What have I done to you, Jesus, that you should love me so? I have offended you… and loved you. Loving you: this is what my life is going to be all about.” (1)

A few days ago, I wrote about the nature of sin, not just individual sin, but the kind of environment in which sin is not just temptation, but seems the only option.  Most of this boils down to a lack of trust. Not just a lack of trust in each other, but a lack of trust in God.  For if we trust in Him, then indeed, we can risk to trust in others, knowing that even if that trust is betrayed, that God can use what was meant for evil, for good.

That has been the modus operandi of God since the garden, what has been meant for evil becomes that which works for good. The greatest example of this of course, is the cross, where we put to death God, where we brutally killed Him… yet, we didn’t, He chose to embrace death, that He could embrace us, that He could love us.

We have been taught this, but do we know it?  Do we grasp this amazing love?  This magnificent mercy, this overwhelming grace?

Do we live in the peace that passes all comprehension, in which we are kept, guarded, in which our hearts and minds are protected in Christ Jesus?

if we struggle with that – may we think thoughts like this:

“In the sacrament Confession and Absilution, (2) Jesus forgives us. Christ’s merits are applied to us there. It is for love of us that he is on the Cross with his arms stretched out, fastened to the wood more by the Love he has for us than by the nails.”  (3)

Lord, have mercy, and help us to comprehend the power of that mercy and share it with those who need it as much as us.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 898-900). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2)  Original said “Sacrament of Presence” – edited for the understanding
(3)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 863-866). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Living Beyond Your Potential


Discussion/Devotion Quote of the Day…

4:13 Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.
Philippians 4:13 (MSG)
Some people do only what lies within the capacity of poor human creatures to accomplish, and consequently waste their time. What Peter experienced is repeated once more, word for word: Praeceptor, per totam noctem laborantes nihil cepimus.—Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing. If they work on their own, without being united with the Church, not reckoning with the Church, what possible effectiveness could their apostolate have? None at all! They need to be convinced that on their own they can achieve nothing. You should help them to go on listening to the rest of that Gospel story: in verbo autem tuo laxabo rete—at your word I will let down the net. It is then that the catch will be plentiful and effective. How beautiful it is to mend our ways when we find we have, for whatever reason, done apostolate (our being light in theon our own account!  (1)

We live in a day and in a place where people regularly live beyond our means.  We have loans for our homes, for our transportation, what we once used for emergencies, our credit cards, are now maxed out – and we find ourselves facing more and more stress and anxiety, because we try to do what we want without the resources necessary to do so.

Likewise, we often try to do the same thing spiritually, that we do economically. (It should be noted as the church, and as individuals, there is no difference)  Except of course we start in absolute bankruptcy.  As long as we continue to try to survive on our own, we cannot.  Yet we try.  We are like the story reference in the quote above.  We find our nets empty, we find ourselves spinning our wheels. Day in and day out we wonder, will what I do today make any difference. Will today improve, will it get better.
There are days where I contemplate my brokenness, the brokenness of the Church, and I wonder – can it ever change?  Can we live up to our “potential”, to our calling?

Are we so tired, so burdened, so in prison to our anxiety that we forget our master is in the boat?  We hear him teach, we watch Him working in the lives of others, but do we bother Him to help us with our burdens?  Do we realize He has already told us how to let down the nets?

I do not believe the “nets” are what most evangelicals think it is.  It is not the right missional program, it is not finding the correct model for small groups, or niche marketing our congregation.  Any more that it is in finding the right “self-help” book, or the right “coach”, or the right church. As long as we look at it from what we can do, we are binding ourselves to our own self-centered tendencies, and we are relying on our own weaknesses.  We forget who is travelling in our boat, and doing that is making the choice to continue to be broken, bankrupt, oppressed.

I would suggest that the net is that which comes from the depth of being in God’s presence, in listening to Him as the people of God. It is realizing that our potential is not ours – the potential of Church, where we can go – was already designed and that which is necessary invested by the Father, by giving us Jesus, by sending us the Holy Spirit.  The more we listen to Him, the more we fellowship with Him, the more we live with Him,

Remember, Jesus knew the night was rough, He knew they had caught nothing, He knew their labor was in vain.  Similarly, He knows our lives are very rough, He knows the struggles we have, and the struggles we have with our lives seeming meaningless and vain.  He also knows the nets that you need to let down – working with Him

And the meaning and abundance of life – that is promised and assured… and is more than we can ever believe possible.. in ways we cannot ever expect.  Far beyond and far different than what you think is your potential.   For it isn’t yours, but His…

Do I need to say “I’m Sorry?” No, however…


Quote of the Day:
I agree. You acted badly, out of weakness. But what I fail to understand is how, with a clear conscience, you have not repented. You cannot do something wrong and then say, or think, that it is something holy, or that it is of no importance.

One of the challenges, in talking so much about God cleansing us of our sin, is that we somehow believe the sin isn’t a big deal.  It is so easy to deal with, so easy to know God has forgiven us, do we grieve our sin anymore?

Do we grieve over the sin committed against us?  Not grieving that it was committed against us, but grieving that the environment that we are part of, that results in people being compelled to sin?  For sin isn’t just the sin of the person who did the act, but it is in part due to our being people who sin.  How can I find the person who betrayed me  by lying to me any more sinful than I am, as part of the issue is that my sin prevents them easily finding me trustworthy.  Do we grieve these kinds of environments that lead people to sin through a sense of self-preservation?

For that matter, do we see sin as an individual issue, or that of the community?  ( I will make the case in a later blog – that sin is always a communal issue in cause, and in need for healing)

Back to the quote by St. Josemarie, do we repent of our sin?  Do we even bother to take the time to say “we are sorry”, or do we just dismiss the damage, ignore the pain, hide from bringing the issue to be healed, reconciled, the relationship restored.  What happens if we don’t seek the transformation that is what we are called repentance. What if we don’t seek healing?  What if we do the unthinkable, and begin to justify what we did, in hope our conscious would be relieved?

Why take such a complex way of dealing with it?  Why embrace pain unnecessarily?  Why set ourselves us, because we’ve been correctly found untrustworthy, to be sinned against, to be sinned against?  Though life is pain (see my other blog today) we don’t need to cause ourselves more pain, either directly or indirectly.

Why not see what scripture calls is gifted and granted to us. For repentance requires more than we are capable of in the first place.  It’s not just saying, “I’m sorry”, for how many of us struggle to accept those words over and over and over.  Repentance is much deeper. It is a very change of how we think, what we say, what we do.

I love the word picture in Greek – literally to have a brain transplant.  Or as my geek friends would say – a completely new OS (operating system)  That changes everything – and causes us, requires us, calls us to depend on God ever more deeply. We cannot repent unless that ability is granted to us, unless it is a gift.  So the apostles recognized,

11:16 Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” 18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”
Acts 11:16-18 (NLT)
We have been given this gift, this ability to have our minds transformed, replaced, so greatly they have been cleansed that we are considered new, changed, alive instead of death.  It is then, that we are realize how damaging our sin was, and that it grieves us – not just our sin, not just that we’ve been sinned against, but that we live in an environment that so encourages sin.

The more we grieve, the more we learn to run to the only place we have hope – the One who cleanses us, the One who heals us (note the plural here) the One who welcomes sinners, not saints, that He can give us the gift that makes us saints in His Father, our Father’s eyes.

Lord, have mercy upon us… and help us to rejoice as we are healed together… of the sin which has ensnared us.

The Blessing of Pain?


A favored quote from the Princess Bride:

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

There is a lot of pain in the world, even as there is a lot of beauty in the world.  There is no way to doubt that, and we can only deny it so long.  Occasionally, we get a glimpse of something that is both, tied in a paradox that can be enjoyed and suffered through.

But let’s be honest – most pain sucks!

Rarely, do we see the beauty in pain, the glory of God revealed in trauma.  It is very difficult, for the pain grabs our focus. It dominates us, it pushes us down, and yes it causes us to doubt.  To doubt those around us, to doubt ourselves, to doubt God.

Yeah – it’s time to stop playing games – because of the levels of pain, it causes us to doubt God.

Even pastors, perhaps especially pastors.

Even apostles – hear how God had Paul reveal that in his own life.

4:7 Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. 8 We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; 9 there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 10 At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies. 11 Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus’ sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours. 12 This means that death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (TEV) 

 

While I know I exaggerate the pain I have to endure, these words of Paul so incredibly describe some days I have.  It can be my pain, but often it’s the pain that people I walk alongside develop.  The pain endured by people struggling with the loss of a spouse, or losing a parent.  The people who are dealing with job sresses, or dysfunctional family members and dysfunctional families. The pain due to lack of trust, the pain of betrayal, the pain of opposition as we try to bless those opposed to us.

As we are troubled, as we doubt, as we deal with enemies, as we are “badly hurt”, how can we say this can be what this same Paul promises (speaking for God) that “all things work for good, for those who love God?”

The ability to endure such times, is to know the difference comes from seeing, knowing the relationship we have with the God.  TO begin to grasp the life that is united with Christ’s cross, which happened to us in baptism (see Romans 6:1-8)
Knowing that we endure in Christ (scripture talks about us as being hidden in Christ as well) we begin to look to Him in the midst of trauma, in the midst of pain.  We find His presence, and we find it very dear – even when we can’t see the fulfillment of the prophecies, when we can’t find the joy in the journey.

But we begin to trust, even in the midst our doubt – ever more and more, His presence. We realize our pain can cause us to run to God, as we look to Him for some hope, some sense of peace… and that is when the miracle occurs…. Like the disciples in the boat, we realize the Lord is with us… and the storms don’t die down, the pain doesn’t always diminish.   But God’s presence becomes the dominant part of our life, not the pain… we begin to find ourselves ministering to others when they observe the pain..we find our spiritual senses more attuned, and eventually trying to praise God ….for in the midst of lament, we find some of the most honest, most dependent worship there is….

And that is when pain….becomes a blessing.

When we realize HE IS HERE… when we realize the Holy Spirit is called the “comforter”, the One who comes alongside, for a reason…

HE IS HERE!

And that is more than enough…. even though we can never explain how….

Built up in love!


Built Up in Love
Eph 4:7-16

† In His Name †

 As the waves of this life, and the strong winds that would steal from you the hope given you by Jesus, may you realize the grasp of God on your life, as He surrounds you with His love and mercy, and may you rest and rejoice in His peace!

The Tossed Church

This week, a scrap of parchment, no bigger than a business card, was supposed to have enormous impact on Christianity.  It was supposed to revolutionize everything, and it was soon nicknamed in the press – the “gospel of Jesus wife”.

All the major papers and news stations picked up on the story, as a lady Ph.D. showed the 4th century Coptic manuscript, which she claimed was a translation of a second century Greek manuscript.  She “translated” the passage, then interpreted the words as meaning that Mary Magdalene was Jesus wife.  The articles then extrapolated that since the 4 true gospels never mentioned Jesus having a wife, that they were unreliable, and this business card size peace of parchment was the true gospel.  One reporter said, that even if it wasn’t authentic, it should cause us to re-examine (i.e. doubt) what scripture tells us about Jesus.

Nice.

Do you remember the Ossuary’s of James, those white marble boxes where Jesus’ bones were supposed to be? What about The Gospel of Judas Iscariot? This wasn’t the first time in the last decade that someone promised their revelation would drastically change our faith, and I seriously doubt it will be the last attempt to discredit the claims of Jesus.

For each one of these lies, for each one of these hoaxes, there are people who hear them, and as Paul describes – are carried about like a feather floating in the wind,  or like someone caught in the winds and riptides at the beach.  Some of us buy into the “experts” analysis, some of us get caught up in the hype and have to try and prove their theory wrong, with so little to work with, and both gradually lose focus on the why God created the church, the Body of Christ.  They are blown about, tossed about, and distracted from why the church exists… what its purpose is…

What is the church’s purpose – What is our goal?        

That question, “What is the church’s purpose?” is on our second reading focuses us upon this morning. The purpose doesn’t change by location, it doesn’t change by the name on the sign, or how the pastor dresses, or even what kind of music and liturgy is used. The purpose of the church, both a congregation and the church throughout the world is simple.

The purpose of the church is the title of the sermon – “to build itself up in love,” which means that it is “to build itself up in Christ”.

Let me read verse 12 and 13 from a different translation:

4:12 …(Christ gave the office of holy ministry)  to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:12-13 (NLT)

Three times it describes this “building up in love” as our purpose, our goal.

It’s why the people of God are equipped to serve, to do the work of God.

It is what is described if all come to such unity as we trust and know Jesus

It is what it means to mature in the Lord, to measure up to His completeness, to meet the Father’s expectation of His children.

For when we are described as such, we are living in complete accord with the two basic commandments, to love our Father in heaven with everything we are, and to love His children, our neighbors, even as we love ourselves.

Not an easy task, and yet it is why God has given the church those who would proclaim the gospel – apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastor-teachers.   Not to do the work building each other up, but rather to equip the church to do that work in their daily lives. My friends we have a lot of work to do, both in the equipping, and in the actual work, what is called the poeima Theo in Greek, the Gottesdienst in German, the Opus Dei In Latin.  Or to use the words of Paul two chapters prior to our reading today,

2:10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.  Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

That’s what it means to live in Christ – that each of us works in the same vocation as Jesus, working to see every person mature in Christ.  That’s what I call “job security”.

 How do we measure it?

 In business, when you have a task – there are things called benchmarks.  Ways you can measure both progress and effectiveness of the work being done.  It’s not a pass/fail thing for us, but there is a benchmark for our growth as believers.

It is our unity, how we truly work together, how we see ourselves so joined together in Christ,  To understand that we are so united in Christ, that we can together stand, even thru the challenges in life.

That is why Paul encourages us to not be subject to the schemes and manipulations that would distract us from Christ, but rather to “speak the truth in love”.  To speak in such a way requires tremendous faith in God, and tremendous love for those to whom we are speaking. 

In talking about the truth spoken in love, the Greek word pictures not just our words, but all of our communication being focus and communicated through love, as it is translated in 1 John 3:18,  “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”   It isn’t talking just about speaking truth in love as we confront each other either, it isn’t about what some have called “tough love” in the past.  Were we talk about our needs as well as helping others reveal their need.  Speaking the truth in love means sharing the difficult burdens and tasks, and identifying how we need to grow, together.  It’s talking about a life lived transparently, and know that we can expect care and compassion and that God will use every situation, every pain, every challenge that have, or that we bring to others.

It’s the kind of love Jesus showed, as He willingly forgave others, as He shared His life on the cross, and the night before in, through and under the bread and wine.  As he sought to bring healing more than He sought His own pleasure.

So can we live lives like that, can we trust in God deep enough?

We are equipped, built up, given hope

The answer is no.. and yes.

No if we try to love each other that completely on our own.  No if we protect ourselves from pain, and hold back.  No if we are waiting for others to make the first step.  There will be times were we are betrayed, hurt, and the challenge is not to become to defensive, to accept the challenge and even the pain, knowing the strength the enables Jesus to love in such a way, and endure the cross.

Remember, this passage started out by listing the various roles within what we call the Office of Holy Ministry, or the “Pastoral office” and that they were given to equip you all to do this work, to fulfill this commission.

Each of those aspects of the office of ministry exist to train the Body of Christ to build itself up in love – to do the incredible work of God of living a life that is true and loving and merciful, where we do that which God has always desired,

6:8 …the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.   Micah 6:8 (NLT)

The way it is done is described in those four offices, which we’ll talk more about in Sunday School.  Yet how is relatively simple – we speak the greatest truth in love, when we reveal our need for Christ to heal us of our sin, and reveal the promise of that healing as well.

Another way the way the church is equipped is described in our confessions – the teaching and administering the sacraments, being in a sense, the conduit of grace that is poured out upon the church.   Pipes aren’t special – what they carry is – and that is the basic role of pastor-teachers – to pour out on you grace as we preach and teach, and to feed you the nourishment needed to have the strength to love, to be the people of God, entrusted with building up each other in love.

And there, as we live in His love, we find His strength, His wisdom, in His presence we find that which allows us to heal, and be knit together, to see that happen, as we live in peace.

The peace of God which passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  And may you always know, and be reminded, that that peace is yours. 

Is your church a hot dog stand or a supermarket? or…


Devotional thought very appropriate considering today’s sermon.

Yesterday, a pastor-acquaintance and I were discussing the above question – he asked it – without the “or”.  And since I dislike being caught between two choices, I came up with a third option.  🙂

I decided, that if we are talking spiritually, I would not choose the stand or the supermarket…well – here are parts of the discussion:

Me:  How about a inner city mission’s foodbank?

Pr. J –  I was talking spiritually and metaphorically, but wonderful, brother! 🙂

Me   – Actually, I was as well…

None of us can afford the hot-dog, never mind the caviar and fine wines..  All of us get nervous and shuffle – ashamed of our need as we approach the table of mercy… And we are all served what we need to live..

Pr J   –  All right, how about in terms of outreach and mission: are you serving a limited selection to a select crowd, or drawing on a wide variety of resources to serve a variety of needs? “You” in the plural sense, of course. 🙂

Me:   Again, if I can use the mission analogy….

We are in the business of serving only one thing – the Body and Blood of Jesus, broken and shed for the forgiveness of sin.   Some are served as they are broken and homeless, desperately hungry and yet so in despair and trapped by shame… Some are served by Christ as He shares His ministry with them, allowing them to serve His body to the people, like them who are broken… and even as we serve… we are fed..as His mercy and the joy of knowing it is passed through us to others. Somehow. miraculously perhaps – we are fed and sustained not as we eat – but as we serve…

There may be different place settings, small missions and large ones, some may have old records playing while others have bands, some may have a nurse or doctor there as well, some education for the kids… but the meal is really what matters…

And it always sustains…
__________________

Now, this was an on the fly, not thought out discussion.  But I like it – and it works well with the book I am writing, and how God brings us together in a feast we are all afraid to participate in.  We are the beggers, the homeless, the ones who feel awkward in the room… then as we realize how the host has made us welcome, we welcome others.

that’s the church, whether the mega church, or the micro, contemporary or traditional (whatever those mean) or contradorary…

It is, as a prof once said – the feast that God gathers His people to, as He has for 2000 years…

So come – join the feast!

Showing Mercy, the Art of Dying to Self


6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 (NKJV) 

“You must never treat anyone unmercifully. If you think someone is not worthy of your mercy, you should realise that neither do you deserve anything. You don’t deserve to have been created, or to be a Christian, or to be a son of God, or to have the family you have… “  (1)
When I read this, my mind started to inventory the people I tend to struggle treating with mercy.   The obvious are those that are adversarial, those relationships that are strained because of the their sin, and mine.  Some of them may not even know me – but what they do and say affects me, or more often, the people I serve and help train to minister to others.  Even as I think of them, I tend to squirm a bit.

Then there are the people who are pretty much strangers, the person at the market who races to get a head of me.  (Have to admit – I sometimes take a teeny bit of joy when they turn around in triumph and see my clerical collar!) Or the neighbor who I do not bother to engage in conversation.  How can I show them mercy?   There is always a way…we just have to take the time to think about it…

And then there is the person whom I choose to ignore.  They may be that irritating person, or that immature one – better just to ignore them, and all if you don’t have anything good to say…say and do nothing.  What about, the homeless guy with the sign (and we all know what he is really asking for the money for..right? uhm no )People that we do not show mercy, because we don’t even recognize they exist.  As I thought of them – my “old adam” was crushed a little more, as the guilt just amped up.

The funny thing is, if I am to show mercy, the way to find the power, the ummphh, the ability to do it, doesn’t come from self discipline and mastery under my own strength.  It comes as I realize how incredible the mercy shown to me has been.  The difference it makes – and the basic fact is – I don’t deserve, even as I sometimes think those around me aren’t worthy of it, either.  We aren’t in some ways, and never will be.  The only way that matters though, says we are, because we are His children. called into that relationship together, not as individuals, but as His family.

Which means we have to die to self, to pride, in order to find that which enables us to fulfill God’s reason, His logos. We have to see our sin and its passion crucified.  In order to show mercy, we have to die to self, and our own sin.  It is the only way, and it is not an easy road…. our incredible ability for self-defense and self preservation will try to stop us.  Even so, for us to see this happen in necessary. We must see the old Adam – our sinful nature – put to death, that Christ may live in us, and show mercy.

Or perhaps, we just need to remember what happened when God marked us as His in baptism:

6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
Romans 6:5-8 (ESV) 

5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   Galatians 5:22-24 (ESV) 

The Lord has shown you mercy… remember that, as you grow in your desire to show God mercy…

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 707-709). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Does anybody see or hear the lost and broken walking among us?


With brokenness all around us, those who are finding healing (note I didn’t say were completely healed) often are the ones who have incredible desire and compassion to find those hurting like they were…

Such is the nature of evangelism…

Does anybody see or hear the lost and broken walking among us?.

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