Monthly Archives: June 2013

Jesus rebuked “them” – but not those we think…


Illustration of Dante's Inferno, Canto 8

Illustration of Dante’s Inferno, Canto 8 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He Rebuked “them?”

Luke 9:51-62

Jesus, Son, Savior

 

May the grace, that love and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you, and help conform your will to His, as you walk with Him through this life.

 

The Invitation: Come Walk With Me

I asked some friends this week this question, 


“What would your excuse be, if Jesus showed up today and said, Come – follow me! ?”

Eleven of them basically denied that they would have an excuse, with comments that they were ready to go, that nothing would stand in the way, that they were ready.

I guess that they have more the attitude of James and John and Simon and Andrew – who simply let their dad’s and co-workers clean up the mess.  Or like Matthew, who left his collection desk with the Roman version of the IRS and went with Jesus.

How many of us are ready, or more importantly, willing, to answer God’s call that way?  How many are ready to suffer discomfort, or leave things undone, even not taking the time to get things in order with our family?

I have no doubt about our desire to follow God, to walk with Jesus, to learn of Him, to be mentored by the Holy Spirit.

What we need to consider is where that desire, that devotion is limited, and turn that over to God, that we may find the limitation fade, and our devotion of God grow, and the desire grow to where we can really understand that to walk with Him is the only way to live.

The Challenge:  Raining Down Fire!

Four times in this passage, Jesus confronts attitudes that would make walking with Jesus a process we control, that we are in charge of, where we decide when and where to follow Jesus.  Three are simply seen, as Jesus questions and rebukes those who would not follow Him because it is uncomfortable, or because we might lose family over it, or because we don’t have all our lives in order.  Jesus challenges each one of those pretty intensely, but I want to focus on the fourth issue, the one we don’t see right away.

The attitude demonstrated by the two brothers, James and John. The attitude for which Jesus sharply rebuked them.

All they wanted to do was rain down fire and have it consume those they thought were the enemies of Jesus.  I mean these Samaritans rejected the Messiah – don’t they deserve death and hell? Isn’t that how it works?

I mean, it is not like John and James wanted to condemn them for being mean, or having a different political view or falling asleep during the sermon, or daring them to do something they should not do.  It wasn’t just a selfish desire to judge and condemn.

These people rejected Jesus, they chose to refuse the Kingdom of God, they deserve it!

In making that judgment, even as they walk with Jesus, even as they follow Him, they prove that they really aren’t following Him.  They might be travelling with Him, but following is something entirely different.

Following Jesus isn’t about the miles they walked, anymore than it is the miles we walk.  It’s about traveling with Him through life, and allowing Him to guide us, support us, train us.  It’s about hearing His voice, and understanding the way of life and where it is He is taking us.

The irony is that these very people they are wanting to toast to a crisp are the very people Jesus will send them to, once He has died, and risen and ascended.  For they will once again witness to them, as Jesus will direct them just before He ascends.

8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.Acts 1:8 (NLT)
The reason Jesus rebukes them?  The reason Jesus would still rebuke us when we too want to call down fire and judgment on someone?  Because following Jesus means we will come back to them, and minister to them and proclaim God’s love, because He came to set them free.  Because that is that is why He is going through Jerusalem to get to where He is going… that we and they can go with Him.

The Observation… The Destination is Different

 

When I think of this passage – which is just after the transfiguration, I think of Jesus setting out for Jerusalem where he will be crucified.  It would make sense then, that when He is inviting them to follow Him, He is talking about the cross – about the sacrifice that we can be forgiven of our sins.

The passage in St. Luke’s gospel says it a bit differently.

51 As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

 

Note that the focus isn’t the crucifixion, it is the ascension.  The cross isn’t born by Jesus without a view of the Father’s promises, without the knowledge that because He bore it, we would “follow Him” and eventually he would return to us.

Hebrews 12 tells us that it is with this joy that He endured the cross – that he is both the genesis/beginning and the completion of our trust in God the Father.

John’s gospel tells us that even as Jesus prophesied His ascension, He told us that not only that he would return, but that the reason He was going was to prepare a place for us.

That’s the goal that Jesus has in mind as He rebukes the brothers, as He tells them that they shouldn’t even think about such a request – because it is so completely against the Father’s will.  Revenge and wrath aren’t the goal, punishing evildoers isn’t God’s will either, for He punished Jesus rather than us for our sin. 
It is God’s desire that those Samaritans out there, those who rejected His presence, would begin to value it, to welcome it, to desire it.

The same thing goes for those who would offend God today and all lesser offenses as well.  Despite their sin, despite their rejection, God hasn’t given up on reaching them, any more than He has given up on us!

What it means to follow Jesus, to walk with Him, to let Him be our Master, our Lord is that we realize His desire is to commune with His people.  His Father’s will that none should perish, for He greatly desires to be our God, and us to be His people!  As we walk with Him, more and more we realize His love for us,  That love, that mercy changes us, assures us, reminds us that the destination is more than just the cross or the resurrection, but it is our being with God.
That’s what this is all about, that is where we find life. As we walk with Him, our will is conformed to His will, even as our sinfulness is erased and we are see with His righteousness.   That means we see the “Samaritans” in our life differently.  It means we continue to pray and love those who don’t know God, desiring that as He does, they will hear and come and walk with Him as well.

That they will know His peace, a peace that passes all understanding – the peace of God that comes as we walk with Christ, as He keeps our hearts and minds secure in that peace.

Being in Ministry: a Profession or a Vocational Life? (Review of Evangelical Catholic pt. XV)


William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The F...

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1880) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day: 

5  I left you in Crete, so that you could put in order the things that still needed doing and appoint church elders in every town. Remember my instructions: 6  an elder must be without fault; he must have only one wife, and his children must be believers and not have the reputation of being wild or disobedient. 7  For since a church leader is in charge of God’s work, he should be without fault. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered, or a drunkard or violent or greedy for money. 8  He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9  He must hold firmly to the message which can be trusted and which agrees with the doctrine. In this way he will be able to encourage others with the true teaching and also to show the error of those who are opposed to it. Titus 1:5-9 (TEV)

“In the first decades of the twenty-first century, many, perhaps most, Catholic priests in the developed world still live a Counter-Reformation model of Church and a Counter-Reformation model of priestly ministry in which the priesthood is a kind of religious trade union. They believe, with real conviction, in the truths of the Creed in which they lead their people in prayer on Sunday, but their lives are more consumed with management than with evangelism; they talk more easily of “the Church” than they do of “the Lord Jesus”; and for all their devotion— and it is genuine devotion— the career aspects of their lives fill the horizon of their imaginations (and dominate their conversations, especially among themselves) rather more than the vocational aspects of their ministry.”  (1)

It’s been a while since I personally thought through what I do, and how I approach my ministry.  I spent a few hours doing so last year, when one of my deacons entered seminary.  But a serious review, taking a week or even a month and thinking through how and why I do what I do.

A couple of my recent blogs have addressed this – as I’ve reviewed Weigel’s book and considered his vision for what Bishops (in my case Circuit Counselors and District Presidents) should be like.  It’s a healthy application of both Law, and to an extent gospel.  I fall short of my own expectations, but yet, I have to admit – God is doing something in this place, in the lives of people who are finding healing from brokenness.

This week’s “highlight” again looks at this idea of what is my role as a pastor – at its foundation.  Is it simply a profession, a calling to I what I will do to be able to have a home, and food, and take care of my wife and son?  Is it about finding the best place to do that work, with the best pay and accommodations?  Am I more involved in the management and secular side of my role?  (As Sr. Pastor, i have the responsibility of being head of staff, and tasked with their development – not as saints but as teachers, office admin, etc)

Or is my role purely that of a vocational life?   That while I have to do administrative things, the very way I do them is as a shepherd, as the pastor of those with whom I interact?   That my vocation is not just the 50ish hours I am “on duty”, but that I am a pastor in my off hours as well?   Where and how do I draw the line between my vocation and my “personal life?”  There are differences in theology involved as well of course. But a vocation is far more encompassing than a profession.  It does encompass us, and while we understand this in regards to the judgment of our moral behavior, (we can’t have one set of morals for while we are on duty, the change them like a shirt  when we are off duty) I think we need to realize that our vocational attitudes and focus on caring for souls is as encompassing.

Weigel hits briefly on something most pastors/priests don’t ever want to admit to anyone.  It’s not the question of, “Do I want to “climb the ladder”” or “can’t I find a more… mature church to pastor?  I don’t even think it is a question of wanting more pay, or better benefits.  It’s more illusive than that, a deeper need.  It is like asking the following question, quite bluntly:  Do I seek validation from knowing I am “wanted” by others?  I have to admit, pastors/priests face a temptation there – when we hear someone is considering us, or the sense why not us… when we hear of other friends receiving  3 and 4 calls.  It’s not that we are dissatisfied where we are at, and even the most brutal of parishes has those things that bring us enough joy and strength to stand firm.  It’s not that we would want the pain again of making those decisions between “who needs me most”, and “where can I be most effective” and the real question – where does God want me. It just somehow affirming to be a wanted man.  Yet – when we realize the thoughts are simply a need for affirmation – that can be dealt with… even as we see the gratitude on people’s faces as we feed them with the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.

As we realize this is a calling, a vocational life, our outlook changes.  Our professionalism slides aside as we spend the time needed, not the time allotted.  Meeting agendas become less important than the lives of those in those meetings, and it becomes easier to become patient in tough situations, waiting on Christ’s leading  showing itself in consensus, rather than our own wisdom or inner compass.  That we are dedicated to being where God wants us to be, without accounting the cost.  We become more willing to be there in the painful moments, aware that there is where God’s grace is seen with the greatest clarity.    As this attitude manifests, as this vocation takes route, that is when our people begin to realize that our vocation is one they share in, for they are the priesthood of all believers.  For in this – they show the true teachings of Christ.. the reality of the call to come walk with Jesus.

One thing is for sure… there is a lot of room to grow…

Lord have mercy – and let this growth be accomplished, that through it, you Lord would receive great glory.

 

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 137-138). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Do we get why grace is amazing? Because it frees and heals broken sinners.


English: Amazing Grace, First version, in &quo...

English: Amazing Grace, First version, in “Olney Hymns”, on page 53 (bottom), 1779 Français : Amazing Grace, début de la première version, parue dans le “Oleny Hymns” (1779) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day….

 8  Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9  But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10  For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11  For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12  So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13  There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.  James 2:8-13 (NLT)

“When the church meets sinners with hate, condemnation, and a lack of mercy, we deserve the persecution that we encounter. When we treat “their sin” as somehow more defiling and vile than our sin, we deserve persecution. For then all we are doing is beating up those who are blind, deaf and in captivity.  When we are persecuted for trying with all the grace of Christ to reconcile sinners to God, then this is praiseworthy, not praising us, but the One who empowers us to endure in grace.”  (facebook comment)

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me….I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see!  (John Newton)

In the past day, my facebook feed has been filled with much emotion, and to be honest it reminds me of a schoolyard ball game.  Some are so jubilant in their “victory” that they have gotten in the cyber-face of those they think wish them ill-will.  Others are so dejected in their loss, that they claim the end of the world, as they prophesy of torture and persecution.  The posts of the first enflame the latter, the reactions of the latter are used to justify the former.  I probably hid no less than 100 posts, sickened as I was by the reactions of both sides.

I did respond to one or two – and the italicized words above are part of my response.  A response which will possibly infuriate both sides of the argument.  (normally I pride myself on being able to do this, this time, I only grieve that it is possible.)

Sin is sin is sin is sin.  It doesn’t matter which sin it is.  James point that out in the quote from His epistle above quite clearly.  And yes, I hold to the position of scripture, that sex outside of a marriage between man and woman is sinful.  But it is no worse a sin than gossip, or murder, or white lies.  James makes that clear as well.  

But that is where I think we get the mission of the church very confused.  The church is not a place that is primarily engaged in behavior modification.  It is not our raison d’etre, the focus of our being the church.  For if that is our existence, we are failures, and will always be so, just looking at who is within us, never mind the rest of the world.   Behaviors will modify, but that is a role that is God’s alone, and it doesn’t start with legalism – it starts with love, His love, poured out on us.

That is why I wrote what I wrote.  As the church, our voice should confront sin, but only in the hopes of pouring out the forgiveness of God.  Apologetics is not about proving that sinners are lost and condemned to hell, but why I, the chief of all sinners, ( or at least in contention with St. Paul over that title) can have hope in spite of my sin.  We are to bring healing to all those broken by sin, and take special care with those that haven’t yet realized they are broken.  That is why I wrote that there are times – especially yesterday, where our reactions surely deserve any persecution we receive.  Because we are not looking to bring healing – but our reaction is one of fear, of anxiety, of condemnation.  Because of that we are rightfully judged, and to be honest, I am less worried about the world’s condemnation in that case, than of God’s.  We’ve taken His mission – and corrupted it. 

If we believe what we sing in Amazing Grace, do we realize the very people we are reacting to are where we once were?  Wretches that are lost, blind, in bondage to sin?  Do we realize that our task isn’t to brutalize them but to bring them comfort?  Do we bring them God’s love, do we go to them with the intent of showing them mercy?  Do we dare to do so in a way that leads to peace?  Are we willing to be patient with them, as God is patient with us?  Do we realize that we have been, and are as broken, but also realize the healing we have in Christ Jesus?

Some hard questions these days bring to those who trust in Christ… but the questions need to be aimed at our actions, our words, and how we will serve those broken in heart in spirit. 

Lord have mercy on us all.

 

The Limits of Pleasure and Happiness


Devotion/Discussion Thought of the Day:

 2  Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. 3  And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life. 4  Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!  Philippians 4:2-4 (NLT)

228    “Have a good time,” they said as usual. And the comment of a soul very close to God was, “What a limited wish!”  (1)

As Paul begins the 4th chapter of Philippians, he deals with conflict in the church, and assuming it is dealt with encourages joy – deep joy.  The reason is that reconciliation is always joyous – always worth the sacrifice, even though it is never quite a “good time”.  It is so far more than than just a good time, this joy that comes from doing that which is uncomfortable.

Yet many of us would prefer the good time, than invest the time in what would bring a far great joy.

We see a small example of this truth of investment when in the following.  Doing what is not a “good time” is like going to the doctor’s office – or to the gym – the investment of time and money always results in something more beneficial that sitting in a movie theater, or sitting in front of the television.  But we would rather not subject ourselves to the examination, to the questions, we would rather not hear the bad news – or spend the exertion in getting ourselves in shape. Blood, sweat and tears ( in both places) are lost, as well as time that could have been spent, “having a good time”  But having a good time often means dangerous things to our health, as we don’t take care of what needs to be taken care of.  Happiness and pleasure, short term things often result in more time suffering, more time in poor condition, more time in brokenness.  It is, as Josemaria points out – a very limited wish – a very limited blessing.  One which fades – quickly and devastatingly.

It is even more true spiritually though, this way in which we spend our time.

Being those who desire to see that which is broken healed means what we do isn’t often a “good time” .  It can often be painful, uncomfortable, awkward.  It means sacrificing both pleasure and happiness, looking to the joy- that in which the healing and reconciliation results.  But sacrificing it, even as Christ did (see Hebrews 12:2) for the joy set before us.  Helping people see they would rather have the joy than the very limited “good time”…. that is our call as well!

 

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 629-630). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Imitating Christ… in dying to self.


English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

 23  Jesus answered them, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to receive great glory. 24  I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains. 25  Those who love their own life will lose it; those who hate their own life in this world will keep it for life eternal. 26  Whoever wants to serve me must follow me, so that my servant will be with me where I am. And my Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12:23-26 (TEV)

 17  In the Lord’s name, then, I warn you: do not continue to live like the heathen, whose thoughts are worthless 18  and whose minds are in the dark. They have no part in the life that God gives, for they are completely ignorant and stubborn. 19  They have lost all feeling of shame; they give themselves over to vice and do all sorts of indecent things without restraint. 20  That was not what you learned about Christ! 21  You certainly heard about him, and as his followers you were taught the truth that is in Jesus. 22  So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. 23  Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, 24  and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy.   Ephesians 4:17-24 (TEV)

If the grain of wheat does not die, it remains unfruitful. Don’t you want to be a grain of wheat, to die through mortification, and to yield stalks rich in grain? May Jesus bless your wheat field! (1)

Yesterday I asked on Facebook a question about whether we would follow Jesus if he showed up today and asked us too.  Actually, more specifically, I asked what our excuses would be when we told him we wouldn’t follow Him.

Most people said they would, and I believe in their hearts they sincerely believe it.

Even as I know most of us do not, even now, as Christ is present in our lives,  as He is calling us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and walk with Him, through that dying to self, into the presence of the Father.

Will we walk with Christ in loving those who would kill us, that we could win their souls to God?

Will we forgive others who have sinned against us?

Will we depend on God when life is rough, the answers unknown, when we need to forsake joy and embrace suffering – that a person would come to know God’s love?

Will we give up taking care of what we are responsible for – to care for others.  (think of John, James, Peter and Andrew leaving their fathers and boats behind, or Matthew leaving the tax table and the taxes he collected behind.._

Reading Les Miserable in my spare time is really causing me to ask these questions, not of you, but of myself.   Wondering how I serve as an example, as Paul did, as Peter did, for those whom I have been entrusted with shepherding.  It’s a hard question… and it seems like the law is condemning me…even brutally.

Until I realize that such things I cling to, are actually snares… snares that would stop me from following Christ, or at least blind me to His Spirit’s presence.  I have to come to my senses and realize in whose presence I dwell.  The Lord and Master who shatters those holds, who brings me healing, who brings me life.

This dying to self thing – its not so I can just die.  It is so I can live.

We too need to experience what that seed did… actually we just need to realize we have… He has done this to us, even as He subjected Himself to it.

This imitating Christ – is the living that we were created for…

It is what began at our baptism, it is what is strengthened as we are absolved and commune…

It is the abundant life.

Lord have mercy on us, by crucifying our sin and sinful desires… leaving us nothing else, but You, and the glory in which you share with us. AMEN

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 574-575). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

We are God’s people….but what does that mean???


Devotional/ Discussion Question of the Day.
 6  To show that you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, “Father, my Father.” Galatians 4:6 (TEV)

Therefore it is the intent of this commandment to require true faith and trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God and clings to Him alone. That is as much as to say: “See to it that you let Me alone be your God, and never seek another,” i.e.: Whatever you lack of good things, expect it of Me, and look to Me for it, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, creep and cling to Me. I, yes, I, will give you enough and help you out of every need; only let not your heart cleave to or rest in any other.
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

We talk of faith all the time in the church.  But I think we often mistake it for something that it is not.

Faith is not the doctrine we teach, the doctrine that has been handed down to us.  Our Faith is not a description of our practices and policies that define the Church, or even the church itself.

All these things are good, but it is not at the core of that which we must past down.

Faith is described in Luther’s words above – the trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God and clings to Him alone.  That is faith!

It is what drives us to call our to God, recognizing that He is our Father, our Abba – our Daddy.  That we need Him and need His protection, His guidance, His correction, His love.  And we have it, for He has promised it, and His promises are always true in Christ Jesus.

We are His people, His children, His beloved.  He has drawn us into a relationship with Him, a relationship that is described with the words faith, hope and love.

May we never look past this, or take it for granted.  Rather let us rejoice in a God who desires that we cling to Him… that invites it, that delights in our clinging to Him.

Cling to Him this week…

Amen.

Title page of the Large Catechism of Martin Lu...

Title page of the Large Catechism of Martin Luther, printed in Leipzig in 1560 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

An Incredible Example of Pastoral Care…


Cover of "Les Miserables (Barnes & Noble ...

Cover via Amazon

Devotional Thought of the Day.

 1  And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2  For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4  And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5  that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.  1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ASV)

Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples, he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive. (1)

It will be perceived that he had a peculiar manner of his own of judging things: I suspect that he obtained it from the Gospel. (2)

I think I read Les Miserables in high school, if I did, I certainly didn’t get it.

I am reading it again, and the character of the Bishop is mind-blowing, if only because somehow, Victor Hugo understood what a pastor should be.  A man who lived far simply that his state allowed (he lived on 1/15th of his salary- using the rest to minister to others) , who gave up the home built for the Bishop to live in, that a hospital could be built.

A fictional character perhaps – but who is it based on?  Who would be so centered in the gospel, whose eloquence would so reveal Christ? Who is the unknown model for Hugo’s pen?

Who would be such a man?  Does such a leader exist for the church today?  Is there any that, while humble of voice, is one who reveals Christ because he is convinced is persuasive himself?  Is there someone who judges things based on the gospel?

I pray that such are raised up… that we encourage their development – the character of Christ encouraged far more than even their knowledge or practice.

Who know little, or count any knowledge as little, save that of knowing Christ, and the power of the cross and the resurrection.

May the Lord have mercy by providing such…and may we rejoice in such men.

 

 

(1)  Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 23). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 25). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

God’s own Child


Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God’s Own Child

Galatians 3:23-4:7

†  Jesus`Son`Savior

 

May you realize the joy of being the very children of God!

 

The Joy of Baptism

After one of the recent baptisms, as I was walking out of church, someone said to me, “Pastor, you really enjoy baptisms, don’t you?”

I am not sure if it was a surprise to them, or just a an observation, but yes, I do.  More than anything else I do in ministry, I love it when there are sacraments delivering God’s miraculous grace to those people He loves, to those He has called into relationship with Him.

When God takes a person and the Holy Spirit breathes faith and eternal life into them, declaring them to be His children.

It is an amazing miracle….

Matter of fact, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and Absolution, all three of the major sacraments are miracles, something to be incredibly joyous about.  They are, in my opinion, more important than any other miracle, more important than healings, or the story in the gospel of the man who was freed from demon possession…more incredible than the parting of the Red Sea, or anything else.
We’ve witnessed a miracle, one that has happened in our own lives as well.

Scripture describes what happens in baptism in many many ways.  We often focus on the cleansing of sin, the being united with Christ’s death and resurrection, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, with a transformed life, even if it takes a while to see it completely.  In baptism we are clothed with Christ, and the old sinful nature is drowned.  We’ll talk about some of these things in our Bible Study today… but in the sermon, there is one thing, that sums up this miracle…

 

It’s there in verse 7, J, and all that are baptized know this…. you are God’s own Child…
I would hope that our reaction to realizing what Jesus has done here, and did in each of our lives would be like what the response of the man given life in the gospels did.

Jesus sent him home, saying, 39 “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.

Including this amazing fact, that each of us has been made God’s own child!

 

The Law was More than A Friend

If we are going to tell people what God has done here, and in each of our lives when He baptized us, when He cleansed us and gave us abundant and eternal life, we start as Paul did, talking about where we were before this.

He uses this great illustration about the law being our guardian, that God’s rules were put into play, not to condemn us, but to protect us.  That’s not usually how the law is presented to unbelievers by many Christians. Many people think evangelism means talking about how the law condemns us, how people who don’t know about Jesus fail to live up to its standards, and need to do something about it.

Paul explains it differently here, that the law is our guardian, our teacher, the pedagogue, or to use and older term – our governess. It’s job isn’t to condemn us, but to protect us until we come to trust in God, until we journey on this “way of faith”, until we are united in baptism.

The law served, in many ways, like our babysitter – with carefully laid down rules so that we couldn’t maneuver around them, or find the loopholes in it.  Yes, it pointed out what we’ve done wrong – but it always points to the solution, that God would provide a way of forgiveness, a way that He would make it right…
He did that, in our baptism. In clothing us with not just with Christ’s righteousness, but with Christ Himself.

But the law was there, bringing us to Christ, showing us our need, like a teacher guiding us on a field trip – ensuring that we are safe, ensuring that we would get to our destination in time.  The moment the way of trusting Christ was available to us.

But there is something so much more!

 

It is not just baptism that should excite us, but what it means for the rest of life, in a real way, the beginning of life.

It’s like yesterday, when James and Doran were married up in Seattle.  A lot of planning goes into a wedding – and a lot of excitement builds up as the event gets closer. I have heard it can even become stressful for some brides.

The day is nothing compared to the life together that has begun.  There may be challenges, there may be days where they will be tired, but they will be there for each other.  Weddings are a blast – but they now have a life together.  They have a blessing beyond any other blessing.

In a similar way, the journey only begins this morning for J.  She will walk with God all her life, as each of us does who trusts in Him, who realizes that He has claimed us as His children in baptism, that we have been given Christ’s name, that we have been given Christ’s spirit, sent into hearts.

We will never be alone, we will never be without hope.

We’ve been claimed… His children…the one’s He takes care of, the ones that don’t need the law keeping guard on us, because He is with us.

That’s incredible.

That’s the miracle that is in baptism – that’s the power of Christ’s death and resurrection – it’s not just about the sins that are gone… it’s about the relationship that is revealed, that begins, for God has adopted us, made us His own children, claimed us as His own.

 

Talking to God!

Hear it again…


But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

 

If baptism as an event is important – then this, the idea that because we are the very children of God, that the Holy Spirit prompts us to call God, Abba!  We are prompted, by the Holy Spirit to call God – Daddy – that’s the point of it all, that is why this is so amazing, that we can call out to the Creator of the universe, to the God who placed the Sun and the moon in their positions!  We can call out
in time of need,

to fix the things we have broken…

to help us be able to deal with things we cannot understand..

 

or just call out to Him.. to praise and adore Him, Father, we love you!

Conclusion

So I get excited about days like this – for the right time has come, and we have a new sister, who will share in all of the blessings of being clothed with Christ.. who will with us, walk in great peace with God, who will feast with us, who is like us,

God’s own child.

That’s something to praise God for… even as we realize again, what He has done to each of us.  AMEN?

A Blog of/for the Tired and Wondering if it all Matters…


English: Jesus Christ saving the souls of the ...

English: Jesus Christ saving the souls of the damned. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. 26  Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. 27  “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? 28  All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, 29  but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. 30  “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? 31  What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. 32  People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33  Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  Matthew 6:25-34 (MSG) 

 When you pray, but see nothing, and feel flustered and dry, then the way is this: don’t think of yourself. Instead, turn your eyes to the Passion of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Be convinced that he is asking each one of us, as he asked those three more intimate Apostles of his in the Garden of Olives, to “Watch and pray”.  (1)

This morning, I am a more than a bit anxious. more than a bit distracted, more than a bit pessimistic about life, and in someways, about the future.

I know part of it is being tired… a long day of driving yesterday… and still recovering from surgery.   Part of it is based on what seems to be overload from dealing with some very serious issues within my denomination and the direction it will head.  A direction that will very seriously impact the church’s mission of bringing Christ’ love and peace into the world seems to be the way we are being lead.  (I know God will work through others… He always His people get stubborn and centered on the wrong things… but I still grieve to see it)  And a million other details for which, post surgery, I know I am not ready to deal with, from the idea of strength. 

And looking at it all, I have to wonder whether it is worth it at all.  Whether the weakness and dryness I feel this morning, will ever be diminished.  I wonder if my “neither optimist or pessimist but let’s drink the liquid in the glass” will return.  

The fussiness seems to be dominant, (others versions use anxious or worried) easily distracting me from the peace that I know is ours. I have trouble seeing how the “everyday human concerns” and the concern for our churches will be dealt with, never mind how they will work for good for those God has called, those whom He loves.

I opened the wrong book for reading at the end of my devotions yesterday.  Meant to open “the Way”, opened on my Kindle, “the Forge” instead.  There was St. Josemaria’s quote, hitting me in the face.  This morning the gospel passage came to mind… and I know, in the midst of my despair, the hope that is always there.  I realize the promise are not in vain, even in the darkness of the day.  God is working, the cross is near, the resurrection and immanent as the incarnation.  And the gateways of Hell will not be able to stand against God’s will, against the truth that Jesus is the Chosen and Annointed One.. that He is our Savior, and the Lord who loves and cares for His people.

It’s enough… to help me to refocus, to remember that passion of Christ… to count on it… even when, especially when… the gettup and go… fails…………

“The Lord is with you!”  (exclamation intended) I will cry tomorrow… and know it today…

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2717-2721). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Do We Choose to Invite into our Lives?


Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion/Devotion in Life

 May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice!  Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.  And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.  In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.  Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:4-9 (TEV)

I’m going to tell you which are man’s treasures on earth so you won’t slight them: hunger, thirst, heat, cold, pain, dishonor, poverty, loneliness, betrayal, slander, prison …  (1)

As I write this blog about trauma, I am not writing about the things in the quote from St. Josemaria Escriva above, for as he says, they are treasures, and therefore, not necessarily trauma.  Even as I wrote on Monday – there is trauma that so engages us in serving God, in seeing His love, that it rarely seems traumatic, or sacrificial.

There are different types of trauma can different,    Some thrusts itself in, and those things – including the list above are traumatic – but can be blessings because in overwhelming us, they drive us into our Father in Heaven’s presence….. we have no choice, we simply must turn to God to be able to cope, to be able to breath… the be able to survive.

But invited trauma is when we ignore the Bible passage’s admonition and encouragement.  When we look for division, when we spend less time looking to God and choose to embrace things that make us anxious, worrying about things far out of our control.  When we look away from peace,.  When we don’t fill our mind with those things that are good and deserve praise, but focus on that which are evil and need to be avoided.  This  the type of trauma we willingly give a place in our lives.

I see to much of this, these days…..

I see it way to much among those who follow Christ.

We invite trauma in when worry too much about how the world is changing – to the extent that we spend so much time fighting it, or worrying about how to fight it, that we forget we’ve been sent here so the world can know Jesus love, to know Him, to know the power of His resurrection… to know His peace.  We spend more time learning strategies to convince them about Christ that we pray for them, or love them.  We forget it is the gates of hell than cannot restrain God’s invasion, cannot withstand His church, and the Rock on which it stands.

We invite trauma in when get to aggressive towards other believers, debating with them, rather than loving and serving them, and praying for them.  As if somehow we aren’t the family of God, working in His harvest, working together, working as one.

We invite in trauma when we lack of looking to God, trusting Him, relating to Him,  when we  walk away from Him….to fight that which He has defeated, walking away from the peace He gives…

In choosing these things that are not Godly,  we invite that trauma into our lives.  We choose the discord, we choose the power plays, we choose the war…. we choose the stress…. and we don’t choose Him….

We don’t have to invite that trauma… we can look to Christ, we can see His love poured out on us, His grace, His mercy… and we can love and serve as He did….learning how much He is with us…

Lord, please have mercy on us, and draw our attention to You!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 567-568). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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