Monthly Archives: August 2013

Love Them, Love Them, Love Them: Discipleship lessons from the gym…and Coach C


The 100-Meter Run

The 100-Meter Run (Photo credit: Government Press Office (GPO))

Devotional THought of the Day:

13  We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. 14  And we have seen and tell others that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15  If we declare that Jesus is the Son of God, we live in union with God and God lives in union with us. 16  And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17  Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18  There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.  1 John 4:13-21 (TEV) 

7  It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. 8  But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! 9  By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger! 10  We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! 11  But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God’s friends.  Romans 5:7-11 (TEV) 

194         You have to be a live ember that sets fire to whatever it touches. And, when your surroundings are incapable of catching fire, you have to raise their spiritual temperature. If not, you are wasting time miserably, and wasting the time of those around you. (1)

I was at the gym this morning, working out when I though of one of my PE coaches from high school.  As we used to work out, he would “encourage” us with a constant mantra…. LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT!.

It pumped us up – enabled us to run  a bit farther, lift a little more, grind it out.  But I don’t think many of us loved it.  Matter of fact, a few of us didn’t like it or Coach Carter all that much. But the results across a semester in the weight room and on the track showed us the benefit of being trained and “encouraged.”  And because Coach Carter had been there before himself – he knew how to discipline those willing.   I am leaning on those lessons a lot.  With a genetic disorder that affects my heart and spine, has resulted in two heart valves being replaced and internal defibrillators, and a limited lifestyle – starting to work out again is a challenge.

Yesterday, there was a discussion on line about our enemies, about those who verbally attacked a Roman Catholic Cardinal who seems to be a pretty good guy.  My response was, knowing of him, he was probably praying for those attacking him.  One lady didn’t quite get that – and over a number of posts told me to mind my own business, and not talk to her about the concepts of self-defense and faith.  I didn’t, but I’ve thought and prayed for a bit since then.  Wondering what issues prompted a response that wasn’t where I was going at all.  I thought as well about our attitude towards those people who are the thorns in our life, those who are incredibly difficult to love and forgive. Those who test our ability to live life trusting in God, like that extra 20 pounds tested my endurance on the calf press this morning – and that .2 of mph faster made the difference on the tread mill.

These people, hopefully are a burden we will embrace – or as Coach C would say – LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM!

For in doing so, we have to that which is extremely difficult, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross and walk with Jesus.  We have to have no fear (for love casts out such fear – see above) and even if our lives are sacrificed as martyrs… (which few of us will face) we must love them anyway.   (Many, many saints serve a great examples of this.)

Whether we realize it or not, these people can be those in our life that help our dependence on God, our faith and trust in Him grow the most. And in loving them, wholeheartedly, even as they are our enemies, we begin to see how great God’s love is for us.   We find the strength in Him, in HIs cross, which we are united to, to love them, to be patient with them because we want them to be transformed by God and not perish, to be our brothers and sisters in Christ, feasting together at God’s table.  As St. Josemaria noted – sometime we have to turn up the heat — sometimes we need the heat turned up on us…

It’s not easy.  It is significantly harder than getting up an hour earlier to get to the gym, or being embarrassed by realizing how weak we’ve become over the years.

Even so, as John said, we are loved…so Lord in your mercy, help us to

LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM!!!!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1022-1025). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Heart of Theology & the Heart of Ministry is the Heart of Christ


IMG_6335

IMG_6335 (Photo credit: Light from Light)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

11  Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 33:11 (ESV) 

210         At times, seeing those souls asleep, one feels an enormous desire to shout at them, to make them take notice, to wake them up from that terrible torpor they have fallen into. It is so sad to see them walk like a blind man hitting out with his stick, without finding the way! I can well understand how the tears of Jesus over Jerusalem sprang from his perfect charity.  (1)

The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear (awe)  and so may also pray. (2)

One of the reasons I am a Lutheran pastor, one of the reasons I love our confessions is the same reason I often am found quoting a Catholic priest/saint named Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei.  ( It is also the reason I am indebted to my non-denom Bible College professors, especially Doug Dickey and Rodney Vliet, and my fellow alum and now professor Chris G.

For all of the above, and some others in life, there is no division between pastoral practice – how we minister and equip others for ministry, and the depth of our theology.  It’s not the academics against the pragmatics, the “confessionals” versus the “church growthers”.  And while the theology differs a bit at times, there is a…. holistic approach that requires that we realize the harmony between doctrine and practice.  The pastor/priest or whatever form of ministry (professor,teacher,deacon, director of ministry) cannot divide his day by saying, from 8-9 I will pray, from 9-11 I will do theology, from 1-5 I will fulfill my pastoral duties and ministry obligations, and from 7-10 I will do church growth.   It is one constant movement, one constant life.

Otherwise, I would contend, if you think our lives can be divided like this,  you have done none of the above, but have simply whistled into the wind.  The Lutheran doctrine of vocation, and Escriva’s teaching on the apostolate doesn’t work this way.  For both find their beginning point – and entire existence, in one place.

As this blog is titled – “the heart of theology and the heart of ministry is the Heart of Christ”.

Our theology finds itself created, not in books and seminary or catechetical courses, but in our baptism, at the point where God transforms us, begins to conform our mind to that of Christ.   As we are united to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, theology begins, ministry starts. (yes even as a baby is baptized!)  For as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, as the word begins to germinate in us, quickening life, we become theologians, we become ministers, servants of the word.

And it is the sacred heart of Christ which replaces our cold, stone hearts (see Ezekiel 36) and we begin to see the world as Christ does.  The more we see Christ’s heart and desire to be with us, the more we comprehend the depth of the Father’s love, the more we realize that our masses, our Bible studies, our retreats serve not to just impart doctrine – but to lead us to pray, to lead us to worship, to lead us to interact with God as He shares His glory with us as we dwell in His presence.

Ministry and Theology have to find their essence there, in the heart of God.

Otherwise – you can find blog after blog of theologians claiming programs aren’t based in the faith, and pastors who call their seminary experience their death, and their seminaries nothing more than cemeteries.    They both have a point – and the point is the same…..

Without being found and nurtured and developed within the heart of Christ – they aren’t theology and ministry, they are academics and business practices.

But when those very same things are baptised, when they are united with the heart and mind of our benevolent, caring Master Jesus…. when we look at those struggling without Christ as St. Josemaria describes them, as we wolf down theology that shows the glory of God’s work in us, then it is theology, it is ministry, it is one….

for we are one…in Christ.

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1086-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 250). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Worship, Preaching and Teaching… a quest to be heard.


Devotional Thought/Discussion Thought of the Day:

 6  Dear brothers and sisters, if I should come to you speaking in an unknown language, how would that help you? But if I bring you a revelation or some special knowledge or prophecy or teaching, that will be helpful. 7  Even lifeless instruments like the flute or the harp must play the notes clearly, or no one will recognize the melody. 8  And if the bugler doesn’t sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle? 9  It’s the same for you. If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space. 10  There are many different languages in the world, and every language has meaning. 11  But if I don’t understand a language, I will be a foreigner to someone who speaks it, and the one who speaks it will be a foreigner to me. 12  And the same is true for you. Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church.        1 Corinthians 14:6-12 (NLT)

You don’t get through to people because you speak a different “language”. I advise you to be natural. It’s all due to that artificial formation of yours!  (1)

For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. (2)

As I look at the words of St. Paul, of St. Josemaria Escriva, of Phillip Melancthon (and the early Lutherans) above, I see something that is often overlooked in our worship planning, whether we favor complex liturgy, a simplified liturgy, or contemporary or emergent, multi-tasking worship.

Do we ask what are we communicating,

I am not just talking language, though I believe that is a critical component.  I really struggle personally when our translations are not in common language, but collegiate language, or “church language”.   Or when we try to be so relevant to the fringe that we confuse the rest.   It also includes body language, and tone (or drone) of voice.  Worship, Preaching, Teaching, our practice and our theology are all parts of who we are, indivisible, and necessary.

Do we regularly review not just what we do in worship, but how we do it?  Do people walk away with the message – and how critical it is to know God’s presence, His promises, His mercy and His love?  Do we try to minimize our people having that message obscured?  Does our communication instill in them how valuable the Lord’s Supper is, or how incredible it is to know and hear our sins are forgiven?  Or do we, in reviewing our work, spend so much time fine tuning the performance to meet a standard that is not natural?  Does our worship, preaching and liturgy take on the same personna that our pastoral care does – or are we split personalities?  Dt the Preacher/Liturgist and Dt the pastor?   Does how we are formed present two different images, confusing images at that?  Knowing how people see us Monday through Saturday also affects how they hear us on Sunday.  Who we are, and how we interact with them affects how they hear the message.  DO we consider that?  Do we review how we are seen, regularly?

Being natural in our facilitating worship, in our preaching and teaching is something that is difficult, it leaves us often vulnerable, easy targets for those who would judge us.   But it is us that God wants to communicate through.  That He wants to use to demonstrate the effect of His presence and love.

But this isn’t about just pastors and worship leaders..

My brothers and sisters, whether you are the one at the microphone, or sitting in the back, you are facilitating the worship around you.  When you are listening to the readings, to the sermon, interacting in a Bible Study… you are teaching people as well.  You are communicating values, and being a model for others, teaching them about the value of God’s love, His grace, and how important it is… how much you actually care about those around you preaches as well.  (and don’t forget how you interact with visitors!)

A few summary challenges
1.  Use language you use daily
2.  Don’t act differently than you do normally
3.  Still keep in mind that everything about you affects your preaching – whether you are the pastor or not..

4.  The absolute best way to do this… is to realize something we say all the time… and live according….. here is the phrase,…. “the Lord is with you”

Raphael, St Paul Preaching in Athens

Raphael, St Paul Preaching in Athens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1054-1057). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Augsberg Confession, The, Article XXIV

Back to School… Flashcard Knowledge and Faith..


 8  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)

189         The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.” Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them! Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.

It’s that time of year when children return to school.  Some can’t wait, some want to squeeze every moment of freedom that they can into these last days of summer.

The first few weeks, it is about gearing up, about getting back to the task of learning.  Teachers will review basics, because some of the kids will know the material, some will recall it with some help, and some, well you think they never heard that 2 + 2 = 4 (or 5) before.

We are like that in church.  We know we know who Jesus is, we know what the cross is about.  We might even remember some of the more philosophical stuff, like the communication of magesterial attributes, or the balance of objective and subjective justification, and why it’s important to know all those “church words”.

But it is good, its even necessary to go back and sit in awe at the basics.  For unlike math, or vocabulary, the basics of our faith are still lessons we need to learn, that we dare not leave to flash-card time repetitive memory.  We can’t just simply flash back quickly the knowledge, as if we are a human version of google.  Unlike many academic subjects, the depth of our faith, the critical application points are given at the very beginning.  A little more explanation.  In math you learn the basic functions, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.  The you learn algebra and geometry (a great class to learn how to shoot pool) trig and calculus.  At each level you can do more, applying the lessons learned before hand to do more and more.  Each level builds the next level.  And as you advance, you can do bigger and better things, for yourself, and indeed for humanity.

Christian learning is different.  The core of our faith – what truly makes the difference, is learned first! Everything else we learn supports that, and strengthens that.  If we learn deeply the Old Testament Theology regarding the sacraments of Baptism, Confession and Absolution and the Lord’s Supper – that is great and it will bring us great joy.  But the basics – His body broken for you, His blood shed for you…. that is the priceless part.  That is what makes the difference.

Which brings us to today’s passage. is work, from our being delivered, to the very thing that God, not us 

Normally, we talk about the first 2 verses – the one’s that talk about salvation.  We neglect the last – which is the basis for how we live in our relationship to Christ. St. Josemaria has it so accurate – the great words that the apostles did were done by the blue collar guys, the enlisted men types.  Which is why the educated theologians of the day had so much trouble with Jesus.  He didn’t pick the Ph.D.’s and the D.Min’s, he picked the guys that might be able to grasp new member classes and maybe a deacon class or two.  The core of our knowledge is the what makes the greatest difference.  It is that God is doing the work, that it is His strength, His wisdom, His power, and indeed His glory that He shares with us.

The greatest thing I can do as a pastor is not write the next Systematic Theology Trilogy, a replacement for the works of Pieper, or Chemnitz or Augustine or Aquinas.  The greatest thing I can do..(or technically that God does through me) is to pour water over the head of someone… and say the words “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.   Or say, “Take and Eat, this is the Body of Christ!” as I place a piece of bread in the hand, or on the tongue of a person…or share with them about the most blessed day in history and the execution of a simple carpenter who would by dying destroy death.  The same for you, the greatest thing you can do in this life… is share that Jesus loves me… this I know……(you can finish the song..)

Go for all the knowledge you can… but never ever forget that what matters… is the stuff that you learned at the beginning… and that 6 billion people need to know it as well!

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

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

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
We dare not look at a passage like Eph 2:10 above without taking the time to see what it says to us, what it assures us of, and how it reveals God working in our lives.  It’s all H

What Does Take For You to Pray?


Devotional/Discussion of the Day:

8  In every place, then, I want the men to lift their hands up reverently in prayer, with no anger or argument. 1 Timothy 2:8 (NJB) 

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray. (1)

I’ve caught myself saying it so many times, when I don’t know what to do to help someone in a traumatic or sticky situation.

“well. I can’t help you, but I will pray for you…”

Do we realize what we are saying?  Do we think so little of the power of God that responds to our pleas, to our requests, that we count it as less than being helpful?  Or are we assuming that prayer is just some kind of cop-out – and we don’t expect Him to really hear us or answer us?   Shouldn’t prayer be our first resort, not our last?  Shouldn’t going to the Father through Christ, with the Holy Spirit guiding (and interpreting our prayers) be our primary

I think, to be honest, the answer is a reflection of my (ashamedly) minimal prayer life.  For when I am praying more, when I am in conversation with God regularly throughout the day, that is not my attitude.  I think this is one of the dangers of a structured prayer life as well, where we see prayer the equivalent of writing letters home from camp.  Or when prayer is separated and segregated from normal life, from our normal interactions of the day.

What if our life, every moment was one where we wondrously interacted with God, where we didn’t hesitate, where it wasn’t bound by time or even location?  What if this wasn’t a public display, but a ongoing discussion from our hearts to His?  How would we change given such a constant relationship?  Would we tolerate sin in our lives as much?  Would we struggle with anxiety?  Or would we treat it like the sacred, grace-filled moment it is?

SOme challenging thoughts on a Monday… when prayer is probably the last thing on our mind… except for one prayer of desperation…..as we cry,

“Lord, Have Mercy!”

Seeing He has, is a really good place to start!

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

God and Man Sat Down!


The Last Supper, by Bouveret, 19th century.

The Last Supper, by Bouveret, 19th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God and Man Sat Down!

Luke 13:22-30

 Rejoice! God has desired to invite you to feast with Him!  This is what it means to have had the grace, that love and mercy and peace poured out on you by the Father, through Jesus Christ.

 † Jesus, Son and Savior †

A Great Example of Leadership

 

I would not dare to call him a friend, nor did I know him enough to consider him a mentor, but what he did one day has stuck with me for a long time.  It was my last day at Pepperdine, and as was the pattern there, there was a going away party, sort of a reception in the afternoon.

Friends from all over campus would drop in for a few moments here and there, a couple like my two bosses and my assistant manager stayed for most of the afternoon. The surprise was the man I mentioned a moment ago.  The President of the University, Dr. Davenport made it a point to come – and stayed a significant time.  He talked to me about the church I was going to pastor full-time.  He talked about his own time as a pastor.  He talked about the projects I had worked on for him, some really fun projects when I was the manager of the bookstore.

It was my last day, and there was nothing for him to gain from going to a going away party for a simple manager.  Yet he did.  He sat down and spent time with me.  He sat down with me… and we feasted together. There was a sense that I was valued, and even as I was leaving, I was still part of the family.  I was a valued part of the community, and worth a couple hours of a the man’s life.

There is something about sitting down with others… and sharing lives as we feast together…

As I read this passage, I thought of eating with David Davenport, and some other meals I’ve had with people, and if those can be some of the most special times in our lives, how much more will be when we feast in the Kingdom of God!

Would we find the Door closed?

When I get together pastors and deacons and other church leaders, one of the usual questions I get is, “how do you handle when people show up late to church?”  We raen’t talking about people that are 2-3 minutes late, some churches have people that can be 20-25 minutes late.  If they are a church where attendance is close to the capacity of the building, the answer is simple – if you show up late – you sit with the elders up front!

One Pastor I know has a 8:55 service – and then the service really starts at 9.  Occasionally a pastor or elder thinks of today’s gospel – and thinks about simply locking the doors at 30 seconds after church officially starts.

Jesus talks about a day like that, when the Kingdom of God’s door is closed.  However He’s not talking just about a church service.  He’s talking about eternity.

I remember back when I was the night manager at a fast-food restaurant.  We closed at midnight – and we always had people who drove in the drive through after the car we designated as “the last car”.  They would then have to wait in line with others in front of and behind them. Invariably this would lead to someone banging on the window and yelling at us to open up or they would call the corporate offices and complain.

imagine how they will be on judgment day!

The Greek here is harsh – for people will present their logic, arguing that they belong in heave.  “We once ate and drank and listened to your teaching!”  As Jesus pictures them pounding on the doors of heaven.

Jesus simple response seems harsh, “I don’t know you, I don’t even know you exist!  Go away!”  No, it doesn’t just seem harsh – it is harsh.  So harsh that I think we avoid talking about it, because the idea of God not keeping the door open, means that there will be people who will not be in heaven.  Some of those people we know – and some of them we love…deeply.  Would God act this way towards them?  Really?

All that hell, fire, brimstone, gnashing of teeth and crying will really happen.

People will say God – we had it made with you.  We did stuff.  We listened to pastor sometimes.  We’ve sung the hymns, we sung the praise songs, and even chanted. We had Bibles in our home… we can’t remember where they are.. But we had some!

As one pastor once said, it’s not about just being in a church, for that doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being in McDonald’s means you’re a French fry.

In the end, it’s not a joke.  We are either in a relationship with God – either Jesus knows we are His, or we are on the outside when it matters.

A Little – but well used door!!!

The beginning of this conversation started when a man asked him about whether there would be many saved – or only a few.  We’ll talk about that in Bible Study, for I think this was asked by someone who thought he would be standing outside, a Samaritan in one of the towns he was passing through.

The discussion centers on being saved.  I am not even sure the man who asked that knew what he was asking about, except that he knew the Messiah was supposed to save them.

Jesus talked to him in a way we might find a bit confusing – he talked about him trying his hardest to enter the narrow door – and we might hear that as we need to work to be saved.  The focus isn’t on the work, but the right door.

Not the easy ways, as in those that seem to allow you the greatest freedom, that allow you to bring your sin and false gods and such with you.  I think that’s where the “try your hardest”, or in Greek “agonize over” entering the narrow door.

In other words – go through Christ!  Stop trying to save yourself and rely on God, who has promised to do so.  It’s not about how many will be saved, or who deserves to be saved.  It’s about the struggle to trust God for what He has promised, to see the open door and realize that you belong with Him.

The door is narrow though, because Christ has to cleanse us from sins and idols and burdens that don’t belong in the presence of God.  You do… but all that junk… it does not.

Everything else will fail you. Everything else has, so stop focusing on those things, given them up – and look to the Jesus – who has already guaranteed your salvation!  Who has already guaranteed your place at the feast!

This is about knowing Christ, knowing His love and His work in our lives to know the value of the cross, to know the value of water and word in Baptism, to cherish His presence in our lives.  To know God’s love, and to adore Him for it, and realize that He is our life.

We come to the feast from all over!
That is why Jesus brings up the great gathering of the nations in this reading.  That people will come from every direction, from every place on earth, and will enter heaven through Him.  Why those who would rather try to live life their own way, without God will see them streaming by them like a river of humanity, entering into God the Father’s presence through Christ.

Coming to take a place at the feast! Coming to be welcomed in the Kingdom of God, coming from every continent – even as we have (save Australia and Antarctica)  Welcomed as we are welcome around this altar, where we will indeed feast with God.

Will only a few be saved?

That’s not the concern Jesus expresses to the man, nor the concern we have.  Will we be saved?  Will those we love find themselves in the Kingdom, reclining at table with Jesus?

Or will we and they be the ones banging on the door, trying to get into a place that was open for us?

We do not do altar calls here, the kind where you have to do something to become a Christian, where you have to prove your confession.

We do invite you, on God’s behalf, to this altar though, but for a different reason.  Not to be saved – but to take you place in His kingdom, at His feast. Trusting His promise, that He is saving you, that He has saved you, we will rise, praising Him, we’ll leave behind our burdens as we give them to Him in prayer, and rejoicing in His love, we will come and take our place with God at table, for He has set the table, and He welcomes you home.

His home – a kingdom of unbelievable peace, where our hearts and minds are safe – as Christ keeps us secure in His love.

AMEN?

What does Jesus “require” of His followers?


Devotional thought of the day:

 6 ‘With what shall I enter Yahweh’s presence and bow down before God All-high? Shall I enter with burnt offerings, with calves one year old? 7 Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand, with ten thousand streams of oil? Shall I offer my eldest son for my wrong-doing, the child of my own body for my sin? 8 ‘You have already been told what is right and what Yahweh wants of you. Only this, to do what is right, to love loyalty and to walk humbly with your God.’      Micah 6:6-8 (NJB)

Nunc coepi!—now I begin! This is the cry of a soul in love which, at every moment, whether it has been faithful or lacking in generosity, renews its desire to serve—to love!—our God with a wholehearted loyalty. (1)

If you know the Bible quote above, you are probably wondering why verse 8 just doesn’t sound right, especially if you are used to the KLV, the NKJV, NIV, or other main translations.

There are at least three reasons, at least three very important ones, in my opinion.

The first is that the NJB doesn’t use the word “require”, as in “this is what the Lord requires of you”.   Of the translations in Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons, require isn’t a major term for this.  To seek with care, or simply  to seek is how they translate they translate this.  This verse describes what God desires, it is what He has worked to, and is trying to develop within us.  It is the journey Christ takes, it is the mission of God, to seek this out in us, and to do it with care…

Yet, when the word is reduced to “require”, it becomes what theologians call “law”.  One translation even uses the word “demands”.  In doing so, it makes of God and omnipotent King, a demanding despot, a God who will strike you down, for not meeting His demands.  It is, in many ways, just the opposite of what the passage is trying to communicate, for it nullifies the very work of God, as He seeks out carefully, and He nourishes and develops us into what we are, in Christ.

The second thing that might sound odd is the “loving loyalty,” as we have always heard this as loving “mercy”.  If you’ve read my blogs for a while, or heard a sermon or two, this is my favorire Hebrew word, cHesed.  It contains the thoughts of love, mercy, favor, kindness, loyalty.  As a technical term, it describes a relationship that is so bound together that those in it will constantly work to make sure the other person is not only cared for, but that they will help the person fulfill the obligations they have to the one helping.  It is loyalty above and beyond the call of duty.  It is the loyalty that is so defined in the person of God, that we can see it in His patience with Israel, His work developing the people in scripture, from Moses and Gideon and David and Peter and Paul, to the ultimate example – God wants us in a relationship with Him so much that Christ comes to do what we cannot – to make us righteous – at the cost of His body and blood….

This kind of loyalty, mercy, love, is what God seeks to develop in us.  We can’t impress Him with what we bring to the relationship – but He works within us to help us see His love, mercy, loyalty….. and we fall in love with Him because of it.  That is what He seeks.

The third thing  is the reason I love the New Jersulalem Bible.  It doesn’t replace God’s holy Name with the substitute, “Lord” like every other translation does.   Luther’s explanation of the commandment “You shall not misuse the Name of YHWH (the Lord)” works with the positive as well as the obvious negative.  I roughly  Don’t use God’s name in vain means we should use it!  We should use it to lay our burdens down before Him, We should praise Him and thank Him and adore Him, with the name He has given us to use, to call Him by.

I sort of understand this – I have people I consider friends, people I have relationships with that are not just that I am their pastor, I am their friend as well.  It’s a little awkward when they call me Pastor Parker.  I understand the level of respect they have for me as a pastor, (or more precisely for God putting me in that office)   Some I can get to call me Pastor Dt (what i prefer to be called) or Pastor Dustin.  But there are some still that this is awkward.  I think it is the same thing – people want to humbly walk with God – which means, in their mind – calling Him “Lord” or “Master” or “Gracious Father in Heaven”.  Yet walking humbly with Him means looking for what He wants – a relationship where we call Him by name – where we bring His name and the message of His love to the world He died for, because He loves, He has cHesed for us.

What does God require of us?  What does Jesus “require” of those who are His disciples?

THe question still grates on me, because if this is what He requires, we are all toast, and abject and complete failues.

What does He seek to develop in us?  What is His desire for us? What does He want to develop is us, with all the mercy, love and loyalty that is His?

The righteousness and holiness that is ours in Christ, a relationship where we come to love and adore Him because of His mercy, love, kindness, and complete loyalty that He shows to us, and that we humbly walk with Him, hearing His voice, becoming His people, and realizing what it means to have a God who is so selfless in His desire to be with us.

That is what He seeks, someone to love……

Dearest Yahweh, thank you for the mercy You show to us, each and every day….

AMEN.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 877-879). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Some thoughts about why the Church is Here….


Devotional/Discussion THought of the Day:

10  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11  For the scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him. 13  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14  But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? 15  And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!” 16  But not everyone has heeded the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?” 17  Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:10-17 (NAB) 

196         Rest assured, there are many people there who can understand your way. There are also souls who, whether they know it or not, are looking for Christ and have not found Him. But “How can they hear about Him, if nobody tells them?”

197         Don’t tell me that you care for your interior life, if you are not carrying out an intense and ceaseless apostolate. The Lord— whom you assure me you are close to— wishes all men to be saved.

30 years ago, when I started “officially” studying to become a pastor, I was also dealing with some pretty challenging personal issues because of a genetic disorder.  In one of the discussions, a question was asked.   I can still remember where I was when it was asked, because it got me thinking.

“What is the reason the church is here?”

My thoughts went something like this.  If God’s desire is for us to be with Him, in a place where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more suffering, no more Marphan’s Syndrome, then why doesn’t He just take us home like He did with Elijah?  As you get baptised, the chariots of fire come down and whisk you to heaven.  Of course, some pastors, evangelists and ministers would have to remain behind to continue to work to convert people, but hey, God will take care of us.

There have times where I have re-thought this.  When a friend is dealing with cancer, when a mom has to visit her son in jail, when we have to deal with authorities whose works frustrates us (whether those authorities are at work, in government, or the most frustrating type, in the church.  I could go on and on, with the struggles of life, but the question remains.  Why not just take 99 percent of the believers and bring them home to the purest of joy and save them from the crap we go through on earth?  If the doctrine of the rapture was applicable (my college had some pro-rapture – and a lot against it) then no one should struggle, no one should go through any kind of tribulation.  And there is a lot of tribulation out there in life.

This question, “why does God allow us to go through all the stuff we go through?  Why doesn’t He just bring us home?”  Would not that be the loving thing for God to do?  To alleviate our suffering, to save us from the ravages of sin?

My answer is… His Mission.

You see, if ministry is only for pastors and missionaries, then taking the rest of us out of here is logical.  We don’t need to be here, we don’t need to see churches burning in Egypt, the Sudan.  We don’t need to wait for the results of CAT Scans, and colonoscopies, and angiograms.  We don’t need to be there for those grieving, or those struggling with addictions or mental illness, or watching their children deal with their special needs.

But God, as odd as this sounds, needs us all here.   Yes, God needs us here.

For we are those who will minister, who will serve, whose lives are testimonies to His work.  As such, they testify to His presence, in the good times and the bad,   We are the ones sent out – not just the pastors and missionaries – but everyone of us, into every place we go.

God wishes everyone to be saved, and so He sends His people, He apostles us to the world… and our own little corner of it.

And the more we realize how He is with us in this endeavor, the more we realize that He is our life, the more we want people to know this…….the more God’s mission, God’s work becomes our life.

And our devotional life and our understanding of our mission, and our prayer and worship and study all coalesce, for that is who we are in Christ Jesus.

God’s sent people…..

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1028-1033). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Great Article for pastors and congregations


The fears mentioned in this article are real… I’ve know pastors that have gone through these very things.

Keep your brothers in prayer.. even as they devote their lives to serving you and those in your community… (and teach you how to do the same)

http://blog.restoringkingdombuilders.org/2013/08/21/four-fears-of-pastors/

Ministry is not a profession… it is the vocation of all….


 

 11  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12  Their responsibility is 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. 14  Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15  Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16  He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT)

Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning; and act in consequence. (1)

Within Christianity, there are two opinions about ministry.  The division occurs in nearly every denomination, it doesn’t matter whether you are Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, non-denom, Anglican/

There are those that believe ministry is the domain of the those who are trained professionals, that are set apart to be ministers.  This isn’t a theological issue, really, but one where we take the concepts of the world and interpose them on church.   It also reduces ministry to what goes on between 9-11:58 on Sundays, and maybe 6-8:30 on Wednesday evenings.  Ministry is more than the message delivered, more than the music sung.  

The other view is that which is seen above in the quote from Ephesians, and the quote from Josemaria Escriva. This puts ministry into all our hands, into every moment of our lives.  It is as much the parent, lovingly disciplining a child, a co-worker, taking time to pray with a stressed out friend, a person sacrificing their place in line at the market, so a hurried mom can get her milk and get her children home, a couple, donating their furniture to the Salvation Army, rather than selling it at a yard sale, priori to moving; as it is the pastor proclaiming Christ crucified.

I used Ephesians this morning for a reason, some say it is translated badly – that somehow it is the clergy ministry to train people, and that ministry itself is what builds up the body of Christ.  But look at the part I italicised – it says the exact opposite – that each of us has our own special work, each has our own vocation of service – and it is when we are all “at work” serving each other and our neighbors, it is then the church works.  It is then, Josemaria would say – that our life has a completely different meaning – and a real consequence.  

Josemaria Escriva makes another point, that we need to consider.  Simply put, such ministry is begins, it is generated and empowered by the love of God.  It’s not about be commanded to do this – the compelling nature of service comes from God commissioning us, ordaining us, sanctifying us (if you don’t know these church words – simply put – God sets the appointments we have to serve others)  to serve.  It is a matter of love, not obedience.   

So you are a minister.  You are the beloved of God whom He has set into the world with a special purpose.  To love people by serving them.  When you do, the joy will be immense ( as may be the pain)

What are you waiting for – turn off your monitor and go love people as Christ did… for that is the way we serve….

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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