Monthly Archives: November 2013
Have you been neglecting yourself?
Devotional thought of the day::
In God alone there is rest for my soul, from him comes my safety; 2 he alone is my rock, my safety, my stronghold so that I stand unshaken.Psalm 62:1-2 (NJB)
448 You haven’t been praying? Why, because you haven’t had time? But you do have time. Furthermore, what sort of works will you be able to do if you have not meditated on them in the presence of the Lord, so as to put them in order? Without that conversation with God, how can you finish your daily work with perfection? Look, it is as if you claimed you had no time to study because you were too busy giving lessons… Without study you cannot teach well. Prayer has to come before everything. If you do not understand this and put it into practice, don’t tell me that you have no time: it’s simply that you do not want to pray!
In our society today, many of us have become expert at neglecting ourselves. About not fulfilling who we are.
We surround ourselves with things, that help us believe that we are living the good life. A home, a nice car, for me – if not the latest tech-toy then at least some powerfully fun ones. We lose ourselves in television series ( Personally I like “Blacklist” and “reality shows” (anyone hear been recently abadoned on a desert island or locked in a home with 15 strangers, or asked to stand and perform on a stage in front of thousands – Reality?) We have our careers, our degrees, even those sacrifices we make for others, and willingly let people acknowledge them. We don’t mind others knowing that we are martyrs, sacrificing our fulfillment in order to help others gain their dreams.
Even then the accolades will soon sound hollow, for our treasure has been revealled to be empty, and we realize how much we neglect ourselves.
With all the things we do, with our physical and psychological coaches, with self help books and seminars to become the best in our field, with lives everyone else might consider succesful, we find ourselves neglected, wweary, worn…
Simple, because we do not take time, never mind enough time, to sit and talk to God. To sit and rest in His presence, allowing Him to talk to us, to meditate on His love, to hand over to him every burden we have. Do we talk over our work, our home life, our free time, our decisions with God, or does He not have any input into them?
How often do we pray? Is it both “scheduled” (helping us to realize He is importnat enough to have a time in our schedules) and random/extemporaneous? Is our realtionship with Him a part of our life, or is it our life?
Most of us know the right responses to the questions above, but are our answers reflective of our life?
I get the feeling I am not going to like this chapter of St. Josemaria’s “the Furrow”. I am not going to lie looking myself in the face and realizing how much I neglect myself, by not spending time with God.
I am also sure I need, maybe even desperately need to encounter Christ more each day than I presently do.
Would you pray I would? Would you pray you will as well?
Let’s stop neglecting ourselves by neglecting God… but I pray we encounter Him more and more fully, and may we know the depth of His love. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1986-1991). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Thoughts from Celebrating God’s Faithfulness to my Dad… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Will you let them see you…. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Suck it up… and go talk to Jesus (justifiedandsinner.com)
Will you let them see you….
Devotional after a long Day:
15 Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow. 16 Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. . Romans 12:15-16 (NJB)
442 Diamonds are polished with diamonds…, and souls with souls. (1)
On Sunday, the people of my church will promise to a little baby, to be there when she is full of joy, to cry with her when her heart aches. In all things, to pray for her, and to remind her that the Lord is with her, for He has claimed her and united her to Himself. And as a baptized belever, she will grow in this as well, and as we struggle, she will be there for us, and as we know Christ’s peace, she will as well.
That’s the way Paul says we are supposed to be, as Jesus church, the people called together as His own, whom He calls His friends (yeah He does – look it up) But since you are His sibling and son or daughter of God, as am I, we are siiblings, we are united together in Christ. As Paul says
25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. .1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (NLT)
But this is where we in the western world, seem to short circuit. We don’t like people to know our “business”. We don’t mind them knowing our successes, our joys, but dare we let them see us when we are crushed, bruised, hurting, anxious and scared? When our health is failing, when someone is breaking our heart, when we are lost in sin, when we can’t escape its trap on our own, the causes of our pain and brokenness,
But will we dare to reveal ourselves, so that others can cry with us? So that others can be there, and remind us Jesus is there.. Will we let them see us, let them minister to us, cr with us? Will we we let their presence remind us of His presence, their love remind us of His love.
For the sake of the body… will we let it do what bodies are supposed to do?
I know it’s uncomfortable, I know its awkward, and we fear the embarassment….
O well, we are a family, let’s get used to being one…
For as that family, we have Christ, we have the Faher, and we have the Holy Spirit, the one who’s title is, the Comforter.
Will we cry out together, Lord have Mercy! and Maranatha! and Hallelujah?
If you want to see a church that does this… come join us at Concordia…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1964-1965). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
He Knows Your Name!
my devotion this morning comes from yesterday’s preschool chapel…. it is pretty simple…but then again, that leaves us in awe…
I Know Your Name!
† In Jesus Name †
Isaiah 43:1 (TEV) 1 Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine.
It’s special person’s day!
Who would like to introduce me to who they asked to be their special person today?
(pick a few)
Wow! And thank you to all of your special people who heard and responded to the call to be these children’s special people!
As I was thinking about this morning, I thought about someone else calling to the people he wanted to be His special people. Just like you children chose your special person because you love them and wanted them to share this time with them, this person chose His special people and not only wants to spend a morning with them, but an entire lifetime.
It was a long time ago, before there were cell phones, before even there were phones. To invite them, he sent messengers to tell them, they were called apostles, and prophets and pastors. And one of those passages is our Bible verse for this morning.
Isaiah 43:1 (TEV) 1 Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine!
That is who it is who has a special people – it is God, He loves each of us so much – more than we can ever imagine. He shares not just one day with us, but every day! He calls us by name, and because Jesus came and died on the cross, we can become His special people – and He calls us each by name!
So not only did you invite a special person today… you are a special person that someone paid a very high price to invite you to share his days. Jesus!
Pastor? Preacher? Spritual Director? Life Coach? which do I NEED to minister to me?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
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. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)
1 Take me as your pattern, just as I take Christ for mine. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NJB)
1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6 He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7 Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8 He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.Philippians 2:1-8 (TEV)
It seems more and more advertising dollars are spent trying to convince me that I either should become a life coach, or that I need one. A lot of master’s programs at Catholic and Protestant universities have M.A. and M. DIv programs in becoming a spiritual director. Heck, one group is willing to provide me coaching, via videos and taped phone calls where I have no imput at all, but I can listen to them anytime I want. I also have been inundated with books by preachers about ministry, and how to take my church from a failure to a success, and books about how to preach to my people so their lives turn completely around and they can live a good and proper life.
Lots of advice….
Now, don’t compelte read me out of context, there are those that are wise, and experienced coaches, some of whom I talk to and bounce ideas with on occaison. But I’ve also talked to a coach in revitalization who was trying to get me to hire him as a coach, whose experience in churches under 1000 members was non-existent. They developed their theories and their plan based on statistics and the works of others.
As I look at all these programs, and talk to some who director them, I am reminded of a ministry opportunity I once had, to teach and shepherd a group of young married couples. Only one problem, I was 23 years old and had just broken up with my fiance a few months before!. But hey, I could have purchased the latest book by Dobson, or Trent and Smalley and taught the material.
As I think about the ministry, and how we train our ministers (deacons) and pastors, I wonder what sort of message this sends them about how they should serve their people. Do we want ministers who stand back and observe people and give advice that they haven’t quite experienced themselves? Do we want them to turn to studies and books and “journeys” that are not unlike an old diagram with yes/no questions with tracks to take? Or do we want someone who will be there, who may not have the answers but will continually point us to Christ’s presence in our lives, to His promises revealed in scripture, who assumes that God’s presence in our lives, is the final answer… and how that applies is something we work through together.
I think we need to get away from the cookie cutter approach, whether it is more traditional, or more contemporary, more cutting edge or more based in cautious stewardship of yesterday’s concepts. We have to stop de-humanizing the relationship between pastor and people, and and humble ourselves and get down in the mud together, and see what God is doing. That’s not the way Chirst worked among those with whom He lived. He got involved, He knew their pain, He took their burdens.. and He calls us to love each other in the same way. Including being patient with those whom we serve.. He didn’t meet them in an office, he met them at tax tables, and by the waiting room at the ppol, on the road and where the boats gather… He met them in their life, and endured with them
Maybe that’s the point about all this, that it isn’t just a title, but finding someone to work with who is willing to do what Christ did – to come to us in our brokenness, and minister healing to us. Not just advice, not just a sermon series, not just rubrics and guidelines and 6 steps to that. But someone who comes and serves, and cares, and brings healing and trains us to do the same to others.
May we train ministers and pastors and bishops and our laity – all who minister in Christ’s name.. to do so as Christ did..
Questioning where you are with God? Me too sometimes.. An answer of peace…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” 21 Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? 22 If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure 23 and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Romans 9:20-23 (MSG)
13 Like clay in the hands of a potter, to be molded according to his pleasure, So are men in the hands of their Creator, to be assigned by him their function. Sirach 33:13 (NAB) (1)
In 1964, after a stay in Pamplona during which he preached to many people, he said how ashamed he felt at the demonstrations of affection he received. “They carried me around like a statue in a procession!” He added, “Later on I heard that there had been many conversions, lapsed Catholics going to confession … and I remembered the clay our Lord used to open the eyes of the blind man in the Gospel.” (2)
Yesterday, in a class I was teaching on Evangelism, there was a great discussion on the issue of our partnership with the Holy Spirit in ministry. The question led to thikning on my part, and during breakfast this morning I came across the above quote about Jesus using the clay (mud) to open the eyes of a blind man, and St Josemaria’s likening himself to that clay.
It is a theme in scripture, this molding and designing our use, as you see in Romans. It appears in Jeremiah as well, and in other places. It gives us a model of ministry, one which answers many of my questions about why I go through what I go thorugh in ministry. Not the answer I want, by any means! But one that leaves me… at peace.
I don’t like the answer at first, because it means I can’t set the boundaries, I can’t determine my own path, or what I think is the right way and strategy to serve God. It’s not something I can turn to a mentor, or the new term “life-coach” to find out. They are on differnt journeys, they have a different calling. Prayer is good, and I often seek others to pray for me and those I encounter. Prayers for guidance, prayers that God’s desire be revealed, prayers for strength to endure what God’s desire for me is, not leaning on my own strength, but securely found in His care. Following His advice/guidelines/commands, because He is God and I am not god, I am just one of His children.
That’s tough, because I like to think of myself as a semi-rational, somewhat intelligent person. I love exploring God’s word, delving deep into the languages to see His love for my peopel revealed. But because I know a verb tense, because I have access to some of the greatest linguistic tools known, that doesn’t make me an authority over scripture. It doesn’t give me the right to say Thus didn’t say the Lord, or thus did say the Lord. I can point to what He says.
The same goes for what I am called to do in ministry, where God wants me. I can dream of other places, of places where the trauma is less, or the work is more “visibly” effective. A place where I am more personally able to relax and be at peace, or where I am not tempted to be someone else. But here is where I have been placed, this ministry (at least for the moment) is where God has placed me to serve. Do I have to understand why? Do I have to find great accolades from my peers or my people? Or can I just be satisfied with knowing God has molded me for this moment, this day, this serving, and that this moment will mold me for tomorrow and next year? That can happen only if my trust is in God, that I reognize not only His wisdom, but His love for me.
If I had a dream church, nestled in the mountains of New Hampshire, overlooking Lake Osippee, in a town of 1000, with 2500 people in church, with all my friends from the church I’ve pastored and been part of, (all of them healthy and financially stable, with solid marriages and awesome kids) there is no guarantee I would feel at peace more there than where i am today.
For peace doesn’t come to clay when it sets the rules, where it determines its use. Peace comes from knowing Who it is who created and formed and places us where we are. Peace is foudn walking with God, knowing His love. Whether we are in the inner city… or suburbia, or a jungle or desert. For we are His beloeved work, His beloved masterpieces.
Peace is found in Him, and that peace… oh that peace!
(1) For my friends from protestant backgrouns, the book identified as Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) is one of the books in the historic canon.of scripture, and it shows up in Bibles prior to the 19th century, including the King James Version. To simplify things if you are unfamiliar with it and the issues about the Canon, consider it like you would a writings of an Augustine, or a Luther, or other orthodox preacher.
(2) Urbano, Pilar (2011-05-10). The Man of Villa Tevere (Kindle Locations 5180-5184). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I Have Certainly Seen, I Am Aware, I Have Come Down!
I Have Certainly Seen, I Am Aware,
I Have Come Down…
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
It is my prayer for you, that you realize the grace of God, that His merciful love and peace wash over you, cleansing you, as we realize that He has come to us!
The Burning Bush? Big Deal…
It draws our attention like a moth is drawn to a flame, like the day after thanksgiving gathers shoppers to stores. Like chocolate draws the attention of some people… or like Best Buy adds draw William’s attention… well and mine.
Yet in our Old Testament reading this morning, it is about as important on its own as the color and smell of the sheep Moses shepherded.
Burning Bushes are interesting, they get our attention, they call us to look at this passage, they gain our attention.
But this passage is about the burning bush. It is about what God reveals to Moses, something that after this week of challenges I don’t just want to preach about. I need to know it as you do. I need to know it is as true for us, as it was for Israel.
Verse 7, slightly adapted:
7 Then the Lord told us, “I have certainly seen the oppression of you my people. I have heard your cries of distress because of the trauma life is tossing at you. Yes, I am aware of your suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue you.
I have certainly seen….. I am aware…. And
I have come down
Our struggle – we aren’t sure if He sees, if He is aware…
I think we get that God has come down in the past, in the time where He walked with Abraham, or Moses, or when He inspired King David to write incredible songs of transparency and praise. We know He was there for the prophets. Yet when God talks so passionately about His people, about seeing them and being aware their troubles, and coming down to rescue them, I think we lose something in translation.
Because we use the pronoun “them”, rather the “us”
There are days I wonder, does God see us the way He saw Israel, does He know the pain we endure, whether it is our grief, or our anxieties. When our complaints and our brokenness seem unheard, seem that they do not gain His attention. Just like Israel, crying out for His help, as they struggled under oppression in Egypt. Faith is realizing the them is us.
So that we can cry out like the man who encountered Jesus, “Lord, we trust in you, help us trust in you!”
We look around to see if there is a burning bush nearby… or maybe we check with our friends, or maybe even our pastor, to see if they’ve seen one. After all – Moses was not outside the Starbucks in Cairo, Egypt when the people were crying out. He was out in the desert, out in the wilderness, trying to avoid his own problems. Hmmm.. maybe I should check with my friends in Anza and Yucca Valley, see if they’ve seen our bush?
I have to be honest in this, there are the days, where like the Israelites wandering in Sinai, I wonder if it would be better to go back to New Eng..err Egypt. That the problems and sufferings might have been less there.
We are not the super-heroes of the faith. Matter of fact, if we read their stories, Abraham, and Moses, David and Jeremiah were not superheroes either. They struggled as we do, to see God’s presence, to see God’s faithfulness.
Otherwise, why do burning bushes and arks of the covenant exist?
Because we need to know this: that He sees us, we need to know He is aware… and to remember He has come to rescue us. We need something to distract us from our normal grind of life, to call us to realize that we stand on Holy Ground… not because of a burning bush or a beautiful sanctuary, but because we live in God’s presence.
But He has… and He therefore comes down!
We are not in the situation Israel thought they were in, when Moses turned back to see phenomena, and instead realized He was in the glorious presence of God. We are in the journey from that place, on our way to the Promised Land, the place God has set aside for us to dwell with Him eternally.
He has come down! He is guiding us, even as He guided them through the Sinai. We are not in paradise, in heaven just yet. He calls us together like a shepherd gathering a flock, like Moses was sent back to Egypt to go get God’s people. Because our oppressors have been defeated.
It is not in today’s reading but not long after that the miracle at the Red Sea happened. Like this it was prophetic, a picture of our baptism. When the Israelites walked through that sea – it was to get to the other side. Passing through the sea was to get them to the place where God arranged for them to live in His presence. However, those that oppressed them died in the water, they did not pass through it.
Just like that is our baptism, where the goal is not just the removal of our sin, not just to unite with Christ’s death, but with His resurrection as well. Though we pass under/through the water of baptism that which would and could separate us from Jesus does not. It died – then and there. Our oppressor and the sins which enslaved us died and lost all authority over us there.
Because God saw, and was aware of our situation, and came down to rescue us. The rescue is only the beginning, even as sending Moses to Egypt was only the beginning for Israel!
And He is still here… because He has seen, and is aware… and is with you
Flash forward 1500 years, to two more mountains, the first and encounter between another tree, and another man, another appointment arranged by God. The second mountain, where that man would turn to his apprentices, to send them back to their lives, to free others still captive in sin, still oppressed by it.
Christ would die on that cross, and I pray that everyone we come in contact would turn to look at that tree, on which God was killed, yet would live.
It is that other mountain, that I would look at, to close this sermon and lead us toward prayer. The words that we know, but again, that we miss part of at times. The words that send us back out into our worlds, back to the places where people need to know God’s love.
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
All authority is invested by the Father in the Son, and even as the Father sends the Son, so He sends us. Just like Moses was sent. The key is in the other part of the passage that is underlined.
I am with you… the same message that Moses would hear… as he was sent to deliver people from bondage. The same message those people would hear, as God guided them to the Holy Land. The same promise made to us when we were called into this relationship, the same promise made to every believer, as they are sent to free others from the bondage of sin.
He is with you.
He certainly sees, He is so aware, and He’s come down to rescue us.
That’s what the tree on the mountain that wasn’t consumed by fire was really about.
That’s what the parting of the water of Red Sea was about.
That’s what the cross on another mountain is about…
That’s what the water of baptism is about..
And it is what this altar, and this meal is about…when we, as Moses was told remember His name.
7 Then the Lord told us, “I have certainly seen the oppression of you my people. I have heard your cries of distress because of the trauma life is tossing at you. Yes, I am aware of your suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue you.
And He brings us into His peace, His indescribable peace that passes all understanding, where Jesus will keep us, mind and heart, safe and secure; for the Lord dwells with you! AMEN!
Our Toughest Challenge… and how to defeat it.
Devotional thought of the day:
3 “Worship no god but me. 4 “Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5 Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals. Exodus 20:3-5 (TEV)
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. (1)
426 Once you were pessimistic, hesitant and apathetic. Now you are completely transformed: you feel courageous, optimistic and self-confident, because you have made up your mind, at last, to rely on God alone.(2)
If there is one thing we as human beings excel at, it is creating idols. There are idols carved to resemble every living thing, with perhaps the exception of cockroaches. Not sure anyone has made an idol of them. We make idols of our dreams, either our dreams for our own lives, or for our children or even grandchildren. We can make an idol out of health, or beauty or the right career path.
As Martin Luther describes above – it is whatever we look to for good and whatever we turn to we we are distressed, it is where we go when life is shaky and we just don’t have a clue, no way to persevere. It’s what can keep us away from church on Sunday – football, our kids sports leagues, our patrying on Saturday nights, even our jobs.
Life has a way of stripping those idols from us, for they let us down. They cannot sustain us, because and idol is simply something we’ve created, not something that created us.
Yet on we go… creating idols to help us deal wih the fact that our old idols fail us, that our lives don’t change, that getting that car, or that home, or that new computer, really didn’t change anything. No wonder philosophers and mystics appreciate spartan simplicity. The less you have, perhaps the less you have to make an idol? Doubt it, because we can even make an idol out of the most impoverished situation, the most unpleasant selffulfilling matyrdom.
And even as we create more and more idols, even as we chase after this or that, we miss freedom.
The freedom that comes from knowing Jesus, the God whom we didn’t have to create, because through Him we are created. The God who died on the cross for us, nailed our idolatry there as well… We are free from it, free to interact with the God who is real, the God who has come to us.
The God who wil care for us.
(1) The Large Catechism of Martin Luther
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1905-1907). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A plea for the end of kind of idolatry – “congregational-ism/denominational-ism/nondenominational-ism”
Devotional thought of the Day:
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)
427 What a sorry state someone is in when he has marvellous human virtues but a total lack of supernatural outlook, because he will apply those virtues quite easily to his own selfish ends. Meditate on this.(1)
Yesterday, I found myself wanting to respond to a post of a friend of mine. I actually had already my counter to her point, with a carefully laid out response and reasoning to why she was wrong and I was right. Just before I hit the button, I realized that my post was wrong, not because it countered hers, but that it countered what I well know. She claimed that her church was the best, and I wanted to counter that it was fifth in line, right behind the 4 I’ve pastored.
There is only “one church”. or if you please “One Church”.
It’s the one we confess in the creeds, the one church through which the Holy Spirit calls and gathers people, where the waters of baptism cleanses them from sin, where the Holy Spirit works through word and the sacraments.
One church. Not just Concordia Lutheran, or Shepherd of the Valley, or First Christian, or Saddleback or even the Roman Catholic Church, but one church, Made up of sin-shattered, broken people who find restoration as they are united to Christ. We must recognize the brokennes, we need to talk through the issues, we need to mourn the division. We can’t just hide them, or say to each other, “we just have to agree to disagree” Otherwise the unity isn’t real…
There is still only one church, united in the death of Christ, brought together by the Holy Spirit in peace that only comes from knowing we exist in the presence of God. In the loving presence of God. That is where unity begins, at the cross, in the death of Christ Jesus.
I put the quote from St Josemaria in this post for a reason, the reason that if unity is to occur in the church, it has to be supernatural, it has to be because we trust in Christ to create it, and we realize He has. We just do not see it, perhaps because we focus so much on what divides us, and we get defensive if we think we are going to be proven wrong. Perhaps I should say I get defensive…. or I get offensive when I know I am right – and think that everyone else’s journey must be the same sort of twisted journey that I’ve had. Again the temptation is to make me the norm, (or for you to make you the norm) rather than making it Christ.
You see, when we forget that there is one church, we begin to make idols of our congregations, of our denominations, or even of our “non-denominatiolism”. We can acknowledge our errors, and the struggles, and the division, but we cannot triumph over others, or treat them as if somehow God doesn’t love them as much, or that they are inferior. ( My own denominaiton does this, when they say, “we may not be perfect, but we ar the best thing going” When we do this, we begin to think territorally, we begin to think what is best for our little part of the church, rather than what is best for all the churches around us. We horde talent, rather than seeking where God would use each of us. Let me give and example – Our church has a number of skilled keyboardists, and they all love playing with my music director. We had sent out one of our deacons, who is now a seminary student while serving as a student pastor. He needed a keyboard player… we had several… so it worked out that one of ours helped out. But what if churches with great sunday school staffs, or great youth programs or great senior programs actually invested their people in other churches? What would happen then?
What would happen if we treated the church as a whole, even if just within our own denominations to start? If we shared and worked together, and struggled with those who aren’t like us?
What if we heard Jesus’ prayer that we may be one, even as the Trinity is one? What if we heard Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus, and the church in Rome and the church in Corinth?
Can we stop the idolatry? Can we celebrate together in Christ?
Can we pray and strive together… working through that which divides us, realizing that what unites us is more important?
BTW – for people in my own beloved LCMS – this isn’t something new or odd. read the words below…
Though God desires that all congregations be orthodox, and though all heterodox communions exist only by God’s sufferance and contrary to God’s gracious will, still it is a fact that also in the heterodox communions there are believing children of God. The term “Christians” covers a wider field than the term “orthodox Christians.” Though Christ denies to the Samaritan Church the right of existence as a separate church organization (John 4:22), still He repeatedly acknowledged individual Samaritans as true children of God (Luke 17:16 ff; 10:33). Luther, too, never thought of making the orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, coextensive with the Una Sancta. Vigorously as he fights against the Papacy and expressly declares it an institution of Satan, he nevertheless does not doubt that God has at all times under the Papacy preserved for Himself a Church, yes, the elite of the Christians.31 Again, earnestly as Luther fights against Carlstadt, Zwingli, and their collaborators for their deviation from God’s Word, he nevertheless grants that there were also true children of God who, ignorant of the evil they were thus supporting, made common cause with these pseudo reformers (St. L. IX:44). Likewise our older Lutheran dogmaticians, “zealots for orthodoxy” though they were, nevertheless decidedly rejected identification of the Una Sancta Ecclesia with the orthodox Lutheran Church.32 The Fathers of the Missouri Synod declare it a calumny when the Lutheran Church is accused of identifying the Church of God with the Lutheran Church.33 They taught: If a person sincerely clings to the cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith, if he believes that God is gracious to him because of Christ’s satisfactio vicaria, he is a member of the Christian Church, no matter in which ecclesiastical camp he may be. By denying this truth one would overthrow the cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith, the article of justification. Walther: According to Rom. 3:28 and Acts 4:12 “the unconditional and sole requirement for salvation is fellowship with Christ through faith. The maxim, ‘Outside the Church there is no salvation,’ ‘He who has not the Church on earth for his mother has not God in heaven for his Father,’ is true only in this sense, that outside the invisible Church there is no salvation and no state of grace. It has only this meaning that ‘there is no salvation outside Christ’; for whoever is not in inward fellowship with the believers and saints is not in fellowship with Christ either. On the other hand, whoever is in fellowship with Christ is in fellowship also with all those in whom Christ dwells, that is, with the invisible Church. Accordingly, he who restricts salvation to fellowship with any visible Church therewith overthrows the article of the justification of a poor sinner in the sight of God by faith alone in Jesus Christ.” (Walther and the Church, p. 70.) Pieper, F. (1953). Christian Dogmatics (electronic ed., Vol. 3, pp. 423–425). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
(1) Escriva,Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1908-1910). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Reformation Day, A Day I Pray Would Become… Obsolete. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Holy Spirit gives gifts… but not to individuals… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Holy Spirit in the Church (thepassionists.org)
- Can a Christian Leader let his people fail? He must! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Needing a Sanctuary… because we know He is there… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- To prepare servant leaders… (justifiedandsinner.com)
The Holy Spirit gives gifts… but not to individuals…
Devotional THought of the Day:
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 2:10 (NLT)
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. 5 There are different ways to serve the same Lord, 6 and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (CEV)
422 If the Lord has given you some natural quality or skill, you should not just enjoy it yourself or show off about it; you should use it charitably in the service of your neighbour. And what better occasion than now will you find to serve, since you live with so many souls who share the same ideal as yourself?
Yesterday I wrote about our need as believers to grow, and the responsibility of the church, (and by this I mean not the institution, but all the peope of God) to encourage and develop each other.
But that is… a little misleading. For while we work together, while we encourage each other, while we occaisonally confront each other, it isn’t our work. It isn’t our strenth, our skills, we don’t get to take credit for it.
It is His work, we are, together, collectively, His masterpeice, His poetry, THat’s where the word poetry comes from – poeima – His work, His masterpiece, the very work of God. That is who we are, not passive people, but people working with our Father in His business – in recreating this world, taking that which is broken and battered by sin and the world, and bringing His healing, His love, his reconciliation, that’s our work.
Whereever God takes us, whether it’s working in the drive through at McDonald’s or managing a department of a univerity Whether it’s being the low man on the totem pole or being the President. It’s His placement, When we talk about HIs gifts, and the fact that He gives gifts to us, but it is not a gift to us… the gift is us to each other. We are His creation, His masterpice, but we are given to Him , and too each other.
That’s a challenge, because as gifts, we must do things, we work together, with the gifts we have become, strengthening each other, loving each other, serving each other. That’s who we are. Not passive, not employed at at other thing… but to serve God by serving each other.
That’s what we are abot – that’s why we have gifts..
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1889-1892). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Suck it up… and go talk to Jesus (justifiedandsinner.com)
How to Build the Church
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
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. Ephesians 4:11-15 (NLT)
418 The Lord can raise children of Abraham from the very stones… But we must make sure that the stone is not crumbly, for though hard rock may be shapeless, it is easier to hew good stone for building from it. (1)
While the church, whether Lutheran, Protestant or Catholic finds a renewed focus on evangelization, I sometimes fear that we are so focused on conversion, that we forget the responsibility of the Church and the churches have to grow and disciple those who have come to Christ. Evangelization isn’t just about that first contact, it is about a continual growth in our trust, in dependance on Christ, on God.
You see, Christianity isn’t just a conversion experience, it is a relationship with God that God defines, that God sustains, that God deepens as He reveals Himself. And the church is the instrument He reveals Himself through, as He is sahred through the word of God in songs, in sermons, in Bible Study and prayer, and of course in special acts we called sacraments – where God promises and fulfills them to His people. This defined relationship is why some call Christianity a relationship.
But back to this devotion, and this concept of growing in the relationship as God reveals His love to us, and through us to each other and the world. It is why we have churches, and BIble Studies and all sorts of things – but they have to focus on that relationship, on clearly communicating and revealing Christ, and in the process teach us how to reveal Christ to each other, as we love them as Christ does. (see the book of 1 John for an explanation of the necessity of this) So we grow together, we encourage each other, we support and work with each other.
That is what St Josemaria is talking about, when he talks of hewing a stone, helping it fit into the others, as God build His church….
Basic? Perhaps… but on this day.. maybe that is needed, so we don’t do something else, but stay on task as the church, His church!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1875-1877). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.