Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Humility Needed For Ministry: Christ’s


Devotional thought of the DayThe Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

25  God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26  This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:25-29 (NLT)

6  “I have made you known to those you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me. They have obeyed your word, 7  and now they know that everything you gave me comes from you. 8  I gave them the message that you gave me, and they received it; they know that it is true that I came from you, and they believe that you sent me. 9  “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those you gave me, for they belong to you. 10  All I have is yours, and all you have is mine; and my glory is shown through them. John 17:6-10 (TEV) 

291  The Lord has shown us this refinement of Love: he has let us conquer the world for him. He is always so humble that he has wished to limit himself to making it possible… To us He has granted the easiest and most agreeable part: taking action and gaining the victory. (1)

It seems there is one more blog this week about humility, and the role it plays in our relationship with God our Father. Our relationship with God, what some would call our faith, But ministry, like reconciliation and faith, it doesn’t start with us.

It is about Christ.

His humility, His gift to us of sharing His work with us. of working through us.

The words of Escriva in my devotions this morning sent dozens of passages through my mind, from the Carmen Christi hymn of Philippians 2:5-10, to Isaiah 52-53, to Psalm 139, to the description of Jesus going into hell to preach to those captive there in Peter’s writings, to the very promises of the Incarnation.

Why would Jesus share His ministry, His work of reconciling, of redeeming the world, of restoring in us what we were created to be, the children of God?  What do we have to bring to His work, that He already isn’t?  Can we love as purely?  Sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others?  Can we speak as eloquently, or heal those who are broken?  Do we have the wisdom, the knowledge, and the depth of love?

Why does Jesus share with us the work to achieve that which the Father desires?

Why would He humbly step aside, and give to us, His people, the responsibility to ‘take action and gain the victory?”

Why would He give us the opportunity to share in His glory, in His work glorifying the Father?

Why would He trust us to work with all we are, to present every man complete as they are joined to Him?

it is something incredible to contemplate, to wonder about the love of God that is shown to us in giving us this ministry of reconciliation.  Think through this day the relationship you have with God, where He would entrust you with that which He desires. Think of how He must see us, as we are joined to Christ.  Consider how complete God’s work is, a true masterpiece in His opinion, as He united us to Christ’s death and resurrection in our baptism.

This trust God would place in us, as Jesus entrusts to us (and we are empowered to do this work by the Holy Spirit!) with His own work, with bringing the message of His love, His mercy, His grace.

That is why ministry isn’t about law, why serving others isn’t a command, it is a moment of unity with Christ, of walking with Him, of the unity of His resurrection and ours, lived out in our very lives. It is about the gift of the Holy Spirit, where we do this work, not by our own strength, but the Holy Spirit working in us, revealing the glory of God at work in us. as we find ourselves striving to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Even as God humbles Himself to allow us to be partners in ministry, He ensures the work is done through us…. amazing….

Ministry? It is about walking humbly with a God, who humbles Himself to walk with us.

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1400-1403). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Another Challenging “imitate Paul as he Imitates Jesus moment…”


Devotional Thought ot the Day:

14  Now I am coming to you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you. I don’t want what you have—I want you. After all, children don’t provide for their parents. Rather, parents provide for their children. 15  I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me. 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 (NLT)

288 When the Lord makes use of you to pour His grace into souls remember that you are only the wrapping round the gift, the paper that is torn up and thrown away.  (1)

Over the last couple of days, my blogs have focused on the relationship of faith (trusting in God ) and humility.  It’s not an easy thing to manage – this idea of humility. To let God be our God, to entrust our entire lives into His wise care, this is what faith is. The result is being transformed into His image, growing in His likeness.  Learning to see His will as ours, and caring for what He cares for, that people come to repentance, to transformation.  Learning to value what He does, the way He does.

We see this in Paul’s words, as he tells the church in Corinth how he isn’t in anything they have.  He wants them to know Jesus. He wants them in the Father’s hands, no matter the cost.

Do we look at the world, as evil as it may seem, at those broken, from the homeless guy to the “big names” in sports, business, and politics in the same way?  As people who desperately need to know Jesus?   How are we welling to die to self, that people may know Christ.  Not just about Him, but really know Him?

Are we willing to be the paper that Josemaria speaks of tossed aside, even trashed, as long as the Father’s gift to them is revealed and received?

This takes humility, it takes Christ-likeness, for this is what He has done… it takes trust in God, it takes knowing Him.

It is who we are called to be, it is to walk where God planned for us to walk – from before time.

Will you walk with Him today?  Lord have mercy, we will let Him walk as our guide.

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1388-1389). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Art of Theology: Not Putting God in Your Box


devotional thought of the day:IMG_0882

1  Then Job answered the LORD. 2  Job I know, LORD, that you are all-powerful; that you can do everything you want. 3  You ask how I dare question your wisdom when I am so very ignorant. I talked about things I did not understand, about marvels too great for me to know. 4  You told me to listen while you spoke and to try to answer your questions. 5  In the past I knew only what others had told me, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. 6  So I am ashamed of all I have said and repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:1-6 (TEV)

272 If you are sensible and humble, you will have realised that one never stops learning… This happens in every field; even the wisest will always have something to learn, until the end of their lives; if they don’t, they cease to be wise. (1)

I am a pastor, that means to a certain point, I have been trained as a theologian.  If you look at my libraries, you will see a few thousand volumes of books.  The hardbacks I have read through, the digital ones, well – there are too many, but I source many of them each week in sermon preparation. Usually I skim maybe 20% of the 100-1500 hits I research, looking for various things to help prepare a message.  I probably choose 10-20 to copy and paste and dwell through each week.

Been doing this for a while now, actually changed denominations once, have my favorite authors ( Luther, Escriva, Oden, Ratzinger, Willimon, Melancthon, Walther, Pieper, Augustine, Fracnis De Sales, Robert Webber )  It is somewhat an eclectic list, with guys from different times, different backgrounds. Which leads me to my point. I

We can’t put God in our Box.

We have to take Him as He reveals Himself, even if we don’t necessarily like His methods, His rules, His ways.  We can’t say they are wrong simply because we don’t like them.  Nor can we say with integrity that He didn’t really mean “that”.  Yet to often we do, unaware that pride is causing us to shatter the first commandment.

Over the years, others have done fine jobs summarizing the faith.  The three creeds that are held by Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches ( The Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian) are good.  I am particularly fond of others, the Augsburg Confession and Apology of the Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Catechisms for example.  Pieper has done a masterpiece of theology, so has Thomas Oden never mind Luther and Augustine.  But I can’t remember ever page, every question and answer of these theological giants.  My expectation is neither can they!  They couldn’t in a couple thousand pages describe everything about God, they couldn’t out-Bible the Bible. They wrote great things… yet, it is still the observation of men, not equal to scripture.

That is what Job realized at the end of the book that bears his name. (as did his friends…) It is what Josemaria Escriva talks about, in a section on humility (not, incidentally, on wisdom!)

A wise man once said that, “A man’s got to know his limitations…”  Another, Socrates was considered to be the wisest man of his time.  His response to being told this was something like this, “it is only because I realize how much I don’t know.”  A good theologian talks where there is definite scriptural support – and struggles with that which contradicts his logix, because It is God’s word, God’s reasoning that trumps ours.  Even when it doesn’t seem logical, or fair.

Yesterday’s blog was about walking humbly with God, about keeping our eyes on Him, about sometimes that humility is only found in the midst of great sorrow.  Today’s is similar, our wisdom comes, not from what we know about God, but that we realize we are not omniscient, that His word trumps our logic. That there is a reason why He is God, that He is our Lord, our Savior, our Benefactor, and we are simply…. His kids.

So give up, for a day or two, putting God in your box…. let Him instead bring you into His glory….

Lord Have Mercy!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1337-1340). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

He is Risen, Therefore – why are you standing around?


He is Risen!  Therefore…SAMSUNG

Why are you standing around?

Acts 1:1-11

 In Jesus Name

May you go out from this place, realizing that the grace, mercy and peace of God is with you, with the understanding that is it more glorious when you share it with others!

The Memorial Acclimation:  

The words are familiar…..

“Christ has died!  Christ has Risen, Christ will come again!”

At least, they should be to those of us who regularly gather here.  We say something like them when we testify of our faith, using the words of the Creed.  We sing them occasionally, too, when Chris puts the Memorial Acclimation in the service.

How often do we do those things anyways?  ( both every week, twice in lent and advent!)

Yet I wonder if we hear them, when we do?

I think we get that He has died, for we celebrate that constantly.  And that He is Risen? (He has Risen Indeed, Alleluia!  And therefore  We are risen indeed!)

But what about that last part, words similar to those two men, who spoke to the disciples, while they were just staring off into, well as they were staring off into space.

They ended the discussion with these words, “but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Do we hear those words?  I mean, not just like hearing them as the sound waves travel in one ear and out the other.  But hearing those words, and having them stick to our very soul.  Do we hear that Jesus Christ will come again?  Do we know it, count on it, live our lives in view of it?

Or do we need to hear the first words of the two men in white….

Men, why are you standing here, staring into heaven?

But why do we stand around like the apostles?

As I read the entire story, recorded by Luke for his friend, Theophilus, I wonder about these apostles, and I guess I am not surprised by their standing around.  They weren’t the quickest to understand something.

Consider this.

in verse 2, we see that Jesus, in the forty days he walked with the apostles, had to prove to them in many ways that he was alive.  That just seems more unbelievable than believing that someone could rise from the dead in the first place!

In the upper room twice, on the shores of Lake Galilee, appearing to Peter one other time, and I imagine that when the resurrected Jesus appeared to 500 as Paul writes about, some of the apostles were probably there!

Yet he still has to teach them, proving to them He was alive!  Even that day, for Matthew 28 says, Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! Matthew 28:16-17 (NLT)

It seems strange, that these men who walked with Jesus more than three years, who saw His wounds, who saw Him heal, who heard Him teach would still struggle to put together everything.  Yet in those forty days, Jesus continued to invest Himself in His chosen men.

He went over the same lessons that He taught them prior to the cross, At least four times Jesus talked about the coming of God’s kingdom, and that it wasn’t known until it was revealed.  At the last supper it was an issue, and here at the ascension, it still is!  “When will we see you reigning over the world Lord?” they asked.

Maybe we still do?

Among the things He kept teaching them, indeed twice in this passage, is that they would be His witnesses.  He had to keep letting them know that they would testify of what people needed to know about Jesus, to the world.  He actually commissions them to this in verse 2, and then reminds them again in verse 8!

Yet, after all that, they are standing around, staring up into space?

Is it any wonder that we have the same issues today?

If we are like the apostles, what made a difference in their lives will make a difference in our lives, as we become witnesses of His to this world.

You see in the middle of the passage – Jesus reminds them that they will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  That the Holy Spirit will come into their lives, and that this is the reason they will be able to tell people about His life, his death, resurrection and that He is coming back.

That is part of what Jesus taught them, about the role of the Holy Spirit.  In John 14, Jesus promised,

25  “I have told you this while I am still with you. 26  The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. John 14:25-26 (TEV)

This includes us by the way, for even as the Apostles were baptized in the Spirit, so were you and I, when we were baptized in Christ. That what these apostles heard and saw, over and over, we too will recall.  Prodded by the Holy Spirit, and those messengers that might just say to us, “why are you standing here, looking into space?”

Sharing our faith isn’t about the law – a duty enforced on us, any more than having the grace of God our father, the love and mercy show to us in Christ is.  It is what happens when Jesus is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, as we are continually taught about that love and mercy, and the Kingdom of God, and the day we shall see it.

It is what we are commissioned to do, because we are the children of God, sent into places like Cerritos, and Downey, La Palma and Buena Park and Lakewood.  Sent to places like China, or the Philippines or Northern California, or even the doctor’s office or Walmart, to be His witnesses.

Even as we are in awe of God’s presence among us, even as we consider that Christ has Died, Christ has risen (wait for it), and yes, He will come again…….even as all that goes through our mind, it is time to stop standing around, and it is time to bring the news of God’s love to this lost and broken world.

We can do it, because we know that we dwell in the peace of God that passes all understanding, a peace in which Christ guards our hearts and minds… and therefore, we don’t have to just stand around!

AMEN?

The Key to Faith, Peace and Joy….on a Tuesday which is actually a double Monday!


Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)

1   LORD, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. 2  Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. 3  Israel, trust in the LORD now and forever! Psalm 131:1-3 (TEV)

268 If you are convinced of your “poor quality”—if you know yourself—you will react to events supernaturally. Joy and peace will take a firmer root in your soul, in the face of humiliations, being despised, calumnies… In these cases, after saying fiat—Lord, whatever you want—you should think: “Is that all he said? He obviously does not know me, otherwise he wouldn’t have left it at that.” Being convinced that you deserve worse treatment, you will feel grateful to that person, and rejoice at what might have made somebody else suffer.  (1)I

it is Tuesday morning, but not a normal Tuesday.  It is more like a triple espresso version of Monday.

I could go into why, but each of us has our challenges, our crosses, our burdens to bear, The secret is to bear them with great joy, because of the peace that we have, that surpasses all understanding, a peace that comes to all who trust in God.

But that trust isn’t easy, having faith in God is something itself that is miraculous, that is supernatural because it simply isn’t natural to us.

There is a point in life where the world so overwhelms and oppresses us, that we want to emotionally crawl into a corner and go into a fetal position. To find a place where we can find security, where we can find peace, where we can find healing for our souls.

As I read this passage from Psalms this morning, as I looked at St Josemaria’s words in Furrow, something came to mind.  When we are so spiritually exhausted, when we are so tired, so beyond our abilities, focusing on being humbled isn’t an issue.  We simply are, and when we call out to God in such despair, we somehow, miraculously hear His voice, we recognize His presence. We find that we are embraced by Him, that we have found the rest and healing our souls so long desire.

All of a sudden, the supernatural becomes the natural, the work of God becomes our norm, and we walk through life, frazzled and joyous, oppressed and yet peace-filled, harried but trusting in a God who has proved His love for us at a wretched torturous cross, and proved to us that we dwell in Him. It is hard to explain, but it comes down to the simple humility that is described in the first commandment,

5 “The LORD said, 6  ‘I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves. 7  ” ‘Worship no god but me. Deuteronomy 5:5b-7 (TEV)

It is that simple, humility is recognizing that we aren’t gods, that we aren’t in charge, but that He is.  He is our God, the One who has promised us peace, mercy, joy, because of the love He has for us. Living simply in that, we find something beyond, something supernatural, something that should become more and more natural.  That is why reading and studying (they are different disciplines) God’s word is crucial to our lives, it is why the sacraments, Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper) are blessings that should be received frequently.  These means of grace bring us back to that level of humility, that place where we are curled up in God’s arms… that place where we simply know His presence, and His love… and that, that is enough for incredible peace, mind-blowing joy, and a strengthening of our faith as we walk humbly with Him.

Amen.

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1320-1326). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

God Has Shown Us, but do we see?


Devotional?Discussion Thought of the Day:God, who am I?
6  What shall I bring to the LORD, the God of heaven, when I come to worship him? Shall I bring the best calves to burn as offerings to him? 7  Will the LORD be pleased if I bring him thousands of sheep or endless streams of olive oil? Shall I offer him my first-born child to pay for my sins? 8  No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.     Micah 6:6-8 (TEV)

259         Prayer is the humility of the man who acknowledges his profound wretchedness and the greatness of God. He addresses and adores God as one who expects everything from Him and nothing from himself. Faith is the humility of the mind which renounces its own judgement and surrenders to the verdict and authority of the Church. Obedience is the humility of the will which subjects itself to the will of another, for God’s sake.  (1)

Between trying to adapt to new meds which dropped a bomb on me physically, a number of my parishioners in the hospital, two classes, on I teach and the sheriff’s academy, I come to my office this morning, more than a bit exhausted.  I suppose part of it is that I am just tired, but sometimes, in this situation, you see things clearly.

I see people bashing our president, and our former president, then bashing each other for bashing.
I see people bashing their ex’s, or maybe their about to be ex’s, not aware that what they are really doing is drowning themselves in bitterness.
I dared tp read the news at breakfast, and see the wards going on in the world.
I look at FB and see that people are still fighting the same worship wars, bashing each other for perceptions that aren’t accurate.
I see constantly within and without the church, people struggling, and I am tempted to bash back, or quit,
I see friends chastising those who want traditional relationships, and others condemning (rather that working with in love) those who live, struggling with sin.

I see a lot of sin… enough to overwhelm the world, never mind a simple middle-aged pastor.

In my devotions this morning, I came across the quote above by St. Josemaria Escriva.  I like his works because they don’t sugarcoat life, but even as they acknowledge the struggle, the acknowledge something bigger. It made me think of the Micah passage, and the simplicity of life to which it calls us.

Can we expect everything from God, knowing that our (individual and corporate) ability is no match to this world?  Can we humble our minds and consider that those before us aren’t passed the expiration date, or that those younger than us might have a insights far beyond us?  Can we subject ourselves, not just to each other, but to each other for God’s sake?  (maybe we should read Eph 5:21 again?)

Can we live this humbly?  Can we love this purely and constantly?  Some would say no, it is impossible for sinners to do so.

As pastors, priests, deacons, and all the other ministers of God, can we encourage people to do this, while struggling to do it ourselves?  Do we just turn our backs and find some nice monastery to hide in, and let the world go to hell?

We have to try to help, it is our calling, our mission, our apostolate.  It is a burden to bear and a cross to carry.  And yes, it means there will be days where we are dejected, tired, broken, ready to give up on the world.

The key is the very last line of the prophet’s words, “to live in humble fellowship with our God.”  The key is also seen in the opening words of a catholic priest who knew war, famine, poverty, and yet still knew the presence of God,  Prayer is the humility of the man who acknowledges his profound wretchedness and the greatness of God. He addresses and adores God as one who expects everything from Him and nothing from himself.”  Humility is simply remember He is God, we aren’t, and what that means each and everyday we are alive…..

He is here, we walk with Him, He has promised to be our Master, the Lord who provides all we need, the Lord who doesn’t abandon His people but works in them.  It is He who is our hope, the mountains we look to for escape, and to hide offer nothing…. for He has given us everything.  He has given us Himself.  It is in Him we have hope, even while in the mud and muck of this world.  Even while we minister in brokenness, with those who are broken.

May we know this as we cry out, Lord Have Mercy!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1262-1267). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dare We Speak of Wanting to Leave God???? We must??


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

67  Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: “Do you also want to leave?” 68  Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. 69  We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69 (MSG)

257         The Lord, the Eternal Priest, always blesses with the Cross.  (1)

Last night, as we gathered in Bible Study, we talked about Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12.  We talked of how he had a thorn in the flesh, and how he begged the Father in Heaven to remove it, not once but three times.  Each time he received an answer.  Peter had a similar discussion once with Jesus as well, three times having to hear an answer. We all laughed, knowing that some of us need to hear what has to be said 4 or 5 or even 211 times. Jeremiah accused God of deceiving Jeremiah.  St Josemaria tells us that Jesus always blesses with the cross…. but that means there is a cross.

Yeah, there are days like that.  Days were we have to give voice to that which flows from our hearts. The pains, the doubt, the brokenness. We can’t bury it, we can’t just ignore it, and let our hearts harden, for then they will surely shatter.

There are times where you have to exhale the poisons in your system, before you can breath in the Spirit.  You have to let it go (O gosh – not that phrase!  🙂 )  Prior to seeing the answer that is there.

In the gospel reading above, the crowds have abandoned Jesus.  They don’t want to admit the depth of their need, a need that can only be met through the body and blood of Christ be given and shed for us, to be more than just those who observe, but those who are joined to Christ’s death, that we would be joined to His resurrection. With all abandoning Jesus, He turns to the last dozen…..and offers them an opportunity to leave the pain, to leave the discomfort of the message that challenges their nicely fabricated holiness.

Somehow Peter gets it right, No, not somehow rather by God’s grace.

Where else could we go Lord? The best hope we have, the only hope, is to walk with you, through whatever it is that opposes us.  It’s the cry of faith, that God is God, we aren’t, and so we trust in Him. Or like a paralytics father cried out, “Yes I trust in you Lord, help me to trust in you!” As odd as it seems, we need the times in Elijah’s cave, we need to have rants like Jeremiah or Moses or David.  We need to have the times like Peter on the beach, and like Paul struggling to really hear God, distracted by a thorn in the flesh.

I think that cry of faith can only come from the point where we know nothing else, Where we are broken and weak, the place and time we’ve given up on trying to do it by ourselves.  It is then we look up and see that God’s been there all the time. It is then we hear His words, and know they are the words of life. It is then, as we feel His embrace, that we know His mercy, love and peace are endless.  Sometimes we don’t realize the value of that, until we face walking away from it.

And then – our hearts lifted by the the words of life, we find ourselves given that life, dwelling in it, for we walk in the presence of God.

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Location 1254). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

Inalienable, God-given Rights? There is only one….


Devotional Thought of the Day:photo

12  Some, however, did receive him and believed in him; so he gave them the right to become God’s children. 13  They did not become God’s children by natural means, that is, by being born as the children of a human father; God himself was their Father. 14  The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son. John 1:12-14 (TEV)

255 Jesus came to the Cross, after having prepared himself for thirty three years, all his life! His disciples, if they really want to imitate him, have to convert their existence into a co-redemption of Love, with their own active and passive self-denial.  (1)

A lot of my Facebook recently has been filled with people demanding their, or someone else’s “rights”.  Here are a few of them.

  • a right to a “living wage”
  • a right to sexual freedom
  • a right to speak our against sexual sin
  • a right to life
  • a right to end life
  • a right to live in a democracy
  • a right to own guns of whatever type
  • a right to religious freedom (some claiming that right is infringed on in the USA… some really showing how it is infringed upon in places like the Sudan, or North Korea, or Syria.  you can actually sign online petitions here in the U.S.A to petition the leaders in the Sudan and Iraq to not follow their laws…
  • our right to be treated the way we want in any given relationship.

In some cases, these rights are considered to be God given, or inalienable or universal rights.  My sense of irony would ask, in some cases do we want everyone in the world to have that right.  For example – in the case of guns, if the right is truly inalienable, do we want our enemies to have the same right?  What about those who are violently unstable?  Do we want other countries to be able to tell us what we can or can’t do, based on their understanding of what is right?

Even as my thoughts find the irony in such demands, there is something more serious going on here. The idea of “rights” is quickly becoming a form of idolatry, with the idol being us, and our opinion.  God doesn’t given these rights (neither does the Constitution – which can be another idol at times) unless we think we speak for God, or more realistically, if we have created God in our own image.  demanding our own “God given rights” is often more simply our way of saying life isn’t fair.  An adult way of throwing a tantrum and saying we don’t like the what we are given.

Don’t get me wrong – some of these rights are given to us, legally, by powers that ave the right to grant them.  Others may have been given out of turn, but still, legally, they may have been given.

I am speaking about when we add “God given” or inalienable (which is the same thing if you think it through)

In talking of God-given rights, there is only one I find in scripture.  The right given to those who trust in God, to be called His children.  That can be unpacked, talking about being born again in baptism, talking about God bringing us into a relationship with Him, forgiving our sins.  That is the right that God gives to us, one that neither Satan, the world, a government, enemies, nor even family and friends can deny us.  To spend our life walking with God, knowing that He is there, that He loves us, that everything that happens is promised to work out for good.  (That does stretch our trust at times) Knowing that we are His kids, that He is our dad.

BTW – if we are His kids, that means we will be sometimes treated like His only begotten son. That means, as we imitate those like Paul when they imitated Christ, we will need to deny ourselves, and take up a cross.  We will have to give up our man-given or perceived to be given rights,  We will have to lay down our lives.  Not because we are commanded to, but because that is what those who walk with Jesus do, and have done for two centuries.

When we do, our lives testify to something far greater than our rights.

We testify to the God who gives, who sacrifices because of love, who gives mercifully, who walks with us through our lives, even through the times we make a mess of things. Even when the world is going to kill us.

So next time you think about your rights…. think first of your being a child of God.  It will help put things into perspective.

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1247-1250). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Pastors and Ministers: Do We Care About the Return on Our Investment of Time, Talent, Treasure?


Devotional Thought of The Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

6  I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7  So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (ASV)

215 The ploughshare that breaks up the earth and opens up the furrow sees neither the seed nor the harvest.  (1)

In Business, often you make decisions based on a data that provides a potential “ROI”.  Te acronym means, “return on investment”.  Here is a quick summary.

You only have the resources to fund one project, and you have to decide between..

Project A – you invest 1 million, and the result in you make 50,000 in profit, pretty much guaranteed.

Project B – you invest one million, and you have a 50-50 chance of returning 500,000.

Your decision is a matter of risk versus the return you get for the investment. Some would apply this kind of idea to the ministry, where do we plant churches, which direction do we lead the church, how do we decide about staff people.  It even is applied to our daily priorities, which things will I do today, that will build the kingdom?  Who will I invest my time in, who will I pass off to to others.  What will be my best ROI as a pastor?  Do we use such thoughts to justify why we don’t talk to this person, or don’t try that in ministry.  Either the ROI is to minimal, or the risk is too great?  We can’t spread ourselves that thin, or we have to concentrate strongly on this or that.  We use concepts from time management and strategic planning.

I started thinking about this last night – and the challenge my own congregation has in reaching out.  I started thinking about my first congregation and its growth, which was significant given its size.  It wasn’t were I planned to “invest” that provided the growth.  In fact, it was what I had to do besides being a pastor that resulted in growth.  First, my work as a part-time instructor at a college, and as a hospice chaplain.  Neither was supposed to be something I was doing to help our church grow, but that’s what happened.

If we are honest, all of our statistical analysis and projected ROI’s don’t mean diddly squat when it comes to the world of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t know if the nurse watching us minister to the person with alzheimer’s or in a coma will have seeds planted that will result in their baptism.  We don’t know that the student we failed in a class will later come by the office to apologize, and then reveal struggles that only God can heal.   We don’t know if the person who watched us grab someone’s check at a restaurant will ask why we did such a thing, and find our about God’s love.  Or the person we smiled at in the checkout line at Walmart needed some encouragement on a very hard day.

We don’t know when God is using us to break through a hard heart, or plant the seed of His love.  We might not ever know.  That kind of investment cannot be quantified, it cannot be studied, it cannot be controlled and reproduced.  That present to many of us a problem.

We’ve been trained since birth, to look for results, We’ve been trained to do things in a way that can be evaluated by criteria, we’ve been instructed to get the best grade, to aim for successful goals, to describe our mission in life with quantitative elements.

And evangelism, as St.Paul points out, isn’t so easy to see the results of, because it is a matter of teamwork.  It is the Holy Spirit working through all of us, not just one or two.  It is as Fr. Josemaria indicates, often we have no clue of the harvest we’ve been working towards, because that is not our role.  We’re aren’t the owner of the field, or the foreman.  We have our vocations, our gifts, and we follow His lead.  It’s unnerving.  especially as we invest and invest and invest in some people. Being the plow blade that breaks up hardened ground, or hardened hearts is a tough job…. and it is made only tougher because we do not know the result.  Yet it is a necessary job, this work where the Holy Spirits works through us.

What gets us trough?  What eases our frustration our doubt that what we invest will have some positive return?  What helps us to keep going?

Knowing the heart of God.  Realizing that is desire is that non one should perish, but all come to know the transformation to everlasting life. Knowing is promises, how He sustained Jeremiah, how he called Paul, how e worked through Peter.  Those live serve as a legacy, a testimony to us who in this generation serve……

Not knowing the gruit of our labors, but assured He does…..

Lord Have mercy on us, in this amazing, complex, frustrating, ministry of reconciling the world to You….and increase our trust in You!
.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1107-1108). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Alleluia! He is Risen, therefore… We Praise Him!


Alleluia!  He is Risen! Therefore

We Praise Him for He Keeps His Promises!

Psalm 146

 

In Jesus Name

 

May you praise God our Father as you realize the richness of the grace, the depth of the mercy, and the overwhelming love given to you in through the work of Jesus Christ.

 

He is Risen….response…and therefore!

 

Once upon a time there was a pastor who tired of his work, and that people never seemed to hear the message that he labored to create.  As the story goes, he decided to do an experiment, and started to preach the same sermon, week after week.  Eight weeks or so later, one of his elders asked him if he had used one of the stories in the sermon before, because it sure sounded familiar.

Now, I’ve never done that, probably never will, but I have to admit I’ve been tempted a time or two.

I do imagine that some of the series we do get repetitive.  It’s not just me, it’s the readings and the focus of scripture. Though it may say the same thing many different ways there is but one message we preach – Christ Jesus who is the hope our glory.

Since Easter, we’ve used a familiar cry, getting more familiar it, perhaps even tiring of it. (though I hope not!)

Alleluia – He is Risen!

(He Is Risen Indeed, alleluia!)

and therefore –

(We are risen indeed, alleluia!)

Because of the resurrection, we have a new life, a holy life set apart to God,  Because of our resurrection with Jesus we have peace, and we persevere.

Today we realize we live a life that is lived in praise of God, because He has kept His promises to us, to those who call upon His name.
LORD versus YHWH

     They’ve got to hear this… but so do we!

     Luther’s explanation of the 2nd!

 

As we look at Psalm 146, which is the passage we focus on this morning, we see one word repeated over and over.  LORD – is all capital letters.

The word LORD is there, because the translators didn’t quite know what to do with God’s name.  It is the name he revealed to the Moses, to reveal to the people He would save.  It is the name we are commanded to never use in vain, but to call upon in times of need, and as we see today, to use to praise God.

Does it make a difference, whether we use Lord, which is a title, or the personal name of God?  Imagine a man call his wife, Mrs. X, or saying, “wife, come here!”.  As I asked people such questions this week, there was a consensus that using a title puts distance between two people, it acts as an insulator, moving the relationship from personal and intimate to more distant, more uncaring.

Luther, in talking about the 2nd commandment, talked of it, not just using the name of God improperly, but by using it in vain, because we don’t use it when we should, to praise Him, to praise Him by laying before Him our lives, our problems, our struggles.  That’s what we are supposed to do, that’s how we are supposed to use His name.

God gave us His name to use, to help us realize how committed He was to keeping His promises, the actions that He would take and complete.  That’s is why we have hope in YHWH, in God.

Hear the actions He takes again,

He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry! The LORD frees the prisoners! The LORD opens the eyes of the blind! The LORD lifts up those who are weighed down! The LORD loves the godly! The LORD protects the foreigners among us! He cares for the orphans and widows! But he frustrates the plans of the wicked!

Where others fail us, God doesn’t. We aren’t going to get that kind of response from anyone else.  We shouldn’t expect it from powerful people, yet we so often do, and complain when they let us down.  Their plans don’t last past the time they leave office, never mind until they breathe their last.  If our faith, if our trust is in God, then we have something, in them, not so much.

That is why we praise Him.
The Incarnational life – but not quite the way we think

That’s why we praise and glorify Him.

Just a few months ago, during the Christmas season, we praised God because, as the Gospel of John put it, “He came and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

We call that, using church words, the incarnation.

But we praise Him now for a different incarnation, that He has gathered us and given us a new birth Himself.  We were born again, linked with His death, so that we could be raised with Him, so that we could relate to God the Father as our Father, so that we could use His name.  He who dwelt among us, calls us to dwell in Him.

That is what Christianity is all about, the relationship we have with our Creator.  With the God who loves each of us, and pulls us into Him.  It is seen throughout our church service, from allowing Him to cleanse us from sin, to our leaving our burdens, the things that cause us anxiety in His hands in prayer, to communion, the most intimate meal’

He gives us His name to call upon, in prayer and praise. Knowing He is here, knowing He loves us,

That’s were find comfort, and the strength to do amazing things, as we reach out to those around us, loving those who do not know love, or the power of God to fix and heal relationships.

Incarnate, dwelling with God, or to use the old phrase, abiding in Him, we find something the world cannot give…..

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, and we are kept there, secured in that peace by Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

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