Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Key to Effectiveness and Meaning in Work and Life.


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
1  If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1 (Phillips NT)

31  So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)

280    If you lose the supernatural meaning of your life, your charity will be philanthropy; your purity, decency; your mortification, stupidity; your discipline, a lash; and all your works, fruitless.  (1)

Every so often I find my e-mail and Twitter filled with advertisements or advice for being effective, for improving your impact, Ways to ensure you have meaning in what you do.  Go through this program, master these five trips, follow your passion, it seems like everyone has somewhere between three and twelve things to become successful in life. 

Josemaria Escriva encourages us to one thing – a simple thing. To enjoy God, to be set apart to Him, to adore Him as you realize that He cares for you, that He loves you.  Without it, all of our other actions, our sacrifices, our suffering, our prayers and worship and dedication to orthodoxy, is worthless.

To be blunt, if we live apart from the love of God, if we ignore his presence, we could be Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Martin Luther, John Calvin and St Augustine rolled into one, and we would have wasted our lives.

Yeah – living supernaturally, living dependent on God, having an intimate relationship with God is that important.

Ultimately, without it, nothing else matters, nothing else is worth it.   With it, everything becomes an incredible blessing.

This is why baptism matters because God makes you His own as He baptizes you.  That is why the Eucharist, Communion, the Lord’s Supper should be CELEBRATED, for the feast is God and man, together.  The same can be said for our times talking to God, hearing His voice, meditating on His word and simply resting, confident and secure in His presence.

That is where the peace comes from that we need to know if we are to survive the grind of life.  It is where our healing comes into play, where lives are reconciled, where we find that we are God’s work of art.

It is where we find that reality isn’t based on our emotion or our logic, but on His love and what He reveals to us because of that love.

St Paul is clear to the church in Corinth of this very same point – that without the love of God, even it doesn’t matter what we do, we have no value, no worth. But knowing that love?  It transforms us and causes us to do that which is amazing, we can bring God glory.

So don’t set aside your time with Him, enjoy it, savor it, relax and have fun with your Father.  Everything else will then fall into place.

Godspeed!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 745-746). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Would Socrates Think of Our Facebook Profiles?


Featured imageDevotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
15  You haven’t received the spirit of slaves that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the spirit of God’s adopted children by which we call out, “Abba! Father!” 16  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17  If we are his children, we are also God’s heirs. If we share in Christ’s suffering in order to share his glory, we are heirs together with him. Romans 8:15-17 (GW)

Do not forget: anyone who does not realize that he is a child of God is unaware of the deepest truth about himself. When he acts, he lacks the dominion and self-mastery we find in those who love our Lord above all else. (1)

“The unexamined life is not worth living”  (attributed to Socrates)

One of my favorite authors back in my collegiate days was Peter Kreeft.  He had a couple of books that portrayed the average college student, questing after the best things in life. Socrates would show up on campus, and through some strategically asked questions, the person would find their quest changing, and what they would see is that they needed God.

They needed to see reality from His perspective.  By asking themselves the questions that Socrates put forth, they realized how twisted life becomes, and how what we desire, isn’t what we desire.

The questions weren’t easy to face; The same questions we need to face, the questions that aren’t easy, either.

Will we face them?  Especially as we put our views out on FB as if we were had the knowledge of Einstein, or the Wisdom of Pope Francis, or the power of a president or a king?  FB is the place that empowers us to put whatever we want out for the world to read. We might even think that it happens without consequence. We will use the power of FB and Twitter to announce that we are gods?  That we have the authority to determine what is right, no matter what God says.  That we have the authority to condemn those who are evil, not according to scripture, but because we think they are.  We may be the conservative calling those who sin differently to repentance, we might be the liberal condemning those who don’t see things our way, and throwing away our religion.  Will we continue to defend our divinity, and deny it to those unlike us?

Or will we, in humble awe, with incredible adoration, realize that God has desired, made possible, and re-created us to be the children of God?

Examining our life, asking the questions that Socrates would ask, guiding us into what is real, what is important, brings us to a shocking reality.

That we aren’t gods, but that we desperately need a God, who cares, who loves, who heals, who guides and empowers us.  A God who instructs us how to love, not just by laying down the guidelines, but is the example of that perfect life.

The deepest truth?  Yeah – we were sinners, we still struggle incredibly with sin. If we say, we don’t, we lie, and accuse God of being a liar.  But the deepest truth is that He will make sinners saints, and is doing so now.

We have to realize that God neither approves of our sin.  That like the women caught in adultery, His words are, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” Rather Jesus gives us repentance as He reconciles us to Him, helping us to endure, and healing us of the sin’s damage, and restoring us to life.

That is who we are, the children of God, the friends of Christ.

to base our lives on any other identity, is to fail to examine our life, and is to live life as a lie.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Friends of God (Kindle Locations 619-621). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Transformation of Easter; The Change to Our Attitude


Featured imageThe Transformation of Easter

The Change to Our Attitude

1 John 3:16-24

  IHS

As you look towards standing before God, may you know the grace and mercy of our Father, and the Lord Jesus, which will give you bold confidence and the greatest of joy!

An Amazing Sight

Our epistle today describes an amazing moment in your life.

You are there, in the fullness of God’s glory.  There among the cherubim, the seraphim, the 24 elders that surround God on His throne.  The joy is immense, the sound of the people singing God’s praises so incredible, so far beyond anything you have ever pictured or thought.

It is what we’ve waited a lifetime for, and as you catch God’s eye, you see a twinkle, and a smile, and you are absolutely confident that this is where you belong.

It is an amazing feeling, to know that you belong there, in the very presence, in the glory of God.  A feeling that you feel as at home there, as in your own living room.  A feeling that you are completely peaceful here in the presence of the Lord.

What an amazing moment, an amazing eternity, to be standing before God in all of His glory, and to be, using the words of John, boldly confident, without a hesitation because of guilt, or shame. Hearing the praises of all the host of heaven, as they praise God for His holiness, for His sacredness, for His setting Himself, apart for us.

Amazing!

I can’t even imagine the feeling, the view, the joy…

The closest I can come… well…we will get to that a little later.

Uhm – am I compassionate enough!

I want to look at verse 16 and 17 for a few moments.

16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

I have to admit this one challenges me, even as the passage from Acts about everyone having everything in common did a few weeks ago.

I want to justify; I want to be the one who determines what it means to “be in need.”

I want to determine what it means to have “enough money”.  You know, I think Bill Gates has enough, and maybe those pro athletes.  The rest of us?  Not so much.

As we hear those words, I can’t help but think of the pleas that come from organizations that want to feed the children in the inner city, or in poor countries around the world.  Or the guy who was at the 91 and Bellflower Blvd exit, with his hand out for money.

Can I ignore them, and still know the love of God?  Is it in me?

Can we really look at our lives, in view of John’s call to “give up out lives for our brothers and sisters” and have confidence to stand before God?

Do we have the compassion – literally are our stomachs upset when we see someone in need?  Or do we just look away, or look down on those who have need?

How can we find the confidence we need to stand before God when John’s epistle is questioning us this bluntly?

Will we be in those that Jesus judges to be sheep, who visited the imprisoned, who fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, and in doing so, cared for Him?  Or will we be the goats, the stubborn one’s who held on to their stuff, and not cared?

How will we stand before God?

How many of us can say we are that compassionate towards those who are in need?

As a pastor, I think my answer will surprise you.

Where we find this compassion; the change He’s wrought in us.

A moment ago, I mentioned the companion passage to our epistle reading, which talked about the sheep and the goats.

Most of you might recall that the goats didn’t realize when they missed the opportunity to care for Jesus.  They asked him, “when didn’t we visit, feed, clothe, and care for you Jesus?”  And He said, “when you didn’t do it to the least of those in need, you didn’t do it to me.”

What most overlook is that the sheep didn’t know when they did visit, feed, sustain, clothe and care for Jesus.  They were as surprised as those who didn’t, but their care was evident to Jesus.

As I look out into this congregation, I see more and more, the people who are caring for those who are in need.  The people who have helped pre-school parents with scholarships, the people who respond to Al’s pleas for benevolence, both big and small.  One person has helped care for those kids as well, by paying for new carpets and flooring.  We hold each other up in prayer, and we respond to needs as they come. I hear of people visiting, and sharing, hugging each other.

That is why passing the peace comes where it does in the service, because when we realize the love of Christ seen here – at the altar, we see the need of it in each other’s lives and respond by sharing it with others.  Any other place in the liturgy, and it is pretty much a greeting.  But as we see the Body and Blood here for us… it changes us; it causes a level of compassion that is otherwise overlooked.  That compassion and love is amazing and brings comfort and peace.

Truly you can see in this place the love of Christ, if you know where and when to look.

You see, that is the transformation that occurs when we know that He is risen (response  He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia) ) and therefore ( we are risen indeed!)  God changes us, we learn to care for each other, for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a transformation He is doing, to all who believe are baptized.  Some may seem slower than others, but if we can’t even judge ourselves, our judgment of others fails as well.  Each of us has time, talents and treasures that differ, but the compassion of Christ is there in all of us.  It comes out more and more as we experience the love of Christ.

Like when we take and eat and take His body, and take and drink His blood, given and shed for us.

It is here, at the altar, experiencing His love and mercy, His presence and glory, that we are transformed, that we are changed, that we find God compassionate toward us, freeing us from sin and the fear of death, freeing us from the power of satan, freeing us to love Christ.  Freeing us from the guilt and shame, which would distract us from Jesus.

This is the work of Christ in you, the work that began in your baptism, that comes to His completion, that day when you stand before Him with bold confidence, assured, not of your own compassion, but of His.

it is that work, driven by His compassion, that will cause you to be bold and confident in His presence, and which brings you His peace, that peace the world cannot give, in which you are compassionately guarded, your heart and mind, for you dwell in Christ Jesus.  AMEN.

Given for YOU (plural!)


Featured imageDevotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

2  How I want to be there! I long to be in the LORD’S Temple. With my whole being I sing for joy to the living God. 3  Even the sparrows have built a nest, and the swallows have their own home; they keep their young near your altars, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 4  How happy are those who live in your Temple, always singing praise to you. Psalm 84:2-4 (TEV)

22. Whenever the Sacrament of Baptism is duly administered as Our Lord instituted it, and is received with the right dispositions, a person is truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ, and reborn to a sharing of the divine life, as the Apostle says: “You were buried together with Him in Baptism, and in Him also rose again-through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead”.40
Baptism therefore establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it. But of itself Baptism is only a beginning, an inauguration wholly directed toward the fullness of life in Christ. Baptism, therefore, envisages a complete profession of faith, complete incorporation in the system of salvation such as Christ willed it to be, and finally complete ingrafting in eucharistic communion. (1)

“…for, thank God, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd,” etc.”

I am sitting in my office, the first day “back” from a short vacation with my mother.

I am filled with anticipation for tomorrow, even as I thumb through my mail and lose some of that joy.  For some would try and use their “authority” to convince me what i know about my congregation isn’t true with the church at large. That somehow there is a “us and them” in the Church.

You see, there is something special, something sacred, as the people of God are gathered to the altar, and as baptized believers, share in the body and blood of Christ. As I communed at another congregation on the other side of the United States last week, my heart looked forward to being “home”.

That is how I look at the divisions that exist in the Church. There are some that won’t be healed until we are all home, before the Father. He will settle the squabbles that exist between various siblings in the church.  But being “home” means celebrating the feast with all who are believe and are baptised.  For from God’s perspective, we cannot deny our brothers and our sisters, united in Christ at baptism, are indeed brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

Some discuss this in arrogance and pride, rather than sorrow and regret  They put in roadblocks to the unity that is the Church in Christ by focusing ont he division, not the hope.  They weep, not over the brokenness of the church, but over those who would look to that brokenness being healed in Christ.   ( By the way, I am not talking of just one incident, or from just my own denomination)
I love the way Vatican II puts it in the quote above – we are linked together, all who are reborn in Christ.  It’s a beginning, a start to seeing us all linked at the altar, the foretaste of the feast to come.  Our baptism gives the vision of what should be, what will be in Heaven, and yes, something that should be worked towards here.  Not dismissed with a – well that is them, and this is us mentality.

I also love the way the Lutheran confessions, in a section that deals with those (the Roman Catholic hierarchy at that time – but equally applicable to divisive types of today) describe the church as a child would,the believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd.”

I read those words and hear the voice of Jesus, “take and eat, this is my Body, given for you”  and “take, drink of this all of you, it is my blood of the new covenant, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin

There is our goal, to hear the voice of the Shepherd, to grow in unity until we realize that we are one in Christ.  Just as He and the Father are One. What begins in baptism is our goal, our desire, just as it is His. Complete unity, because He has lovingly healed the brokenness, giving us new life.

It is that unity in Christ, the miraculous unity of baptism in Christ, that gives me joy.  I look forward to sharing in that unity tomorrow, as people gather here, as they hear of the peace promised and given by the Lamb of God, as they commune together with God.  As we deal with division, as we deal with brokenness and separation, may we never forget that His feast is what we were re-born to share.

His love, His unity, trusting in Him and His work.

Lord, Have mercy on us all.

(1)  Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 614). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Are You Brave Enough, to Receive This Blessing?


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

27  So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29  For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30  That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (NLT)

240    Ask for light. Insist on it … until the root is laid bare and you can get at it with your battle-axe: the particular examination.

I know a lot of men who can make a valid claim to bravery.  Some are those who faced the enemies of our nation, like my father.  Others work the inner city streets and the jails.  Some armed as police and sheriff, others who go into those same streets with a Bible, and the sacraments that will help bring healing.  I know others who are brave in a different way, as they face challenges of health such as cancer or Alzheimer’s or the death of a loved one.

But even in the midst of courage, there are few people who are willing to take another step that requires great courage, even though what is promised is a blessing, not some danger.  Though to do so will result in a change in our lives as great as those who battle external or internal enemies.

The courage to examine one’s conscience, to let God look inside us, diagnose our sin, and go about cleansing us, healing us.

It takes courage to bare our souls to God, yet it is something we need to do and do often. We overlook it, perhaps out of fear that quenches our courage.  A fear that God might break His promise, and not lead us into everlasting life.  Perhaps even a greater fear, that God will take a part of our lives, and remove it, change it, remind us that it isn’t good for us.  Parts of our lives that cause great shame, that we think cause pleasure, and may for our instant.  Or parts that make us feel superior to others, or give us power and control.

Our fear of confession, of the self-examination that scripture encourages, may also come because of a fear of intimacy. Many of us, not only men, are afraid of that word.  We are truly afraid of it when God is the one driving the intimacy, who wants to know every nook and cranny of our lives.  He wants to, not to break us, but to heal our brokenness.  That means letting Him plunge into the deep dark places in us.  We need to let Him see the parts of us that we don’t want to admit exists, the narcissistic, dark places of our hearts and minds.

It takes more than faith, it takes courage. It also takes encouragement, which is why I think the blessing of confession and absolution is so needed.  It is why Luther prayed that private confession would never fall into disuse.  It is why I rejoice when I hear of churches that have lines, waiting for people to receive the blessing that comes from self-examination and letting God show you where He is working in your life.

For God is working there.  He isn’t restricted to the good and joyous parts of your life. He isn’t just helping you know what you should do, or where you should go.  He’s not just giving you the gifts you need to serve His people, or guiding theologians in their pondering of things mystical and mysterious.  He is not just declaring you righteous and holy, He is at work, crafting a masterpiece, getting rid of that which mars and ruins the depth of the masterpiece.

He is healing you, where you need to be healed.

Just like He is doing in my life.

If you have the courage, go to you pastor, your priest.  Ask them for guidance in this, ask them to hear your confession, to tell you God is forgiving you.  That is what they are there for; it is something that is a great blessing to them as well.

You weren’t meant to do this alone… God is there…for you.  And he’s put men there to be for you as well.

To help you see the height, depth, width and breadth of His love, revealed in Christ Jesus.

So come, take courage, and let God work in you!

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 648-649). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Method That Works When Dealing With Evil…


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

No doubt about it! God is good— good to good people, good to the good-hearted. 2  But I nearly missed it, missed seeing his goodness. 3  I was looking the other way, looking up to the people 4  At the top, envying the wicked who have it made, 5  Who have nothing to worry about, not a care in the whole wide world. 6  Pretentious with arrogance, they wear the latest fashions in violence, 7  Pampered and overfed, decked out in silk bows of silliness. 8  They jeer, using words to kill; they bully their way with words. 9  They’re full of hot air, loudmouths disturbing the peace. 10  People actually listen to them—can you believe it? Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words.

11  What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch? Nobody’s tending the store. 12  The wicked get by with everything; they have it made, piling up riches 13  I’ve been stupid to play by the rules; what has it gotten me? 14  A long run of bad luck, that’s what— a slap in the face every time I walk out the door. 

5  If I’d have given in and talked like this, I would have betrayed your dear children. 16  Still, when I tried to figure it out, all I got was a splitting headache... 17  Until I entered the sanctuary of God. Then I saw the whole picture: 18  The slippery road you’ve put them on, with a final crash in a ditch of delusions. 19  In the blink of an eye, disaster! A blind curve in the dark, and—nightmare! 20  We wake up and rub our eyes… . Nothing. There’s nothing to them. And there never was. 21  When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, 22  I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence. 23  I’m still in your presence, but you’ve taken my hand. 24  You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me. 25  You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth! 26  When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, GOD is rock-firm and faithful. 27  Look! Those who left you are falling apart! Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again. 28  But I’m in the very presence of God— oh, how refreshing it is! I’ve made Lord GOD my home. God, I’m telling the world what you do! Psalm 73:1-28 (MSG)

212    That Christ you see is not Jesus. At best it is only the pitiful image that your blurred eyes are able to form … Purify yourself. Make your sight cleaner with humility and penance. Then the pure light of love will not fail you. And you will have perfect vision. The image you see will really be his: Jesus himself. (1)

Evil.

We encounter it daily.

You see it as the acts of ISIS are discussed, we hear that some think that police are evil, or politicians, or maybe someone close to you.  Someone who has betrayed you, or disappointed you. We wonder why there can’t be anything done against evil, whether it is some physical action that stops their work, or a physical judgment in which we can all rejoice.

Psalm 73 looks at this issue, why those who are evil can appear to be successful, we might even dare use the word blessed.  But the psalmist can’t even bring himself to ask publicly that question. To do so would betray the people he is set aside to lead in worship and praise of God. But this existence of evil, is too much, and that they succeed, and are not punished, there is no logic to this.  There is only questioning, and even that we feel seems to be wrong.  For to question, does that mean we don’t trust God?

The answer is not found in words, they fail.

It is found in the sanctuary, the Holy Place, the temple of God. It is found as we realize the presence of God in our lives, in the comfort His presence brings.

That is why I am so completely overwhelmed when we commune, as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. There is something that is not only humbling, as the Psalmist mentions, but healing as well,  Comforting, Assuring, building our confidence in a way that goes beyond words. God, giving Himself, to rid us not only of the evil in the world, but the evil in our lives.

His promise, His action, His death on the cross – giving His life, for us.  Letting His blood be poured out, so the nations could be reconciled.

As St. Josemaria says, it is then, our vision cleared by seeing Christ, humble and at peace, we can turn evil over to God.  We know His protection, His peace.

We can even find rest, knowing that He is Lord, and Savior, and the One who loves us.

So if you have to deal with evil, at whatever level.  Look to Christ – let Him cleanse you.

He will.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 604-607). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How to Deal With Those Who Irritate You….


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44  But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45  so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45a (TEV)

174    Don’t say, “That person bothers me.” Think: “That person sanctifies me.”

It may be a political figure, stoked by the internet gossip that reports and interprets what he is doing.

It may be that guy who cut you off on the freeway.

It may even be that church leader, either in your congregation or perhaps in your denomination.

It could be someone much closer, a family member, a best friend, even your spouse.

It might be me.

Everyone has someone who can irritate them to the point where the frustration dominates their life. We may be ticked off, or hurt.  It may be for a few minutes or a few hours, or if the adversary is irritating, a week or a month or a lifetime.

We would love to “fix” them, we would love to see them change, or if not, to just leave them alone.  We might even think our life would be better without them.  I’ll tell you a secret,

We need them!

We need their irritation, even their persecution.  We need them to teach us how to love them, how to care for them, how to listen.

For St Josemaria is correct, they are part of our sanctification!  

Part of their role in our lives is to make us holier, to cause us to be closer and closer to God.  For it is only as we see them as He sees them, that we will find the strength, the courage, to power to love them, to minister to them. To reveal to them the healing power of the love that we find, when we see Jesus.

That is why we are urged to pray to Him, that God would intercede in their lives. This is why we love them, for they (should) drive us closer to Jesus.  As we abide in Christ, we find the peace from which we can minister to them. He gives us the assurance that allows us to sacrifice for them, no matter whether it is our time, our money or even our lives.

I am preaching on 1 John 3 this weekend, where the Apostle hears the Holy Spirit telling us that we should love as Christ did, that we should minister to those in need, who lack what we have. The context is physically, but it works emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well.  But we only find that ability, as we live in Christ.  As we embrace the discomfort, for their sakes, for God’s glory. If we trust God, we encounter Christ as we encounter those who irritate us.  Amazing this Lord of ours!

It is a challenge, but it is what we are called to… so it is time do our job.

May God reveal His work in you, as you minister to them…. and may His peace, which is beyond our imagination, guard our hearts and minds, as we follow in His steps.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

“OH NO!” HE CRIED, “I SCREWED UP, AND GOD WILL GET ME FOR THIS!”


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
10  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11  “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more. John 8:10-11 (NLT)

168    “It made me laugh to hear you speak of the ‘account’ our Lord will demand of you. No, for you He will not be a judge—in the harsh sense of the word. He will simply be Jesus.” These words, written by a holy bishop, have consoled more than one troubled heart and could very well console yours.  (1)

A young man approached me today, concerned about a sin.  I won’t go into details, but the bottom line was that he was afraid of being judged for it. He felt that if he died tonight, God was going to use the law and crush him for this sin. 

We’ve all been there when some sin we’ve committed, whether this morning or 40 years ago is used to torment us, to single us out to face the wrath of God.  The young man isn’t alone, I’ve been there, you possibly have as well.  The number of people I have had in my office, or talking over lunch, or texting me at midnight to find out that they haven’t lost their salvation is beyond count.

Yes, there is the other side of the coin as well, those who think they sin isn’t big enough to merit the firing and pain of hell, and those people, who say they believe in Jesus, but dismiss the concept of hell, not because of scripture, but because of how they want to see God.

Both extremes, the idea that a sin won’t send you to hell, and that a sin is unforgivable, and will result in your eternal death, are misplaced.

God is just, and God is merciful. To the lady caught in adultery, His words are full of grace, so revealing the desire of God to restore us as His children, and forgiving our sin, all our sin is part of that restoration.  We need to be cleansed of it all; we need to be proclaimed forgiven, that we stand with the adultress, uncondemned.

Knowing this should cause us to run for absolution, to run to him counting on the promise that He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. To run to those whom He has entrusted to forgive and bind sins and go – this – I need this one forgiven!  I need them all forgiven. And to rejoice, to celebrate when you hear once again that He forgives your sins and cleanses you of all unrighteousness!

That is what people need to hear, so they never doubt the love of God, so they don’t have to try and justify or minimize their sin.

Sin is what it is, and there is hope for sinners.  Found in the death of Christ, for those sins, in His burial (see Romans 6) and in His glorious resurrection.  For the power of that resurrection will raise us as well.  Clean, holy, alive in Christ Jesus.

This is why we have hope… because of His love.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 520-522). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do You Struggle To Live as a Christian?


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
11  But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12  Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT)

12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

155    Jesus is never satisfied “sharing.” He wants all.

156    You don’t want to submit yourself to the will of God … and instead you adapt yourself to the will of anybody and everybody.

Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. (2)

A few days ago, my facebook history brought up a blog I wrote about the crucifix.  How some churches and believers avoid it, how we would prefer to have an empty cross, I’ve also been thinking about what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

What would our reaction be if that read, “let yourself be crucified as you follow me”?

That makes the question very real.  The question then challenges us greatly.  Let myself be crucified?  Willingly submit to suffering and being a sacrifice?  To what end?

St. Paul tells us we have seen crucified our passions and our lusts (Gal 5:24) if we know Christ.  That our sin has been crucified, that we have died with Christ (Romans 6:1-8) That is part of it, and it is no error that concept arrives above in Timothy’s case. It is also the kind of life St Josemaria advocates, in giving ourselves completely to God, to letting Jesus take “all”.

It isn’t optional, it is what really happens in our baptism.  It isn’t a requirement of our salvation, as the Augsburg Confession testifies.  St Paul agrees with that when he says we strive to possess that which already possesses us.

But we do strive, we do struggle, for it is a struggle.  Satan would distract us, the temptation would draw us away, our own pride and brokenness will oppress us.  It takes effort to keep our eyes on Christ, to confess our sins, to gather with others in prayer and worship, and to pray on our own. It takes efforts to walk with Christ, to abide with Him.

It may seem less beneficial than working out, or writing some theological or political manifesto,

It isn’t, nothing is more important than communing with God.  That is what this is all about.

Walking with God, being His kids, enjoying the peace that comes from that…. that is enough.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 494-496). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.Augsberg Confession, The

(2)  Augsberg Confession, The

Prayer, Holiness Mission and the Unplugged Cellphone


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
8  O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.  Psalm 62:8 (NLT) 

107    Sanctity without prayer? I don’t believe in such sanctity. 

109    If you’re not a man of prayer, I don’t believe in the sincerity of your intentions when you say that you work for Christ.  (1)

I woke up this morning and reached for my cellphone to see what time it was. I unplugged it and tapped the screen three times to turn on the screen.

Immediate I got a warning, less than 5% power remaining, and it shut itself off. No power and it didn’t work. No phone, no internet, not even the simple information about what time it is.  Apparently, while I ensured I plugged the one end of the cord into my phone, the other end wasn’t plugged into the wall.

No problem, I’ll just switch to my tablet.  It had power, and I found out it was 8 o’clock here, or 5 am at home.  Okay. I got what I want.

But then during my devotion time, I came across a number of passages about prayer, and the necessity of it.  Then a blog post that talked about all of the different conferences and things that help pastors become more missional, more serious about the apostolate.

I started to wonder, how many of these conferences have a focus, not just a section or a speaker, I mean an entire conference,  If it were, would pastors and church leaders come?

Do we see the correlation between time spent in conversation with God, bi-directional conversation, and effective ministry?  The Apology of the Augsburg Confession (one of the basic documents explaining the Lutheran understanding of our relationship with God)  encourages prayer, even naming it as a sacrament because then men may pray more.

Because we need it.  It is not just our source of power; it is our source of life. It is the source of our mission as well. Without an active conversation with God, our life becomes stale, our wisdom is reduced to dry knowledge, and there is no relationship we can share with others. Like a cellphone with a dry battery, a believer without prayer is dead.

But an active prayer life helps us understand the will of God, His desire to love all of us, to show us mercy so we could realize that love. It brings healing to our brokenness. Healing so great it drives us to others, with the compassion to share the healing with them.

One last thing.  Don’t read this and start praying so that you will be a more effective evangelist, to be a better witness of God’s mercy.  The more time you spend with Him, the more the zeal for inviting others to the conversation will occur, not forced, but naturally.

Just walk with God, pouring out everything to Him, and hear him pour out His heart to you.

Have a blessed day…. with Him!

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 399-402). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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