Monthly Archives: December 2016

Am I Appreciated? Are You? Does it Matter if We Aren’t?


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

1  “Make certain you do not perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do. If you do these things publicly, you will not have any reward from your Father in heaven. 2  “So when you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it, as the hypocrites do in the houses of worship and on the streets. They do it so that people will praise them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. 3  But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. 4  Then it will be a private matter. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.   Matthew 6:1-4 (TEV)

693    It hurt you not to have been thanked for that favor. Answer me these two questions: Are you so grateful toward Christ Jesus? Did you really do that favor in the hope of being thanked for it on earth?

There is a part of us that cries out to be appreciated.

To hear someone say “thank you” seems only right, and when the thank you isn’t given, we are disappointed, even hurt.  We may wonder about their manners, question how they were raised, even harbor a bit of resentment that our hard work and sacrifice was taken for granted, even ignored.

Examining our own expectation of that “thank you” never enters our mind, does it? Do we question our desire to hear that thank you?  Or wonder if that announcement of appreciation was our motivation?   Or why its lack would cause us to be bitter and resentful?

Or as the eminent theologian Jack Sparrow was noted to say, “The problem isn’t the problem.  Your attitude about the problem is the problem.”

I think St Josemaria has an interesting point here.  Are we as appreciative for what God has done for us, as we expect others to be for what we do for them?   I am not asking this to create a guilt trip, precisely the opposite.

You see, our acts we want noticed and appreciated are actually how we show our appreciation for the work God has done for us.  This life we live, is the fulfillment of Ephesians 2:10.  What we want to be appreciated is the very life God planned out for us, as we’ve been recreated in Christ Jesus….a life lived in appreciation of His love.

I think as we realize this, then the appreciation of man becomes something that is nice, but not a need.  The “thank you’s” are nice, but their lack becomes less noticed, as our actions become more something we are in awe of, as we realize they are done because of the Holy Spirit….. something that is holy and not our norm.

God is working in us!  God is using us to bless others!  What an amazing thing!

He has given us a place in life, and it is making a difference in others lives!  And so our attitude changes a bit, and we begin to understand what Jesus said in Luke,

10  It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say, ‘We are ordinary servants; we have only done our duty.’ “
Luke 17:10 (TEV)

What happens then, is we desire that He be praised, that He be appreciated, that He be loved… and when that happens… we are content… and thankful for the opportunity.

Praise be to our Lord!…. and thanks for reading this!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1616-1617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Potential Talent, the Cost of Discipleship and the Piano Man…


nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:
3  I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.    Romans 12:3 (MSG)

684    So your talents, your personality, your qualities are being wasted. So you’re not allowed to take full advantage of them. Meditate well on these words of a spiritual writer: “The incense offered to God is not wasted. Our Lord is more honored by the immolation of your talents than by their vain use.”

It seems like a silly “dream”, yet it was the only option I ever thought of as an option to being a pastor.  It was to use my musical talents in the way Billy Joel sang about in the song “Piano Man”. “And the manager gives me a smile, because he knows that it’s me they are coming to see, to forget about life for a while.”

Of course my classical piano teacher would have been aghast to hear me talk of using my potential for that lowly pursuit.  He wanted me to play Rachmaninov and talked about how my finger spread would make it possible to do what so few could do.

I could look back and wonder if I wasted that talent, to be honest I couldn’t play either piece anymore without a month or four of serious practice and stretching out my fingers.  I can pick up a guitar, or sit at a keyboard and do simple back-up to other musicians, but be the primary instrumentalist?  Not so much…

SO did I waste my talent, and the odd gift that is found in the hands of someone with Marphan’s Syndrome?  Did I not take full advantage of them?

Not that I haven’t’ wondered this on occasion, as I’ve sat down and just messed around on the piano, playing whatever my fingers want me to play. Or when I have had the chance to back up my friend Chris, or when a famous CHirstian musician came to do a couple of solos and asked if he could play with our church liturgy band.

What if… and what would have happened if…

St Josemaria has it right, I think.  The little talent I have had, well, had it grown, what good would it have served, as compared to how it has served?  It’s been used to help people worship, and to be honest, hearing 80 or 100 voices sing His praises, drowning out my voice is a blessing beyond anything I could experience

There is something amazing about hearing people who know and are responding to God’s presence, something that occasionally makes the musicians stop playing, as just find themselves lifted up by hearts resonating with the love of God, as they drop their pain and their burdens, as their souls find healing, deep healing, as tears still flow, but from joy and relief, not from pain and grief.  To see people, as St. Paul wrote, understanding themselves in view of their relationship with God, as they realize the love that is beyond measure that is seen in the cross, and in their resurrection, their being born again.

These are moments I have never experienced at a live concert, as enjoyable as they are.

Talented wasted?  Not in the least.

I can’t think of a better use… than when the musicians can’t play, and the pastor can’t speak, because His presence is so incredibly present and overwhelming.

May we all have the blessing of knowing God’s presence… to the extent that every

we are is dropped aside in awe.. and gratitude.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1591-1593). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do We Take Sin’s Cure Seriously Enough?


chemnitz-on-us-dwelling-in-jesusDevotional Thought of the Day:

26  The LORD said, “Do not make idols or set up statues, stone pillars, or carved stones to worship. I am the LORD your God.   Leviticus 26:1 TEV

16  Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.
James 5:16 (MSG)

Marcion taught, on the basis of the opinions of his master Cerdo, that there is one god of the Old Testament, just, stern, and punitive toward sin, who rained down sulfur and fire on Sodom, Gen. 19:24; and there is another god of the New Testament, merciful, beneficent, long-suffering, who “causes His sun to rise and sends rain on the just and the unjust,

 

Our Saviour has left the holy sacrament of penance and confession to his Church, that in it we may cleanse ourselves from all our iniquities, as often as we should be defiled by them. Never suffer your heart, then, Philothea, to remain long affected with sin, since you have so easy a remedy at hand. A soul which has consented to sin ought to conceive a horror of herself, and cleanse herself as quickly as possible, out of the respect she ought to bear to the Divine Majesty, who incessantly beholds her. Alas! why should we die a spiritual death, when we have so sovereign a remedy at hand?

I have to wonder how much Marcion’s idea of two gods, one of the Old Testament and One of the New affects our viewpoint of sin.

The thought is prevalent today among many in the church, and it drastically colors our viewpoint of sin.  We tend to dismiss things in the Old Testament that were prohibited  (and not declared clean like bacon and Gentiles!) because we see the God of the Old being different, and having different standards than Jesus.

Perhaps that is why we don’t take the cure for sin seriously?

We all are sinners, whether it is gossip, or sexual sins, or hatred and name calling. We’ve developed our justifications, our defenses, such as – well that was in the Old Testament, and life is different in the New Testament.  We even have simply gotten to the point where we deny that sin is sin.  We ignore its gravity, its pain, its horror.

Worse than the horror, what we are really doing is robbing ourselves, and those we teach, of a wondrous gift, a gift that is more valuable than anything we could purchase.  We don’t cover up and hide the sin, we bury and hide God’s glorious love and mercy.

We rob ourselves of forgiveness, of the healing and restoration God has promised us.  We rob ourselves of being right with God, of knowing His love and presence.  As De Sales teaches, why should we embrace a spiritual death, when our remedy is so at hand?  When that remedy is the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you, that this covenant promise would be yours – that you would be righteous, innocent and holy, being freed from sin.

Paul’s words in Hebrew echo again here – run to Jesus, for if e neglect such a great salvation, what else is there?  And if we are neglecting it because we don’t want to deal with sin, what is there?

The challenge is presenting this, not as the choice between wrath and paradise, for that is not the primary purpose of forgiveness.  That purpose is so that we can know, that we can be assured that God is our God, that we are His people, that we are in fellowship, a deep intimate relationship that is based on the deepest of love.  His love which doesn’t ignore our sin, but heals us. That was His plan throughout the Old Testament (read the dedication of the Temple if you don’t believe me) and is fully revealed in Jesus in the new.

Which is why Chemnitz follows his comments about Marcion with the beautiful, intimate description of our dwelling in the Word of God  (that is, Jesus) as a baby dwells in the uterus.  Safe, secure, nourished, until we find the day where glory shines… and all that is God is revealed.

Til then, we dwell in His peace. Amen!

 

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.1885. Print.

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 

Why Do What We Do?


DSCF1421

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. 2  But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. 3  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT)

9  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:9-10 (NLT)

668    Do everything unselfishly, for pure love, as if there were neither reward nor punishment. But in your heart foster the glorious hope of Heaven.

Educators and sociologists talk about modifying behavior using either positive or negative reinforcement.  You can withhold either, or you can give either.  One of the four options should work, though not always the same one in the same context.

But the concept is still a form of discipline, a way to train behavior.  It is needed in many contexts, as we work with children, as scholars and soldiers, doctors and musicians are trained.

It is not surprising then that we see that kind of thought among preachers and pastors, among church leaders.  That we think hell is the greatest negative reinforcement, the harshest of punishments and heaven as the ultimate in rewards. (We often hear it called paradise for that reason!)

But the disconnect is found in that heaven isn’t a reward for work done.  We don’t get to heaven because we’ve been good, and we deserve hell because we aren’t.  So the idea of using reinforcement in sermons and lessons, well, it can’t be done!  There is no threat, there is no reward.

So why be good?  Why sacrifice temporal pleasure and “fun” to love sacrificially?  Why deny yourself, discipline yourself?  Why obey God?

St Josemaria tells us that it is for love, simply to love the God who has loved us.  St John in His first epistle agrees. His love is what causes us to be able to love, but I don’t think it is so much of a cognitive action.  That is I don’t think we see God’s love and make a conscious decision to return that love.

We just do.

It is how God has planned for us to live, and without considering it, it happens.

We love.

Which is where the Psalm so  beautifully describes it,

We are like trees planted along the riverbank.  Nurtured by the water – given life by it and what it brings and deposits in the soil, nourished by the light (the glory of God) that shines on its leaves. We produce the fruit – the love and other fruits of the spirit, because we are planted and nourished in that love rich environment.

This is our life!  TO live in Christ, to abide in God, to have the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  TO live in His peace and rest, to be shepherded and compelled to love.

This is why the Christian does what they do.

Not manipulated, it is who we are, who God created and recreated us to be!

To God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be all glory, honor and praise, and our lives.  AMEN!


Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1556-1557). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Intimate Prayer, the Theologians Fertilizer


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

6 Then Jesus told them this parable: “There was once a man who had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. He went looking for figs on it but found none. 7So he said to his gardener, ‘Look, for three years I have been coming here looking for figs on this fig tree, and I haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it go on using up the soil?’ 8But the gardener answered, ‘Leave it alone, sir, just one more year; I will dig round it and put in some manure. 9Then if the tree bears figs next year, so much the better; if not, then you can have it cut down.’ ”  Luke 13:6-9

 

To God the Holy Spirit:

KYRIE, bountiful Spirit, united with the Father and the Son in a subsistence of one substance, proceeding from both the Father and the Son, have mercy.
KYRIE, who, when Christ was baptized in the waves of the Jordan, appeared in Your glory in the form of a dove, have mercy.
KYRIE, kindle our hearts with divine fire so that we are made worthy to praise You forever, have mercy.  (2)

And what about us? Are we so far away from the stable because we are much too refined and too smart for that? Do we not get all entangled in scholarly exegesis, in the proof or disproof of historical authenticity to the extent that we have become blind and deaf to the Child himself? Do we not really all too intensely dwell in “Jerusalem”, in a palace, withdrawn within ourselves, in our self-sufficiency, our fear of being challenged, too much so to be able to hear the voice of the angels, to set out to worship? Thus, in this holy night, the faces of ox and ass are turned toward us questioningly: My people does not understand, do you recognize the voice of your Lord? When we put the familiar figures in our crèche, we would do well to pray that God would bestow on our heart the kind of simplicity that recognizes the Lord in this Child—just like Francis in Greccio. Then this might happen also to us: everyone returned home, full of rejoicing.

Martin Chemnitz, perhaps the greatest of the Lutheran theologians.   Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Later Pope Benedict XVI, in my opinion, the greatest of the theologians in the last century.

Martin’s prayer and Joseph’s words about the birth of Jesus give us a picture of their souls.  Brilliant though they may be, they see the need for God to work on our hearts, to create the simplicity, to kindle in them a divine fire.

These words help us realize that the study of theology must take a back seat to those intimate times where we realize the presence of God. Where we hear HIs voice, where we see His hand at work, where we experience His glory.

Good theology is a result (not the result) of a prayer life that is created, nurtured and guided by the Lord and Giver of Life. It cannot simply be the work of active minds but needs to be preceded and immersed in the presence of God.  It then becomes more than an academic pursuit, it becomes life, a life pregnant and incarnate with the presence of God.

It is the same for those theological masterpieces we call sermons and Bible studies.  They need to come our of our devotional life, out of the riches of our interaction with God.  If Chemnitz and Pope Benedict need this in their lives, how could we think we don’t need this work of the Holy Spirit?

Otherwise, we may look like a fig tree, have the leaves and trunk of a fig tree, but we won’t bear any fruit.

May we pray with simple hearts, formed and enkindled by Holy Spirit, as we do what God has called and planned for us to do!  AMEN!

Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Out of Sight? Out of Mind?


pope-francis-on-the-building-of-the-churchDevotional Thought of The Day:

33 “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a bowl;p instead, he puts it on the lamp-stand, so that people may see the light as they come in. 34Your eyes are like a lamp for the body. When your eyes are sound, your whole body is full of light; but when your eyes are no good, your whole body will be in darkness. 35Make certain, then, that the light in you is not darkness. 36If your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be bright all over, as when a lamp shines on you with its brightness.”  Luke 11:33-36  TEV

Constantine the Great, having written with great respect to St. Anthony, the religious about him were greatly astonished. “Why,” said he, “do you feel astonished that a king should write to a man? Be astonished, rather, that the Eternal God should have written down his law to mortal men; yea, more, should have spoken to them by word of mouth in the person of his Son.”  (1)

God does not want
a house built by people,
but faithfulness to his word
and acceptance of his design.
It is God himself
who builds the house
but of living stones
marked by his Spirit.

It is a blessing for parents of toddlers, this truth that out of sight, out of mind.  

Yet it is true for us as adults as well, and then can become a curse if we aren’t careful.  For the longer our eyes are taken off of something, the easier it is for us to forget and even neglect that which was once all important. 

Like God.

We can forget Him, if not completely, then enough to obscure who He is, what He has instilled in us.

His peace, His comfort, His mercy, His love.

And what it means to live life in reflection of that love.  What Pope Francis calls “His design”, what He wills, the plans He has laid out for us. The more we neglect seeing Chirst in our lives, the more sin reigns, the more it makes sense, the more it offers false comfort, quickly fading imitations of joy, and quickly tires us out. A lack of seeing Christ leasd us to a life we cannot be satisfied with, on that quickly turns toxic, as we do what is right in our own eyes. 

We need to regain this vision of Christ, we need to let His light enter through our eyes, to contemplate, to think about, to become enlightened to the depth of His love for us, His people, His family.  We need to realize that not only did God love us enough to guide our lives with His law. but that He revealed us the love in and through Jesus.  

He is our light, He is our life, and our thoughts need to be infused by the presence of our God.  Not as in a rote behavior, or religious obligation, but as our very life.  With the joy that comes from walking with One whose love for you is proven over and over. 

So fill your eyes with Him! Fill your mind with those things that we praise Him for, things that are true, noble, holy, just, pure, lovely, sacrificial, (see Phil.4:8)   

He is with you!

AMEN!

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

(1)  Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

 

Imitate Jesus….at the cost of our idolatry


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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
8  He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.    Philippians 2:8 (TEV)

625    Your obedience is not worthy of the name unless you are ready to abandon your most flourishing work whenever someone with authority so commands.

5  Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. 6  And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:5-6 (NLT)

If you want to grow as a Christian, one of the things you need to do is confront your idols.  To see them, confess them, and let God circumcise your heart and soul, removing those idols that would destroy you.

Two words can help in this examination.

Obedience

Submission

Even as you read those words, like me, something in your stomach reacted, or perhaps you became a little jittery, as defenses began to rise up.  I don’t want to submit to my boss, we see teens struggle to obey their parents, and you want to really have fun, bring up the idea of wives submitting to their husbands in a Bible Study!

Most Christians would nod appreciatively when we talk about imitating Christ. That we should have the heart for the lost, for those who are broken and destitute, We may think of them, and pray for them, and pretend we are like Christ.  We may give money to missions, and think we’ve done our part, that we’ve made our sacrifice.

But will we, as St Josemaria notes, abandon what is going well, what is flourishing, what seems to be blessed, to obey Jesus?

That’s another question entirely, and strikes to what obedience really is.

Will we embrace hardship, to love?  Will we give up that which we’ve invested our lives in because we’ve heard the voice of God, because we know this is what God has planned, because it is in accord with the heart of God, that has been revealed to us in scripture?

Would you leave your business, like Peter, Andrew, James and John did, with an unheard of catch of fish?  Or leave success as Matthew did, literally walking away with tables full of money?

That is obedience.  Jesus calls.

But please, understand me, this is not a blog to create guilt, but to help us learn to trust in God, to depend on Him, for that is the source of obedience.

Obedience is not blind, it is not mindless, to set aside our desires, it requires us to be in prayer, to examine our consciences and allow God to purify them.

It requires us to hear God.

Which is probably why the word in Greek for obey is – hyper-hear.

To listen and let it stick, to internalize what is heard.

TO hear the voice of God, and be so overwhelmed, we respond in love, in adoration.For we realize that nothing, no idol, no desire, no amount of success is worth the joy of being in His presence.

This is our life.  This life of walking with God, of hearing His voice, of knowing Him, and knowing His love for us.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1477-1478). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Called to Belong: Called to Be His Own! An Advent Sermon on Romans 1


nativityCalled to Belong: Called to Be His Own

Romans 1:1-7

† In Jesus Name †

What People Need?

There are a ton of articles circulating across pastor’s desks, as they have for the prior three generations.  When I was in college, they asked why my generation was leaving the church and provided great statistics on why people like me, the children of baby boomers, weren’t attending church.

I wondered about it a lot, as I had gone to a large youth group in high school, in fact, it was significantly bigger than any church I’ve belonged to, and really, was bigger than all the churches I’ve pastored since.

In the nineties and up to about 2004 or 2005, pastors, church planters, it seemed everything churches did were questioning why people of my age group weren’t in church, and trying to make churches attractive to them.

As if we are all the same.  As if our needs, our anxieties, our challenges, our doubts and fears were the same.

It has changed now, as churches seem to have lost focus on those in my age group – those once labeled genX.  GenX is history, the church “experts” no longer mention us. Now the concern is with the millennials, Marissa, Melissa’s, Kelcie’s age group.  A group that is two or even three generations removed from the days when youth filled every church, when complete families, three and four generations worth of family found themselves sitting together on Sunday morning.

And for the most part, the experts still treat whichever generation they mourn the absence of as if they are all alike.  They want to find the “one” thing that will draw them all, the one key element that will draw them to church,

And perhaps, there is the problem in the first place.

If all we deal with is generalizations, how can we assure the individual whether 25, 50, 78 or 91 that they matter, that they belong?

To be honest, that’s been a challenge, even for pastors I’ve know in my life. Can the individual know that they are important, that God has called them to belong, that He has called them to be His own?

Yet, God calls us, individually here, to be part of this family, and maybe we can learn from that

Why is this good news?

When scripture talks about good news, we need to understand why it was good.  As Paul is writing to Gentiles, we need to understand that this was one of the largest generalizations ever created.

It was everyone who wasn’t Jewish by birth, who couldn’t trace their ancestral tree back to Abraham, Issac and Jacob. A lot of folk.  Good folk, bad folk.  Tall, short, skinny, fat, smart, wise, silly. Older, younger, men and women, Some who wanted to find God to each out for help, others that simply wanted to mock God.  And few that would want to make money off of people, but saying only they knew the way to God.

The only thing they have in common, is that they didn’t belong.  Even someone adopted into a Jewish family didn’t quite make it, and those who were hyphens, those who were half Jewish and half something else, they were treated with less of a welcome.

We were all outsiders, stuck in the darkness, not worth the time for a Jewish Rabbi to share his wisdom, not allowed to hear the sweet words that God had accepted our sacrifice for our sin.  For that is why we became outsiders, our inability to love God with all we are, and our struggles to love others, including our enemies, as God has designed for us to live.  Because of that sin, we were outsiders, out in the cold and dark, possessed by our sin, oppressed by sin’s guilt and shame.

That is why the gospel is good news, For it smashes the demographic divisions, it grinds up generalizations, for what defines us is that we are wanted.

That God calls us to belong.

You.

Look at verse 6.  Let’s read it together

And you are called among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Though, he wrote this letter to an entire congregation, as you sin in the next verse, that “you” is singular.

You are called to belong to Jesus.

You are called to be a saint, one of God’s Holy People, whom He loves.

You are.  Singular.  Not because you are this age or that, because you have this heritage or that, no because except for this one.

God loves you.

And therefore you belong to Jesus.

He bought you at the cross, freeing you from the sin and hell which had power over you.

This is what Advent leads to, what Christmas and Easter, the manger and the cross.

That’s what has made the difference in every church I’ve been blessed to be a part of, we knew we belonged together, for we now we belonged to Christ.

I want you to hear those words one more time, what we need to hear, each of us in this room , and every person on this planet,

Matter of fact, maybe it will sink in deeper if we say it together,…

And I am included among those who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. Paul wrote this to me and all who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.

Amen!

 

Do you ever feel like you can’t win….?


Devotional Thought fo the Day:

31 Jesus continued, “Now to what can I compare the people of this day? What are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the market place. One group shouts to the other, ‘We played wedding music for you, but you wouldn’t dance! We sang funeral songs, but you wouldn’t cry!’ 33John the Baptist came, and he fasted and drank no wine, and you said, ‘He has a demon in him!’ 34The Son of Man came, and he ate and drank, and you said, ‘Look at this man! He is a glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax collectors and other outcasts!’ 35God’s wisdom, however, is shown to be true by all who accept it.”  Luke 7:31-35  TEV

607    Humility is one of the good ways to achieve interior peace. He has said so: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (1)

There is a scene in the movie Forest Gump that I relate all too well, it seems it almost pictures life.  

He is walking down the lane, and everything seems fine, until life, or in his case, the neighborhood gang of bullies comes around the corner. And the race is on, except life is riding bicycles, or tossing rocks from the back of a speeding truck.  I am on foot, hobbled by leg braces, and it seems like I will never get to the point where the braces fall off, and I can use everything I have to lose that which would bruise me, that which seeks to hurt.

It seems like in today’s gospel, Jesus knew that feeling.  These stubborn sinners, the people that killed prophets that would call them back to God, that wouldn’t listen to John the Baptist, and then, because Jesus wasn’t like John, they found an excuse to not listen to Him as well.

So then, what do we do when we fell this way, do we turn and fight, or is our fight to flee, to run so hard we break everything that would inhibit us?

Where is the wisdom of God, that we simply need to accept?

It is found, not in the different behaviors of John the Baptist and Jesus, but in the common message that both preached.  John preaching it prophetically, pointing to Jesus, and Jesus preaching it indicatively, signaling to all that God is present, that thw Kingdom of God is here.  That God has made us His own.

That is the lesson of both, as they would accept the roles that the Father gave them.  John to decrease, Jesus to increase through the cross and resurrection.  They accepted their roles, they knew the presence of the Holy Spirit, and they lived.

Humility, that gift of being able to know we can’t outrun the pressures of life, but that we can depend on God, we can cry out to Him, we know He is there…

As we do that, we find a place of rest for our souls, we find His gentle care, we find our fortress, our shelter, our home, in Jesus.

In humility, we can cry out, Lord, have mercy, and know for sure, He has.

AMEN!

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1443-1445). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Christmas Materialism: Don’t Be So Quick to Criticize, to Condemn. Look Deeper, See Their Need.


Concordia Christmas Eve 2015Devotional Thought of the Day:

37 “Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you. 38Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you.”
39 And Jesus told them this parable: “One blind man cannot lead another one; if he does, both will fall into a ditch. 40No pupil is greater than his teacher; but every pupil, when he has completed his training, will be like his teacher.  TEV – Luke 6:37-40

The hectic commercialism is repugnant to us, and rightly so: for it is indeed utterly out of place as a commemoration of the hushed mystery of Bethlehem, of the mystery of the God who for us made himself a beggar (2 Cor 8:9). And yet, underneath it all, does it not originate in the notion of giving and thus in the inner urgency of love, with its compulsion to share, to give of oneself to the other? And does not the notion of giving transport us directly into the core of the mystery that is Christmas?

587    They have no faith, but they do have superstitions. We laughed, and at the same time we’re sorry, when that tough character became alarmed at the sight of a black cat or at hearing a certain word which of itself meant nothing but for him was a bad omen.

The cars religiously pull into the parking lots, as people go into buildings.  Some deeply ponder the mystery that is set before them.  Others simply look without seeing and grasp at what they think they need.  Some are full of joy, others severely depressed, all looking for the answers that plague them during these holidays.

But are they at church, or at a mall?

Are they going to ponder the mysteries of life, or pondering what will satisfy and hopefully bring joy to someone they love, or are committed to, or sadly stuck with?

Pope Benedict, back when he was a cardinal, wrote the words in blue above.  They are profound, deeply profound.

As a pastoral counselor, I know the at the first issue ever brought up in the office is the real issue. It may take a session or two or even twenty to find the ultimate issue.  So why don’t I give those who are seeking something at Christmas a break?  Why do I have to tear down, and condemn, rather than build from the heart and soul where they lie.

People at Christmas, religious or not are seeking love, and seeking to be loved.  To in the midst of the darkness, find some comfort, some joy, find something that means more that gift cards and cash, more than jewelry or electronics.

Could we instead of criticizing them?  Could we stop judging and condemning them find in their depths this need, and show them how it is met in a simple manger in a backward, remote community, in a couple that is far from home, in the simple field workers that are told by a million angels, direct from the Father’s presence, “Peace be with you!”

Maybe Jack Sparrow (that eminent fictional Carribean theologian) was correct.  “The problem is not the problem.  Your reaction to the problem is the problem.”

These people have a need, a need to love, a need to be love.  A need to give and receive the perfect gift that demonstrates that love. Perhaps, as our attitude toward them becomes more like Christ, they will see that need met.  For it has been.

In the manger.

At the cross.

in the incarnation that has occurred in your life as well, as Jesus drew you into Him, as He would draw all into His death and resurrection.

This is Christmas – His gathering.  May we seek out those who are seeking to love and be loved, and reveal to them our Lord and His love for them.  AMEN!

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1402-1404). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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