Monthly Archives: September 2018
Walk this way…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow o in His steps. 22 He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; 23 when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. 24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25 HCSB
189 The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.” Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them! Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.
I remember a couple of decades ago when everyone started wearing “WWJD” merchandise. Not many knew that the question was part of a fairly popular novel of the previous century. In His Steps is a fascinating book, the story of a pastor and a church that tried to dedicate itself to asking what Jesus would do, if He made the decisions that they were faced with, every day in life.
It’s a good book, one in which the struggles of living a Christian life are seen in how we use our time, our talents, our influence, even the pains in our lives.
I might not agree with every decision, but the exercise is not a bad one.
The passage the story wraps around is the one above, from 1 Peter, urging us to walk in His steps, urging us to be as holy as Jesus was holy, as focused on doing what is right as Jesus is.
Or at least that is how following in His steps is portrayed.
The passage goes on to describe how Jesus lived, how He calls us to follow Him in that lifestyle. An example that is pertinent today, He did not revile in return when He was reviled. That is a pretty hard standard to live up against, as we so blatantly see in our world today.
If this is just giving us a list of standards we are to meet, if we expect our lives to simply be clones of Jesus, we will fail. Just as the apostles, who were invited to follow Jesus also fell, often.
Following in HIs steps is more than just putting one foot in front of the other, It requires our focus be on Him, and How He lives. It is about hearing His voice, about heeding the encouragement He gives to us. It is about letting the Spirit form us into His image. This isn’t tracking steps outlined in the sand 2000 years ago, or even last week. It is about letting Him lead us, here and now.
Look to Jesus, the author and one who brings about maturity as you depend on Him. Look to Jesus, and let the Spirit transform you as you reflect His glory. He moves, move with Him, for He is the guardian and shepherd/guide of your souls.
The Lord is with you!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Blessing of a Devotional Life: Being renewed instead of burnt out
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope n through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 5 You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials 7 so that the genuineness of your faith —more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9 HCSB
183 You began in good heart. But little by little your spirit has shrunk… And you are going to end up in your own poor shell, if you continue to let your horizons become smaller and smaller. You have to allow your heart to expand more and more, with real hunger for the apostolate! Out of a hundred souls we are interested in a hundred.
I will admit, I am tired.
It is not the being there for people that tire me out. Going and praying with people, helping them realize God’s presence with them, even in the midst of their suffering and trauma is oddly energizing.
Division is tiring, whether it is the masses telling me to pray for Ford, or for Kavanaugh (shouldn’t we be praying for God’s peace for both?) Watching people deny the issues that cause them pain, or ignore their own responsibility is exhausting. There are other things as well, the systems and rules that prevent ministry, whether those systems are part of bureaucracy or found in our traditions.
These kinds of things cause the spirit to shrink. and the end that St. Josemaria foretold I have approached too often, as one recoils from the pain of the world, and withdraws into themselves. When we would seek the end of the conflict, the end of the pain, rather than seeking the peace that is ours as we dwell in the presence of our Lord Jesus.
We need to open up instead of closing down. We need to be drawn into the presence of Christ but draw others with us, expanding the kingdom of God, rather than shrinking into a personal, isolated, personal relationship with Christ.
But oh, this is hard. It is hard to open ourselves up, especially to those who would ( consciously/unconsciously doesn’t matter) more angst, more anxiety, more pain. When all you want to do is run away (for me, to the deer cove road along Lake Ossipee) rather than face more trauma and pain, more of the schemes of people to achieve power and influence or stop others from gaining it. Where is the hope?
St Peter points us to it, in my reading from his epistle, marked in red above. We need to realize and accept that our hope is not found in creating a utopia in this world. That kind of perfection doesn’t exist, in a world damaged by our sin.
Rather our hope is found in our being saved, being delivered. The emphasis there is not in what we are saved from, but what we are saved into….
The relationship with Christ, who will bring us home to the Father. A relationship where we are assured, no matter the stress, no matter the pain, enduring it all because God has us in His care, strengthening our ability to depend on Him, and on what He has promised us. Refocusing us on why we love Him, why we adore Him.
This is why I find my daily devotions so important. Not to make me feel like I am a good pastor or a good Christian. Not for the 10 or 20 people who might read these blog posts that are simply me trying to tie my devotional readings together as I meditate upon them.
This time is needed, to refocus, to change my heart and soul from being on the path to burnout (or often having arrived there) to being renewed, revived. Refocused on the love of Christ, who died that we may live, whose blood covered the sin which so breaks us all. To give hope in the middle of a world that would not have peace or hope otherwise.
For realizing His love, we can pray and leave our burdens and all that weighs us down on Him, finding that we, because we can love the One who loves us, we can find inexpressible joy and peace…
and rest for our souls.
Heavenly Father, help us to look to Jesus, Your Son and be convinced of Your incredible love for us, and for all people. Help it restore us from burnout, and revive us so that we can see all come to the healing of soul, mind, and heart that happens as we look to you. And Lord, please bless both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh with Your peace, as you minister to them in their pain. In Jesus name, we pray.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 979-983). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
He ended with that? (The odd ending of a book of scripture)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 HCSB
The heart is like a home. There are houses that are open because they are at peace; they are welcoming because they have warmth. They are “not so tidy” as to make people afraid even to sit down neither so untidy as to become an embarrassment.
The same goes for the heart: the heart that has room for the Lord also has space for others.
The words in red above are the last words of the Epistle of James.
The is no final blessing, nor is there the usual list of greetings and please say hi to that conclude Paul’s letter to the churches.
Just this comment about facilitating the return of people to Jesus, to the Truth, and the incredible blessing it is to be involved in saving someone and removing the guilt and shame that is caused by our sin.
What an incredible blessing! To be involved in such a work! What an amazing God who would use broken people like us to help bring hope and healing to those who are broken. Realise, it is not the perfect people that are involved in Evangelism, it is those who God is healing form their own brokenness. It is those who know the amazing hope found as they experience God’s love, and see the healing that is happening.
I love Pope Francis’ words about the heart that has room for the Lord. It rings so true.
For years I remember hearing (and saying ) that every person has a Jesus size hole in their lives, Something only He can fill, an emptiness that only He can heal. Yet, as He does this, we begin to realize there is a ton more room in our hearts, a room that needs to be filled with others who help to us and are helped by us. As Pope Francis notes, the heart that has room for Christ finds it has space for others.
THe help, of course, is pointing to Jesus, to His work restoring our relationship with the Father, bringing God’s family together. Doing the work He promised to do…
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19 HCSB
and which he tasked us to do as well…
21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 (NLT2)
This is our incredible work, this is the blessing we have, of seeing sin consumed by the cross, and freedom come to those who have walked without God, but are welcomed back to the journey.
James’ last words are ones we need to hear!
Heavenly Father, as we walk this day with You, help us see the people we can help you rescue, restoring them, and assuring them of Christ’s blood, poured out ot cover their sin, and claim them as righteousness. AMEN!!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 312). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Why are we so willing to judge and condemn?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12 HCSB
28. Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.
This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.10 God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.11
There is a great difference between judging sin and having knowledge of sin. Knowledge of sin does not entail the right to judge it. I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town is not my business. If I interfere and pass sentence on him, I fall into a greater sin than his. When you become aware of a sin, simply make your ears a tomb and bury it until you are appointed a judge and authorized to administer punishment by virtue of your office.
267 Those are called backbiters who are not content just to know but rush ahead and judge. Learning a bit of gossip about someone else, they spread it into every corner, relishing and delighting in it like pigs that roll in the mud and root around in it with their snouts.
268 This is nothing else than usurping the judgment and office of God, pronouncing the severest kind of verdict and sentence, for the harshest verdict a judge can pronounce is to declare somebody a thief, a murderer, a traitor, etc. Whoever therefore ventures to accuse his neighbor of such guilt assumes as much authority as the emperor and all magistrates. For though you do not wield the sword, you use your venomous tongue to the disgrace and harm of your neighbor.
It is amazing how much judgment we see today in the world. And equally disturbing how much we see in the church. So many people claiming to be experts regarding situations they have no intimate knowledge, of, but simply reacting to the news and rumors put out there. As so we somehow think we can judge (and prosecute or defend ) those whose situations are in the public eye.
A lot of our judgment is based on our own experiences, and on the experiences of someone who did something to us or to someone we love. And therefore, all in a similar situation we judge based on our experience, not on the facts that we don’t have access to.
Or we judge the case because of the affiliations or demographic data of the person who accuses or is accused. They agree with us, so they are the ones under attack. The other side is only loyal to their peers, therefore, since their peers are wrong, they must be lying.
A great example of this is the present situation with the supreme court nominee. I have some friends who have been sexually harassed and a couple who I have counseled because they were trying to cope with rape. I also have been involved in situations where one accused of such was the target, and they were out to hurt him. In the process of one such situation, the accuser was presented with evidence that proved her story a lie, and she confessed to it.
Been there, cried with both, was anxious with both, and the present situation has brought me to pray for those who stories are never far from my mind. And as I hear the details, as I see people share the rumors across social media, both groups of stories come to mind. The victims who no come forth, and the victims who had their lives damaged by false claims. No, let me rephrase, these situations today doesn’t just bring their stories to mind, it tears at the heart, as I remember the pain I tried to help them deal with.
Oddly enough, three of my readings this morning dealt with judgment and the notion of our judgment and condemnation of those people whom we don’t have the responsibility to judge, or all the information to judge the stories of those involved.
And then I see all those who would play God, who would decide this situation based on their own past realities, or worse, based on political issues. And my heart tears for them as well.
And then we have scripture, and the writings of Vatican II and the Large Catechism. All three warn us, they even command us not to judge. They ask us to leave it in God’s hands, something that takes a lot of faith, to trust God with what we would rather handle. It takes humility, such humility that is only found when we are in the presence of God, witnessing His glory and wisdom, which show him to both just and merciful. It takes trusting in God to set aside our own presuppositions and to be healed by our own pain.
But this is God who I am urging us all to trust in, a God who would reconcile us all through the blood of Jesus.
Trust Him, depend upon Him, leave the lynch mobs behind…
And rejoice in the presence in your life. AMEN!
Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 401). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Faith in Action IV – Come Close
Faith in Action: Comes Close
† IHS †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ draw you closer to them, and overwhelm you with love and peace, as you help draws others in!
Have you ever been caught between two friends who are fighting? Both whom want you attention, who want you to be on their side?
What if one has been a longer friend, who you have had a lot of fun with over decades, and the other, while a close friend, is somewhat newer?
But what if this newer friend is the one who is right?
That is the picture we see in the apostle James’s letter this morning. Even as he urges us to draw close to God, he recognizes the draw of the world on us,
Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world
This divided loyalty is something that creates trauma, that causes us more problems, yet the hold of the world on us is so strong, even though we know how broken it is.
It so challenges the relationship we have with God, it so prevents our drawing close to God!
The Struggle with Zeal….
James talks about the world’s ways using primarily two thoughts in this passage. Bitter Jealousy and ambition.
Bitter Jealousy is described as sour, or poisoned zeal, a desire to chase after something for the pleasure it brings. The second problem is related to it, the ambition that drives us to get what we want because we want it. It is a word that is used to describe mercenaries, those who do what they do only for the rewards that they will receive.
Not for love, not out of honor. Just for what they get out of it.
No wonder James calls such things worldly, unspiritual and even demonic.
He even notes this self-centeredness can influence our prayers when we pray for what will give us pleasure, what we want and desire. As our desire grows, we find ourselves justifying what we do to get what we desire, eventually we don’t even consider the cost.
For what we desire demands our loyalty, and we find ourselves involved in a war….
And remember, James isn’t writing this to heathen unbelievers, he is writing it to believers, those struggling to live life in a broken world, torn between God and that world.
He is talking to us.
And we struggle with being caught between the world and God all the time if we admit it. It isn’t just about pleasure, it can be about seeking comfort, or security, or happiness, when those things are more important to us that God, or other humans.
We see this all the time in the lives of others, especially those who think different than us, as we oppose them, not interested in justice as much as being right.
So how do we break free of the grasp the world has on us? How do we break free of the sin that so easily ensnares us?
The Healing Humility found before God
I think most would suggest that James is teaching that the hope is found in the humility that he mentions a few times in this passage. Particularly these two places
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you.
Yet in both these statements, humility comes not from our work outside of God’s presence, in the first it comes from understanding God’s ways, and in the second place, it comes as you are before God, as you are drawn close to Him.
This is where our hope is found, this is where the power of sin, driven by our desire for what we want is broken.
For it is when we experience the love of God, that real humility comes into play, as we stand in His glorious, wonderful presence. When we realize He loves us, that is when all else falls away, and we simply and humbly find that with Him, we can dwell in His merciful, loving peace.
For what else is there, standing in front of God, but realizing His love and peace?
Prodigals Lifted up!
It is from there, simply in awe of His love, that God’s will makes sense. His desire that we would love each other, and even those who drive us crazy. It is there we can see the needs of those around us and find ourselves responding to them way before we respond to our own wants and desires.
It’s that kind of thing I saw in the eyes of one man this week, whom the church provided a stack of gift cards for, who was amazed that we would care for him, and his family.
That is what happens when our loyalties are less divided when we give up being prodigals and come to the altar, when we come home. As God sees us before Him, in awe of His love, humbled to be in His glory… and He lifts us up as He gathers His children to His side.
As we wait for that day, I pray you come closer and closer to God, as you realize that you dwell in His peace, the peace that is beyond explanation, as He guards our hearts and minds! AMEN!
God doesn’t throw tea parties…**
Devotional Thought of the Day:
For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, 19 to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, 20 for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! 21 The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.) 22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, 23 to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, 24 to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel. Heb. 12:18-24
I have a dear friend, who owns an antique shop*, which specializes in China and glassware and all the fancy stuff. When I drop in to visit her lovely shop, I tend to get a bit… anxious.
You see, at 6’2, 300+ pounds and with the grace that could only be compared to a drunk giraffe on ice skates, I am paranoid that I will trip and fall and set off her entire shoop like one of those domino exhibits.
Why am I telling you this? I think we occasionally get the idea that God is fragile, that His holiness somehow makes Him brittle. Or perhaps it is His patience with us that is brittle.
Either way, we become stand-offish, trying to find the one safe place that is safe to stand, out of the way, out of the danger, unable to cause a major spiritual catastrophe. We aren’t to stand and gaze on HIs beauty from afar, afraid to touch, afraid to approach, afraid to get personal with God. Worried that we will screw up something, or do something that will His anger, that we will deserve His wrath and punishment for breaking things, including our own lives.
That isn’t the God we have been drawn to, as the author of Hebrews tells us.
Holiness isn’t some kind of proper, reserved, dainty, perfect mannered attitude suitable for tea parties. (though Jesus does care for those who go to such events!**) It is an incredibly emotional overwhelming experience of relief or peace of love. It is like the time when our Soldiers first returned after the post-9-11 invasion of Iraq, as people lined the road out to the Marine Corps base for nearly 20 miles, celebrating the return of their loved ones.
Except holiness is not seen in celebrating the return of heroes coming home, but prodigals, sinners. Or holiness celebrates our being made holy, our being cleansed and set apart for this incredible relationship we have with God. We are reunited with the God who offered Thomas the chance to put his hand in His lance-pierced side, to know Jesus was with Him. We walk with the God who is willing to transform our heart and mind and share with s His in the process.
This is our God, a God who makes contact with us, who just doesn’t sit on a shelf, or look down on us from heaven. He is a God who shows us How much He loves us… by coming and dwelling among us, carefully restoring that which we’ve broken…because…
He loves us!
Relax, and soak in that love, and as you see people afraid of God, share with them the God who knows you! AMEN!
*If you are in Orange, Ca, you can visit my friend’s show at A&P collectibles in the Orange Circle 🙂
** the ladies of our church have an incredible ladies advent tea each year… and I am sure Jesus is present at it… 🙂
Communicating the Gospel: Don’t confuse the method for the purpose!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT2)
24 We believe and confess that these two doctrines must be urged constantly and diligently in the church of God until the end of the world, but with the due distinction, so that in the ministry of the New Testament the proclamation of the law and its threats will terrify the hearts of the unrepentant and bring them to a knowledge of their sin and to repentance, but not in such a way that they become despondent and despair therein. Rather, since “the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24), and hence points and leads not away from but toward the Christ who is the end of the law (Rom. 10:4), 25 the proclamation of the Gospel of our Lord Christ will once more comfort and strengthen them with the assurance that if they believe the Gospel God forgives them all their sins through Christ, accepts them for his sake as God’s children, and out of pure grace, without any merit of their own, justifies and saves them.
The method of preaching, no matter which tradition, can be simplified as telling people why they need Jesus, and how Jesus meets that need, and our lives change as we walk with Him.
In the Lutheran tradition, the method of communicating that is called preaching “Law and Gospel. It has been a focus and method of our preaching since Martin Luther was still an Augustinian monk. And the first president of the Lutheran Church gave a series of lectures which were turned into a book titled, “The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel”. While this post will use the word “preaching” a lot, this rule is true for any conversation, whether from a pulpit or altar or over a pumpkin-laden coffee or a nice ale. Preaching is not just a formal sermon or homily, it is any time we take a moment to help people realize their need for God and His response to their need.
Preaching law and gospel is a method, and it is far more than just preaching the law, checking off a box, then preaching the gospel and checking off the second box. Unfortunately, we can often get in that mindset, settling for that simplistic understanding of the method.
Even worse, we often preach against sin with a bias. Some sins may be more repugnant to a pastor, or to an individual, and they may try to eradicate that particular sin with more force. We might even come across as trying to purify the church from sinners who have committed that particular sin, driving those who are guilty of it into despair, into hopelessness, further into the guilt and shame which already haunts them. ANd some would applaud this, saying we really crucified that sin, that we nailed it to the cross. They might see the role of the preacher, or the evangelist as the drill instructor, yelling at his recruits, trying to help them save their lives.
But that denies the purpose of preaching and in fact is contrary to the concept of preaching law and gospel. Reading the quote from the Formula of Concord above, preaching the law so that people fall become despondent and despair, is not appropriate. For doing so drives them away from where they could find hope, and the goal of preaching the law is such that realizing their brokenness, we can bring them to Jesus, we can help them see the cross and its blessed meaning in their lives.
What a challenge, to help them see their brokenness, to help them see their need for Jesus, rather than just making them feel guilty and ashamed! Helping them to seek a source for the transformation, a source that is provided by the Spirit, as He draws them to Jesus, and then in Christ to the Father.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he describes the purpose of preaching, the purpose of evangelism, which is far more than the method of preaching law and gospel. The purpose is to reconcile people to God. To help them realize that Jesus was the offering for the sin they are haunted by, that causes them to feel so ashamed, so full of guilt.
Proper preaching acknowledges its mission, to reconcile people to Father, by drawing them back to Jesus. The method can be the preaching of Law and Gospel, holding them in tension, but that tension is for the purpose of becoming the people of God, the people who know His mercy and feel compelled to explore the dimensions of His love for them.
And again, preaching is not just the formal presentation of a sermon, it is as we comfort those who are anxious, as we cry with those who weep, as we listen ot those burdened, helping them see God take care of their burdens.
This is our mission, it is our apostolate, why we are sent where we walk in this world, as we walk with the God who pours out His love and mercy on us, and through us. So remember this purpose as you are with family and friends, and even those who antagonize you. Remember these words as you sit in your study, crafting your messages, listing to the Holy Spirit. And rejoice, for you know GOD is with you!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 562–563). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. (Formula of Concordia: Solid Declaration: V. Law and Gospel
Communicating the Beauty of the Gospel
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)
A good communicator is sensitive to beauty, perceives it and does not confuse what is beautiful with what is fashionable or only “nice” or simply “neat.”
Because it is human, sometimes beauty is tragic, amazing, touching; it sometimes pushes us to think what we do not want or unmasks our errors.
One of the challenges we face, whether we are with friends and family at a meal, or if we are before the church preaching the gospel, is communicating the beauty that is our relationship with God.
We can’t describe heaven, and I think that is intentional, for heaven is not about the location as much as it is the presence. The presence of the people of God in the presence of God. No sorrow, no tears, no pain, rather we will know the purest of joy, the most incredible peace. These are things that cant be described in words, we just will never find ones that significantly portray this beauty.
Not that we understand beauty all that much.
A pretty girl in a bathing suit may be considered beautiful by most, year, does that compare to a picture of a wounded soldier, being greeted and welcomed home by his family? Or a picture of Mother Theresa embracing a poor victim of leprosy in the streets of India? What about a rainbow, coming out on the edge of a storm,
I think the most vivid thing we can communicate, the most beautiful thing we can describe is the scene of redemption, the prodigal being embraced by a father, whose tears of joy wash the young sinner. The face of Peter, as Jesus reminds him, despite the betrayal, to feed the sheep. The face of Moses, a stubborn pessimistic, man hiding from his destiny, in awe at the bush on fire that doesn’t burn. The sinner at the communion rail, who finally understands the words, “for you…” and doesn’t want to leave the only place they have found peace. The old man, who with severe memory problems, looks for meaning in the church, decides to study for the diaconate and preaches an incredible sermon of our need for God, and the fact God was with us. (the amazing tears that flowed from his wife’s face, as she was convinced that he actually could do this… I cry just thinking of them. ) The little six-year-old, who begs and pleads for the body and blood of Christ, and lights up at her first communion
These things are beautiful, and though not perfectly described, give us a hint of the beauty that awaits us, as the redemption, as what is broken in our lives is healed. THere is beauty, a beauty that is found in the incredible transformation as we go from being alone to being in a relationship with God. As we realize that is our existence, our meaning in life.
God with us… nothing more beautiful in this life, or the next…
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 302). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
How Many Opportunities Does the Church Miss?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
45 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 24:45-51 (NLT2)
167 Make up the time you have lost resting on the laurels of your self-complacency, and thinking what a good person you are, as if it were enough just to keep going, without stealing or killing. Speed up the pace of your piety and your work: you still have such a long way to go: Live happily with everyone, even with those who annoy you, and make an effort to love —to serve!—those whom you despised before.
It is an overwhelming thought that God invests in His people His mission to make disciples from every nation on the earth.
Yet too often we overlook this, caught up in the hectic nature of the world. Our people are in trauma, our buildings need to be maintained, there are committees to serve on in our community and in our church.
And too often, we let opportunities to serve people slip right by us.
We overlook seeing the broken person standing before us, seeing only someone who is offensive and a pain in the ass. We overlook another opportunity because we have to get this done or get that done. The tyranny of the urgent causes us to overlook the very people God has brought into our lives so that we can share his love.
The problem is that we read passages like this, and words like mine and guilt sink in, or if it doesn’t, indifference does.
Those reactions cause us to miss the blessing that is inherent in the word of God. If there is a reason to serve and minister to others, to love them and reach out ot them, it is the incredible joy found in leaning on God for the words, in depending on him to calm our nervous hearts, and to see Him speak through us,
The reason we do this isn’t that we have to, but like little children working with their dad, we get to! It means we spend time with God, we see His love for others,
Then we don’t have to fear our master coming back, for we know He is with us, Right here, right now, pointing out to us those He would pour out His peace upon, healing their souls, even as He heals ours.
That is what we encounter as we minister to others, our Lord at work. SO let Him deal with the complacent spirit, the anxiety that would limit your ministry, and rejoice as you encounter the Spirit at work!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 916-920). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Are there any other days…but Mondays?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 Well, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (TEV)
129 Whoever really wants to achieve sanctity, takes no breaks or holidays.
On occasion, I see people complaining about Mondays. How they would love to be able to delay Monday’s onset by 48 or 72… hundred hours or so! It is if there is a cosmic disdain, even hatred for the 2nd day of the week, the first week back to the grindstone, and the laborious tasks we have to endure.
Even for those of us who “like” what we do… Mondays simply … suck.
And yet for those of us who desire to walk with Jesus, even day is a Monday in a sense. A day to get focused on the tasks we have, a chance to get focused on walking with God, and loving our neighbors, whether they be family, friend, irritant, enemy or some combination of those options.
St Josemaria noted that in pursuit of sanctification, who want to achieve holiness, there are no days off. Even as the Apostle, Paul encourages/commissions/commands us to do what we do only for God’s glory. That implies a level of perfection that is beyond our ability, that requires being driven, focused, intent on what it takes to be holy, to go over and above the requirements, not for our benefit, not to receive a reward, promotion or raise. But simply because you know it will reflect positively on the one we call our Master, our Lord, our God, our friend.
This isn’t about doing good to be saved, it is about living life as someone God saved, (for my fellow Lutherans, consider this,” 40 But since Christians are not to be deterred from good works, but are most diligently to be admonished and urged to apply themselves to good works, we cannot and should not tolerate, teach, or defend this proposition, unqualifiedly stated, in our churches.)
So we do what we do, keeping in mind that even on Mondays we walk with Jesus, even on Monday’s His presence is there, showing us mercy, loving us, empowering us, comforting us, assuring that even Monday’s cannot separate us from His amazing love.
So we take each day, each Monday on, knowing the peace we that renewed us on Sunday, the first day of the week when we celebrated the love of God, seen in Jesus offering His body and allowing His blood to be spelled out so we could be God’s children.
And we take each Monday, looking forward to Friday when He will come in glory, to bring us into the Father’s presence, into the place of peace. For that day will be the end of our labor, and entering into His rest!
God give us the patience and strength to focus on You, on the love, mercy, and peace you pour out on us. Guide us, even on Monday, and help us realize that we will see YOu, even as we enter Your rest! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 729-730). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 558). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.