Author Archives: justifiedandsinner

Appropriate Ministry

Devotional Thought of the Day”

11 Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, 12 so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong. 13 This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him. Eph. 4:11-13 CEV

Agape calls for kindness on some occasions and harshness on others. To give kindness when harshness is needed is no more agape than to give harshness when kindness is needed, for agape means going by the needs of the other, not the inclinations of the self.

There is a burden placed on all those in ministry, the “so that” of verse 12 – that His people would learn to serve and the church would go strong. Unity in depending on God, and understanding who Jesus is (to humanity) is the measure.

That is a lot of weight to carry, especially as we are sinners dealing with sinners. It calls for an amount of love that can only be considered “divine”.  A love that knows when it is necessary to be harsh, and a love that knows when it is necessary to be gentle.  A love that knows when steps to maturity are baby steps, and when to be the drill instructor pushing them to run another five miles. This is what appropriate ministry is. Knowing when and how to help people love each other, and meet real needs, no matter what the cost.

Notice I didn’t say knowledge to know these things. I said love, or Kreeft’s more specific term for this love, agape. The kind of love that sacrifices everything, because the person loves needs it. The kind of love willing to be hated, if that is the cost of helping.

It is this love which must compel our actions, not just our minds.

The cost of this can be beyond measure. Paul indicated the extent of that payment in Romans, he would give up his soul, if possible, if only the Jewish people could know and walk with the Messiah. Moses pleaded like that, as did Ezekiel, Jeremiah and so many of the prophets.

Here is the flip- this isn’t just the burden on pastors and prophets, evangelists and apostles. It is a burden all believers should have, for those who are lost. For this is God’s burden for us.  It is a burden that comes from realizing what God has done in our lives, what He is doing, and seeing others whose lives are shattered.

Pray for your pastors as they bear this burden… and share in it… for you know the love of Christ for you, and for those you are to minister to…

We all need it.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 75–76.

The Deep Water: A Sermon on Psalm 18:1-16

The Deep Water
Psalm 18:1-16

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ inspire you to relax and wait to be saved when you find yourself in deep water!

Where is the Lifeguard? Where is God

Picture this, you are out on a boat in Newport Harbor, not far from the harbor patrol docks and you see water shooting up from the bottom of your boat with more pressure than a firehose!

In a minute, you are in the water, and you can see the shadows of the boat as it sinks to the bottom of the channel.

You know the lifeguards are there on the dock, but what do you do until they arrive? How do you stop panicking? How do you stop from drowning?

I think we are in a time like that spiritually now, and it is not the first time. Peter saw that in the gospel, but his rescue was a second away.  David wrote about such a time in Psalm 18, and that is where we will be this morning.

We are going to look at the problem verses in all of this, the one that hurts, the one I struggle with… especially in this time.

11  He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds. 12  Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him and rained down hail and burning coals.

Why would God do that? Why would He hide himself and His Glory, and how do we “keep the faith” in that time?

Is God doing that now? Is He shrouding Himself, casting a veil, and how are we supposed to keep the faith in these days?

The Timeline

It wasn’t always that way in the Psalms! In the first few verses, David starts out praising God the Father. He praises Him for the strength and protection God provides, and how God saves him.

These three verses rock! This is the stuff we know, the stuff we praise God for, but then in verse four, everything shifts, and something else dominates David’s view,

“The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path”

Gulp!

And then the cry for help goes out in verse 6, and all heck breaks loose.

Earthquakes, Smokes and fire, storm clouds, in verse 9, hurricanes and more dark clouds, hail and thunder and lightning, and the oddest sea storms ever!

And in the middles of it, God shrouds Himself, He’s coming but the storm veils His approach. All we have to rely on is His promise to save us…because we can’t see Him….

and in the face of the storm, we sink like Peter.

We think we shouldn’t sink, we think we should be stronger than that. And there perhaps, in our panic, is the biggest problem,
We want to put faith in our ability to depend on God, rather than in His promise. And the storm is too great! COVID is too damaging, and the other issues, financial pressures, family challenges, health problems, and everything else just keeps knocking us down.

We try to fight, we try to struggle, we try to make sense of it all, and in the meantime, we are over our heads in deep water…

He is rescuing us?
­
If you learn to swim, you probably heard the direction to simply relax, to get rid of all that is weighing you down, and wait for someone to help.

Spiritually, we need to do the same thing, to realize that help is on the way, to trust in its promise, and be still and know that He is God.

That is how we deal with a time like this. That is what Hebrews teaches,

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.  Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT2)

In other words, what the Psalmist says, “16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters.”

We need to keep our eyes out for Jesus, to have confidence in His ability to rescue us, to deliver us, That is why he embraced the cross!  That is why He looked forward with it so that He could pull us out of the deep water that we get ourselves into, those times when sin and Satan and death wrap themselves around us and pull us down deep.

The Holy Spirit will cause those promises to come to mind, the ones we read and hear about when times are good, the ones we pray through week in and week out 70 feet or so that way…

We need to remember God has delivered His people, and He’s used the storms to help them. I don’t think Peter would have been the Apostle he was if Jesus hadn’t delivered him from the deep water. I know my confidence is there or will return when I get to commune with you and you all remind me that, “The Lord is with you”.

We just have to move slowly, look for others drowning and help them to calm down and float on the water, reminding them that Jesus is our savior.

There is our hope, in times where sin and Satan and death, or COVID or anything else threatens to overwhelm us…

God will lift us out of the water….

for He loves us and is with us…

And as we know that, a peace comes over us, His unexplainable, phenomenal peace… in which we are kept and guarded in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Where is God in ALL THIS? A question I hope those around me don’t need to ask…

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Long ago you went to Egypt where you lived as foreigners. Then Assyria was cruel to you, 5 and now another nation has taken you prisoner for no reason at all.
Your leaders groan with pain, and day after day my own name is cursed.
6 My people, you will learn who I am and who is speaking because I am here.  Is 52:4-6 CEV

2195 Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day.

447    After seeing how many people waste their lives (without a break: gab, gab, gab—and with all the consequences!), I can better appreciate how necessary and lovable silence is. And I can well understand, Lord, why you will make us account for every idle word.

The last question I want to be asked in all this COVID19 time is, “Where is God in all of this?” And the reason I don’t want it asked, is because if it is, then we, as the church, haven’t done what we are called to do. We have failed to love both God and our neighbor who asks!  Let me explain…

The people in Isaiah’s day must have felt like the balls in a game of pool at the break. Assaulted by force from one direction, they were bouncing off the walls and each other. After watching the 10 tribes get taken into captivity, then being attacked themselves. Going through leader after leader, some who followed God sometimes, others who did so in name, and others who turned the entire nation away from God, they knew how the balls felt, and their tight community was shattered.

I think we are in a similar time, as we just start to adjust to getting smashed when we bounce off another wall, and then another, and crash into each other.

We are all tired… weary…broken… and at times, getting on each others’ nerves.

Our leaders, both religious and secular are struggling, groaning, and in their pain, yes, they often curse God. Or they curse those people (including themselves ) who God has created. There is little difference, for cursing God’s creation is cursing Him.

That is where the point from the Catholic Church’s catechism comes into play. These things we do, they stop people from finding the rest they need in Christ, they block people from finding the peace that gathering with fellow believers would encourage. Our complaints, our cursing, our inability to be still and silent, and know He is God prohibits others from finding the same.

If people are asking where God is, we have to ask ourselves if we are blocking their view of Him. They can’t see Him because we are in the way, with our griping, with our complaining, or protesting how we are treated, or in the way we react to those who do.

We need to find the promise at the end of Isaiah’s quote.  We need to remember who God is, as He reveals himself and we see His love for us. He did this at the cross, and yet the Spirit does it each and every day.

He is here… with us,

Here is here… and will heal us.

He is here…

Slow down, stop talking – and point people to Him, and let them know the love and healing that is happening in our lives.

Let them know God is with them, show them His work done by your hands, His words said by your lips, as you go to them.  Then rejoice, for they will show you His work in them as well.

Lord Jesus, help us reflect Your love into the darkness of our time, as You have in the past. Help us not to block people’s view of You, but show them Your work in their lives. Bless us, as You have promised with hearts and minds captivated by Your inexpressible peace.  AMEN!

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 529.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

What it really means to be “Spiritual”

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

My friends, you are spiritual. So if someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead that person back to the right path. But watch out, and don’t be tempted yourself. 2 You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand. 3 If you think you are better than others, when you really aren’t, you are wrong.  Galatians 6:1-3

Finally, there is a mind-boggling mystery about agape which we must look into. Somehow when we love we really give ourselves away. We do not just give of our time or our work or our possessions. No, we give ourselves. How can this be? How can I put myself in my own hands and hand it over to you?

430    Jesus, may I be the last in everything … and the first in love.

There are people who claim to be spiritual, not religious.  I get it, organized religion is a challenging thing to be part of, and I am a pastor. (Not to mention having a role in the bureaucracy!)

I often wonder what it means to be spiritual because when I ask, the answers are more nebulous, very loosely defined. Some might even say to be like Jesus, loving everyone.

The passage above in red, from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the people of Galatia, puts some meat to the skeleton of “being spiritual.” Spirituality doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin, it gently restores the sinner. It walks with them, working to bring about their healing, revealing to them that God will forgive them.

This is spirituality, this is the point of holiness, and why it makes a dramatic impact in not just your life, but in lives. This is the greatest gift you can give someone, a gift you can give to family, neighbors, co-workers, and even your enemies.

This, of course, is easier said and done, which is where the other two readings from this morning come into play. In order to see this spirituality grow in our lives, we have to put the other person’s good before our own. We have to think of their eternal welfare as being more important than our comfort.

If this is what it means to be spiritual, then I am all for it, but we need to pray more, and spend more time in scripture, and receive the sacrament as often as possible. We need to know the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we need to find the strength of God in our lives, to set aside all of our own self-centeredness. But it is there, in the confidence of knowing God’s presence, that this all occurs, that this all happens.

This is spirituality, to love them as Paul loved the Jewish people who would give up his life and soul to save.

It is time for this kind of spirituality to infect the world again… starting with you and me…

Lord have mercy on us all! AMEN!

 

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 67.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Remember Who You Are!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

Before you knew God, you were slaves of gods that are not real. 9 But now you know God, or better still, God knows you.  Galatians 4:8-9 CEV

We will, we choose, we create the moral ignorance in our souls, the ignorance that Plato saw as a prerequisite to doing evil. We voluntarily turn off the light of truth. For instance, we shut out the divine truth and justice of “thou shalt not steal” before we sin by stealing. The ignorance of the thief—by which he thinks that filling his pockets with stolen money will make him happier than filling his soul with proper virtue—is indeed, as Plato saw, a prerequisite for his act of theft.

2157 The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The sign of the cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties.

The law has been given to men for three reasons: (1) to maintain external discipline against unruly and disobedient men, (2) to lead men to a knowledge of their sin, (3) after they are reborn, and although the flesh still inheres in them, to give them on that account a definite rule according to which they should pattern and regulate their entire life.

Peter Kreeft’s words above are truer than we want to admit.

We too often set aside God’s truth, shutting it out, so we can serve gods that are not real. One of them is the pursuit of happiness at any cost. Most of our sins will fall into that category.  One example, choosing to sleep in, because that will make our day go better, rather than getting up and praying before all else. Or if it is Sunday, getting up and going or participating online in a church service. Kreeft’s thief is another example. A third, the man or woman who would commit adultery either in deed or just in thought, because the sex might be better than it is with their partner.

Sin sets aside our God-given identity, choosing to be ignorant of who we are.

The law confronts that worshiping non-existent gods, including the god of happiness, for sure. But it is often missed in the Christian. Rather than using it to establish the pattern of our lives, and to regulate that, we try to use it to externally discipline each other. We are great at pointing out others’ failures, others’ sins, but not so great at truly addressing our own. When we do, we usually beat ourselves up, fall into depression, and do not really change anything.

I find the key to this, when I remember it, in the words of the Apostle Paul.  The part where he says what is better still. God knows you!

God knows you.

He cares for you.

God loves you!

That challenge is convincing you of that.

You see, before you knew God before you were united with Jesus, you were someone different. But that all changed when God came to you and baptized you, joining you to Jesus in His death and resurrection. (See Col. 2) We need to know that we need to stop setting it aside for this sin or that one. We need to celebrate that salvation with joy, recognizing who we are because of it.

The children God loves.

That is why Lutherans and Catholics and Orthodox make the sign of the cross when we pray, or when they start the day. The reason should be to remember the cross, to remember that they were saved there, as Jesus hung there and died…and with Him, they died to rise to a new life. It needs to be done, (and I will admit it is not… often) with reverential thought, remembering our identity that was established there.

Remembering, we are defined by this very thought. God knows us.

 

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 65.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997)521.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 479–480.

management … and Faith

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
9  And as for you employers, be as conscientious and responsible towards those who serve you as you expect them to be towards you, neither misusing the power over others that has been put in your hands, nor forgetting that you are responsible yourselves to a heavenly employer who makes no distinction between master and man.   Ephesians 6:9 (Phillips NT)

727      When you have to give orders, do not humiliate anyone. Go gently. Respect the intelligence and the will of the one who is obeying.

Most people have to answer to someone. Employees have the obvious bosses and managers that oversee their work. Pastors and priests have presidents and bishops who oversee their work. CEO’s still have to answer to their boards, their investors, even their customer base. Bob Dylan once said it well, you’ve gotta serve somebody.”

Being an employee, a servant of someone is a challenge.

But so is being the manager, the boss, or older terms, the master. Whether you realize it or not, those employees depend on you. Your work has an effect on them, as does the faith that causes you to work in a manner that reveals that faith.

If you believe in God, that is great. But would your employees know that apart from you directly telling them that? Would your students, and others you supervise recognize that as well?  St. Josemaria notes that your faith could become known even as you order people about. You may have to ask them to do some hard things, some distasteful things, and yet you can do that in a way that is encouraging, that lifts them up, that recognize their effort and attitude.

In short, those of us who oversee our people need to realize our responsibility to oversee them as God oversees us. With a firm hand, yet with grace, with love, with care.

Heavenly Father, help us to care and provide for those whom we are depending upon. Help us treat them as You would, revealing your love ot them through our actions and our words. We pray this in Jesus’ Name.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Hammer or the Hatchet – A Sermon on Romans 8:28-39

pexels-photo-4205987The Hammer or the Hatchet
Romans 8:28-39

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the mercy and love of God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ empower you to reach out to others, knowing it will work for good, and it can’t separate you from God.

 

The Wrong Tool…sort of?

Yesterday a picture from the past brought up a lesson I learned the hard way.  My dad had taught me the lesson growing up, but let’s just say I did not listen as well as I should have.

A simple lesson, “make sure you have the right tools to do the job.”

Every year when I went camping, I forgot one tool, the hammer to pound the ground stakes of our camper into the hard ground. And every year, it would take a while for me to do it with a hatchet. It would eventually get done, but the hatchet is made to chop, not pound. This is the business end of a hatchet, not that end.

I had the wrong tool, the job still got done, but…

As I endured this week, I started wondering more and more about whether I use the reading from Romans 8 the right way…

You see, the passage does the job for two tasks, but I think, it was made to be used as a hatchet, Romans 8:28-39 should free the church to minister to this broken world. Even as it offers comfort, it should be empowering us to provide warmth and light to this broken world.

As a Hammer

So if you notice, this hatchet has this end, so you can use it as a hammer. It is kinda dangerous to use it this way, especially for a klutz like me. Or anyone standing in the immediate area!  Hammers are used for securing something in place; to stop it from falling again.

I usually use verse 28 to bring comfort to people who are broken, who are struggling with sin and personal failure. Hey, let God pick you up. God will work this out – He has promised to do so – right here…

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Similarly, I have used verse 38 to bring comfort to those who are struggling, to those who wonder if what has happened means God isn’t with them.

I assure them, nothing can separate you from God. You are His, and the Lord is with you!
This is all true, and it works, but like using the wrong side of the hatchet, there is a danger here. A danger that we just hear those messages find comfort in them, and do nothing else.

Yes, God will work this out, and yes, I am safe with Him.  Therefore, it is time to go sit by the pool and have a beer! Or go binge-watch another 2 seasons of a favorite show!

If all we get out of these passages is that, I did not preach the passage correctly. I just picked you up and nailed you in place.

As a Hatchet

A camping hatchet has another job. You use it to cut up kindling and split small pieces of wood to use to build a fire. Something that you can sit down next to, invite some neighbors from other campsites nearby and talk and have a good time. The hatchet is a tool to build a place of community, a place that is inviting and encouraging.

So too, does this passage serve a different purpose than just comforting broken people. It frees them from the brokenness to serve others. It treats us like the kindling, bringing us together to warm and show Christ’s light to the world!

Bob, you screwed up and dropped a few words you should not have. Go apologize, and see how God will use it.

Tom, you have no idea how God will work through you – things are too crazy and unknown! Don’t worry, go do it and rejoice. Even if you screw up, you can not mess it up so bad that God will toss you away. Nothing in all creation can cause that!

The gospel in this passage goes beyond comfort, it should empower you to serve alongside Jesus in mission even more than ever. Hear again part of the passage that lies in the middle, that gets overlooked,

Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

It is the church, being the church, loving, encouraging, comforting, and drawing people into a relationship with God – even to the point of martyrdom, that is the context for these words about God.

God still loves us. Even when we screw up. Even when we have to lay down our lives. Or lay down our pride, which may be harder!

This chapter is full of that message

You’ve sinned, it’s covered. There is no condemnation in Christ, get up, and get ready to serve.

You are so broken you don’t know how to pray, don’t worry, the Holy Spirit interprets the pain in your heart

You’ve screwed it up? God will make it work out

Your oppressed, beaten, at the end of your wits, and losing your mind? Keep going, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Get the message, the Lord is with you, working in your life, and He’s not leaving you.

Even in you face death, or covid19,

Yesterday in devotions, we look at a passage from Jude. It told us what we can do, even amid hardship, even as the world falls apart. It is this,

21  And keep in step with God’s love, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to show how kind he is by giving you eternal life. 22  Be helpful to all who may have doubts. 23  Rescue any who need to be saved, as you would rescue someone from a fire. Then with fear in your own hearts, have mercy on everyone who needs it. Jude 1:20-23 (CEV)

My friends, let God pick you up, and believe He will use all your lives to make a difference.  Know that all you encounter will result in good. Serve with Jesus, knowing that nothing, not even the hardest times you can encounter, not even the most oppressive times Satan can throw at you, can separate you from God’s love.

This victory is yours because Jesus won it at the cross. So let’s pray.

Church, its time to end the pity party!

Tomb Empty With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise - ResurrectionDevotional Thought of The Day:

20  But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21  and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. 22  And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23  Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Jude 1:20-23 (NLT2)

When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent.… Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love he has poured out on us?

This damage is so unspeakable that it may not be recognized by a rational process, but only from God’s Word.  10 No one except God alone can separate the corruption of our nature from the nature itself. This will take place wholly by way of death in the resurrection.

Over the last few days, I have seen more and more lamenting (okay, complaining) by the people of God in American. Oh no! Tthe government is stopping us from gathering. Oh no! We have to sue because the government has banned singing. Oh no! Churches are being vandalized,  we must defend “our” churches. People are wondering if the end times are here.

It is as if we believe the pandemic has put an end to the Great Commission, or that it has put on pause the commandments to “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”  that the church should just hunker down, go on defense and wait for the pandemic to end.

I am as guilty of this as any… but it is time to stop.

As I prepared a devotion on Jude’s letter to the church for this morning, I was struck by the context. There was a demonic attack on the church, there were false teachers, and scoffers who mocked the gospel and those who trusted in God. They dealt with famine and plague. They were dealing with real persecution, as people were killed if they didn’t dismiss God. Even Michael the Archangel was remembered, and how he depended on Jesus, more than on his own prowess.

Tough times the early church.

So we are not the first!

God read Jude’s next words to the church above again.  Seriously, go re-read it.

In the midst of all those challenges, God says minister to each other and to the world!

Help strengthen each other’s faith. Show mercy and help those whose faith is wavering, who are struggling to depend on God, show that compassion and care to people who are so pressed by the times that they aren’t sure He exists!  They need us, really we all need each other.

He also mentions rescuing people who are close to being judged, whose idolatry and sin are drawing them to condemnation. In the midst of all the trauma they were facing, all the spiritual warfare, Jude calls the church to be the church, to be the place where broken and sinful people find help and compassion, and mercy.

This si the time for the church to act, for you and I to take seriously a call to action. Not to defend the church, but to be the church, blessing the world.  Luther notes the damage of sin s so horrible we cannot even see it, unless God exposes it. and if that is true, so the rest, that only in God can we find hope. That is the hope the Catholic Catechism speaks of, that it talks about confessing.

This is the hope people need, so desperately, a hope that we can be there to share with them, even over 6 feet of distance.

This is our time, the time for us, as the people of God, to be the light that is needed.

it is not time to sit and pity ourselves.

Heavenly Father, Your works through men are glorious, so glorious that the people become etched in our memories. Lord help us in this time of the coronavirus, empowering us to encourage those whose faith is weak, to reach out and show mercy to those who are unaware of it, and live lives dominated by sin, shame, and guilt. Lord, Help us to be your people, those who are being healed in Jesus while helping others heal. 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 506.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 467.

Heavy Burdened for a While? Please consider this!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
These tents we now live in are like a heavy burden, and we groan. But we don’t do this just because we want to leave these bodies that will die. It is because we want to change them for bodies that will never die. 5 God is the one who makes all of this possible. He has given us his Spirit to make us certain that he will do it. 6 So always be cheerful!  2 Cor. 5:4-6

Full of burning affection he toiled, like Jacob for Rachel, until the whole of her purchase-money had been paid, and now, having sought her by his Spirit, and brought her to know and love him, he awaits the glorious hour when their mutual bliss shall be consummated at the marriage-supper of the Lamb.

Of all the people in scripture, I pity, I don’t think anyone deserves it more than Leah. She who was the first wife of Jacob, the sister of Rachel. I thought of her as I read Spurgeon’s words this morning. She didn’t have someone “full of burning affection” for her, she had someone whose marriage to her was like a duty.  He did it, gave her sons (lots of them), but there was no passion, no desire.

There are days I do not just pity here, I resonate with her.  I wonder if God treats me the way Jacob treated Leah. He loves and desires the rest of you, but the cost of that is fulfilling his duty and saving me so that He can bring His true love, YOU, home.

I know the feeling isn’t valid, but it is still there. Using the wedding analogy, you all have your reception at some posh Bel-Air hotel, and I get drive-through at Burger King.  I am still glad to be provided for, I am glad to be in the household, yet am I a second class citizen?

I think this is just weariness from the burden that Paul describes to the church in Corinth. We want to give up theses second class bodies, this life that isn’t really living. This being Leah. We want the first-class life, the real living, knowing that we aren’t just loved, but really loved.

And in this part of life, the weariness gets to us, the burden of brokenness challenges our hearts and minds. We begin to think we are second class, that we belong in the background, that even in heaven, we will be given the “nose-bleed” seats. (Maybe this is why the back rows of churches are so popular?)

It is hard to realize we are viewed more like Rachel than Leah. It is hard to believe God could love billions of people, including us, with that same level of passion. That there aren’t 999,999,999,999 people in front of us for God to care for, to cherish, to love and adore.

There isn’t. He desires your love, your companionship, as fully as He does anyone. You aren’t on His list of things to do today… You are whom He wants to spend the day with, whom He rejoices in the presence of, you are the beloved.

Understand this, He loves you! (me too)  The presence of the Holy Spirit, the promise of our baptism, earned for us at the cross, proves it.  Look at all the promises God makes, to you and me. Look at the love He shows us, directly.  Spend time with Him now, hear Him reveal His love for you, through His word, See His desire for you, and the joy He looked forward to, even while embracing the cross to make it happen.

Think about that… and be at peace… for you are loved like Rachel… by the One who is love.

AMEN

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

 

A Way to Deal with Sinners…

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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won’t give up in despair. 8 You should make them sure of your love for them. 2 Corinthians 2:7–8 (CEV)

Try this, therefore, and practice it well. Just examine yourself, look around a little, cling to the Scriptures. If even then you feel nothing, you have all the more need to lament both to God and to your brother. Take others’ advice and seek their prayers, and never give up until the stone is removed from your heart.
84 Then your need will become apparent, and you will perceive that you have sunk twice as low as any other poor sinner and are much in need of the sacrament to combat your misery. This misery, unfortunately, you do not see, though God grants his grace that you may become more sensitive to it and more hungry for the sacrament. 

During my lifetime I have seen two reactions to people who have been caught in sin.

The first to ignore it, often quote Jesus’ comment about those who are without sin can cast the first stone.  So we ignore the sin, justifying it our mind somehow.

The second way people (and especially pastors) deal with it is to condemn it, banishing the person from the presence of those who are holy, less the sinner infects the rest of the people in the church. They justify this based on the idea of ex-communication in Matthew 18.

IN the Bible passage today, we see a third option. Translated here as forgive and comfort, we need to understand these things. Forgiveness here is the word for grace, to give them a gift they do not deserve. They do not deserve it, because of the sin. However, that is grace, we receive what we do not deserve, what could not even be asked with any sense of expectation, except for the promise of God.

And then the challenging part, the comfort. The word is one of the names of the Holy Spirit, being a paraclete. What Paul is asking us to do is to go alongside the brother or sister who is held captive by sin, and support them. To lift them up, to support them, to help them know that God is still their God. They are still part of the church, the family of God that finds healing and hope in Jesus while helping others heal as well.

Is this easy, no.  Will the people you are trying to reach snap your head off at times, or resist the assistance, yes. Ministering in this way requires patience, and a willingness to wait until the opportunity is there. Not easy.

Yet, in the end, when the sinner realizes their need, there is no better feeling than when they are at the altar with you, and together you receive the Body and Blood of Christ, together. That is why Luther tells us when our hearts are hardened when sin has blinded us to our need for it, it is when we need it the most! That is when we need the comfort of God, as He reveals to us out need.

This is how we are to deal with sin and make it known that it is how we deal with sin.

Heavenly Father, help us to reach out to those who are broken, and when they reach out to us, let us gather in Your presence and bring us healing and comfort, and the desire to reach out with that to others.  We pray this in Jesus name… amen!

 

 

 

 
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 456.

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