Author Archives: justifiedandsinner

God doesn’t throw tea parties…**

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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!

pexels-photo-279991Devotional 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

DSCF1421Devotional 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?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional 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!

AMEN

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 916-920). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are there any other days…but Mondays?

20170124_103703Devotional 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! 

 

References

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.

 

Is Optimism always Positive?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

35  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? 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. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NLT2)

In the Christian catalogue of virtues, despair—that is, the radical opposite of faith and hope—is listed as a sin against the Holy Spirit, because it fails to take into account his power to heal and to forgive and thus rejects redemption. Correspondingly, in the new religion, “pessimism” is the sin of all sins, for doubt with regard to optimism, progress, and utopia is a frontal attack on the spirit of the current age: a contesting of its fundamental credo, on which its certainty rests, although it is, nonetheless, constantly threatened in view of the weakness of talk about a “make-believe” God………….
It was once again evident that there is no greater sin against the spirit of the age than to put oneself in a position where one can be accused of a lack of optimism. The question was certainly not: “Is what has been said true or not true? Are the diagnoses right or wrong?” I have been able to find no evidence that anyone took the trouble to investigate such outmoded questions. The criterion was very simple: “Is it or is it not optimistic?” And given this criterion, the book was, of course, condemned.

When I was growing up, there was a book my parents had me read called, “The Power of Positive Thinking.”  It took a lot of criticism, as did Pastor Robert Schuler,  who preached a message of positivity and wrote books which talked about how faith helped people go from trauma to healing.

They received a lot of criticism, and while I am not sure they deserved it, some took their thoughts and words and turned it into a narcissistic, “I will be blessed” religion.

We’ve gone a lot further than that today.  Now as Benedict indicated in the quote above, anything that is not optimistic is considered negative, and even evil.  An example is bringing to light the problems in our city where young men are besieged by violence, some of which is gang-related, and some of which is an overreaction by authorities in fear of being victims themselves.  

We don’t want to hear about that, it is such a negative thing to talk about.

Or the situations of kids “in the system” who bounce from house to house, unable to ever relax in a home.  There are other injustices out there, elder abuse, child abuse, the damage done by drugs to individuals and their families, 

But let’s not mention these problems, because if we do, the idea of America being utopia could be called into question.

Blind optimism is one of the worst curses today, it is the enemy of faith. It denies reality, and therefore it denies our need for God to be involved in our lives!   Jesus said the well do not need a doctor, and yet we optimistically go around saying all is well.

Paul talks in Romans 8 that all things work for good, and that nothing can separate us from God.  These statements are certainly true, yet they are an inventory of the challenges we will face.  True faith and the positive thinking approach cannot exist without hardship, without facing the reality of our brokenness, and then, depending on God, be assured that He will not let go of us.

God is here with you, comforting you, healing you, renewing you.  

The challenge is in realizing you need Him, and that takes an openness to the truth of wh you are…without him.  Not an overly optimistic one, (or overly pessimistic one… but one that rejoices sin that we were once, lost, but now found, once blind, but now we see…HIM!

May God’s peace, which goes so far beyond our comprehension, guard your hearts and mind… as you realize you dwell in Christ Jesus!  AMEN!

 

 

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 293–294). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Can God use us? The miracle for those with broken lives.

Will new camera 12 2008 167Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16  but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (TEV)

182         What compassion you feel for them!… You would like to cry out to them that they are wasting their time… Why are they so blind, and why can’t they perceive what you—a miserable creature—have seen? Why don’t they go for the best? Pray and mortify yourself. Then you have the duty to wake them up, one by one, explaining to them—also one by one—that they, like you, can find a divine way, without leaving the place they occupy in society.

There should be, within each of us, the self-awareness that is seen in St. Paul’s words above.  The realization that each of us is the worst of those who sin.

We struggle with the guilt and shame that comes from reflecting on our day, and realizing the people we may have hurt, either intentionally, or whom we neglected.  The time where we should have helped, and like the priest and Levite on the road, passed by those who are broken and wounded. The times where we wanted what we want, and worked to make it happen, not counting into the equation, their need, their pain, and the fact that God put us there to minister to them.

But if I am, if we are the worst of sinners, barely saved, are we too broken for God to use?  St. Josemaria describes it as being a miserable creature, who knows grace, who sees the world passing that offer of love by, unable to see it.

Could God use us, the admittedly broken?  Those who sin haunt us, even as we struggle to trust that because of Jesus, we are righteous in the Father’s eyes?  Could God use you and me?  I mean, it is incredible that He saves us, yet how can we make a dent in the evil and injustice that has people so entangled that they can’t see God?  Can God use us to change all that?

Indeed, He can, and does!  He has always planned to share with us His incredible work of renewing all of creation. Ephesians 2:10 tells us of this, even verse 8 and 9 assured us of His delivering us from sin. Romans 12:1-8 describes it as well, as we consider the mercy He shows us and then urges us to lay our lives before Him, doing what He has gifted us to do.

It is a miracle, as great of one as God’s delivering us from sin.  And it happens to all who depend on Him, all who trust to go where He places them.  All who are willing to be humble, and to communicate with God, hearing His voice.

Here is your God, let Him work through you!

And then be amazed, as they find God in their daily lives.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 974-978). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why do Christians endure burnout?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Lk 21:36Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”

Ro 12:12Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Eph 6:18Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Col 4:2Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

1Th 5:17Never stop praying.

Lk 11:5-9Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

“To be with him”—this “with him” is needed not just for a certain initial period so that it can be drawn upon later. It must always be at the heart of the priestly ministry. But it has to be used, it has to be learned so that eventually it will have acquired a certain ease and we can take for granted that it will not fail us in times of trial. It is important that we do not cultivate prayer only when we find joy in it. Just as nothing important can be attained in this life without discipline and method, so, too, our inner life has need of both of these

The quote from Pope Ratzinger above comes out of a quote that starts with a serious question. Back when he was a bishop, he was trying to determine why those who enter the ministry with zealous, that many had high expectations of, why would these potential superstars in ministry collapse, burn out, losing the zeal, only to replace it with emptiness.

It is a good question for us, not just for those in “ministry”, but for all who are in the priesthood of all believers.

And I think the answer is the same.

it is the lack of prayer, the lack of fellowship time with God.

We have to get away from the idea that prayer is something we have to do, or that prayer time should be a time of great joy and being uplifted.  We have to realize that the times where prayer is a lament, the attempt to vent and leave God with all our burdens.  To pray with the tears running full, even to the point where our prayer ends in exhaustion and a release into sleep.

That is why Jesus and the apostles kept encouraging people to pray, to speak, to listen, to communicate with God. You see it over and over, through the psalms, throughout the New Testament, there are invitations to walk in the presence of God.  There are the invitations to give Him all of our burdens, to find peace in His presence, and to know we are safe there.

And if the lack of pray results in burnout and loneliness, then prayer, these times of fellowship with God, allow us to see how He sustains us. To know He is there, to know He is listening, to know we can enter into those hard times of prayer with ease, confident of His love. This is what we need, this is what keeps us going, even in the darkness.

This is our guard against burnout, against losing our zeal, against the feelings of emptiness and loneliness in the storm.

Prayer helps you to know this… God is with you!

So keep praying my friends!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 291). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Faith in Action: A sermon on James 2

church at communion 2Faith in Action
James 2:1-10, 14-18


In Jesus Name

May the Grace, that mercy and love that God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to respond, depending on them in everything you do!

Faith isn’t invisible

In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author makes a radical claim,

1  The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 2  The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)

The fundamental fact of existence is found in our relationship with God.

We trust in Him, know and depending on His faithfulness that we just praised will never be broken, that it will never fail. So we trust in Him, in His promises, in His presence in .with us.

That faith makes life worth living, As one pastor I read in my devotions yesterday.

And that faith, my dear friends, is seen in how we live.  It is visible, even in the midst our struggles, in the midst of challenges, in the midst of our pains, our faith, our trust in Him, and in His presence becomes clearly visible,

it is how we exist, it is what we do…in everyday life,

Our faith takes action, it underwrites what we do, and how we do it.

So it becomes so much part of who we are and what we do, that people realize it.

so let us look at how Faith in Action means something.

Believe in Something, even if it means sacrificing everything

Nike started an ad campaign this week.  Some think it is controversial because of the people in it, especially the narrator.  Yet the slogan, I think is one we need to re-teach In the church,

This is their new slogan,

Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,

I would phrase it slightly differently, but I really love the idea.

Have faith in Someone, for nothing else is worth it.  And act on that faith.

The example James uses in our epistle today is helping the poor or treating them as nicely as you would treat the famous or the wealthy person. Even if it means sacrificing, giving up what you need to help them.
That’s contrary to the nature this world has, to put number one first, to take care of yourself, That is where sin blocks our ability to trust in God, for if we trust in God, we can help anyone, we can sacrifice what is needed to help

In the ad, the narrator noted the problem isn’t that our dreams are desires are crazy, He said our problem is that our dreams aren’t crazy enough.

I’ve got some dreams for you, tell me if they are crazy:

How crazy is it that a broken church could realize that its strength is found in its brokenness, for there it encounters Jesus.

How crazy is it that a group of people praying that God’s kingdom would come in this world then would find itself making the stoles for pastors in a far off place, and building a bakery there, which underwrites all the cost of training pastors. knowing that God is faithful.

How crazy is it that a small church would help people in Sudan, and Turkey, and Papua New Guinea, and in Long Beach and Pico Rivera, and who knows where else next?

How crazy is it that a group of older people, who meet together, make sacrifices so kids can learn about God, then get to see a five-year-old that is so excited to get baptized in front of them he dunks his head in the baptismal font?

How crazy is it that an older smaller church that has become home to young gifted people who are encouraged (and feel safe enough) to share their gifts and grow in use of them?  A church that would be called “my church” by someone who mentors them, and our of all the churches he serves, finds himself home there

How crazy is it that a church, which has seen God at work, grows two and three times its size, not because they are focused on growth, but because they care for other people whom they encounter, who are poor in spirit, and desperately need to know the love of God.

O wait, you are thinking that the last one is crazy?  Well, if I described the other crazy dreams ten years ago, you would have thought them more than just crazy.

But these things aren’t crazy… they are simply what happens when we see Faith in Action.

Have faith in Him who sacrificed everything, our glorious Lord

When we trust and depend on God whose faithfulness is so great!.

These things and far more happen, things that are crazy, things that add to the praises we sing and speak of the God who is with us.

For ultimately, it is His faithfulness that matters, His belief in a dream that He was willing to sacrifice everything, His place in heaven, His comfort in this life, even His life that makes the difference,

Jesus died on the cross because He believed He could save us from our sin, and bring us home to the Father.  That our lives were worth His life, no matter how messed up, no matter how broken, no matter how much guilt and shame we bear.

It is Jesus we have faith in, not just His promises, not just His word, not just in the sacraments, but in the One whose love for us is we need to explore, its incredible width and breadth, height and depth!

A love that changes us, as we begin to trust in Him because of that love. As that trust, that faith leads us to walk with Him, not matter where He leads, no matter what we endure, a faith that acts, which makes itself visible, as it draws people to His side.

For there, in Christ, we find God’s peace… a peace that, like His love is beyond all understanding, as He is our rock, our cornerstone, our safety… AMEN!

Offended! Renewal or Revenge: I beg you…choose wisely

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day

9 I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, 10 appeal to you for my son, Onesimus. I fathered him while I was in chains. 11 Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back to you as a part of myself. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will. 15 For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, 16 no longer as a •slave, but more than a slave—as a dearly loved brother. He is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 
17 So if you consider me a partner, accept him as you would me. 18 And if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self. Philemon 9-19 HCSB

187         Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning, and act in consequence.

Christianity is Love, or better said Jesus Christ is love.

In recent weeks, there have been some issues where people have been gravely hurt, situations in which they feel they have been offended, gravely offended.  Some of these things are sinful, even including some that are considered abominations,

Yet Christianity is love, St Josemaria reminds us.

Our mission, the mission of the church and everyone who is a part of her is found in loving others, to have the positive experience of being concerned for them.  This isn’t easy, this mission of ours.  It calls us to love the unlovable, to be concerned for the very people who hurt us, whom we pin the blame for our brokenness on, looking for someone to take the fall

Yet Christ is love.

This morning, my reading plan hit the book of Philemon, one of the greatest encouragements to love a neighbor found in scripture. Paul is encouraging Philemon to love more than the betrayal, to love more than he was sinned against, to love more than justice, in fact, this love flies in the face of civil justice.

Christ is love.  Imitate Him!

Paul so desires Philemon to love the escaped slave, he is willing to risk having Philemon disobey him, willing to risk a betrayal.  He so desires to teach Philemon about love, he is willing to sacrifice the one he wants Philemon to love.

The one who betrayed Philemon, the one who hurt him, stole his property, made him the object of ridicule.

Paul wants Philemon to love the most unlovable person in Philemon’s life.

And he is willing to risk everything to teach this important lesson, even as he encourages Philemon with just as much energy, reminding Philemon how much he is loved.  Even reminding Philemon how much mercy has blessed him.

Christ is Love!

This is our calling, this is our way of life, this is a level of joy when we find that in Christ we can love the unlovable when we can love the one who has betrayed us when we can show mercy even as we show mercy.

What a joy to do that which we cannot do on our own. To so depend on the power of the Holy Spirit who comforts us, who gives us the ability to do what we cannot.

Christ in us!  LOVE!

Take a moment, think of those who you would struggle to love, whether a famous person, or a family member or a neighbor.  Hear those who have loved you when you were unlovable, pointing you to Jesus, and pray that someone would do the same for those whose actions and words hurt you, bring them to the Lord who will renew their lives.
Lord have mercy on us…..all!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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