Category Archives: Devotionals

Are We Really Listening to God?

We are on a mission from God! Really!

Devotional Thought of the day:

5  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and with hope I wait for his word. 6  My soul waits for the LORD more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6 (GW)

When God speaks to us it does not prove that we are right or even that we are good. In fact we may have misunderstood what God said. The infallibility of God the speaker does not guarantee our infallible reception. However, phrases such as “God told me” or “the Lord led me” are commonly used to prove that “I am right,” “My ideas are right” or “you should follow me.” No such claim is automatically justified.
So if a conversational walk with God does not guarantee my always being right, what is the use of it? Why should we attempt to hear God if it won’t ensure that we’re on the right track?

34† But they would not answer him, because on the road they had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. 35† Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all.” Mark 9:34-35 GNT

As i look over social media this morning, I again find myself distraught over what I see. People trying to justify their views, much as Dallas Willard indicates they do in the green quote above.

It is tempting to reply to each, to show them how their claim to the higher moral position is failing, and actually doing harm to their position.

Everyone claims that they speak for God, whether they believe or not. They do so when they appeal to logic, or what is just (in their eyes) or what a right. Their claim to an absolute is a claim to speak for God, their judgment that something is good, or evil, again is a claim to speak absolutely, and therefore is a claim to speak as God.

Please, stop nodding your head, thinking of people you know I am speaking about – for I am speaking about you, and me.

We try to speak for God all the time, speaking at people, speaking about their sin, judging and condemning that which we don’t approve. Surely, there sins we need to confront, brokeness and even things attitudes so warped that good becomes evil, and evil becomes good.

But the purpose of speaking out about them must be reconcilliation to God, not condemnation to hell. Our attitude should be that of a servant, helping his Master’s children grow and develop.

That requires that we listen to God, more than we speak for Him. It takes knowing and sharing His heart, His attitude for them, rather than just drawing a line in the sand.

So how do we know when we are hearing God accurately? When what is being said aligns with what He desires, when our heart is filled with both love and the pain that comes from seeing those we love, captured in bondange, unable to free themselves.

When we are willing to go them, and share in their pain, waiting patiently for that moment when we can reveal to them the grace of God, the mercy He will show them. When we can take them to the cross, embracing the struggle for the joy set before us.. the joy of welcoming our fellow prodicgal home.

So listen, and run to those He would have you stand by.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.


Our Love/Hate Relationship With God (and those who speak for Him)

devotional thought of the day:

20 Herod was afraid of John because he knew that John was a good and holy man, and so he kept him safe. He liked to listen to him, even though he became greatly disturbed every time he heard him. Mark 6:20 GNT

The biblical term shalom, which is usually so translated, implies much more than the absence of armed conflict; it means the right order of human affairs, well-being—a world where trust and friendship prevail, where neither fear nor want nor treachery nor dishonesty is found. Yet the song of the angels first lays down a precondition, without which there can be no lasting peace: God’s glory. This is the message of peace at Bethlehem: peace among men results from God’s glory. Those who are concerned about the human race and its well-being have to be concerned about God’s glory first of all. God’s glory is not some private concern, left to the personal choice of the individual; it is a public affair. It is a common good, and wherever God is not honored among men, there man as well will not remain honorable. The reason why Christmas affects the peace of man lies in this: because it has restored God’s glory among men.

9 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in trouble; my eyes are tired from so much crying; I am completely worn out. 10 I am exhausted by sorrow, and weeping has shortened my life. I am weak from all my troubles; even my bones are wasting away. Psalm 31:9-10 GNT

We are all like Herod.

And even as I say that I prove it is true.

I recoil at the thought, I am not as evil as he was, I console myself. But yet, if someone is preaching about my sin, I am disturbed, I am very uncomfortable, I feel like he’s laid my brokenness out there for everyone to see. I may even be a bit pissed off, and wanting to strike back as the pain of having my brokenness revealed causes that.

Which is hard when I am the pastor, and the one preaching! 🙂

But there is something comforting as well, I like listening to the promise that even thoguh I have sinned, that there is the possibility, the potential of being forgiven, of being healed and made whole. I may think I am not ready for it, but I need to know it is there.

I need to cry out with the Psalmist for God’s mercy, and I need to know He will answer. I need to know there can and will be peace.

I sandwiched the quote from Pope Benedict in between the gospels for a reason. There is our key to why Herod (and we) like the presence of God and God’s spokesperson in our lives.

The Glory of God which leads to peace, and the promise of that peace. For while we see God’s glory as something to be in awe of, even scared of, for those who know Him, for those who listen to Him, that glory has another name.

That name is “love” and “mercy”, It it glorious that God is compassionate, sympathetic, and in Christ, even empathestic to our brokenness. For while Jesus didn’t sin, He bore the wieght of that sin, and its wrath on the cross. Revealing that glory is something that leaves us unexplainably at peace, knowing God can cleanse us and heal us.

Will we let Him, how much more do we need endure of our brokenness before we shall?

Praying that it not be long… but rather we would find ourselves at home in His glory, experiencing His love, and dwelling, finally at home in His peace!


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.) (p. 409). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.


Augustine on Sin and Counterfeit Glory.

Devotional thought of the day:

Well, no wonder! Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light! 15  So it is no great thing if his servants disguise themselves to look like servants of righteousness. In the end they will get exactly what their actions deserve. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 (TEV)

Thus all pervertedly imitate Thee, who remove far from Thee, and lift themselves up against Thee. But even by thus imitating Thee, they imply Thee to be the Creator of all nature; whence there is no place whither altogether to retire from Thee. What then did I love in that theft? and wherein did I even corruptly and pervertedly imitate my Lord? Did I wish even by stealth to do contrary to Thy law, because by power I could not, so that being a prisoner, I might mimic a maimed liberty by doing with impunity things unpermitted me, a darkened likeness of Thy Omnipotency? Behold, Thy servant, fleeing from his Lord, and obtaining a shadow.

I am not sure why I added Augustine’s Confessions to my devotional reading for this year.  It may be because of the major role his work played in Luther’s life, or in my desire to understand the divisions between the Roman Catholic Church and my own Lutheran church. But a month in, I am glad.  There is deep simplicity in the words, as we observe his reflection on his life, including a life attracted to sin that ensnares us.  It’s brutal, honest, uncomfortable, revealing and liberating.

In today’s reading, he brings up something incredible, the idea that all of the sins we choose are a simple counterfeit, and imitation of that which is of God.  And in analyzing what we pursue, the very perversion reveals both our idol (the self) and the true life we would have, in Christ.

It is brutal because it reveals to us our idolatry, our desire to do that which Adam and Eve fell prey to, the desire to be God, to judge things as righteous or not.   It is uncomfortable because it reveals how poor an imitation these things are.  Here are some of examples which precede the quote,

“Luxury affects to be called plenty and abundance; but Thou art the fulness and never-failing plenteousness of incorruptible pleasures. Prodigality presents a shadow of liberality: but Thou art the most overflowing Giver of all good. Covetousness would possess many things; and Thou possessest all things. Envy disputes for excellency: what more excellent than Thou?”

Is it no wonder the emptiness that haunts us, the depression that we seek to ignore,to laugh off, to overwhelm and even self-medicate ourselves against?

Is it no wonder that the upcoming generation attempts to throw off the modernistic search for a scientific, tangible reality, yet can’t create one either? At least not where they are Lord of Lord and King of Kings?

Truly King David is correct in his similar diagnosis,

1  Why this uproar among the nations, this impotent muttering of the peoples? 2  Kings of the earth take up position, princes plot together against Yahweh and his anointed, 3  ‘Now let us break their fetters! Now let us throw off their bonds!’ Psalm 2:1-3 (NJB)

So what hope is there?  What can we offer to those burnt out on their idolatry, on their struggle to find a suitable, comfortable imitation of God?
We hold out the hope, not of an imitation of God, but of being in a relationship where we are transformed and imitate Him.  His love, His mercy, His grace.  King David speaks of this as well in that same Psalm,

11  Worship GOD in adoring embrace, Celebrate in trembling awe. 12  Kiss Messiah! Your very lives are in danger, you know; His anger is about to explode, But if you make a run for God—you won’t regret it! Psalm 2:11-12 (MSG)

Walk with Him, ask for His mercy, ask Him to reveal His love.  He Shall, for He is no shadow, He is our Reality.


Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.  (Chapter VII)

Not all roads lead to God, yet…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
4  God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 5  God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 6  God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. 7  Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (MSG)

231         I like the motto: “Let each wayfarer follow his way”, the road God has marked out for him, to be followed faithfully, lovingly, even though it is hard.  (1)

It is one of the hardest lessons to learn as a pastor.  It is one that is not often taught in Christian Universities or Seminaries, except maybe a short aspect of a pastoral care class.

It is simple and profound, it wears you our and leaves you in awe.  Here is one of the greatest secrets to ministry:

You can’t minister to every person the same way, you can’t shepherd 100 people from 105 different places along the same exact path.  They need to be drawn/dragged from where they are at to the foot of the cross, to the very mercy of God, poured out as His blood paid for all our sins.

Yet we are trained to use the same materials, the same processes in our discipleship of those in our churches.  Those processes are based in some core thought that is essential ( for example, afflict those comfortable in their sin, comfort those afflicted by their sin. ) but how that is applied to the people in our churches should fit a particular process.   it is a big job, but discipleship is both corporate and individual.

Is it any wonder that most churches stop discipleship once people have passed a new members class?   Or if there is is a program, some drop out because it assumes a different starting path, and they are too frustrated to wait and see if it comes by where they are.

I know a great example of this, a lady who is a member of one of the churches I have pastored.  She insists that she is a novice when it comes to faith, yet lives a life a devotion to God.  A life I think is far more “along the path” that she realizes.

So how do you do this?  Do you make everyone take the same path?  Study the same scriptures?  Do you not care if people get lost or bored?  Or do you work with people individually?

It’s the same issue that Paul was talking to the Corinthians about. As they would serve in different ways, in different manners expressing the faith and growth in their trust of God.  Not everyone will do the same things, have the same vocations, have the same exact path to spiritual maturity.

So how do we minister this way, effectively discipling people, shepherding them from the basics of trusting God, to actually walking with them?

Not sure yet, but it will be a lot of what I think through during advent.

Discussion very welcome on this one!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1161-1163). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Martyrs Aren’t Heroes but the norm

Devotional Thought of the Day:

54  The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. 55  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56  And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” 57  Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58  and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59  As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60  He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. Acts 7:54-60 (NLT) 

11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:11 (NLT)

1  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

This post is based on one of the Bible Study discussions among my people at church.  We’ve been going through the book of Acts of the Apostles, and came to the martyrdom of Stephen.

It brought out a discussion of the fears we have because of the terrorism in Lebanon, the Sudan and Paris, the incredibly painful trauma people experience.  A trauma that is spreading through anxiety and fear, which is being maniuplated by those who would have us stop out from reaching in love, because of that fear.

As we discussed these things, someone mentioned the incredible level of faith that someone who willing embraced martyrdom must have.  The faith that would testify of God’s love, that would know the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians, even as the boulders were thrown down upon him, or as the blade slice through the air.

Such heroism seems beyond us, such an ability to set aside one’s automatic nature to preserve one’s self.  Yet the angel in the passage from the Revelation states that the people there have defeated the accuser by the blood of the Lamb, the witness (in greek – the word we get martyr from!) and by the fact that they didn’t love life so uch they were afrasid to die.

That describes you, if your faith is in Christ.  It describes me as well, and every other person who puts their hope in Christ Jesus. The more we comprehend, not just now, but understand at the gut level, the love of Christ, the guaranty of His promise that we will share in His glory eternally, the more we don’t need to cling to life, the more we don’t need to defend ourselves against persecution. The more we can embrance suffering like Jesus did.  The more we trust, the more we look to the promise, the more we understand God’s love, the more we can accept martyrdom.

I want you to compare what Stephen goes through in the first reading to what Paul urges believers to do.

Stephen looked into heaven, and saw the glory of God.

Paul tells us to set our sights on the reality of heaven.

Stephen sees Jesus at the right hand of the Father, in the place of honor.

We are to see the same thing – the same Jesus, the same right hand, the same place of honor.

Stephen is killed. Physically.

We are to realize that we have died to this life.  Yes spiritually, (as had Stephen) but also in our need to cling to it, for we realize we aren’t just here, we are hidden in Christ in God, waiting to be revealed with Jesus in our fullness.

That’s where the strength comes from to allow a witness to Christ result in our martyrdom, whether that martyrdom is physical, or whether it is setting aside our dream life, our desires, our need to preserve our identity, in order to bear witness to the love of Christ.  This is exactly what Paul is talking about in Philippians 2:1-10. urging us on to unity in Christ.  It is what Paul talks of when he urges ust o imitate him as He imitates Christ.

Ultimately, Martyrdom is never about the death, it is never about the sacrifice, it is about knowing the love of Jesus, about trusting in His promises, that is the martyrdom, the very witness we bear. Is this heroic then?  It would be, except that the strength doesn’t come from us, it coems from the Holy Spirit.  It is the very thing we are urged as believers to do.  To bear witness with our very lives, to give the reason we have hope.  To set aside our fears, to set aside our need for self preservation, to set aside all, to love God, and to love man.

It is who we are, because of what Jesus does for us in baptism…..what He does to us.

This is what it means to know the Lord is with you, that He answered your plea for emrcy.

It is abiding, secure in Christ’s peace.  It is, His gift, His grace.

A Missional Lesson Not ot Be Forgotten…the Epistle Written on Hearts

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
11  It was He (Jesus ) who “gave gifts to people“; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. Ephesians 4:11-13 (TEV)

1  Does this sound as if we were again boasting about ourselves? Could it be that, like some other people, we need letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2  You yourselves are the letter we have, written on our hearts for everyone to know and read. 3  It is clear that Christ himself wrote this letter and sent it by us. It is written, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, and not on stone tablets but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 (TEV)

195         When there is zeal for souls, good people can always be found, fertile soil can always be discovered. There is no excuse!  (1)

This weekend was one of those lessons in ministry that had to be driven home with an exclamation point.  I listened to 6 sermons, all by men who desired to serve God, who knew HIs love.  One was during our church service when a deacon preached about a widow who would give all because she God could care for her.  Then five deacon candidates preached a sermon on Philippians 2 as part of their homiletics course.

There were other sermons, not prepared, but sermons like the letters Paul mentions to the church in Corinth.  The letters testifying to ministry being done, of the word being preached, of the Holy Spirit at work

One lady, who very rarely comes to church (like 3 times 7 years!) who was telling another guest about how great the church was, and that she should come here regularly.  (And her laugh as I looked at her, and she realized she was talking to herself)  Another man who was taken aback by several telling him he should be in the next class, and seeing his heart consider it, as He was speechless at the thought.  Another man talked to me about how much these friends of his matured, how God had caused them to grow.  Most impacting were the tears of one lady, as she watched her husband of forty-plus years come alive as he preached, and as she encountered the power of God at work in their lives.  I could go on, to tell the stories I witnessed, as people were impacted by those messages, by those messengers.

None of the men who I heard yesterday would most consider “Minister material.” But the people they ministered too could not deny God’s work through them.  Like the small shepherd who would be king, or the terrorist who would become an apostle, or the coward who would lead God’s people to freedom.  They have some rough edges; each has significant struggles in life that would make most hesitate to put them in a pulpit.   But this is undeniable, God used them.  The proof was seen in the lives and conversations they touched.  They worked their tails off, and God blessed others through them.

We are all called to ministry, and it is a wondrous thing to watch the church growing and serving each other.  Even those we don’t anticipate God use so dramatically.

So how are you going to become the messenger whom God will write on others hearts this day?  Or how will someone else by used by the Holy Spirit to imprint on your heart the message of God’s love?  For we need both, we are fertile fields, and workers set apart to work in the fields ready for harvest.

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1026-1027). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Facing Death… and facing death…

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
19  Jesus answered, “Tear down this Temple, and in three days I will build it again.” 20  “Are you going to build it again in three days?” they asked him. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple!” 21  But the temple Jesus was speaking about was his body. 22  So when he was raised from death, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and what Jesus had said. John 2:19-22 (TEV)

The span of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years. 2 She died in Kiriath-arba—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to mourn and weep for her.  Gen 23:1–2

179         Days of silence and of intense grace… Prayer face to face with God… I broke out into thanksgiving, on seeing those people, mature in years and experience, who opened out to the touch of grace. They responded like children, eagerly grasping the chance to convert their lives, even now, into something useful… which would make up for all the times they have gone astray and for all their lost opportunities. Recalling that scene, I put it to you: do not neglect your struggle in the interior life.

They aren’t the devotional readings you want to come up the day someone takes a long needle, places it in your carotid veins, and checks out your heart from the inside.  There these readings the readings in red were,   The procedure they told me, had less than 1% serious complications, but if you know me, that’s not good odds.  I would prefer them in the region of .0000001% chance.

But here I was, waiting impatiently for the procedure to began.  I had signed the paperwork saying who had the power to make decisions for me if I didn’t come out of the sedation, papers authorizing blood transfusions, and, of course, the paperwork saying I understood that such medical procedures are risky and that I wouldn’t sue if I died.  (How could I? But that isn’t where your mind goes…)

For the first time in 10 major surgeries in my life, I was afraid going into the surgical suite/cath lab, I didn’t like that feeling at all.  I have sat by many during such times, I have been there myself before, but the fear this time… I started to plan my own funeral- but who would I tell?

I was sure I was facing death, and yet… I survived.

So now what?

I’ve had people tell me before that such events change people.  But then again, a motorcycle accident, a cardiac arrest, a surgery to replace two heart valves, all that didn’t change me that much, except to prepare me for ministry.  Okay, to prepare me for a very unique and different ministry.

But what would come out of this very dark, very anxiety-laden time?  Why didn’t God come and quiet my soul, like He had some many times?  Why couldn’t I, a guy who teaches people how to minister to others in such times, find the peace I had led so many others too?

It’s funny, in that emptiness, in that moment where they “sealed” my body to the surgery table with some super form of saran wrap, ( My anxiety helped me  wonder if they were pre-fitting me for a body-bag!) in that lack of peace, in those moments in that lack of anything, I was sure it didn’t matter. If I went home to God, the sins that concerned me would be covered.  If I stayed, there was a final to take, sermons to grade, blogs to write.  But those things didn’t exist at that moment when they put a drape over my head so the surgeon could do his job….

there was nothing…

and because there was nothing… there was the proof of God.

Again, I couldn’t point to any feeling, matter of fact they led me down other roads.  My knowledge as a pastor failed me.

But that doesn’t mean God did.  If God is God, then in those moments I sense nothing, in those moments where I can’t depend on logic, or emotion, He has to be there, beyond me.  If we die, we are with Him, if we don’t, He will draw us closer to Him, strengthening us so we can bring others along on the journey.

I have often wondered why Jesus, who was, is, and will be God had to face His own… well, mortality, so often. Why God would go there so often, almost as if he was fixated on it.

Because it wasn’t just His death He faced.  It was all our death.  The death of sin.

He did that, so we could face the emptiness of death.. the barrenness of the moment of facing it.

So that in our baptism, our leaving this life will become meaningless.

For no matter what, whether our mind can process it or not, whether our emotions can cope with it… ultimately we are in His hands.

Nothing else matters…

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 957-963). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Anticipating a glimpse of Heaven this weekend.

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: People from nations and cities around the world will travel to Jerusalem. 21  The people of one city will say to the people of another, ‘Come with us to Jerusalem to ask the LORD to bless us. Let’s worship the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I’m determined to go.’ 22  Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD of Heaven’s Armies and to ask for his blessing. 23  “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In those days ten men from different nations and languages of the world will clutch at the sleeve of one Jew. And they will say, ‘Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” Zechariah 8:20-23 (NLT)

186         People from different countries, different races, and very different backgrounds and professions… When you speak to them about God, you become aware of the human and supernatural value of your vocation as an apostle. It is as if you are reliving, in its total reality, the miracle of the first preaching of Our Lord’s disciples. Phrases spoken in a strange tongue, which open up new ways, have been heard by each one, in the depth of his heart in his own language. And in your mind you can see that scene taking on a new life, in which “Parthians, Medes and Elamites” have come joyfully to God.

Sunday at my church we will celebrate the old feast of All Saints.

It is also the day that both congregations that are our church gather as the church.  One people, One service, Two languages, (and many, many more represented!)People from five continents ( can anyone bring an Antarcian and an Australian?)  It takes a little more to plan the worship, my sermon has to be translated, and we gather the most incredible food from all sorts of cultures.

There are days I feel like Peter at Pentecost, looking out on such a crowd.  Other times, the Old Testament prophecies like the one above in red, the scenes described fulfilled in the Revelation to St John, are made manifest.  God is with us; He has gathered us, so diverse, and yet to united in and by the blood of Christ Jesus. The same Lord that gave the vision to Zechariah and St. John is the same God who descended upon the apostles, and works through His people today.

It is truly amazing, overwhelming, beyond belief.

God has brought us all here… to celebrate His work in us,  To celebrate being made part of our family

It is a beautiful foretaste of what is too come – and it creates a desire to complete the work, too see people from every time in history, from every place where the sun has shined, from every Langauge and clan!  It is a foretaste of the healing of the nations talked about that will occur when God brings us together, and we glorify and praise and honor Him for what He has done.  It also puts perspective to this life for us… that we are really one, not divided by race or nationality or ethnicity or language, but one because of the blood of Christ, cleansing us all.

Bringing peace to all, bringing sustenance to all..

This is our hope, our expectation, because of the love of God.  The love of God for us…

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 991-996). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

We Talk of Winning Souls, but Do We Protect them?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.Ro 13:11–14NLT

64         What a wonderful thing to convert unbelievers, to gain souls!… Well, it is as pleasing, and even more pleasing to God, to avoid their being lost.

This week, as I prepare to preach on Mark 9, this theme keeps coming back in my devotions.

This idea of the Church, its pastors, and its people, not caring whether we cause others to walk away from the church.  Whether we, with all of our theological studies, with all of our systems and programs, do not have a pastor’s heart, a brother or sister’s care to encourage people like Paul does above.

Do we encourage people to live lives that will bring God glory?  Not because of their perfection, but because of the love we show others?  Because we don’t look out for #1 but look out for the one, who isn’t in line?  Who is starting to wander off, who is choosing the darkness, or just being tempted by it?

I am not, by any means, talking about a forced life of purity.  For such doesn’t exist.

But I am talking about a life that recognizes the love of God and treasures it more than the pleasures of the moment.  That knows the promises and blessings, the love and mercy of God who comes to us.  A life that journeys close to the cross,

And we allow too many not even to know that is possible.

It is simple in theory to change, as we encourage each other to hear God, not just a verse here and there.  But time spent understanding the breadth and depth, the width and height of God’s love.  To share in that word, not just study it in a closet, to rejoice and point out the blessings confirmed to us as they flow through the sacraments.  To make sure that the old who know the story best hear it alongside those who haven’t heard it, so they may all rejoice together in God’s presence.

All of us, those who have been in the church for all our lives, and those who are just coming to hear of His love.

That’s the way it has been, that is what we even see at the dedication of Solomon’s temple.  All come to pray, all come to know His love. 

The family, acting like a family, the people of God, gathered around Him.

Bringing others, ensuring everyone has a place, helping others continue to focus on Jesus.

May our lives be lived in Him, and may they draw others to reconcile with God and encourage

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 487-489). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Church – your consultants faith? Is it in statistics and probabilities, or in God?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
 Do this because you are a people set apart as holy to GOD, your God. GOD, your God, chose you out of all the people on Earth for himself as a cherished, personal treasure.  GOD wasn’t attracted to you and didn’t choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you.  He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to your ancestors. GOD stepped in and mightily bought you back out of that world of slavery, freed you from the iron grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  Know this: GOD, your God, is God indeed, a God you can depend upon. Deuteronomy 7:6-9a (MSG) 

Something similar has happened to us. With little effort we could find among our family, friends, and acquaintances—not to mention the crowds of the world—so many worthier persons that Christ could have called. Yes, persons who are simpler and wiser, more influential and important, more grateful and generous. In thinking along these lines, I feel embarrassed. But I also realize that human logic cannot possibly explain the world of grace. God usually seeks out deficient instruments so that the work can more clearly be seen to be his.

I have had it with the church statistics “experts”.  The well intention men and women who tell churches that they have only a 25 year life cycle, that they are going to die and close their doors, and that this can be a good thing.

Or the men who say that the fastest growing churches, and the best return of investment is to plant new churches (even if they are only 2 miles from a healthy church.  Who play around with statistics and charts and give advice and sell their coaching services. Whose advice becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as people believe them, and forget that ministry is not about statistics and what gives us the biggest bang for our buck.  The new thought is that a church while it still has value should close, before it loses what value it has, in order that God would do something new somewhere else.  (That line I have a problem with, because doing something new in scripture was about the cross and resurrection – the death of Christ – not his church)

We don’t “do” church in ways because of what makes sense in a business model.  Statistics don’t governthe church, God does. Brooklyn Tabernacle was once a dead, tiny church, the American Baptist hcurches in Northern Calfiornia were once empty.  My first church was under 20 in attendance.    We do church because God calls us to minister to those who are broken, to reconcile people to them, to see their souls healed. We are there to pray for comfort and healing of the cancer patient, to remind the imprisoned that God hasn’t given up on them, to help people broken by divorce, or challenged by changes in their lives, or the past that haunts them.

Wo are the church to “do” grace, to be “grace”, to be the place where God incarnates, where he is revealed.

The church is something that can’t be reduced to statistics, or to methodologies.  Because it isn’t about numbers, it is about life.  It is about the supernatural invading and transforming the natural. It is about the power of God made clear as it transforms the lives of people who thought there was no hope.

What does beating the statistical models take?  How can we avoid being another church which closes its doors?

It’s so simple that the experts can’t see it.

Know Christ! revel in His presence! Help people give to God the burdens and anxieties they carry.  Plead with them to let God  reconcile them!  Teach them to treasure God’s time and presence. Fall in love with Him to the point where your heart beats in harmony with His.

It works, because God promised not to abandon us… but to work through us.

Abide in Him. And watch what He does … it is amazing!

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 424-429). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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