Category Archives: Poeima

The Church Desperately Needs Fools and Madmen – if we are to survive.

Thoughts to help us run to Jesus…

Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time,* said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50 You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” John 11:49-50 NLT

They say, “God has abandoned him. Let’s go and get him, for no one will help him now.” 12  O God, don’t stay away. My God, please hurry to help me. Psalm 71:11-12 (NLT2)

Scripture’s commandment to turn the other cheek does not contain a primarily ethical meaning—to overcome oneself, or to give the other an example of one’s self-mastery or enlightenment—but the meaning of love, which “demands that one suffer humiliation with the humiliated Christ rather than receive honor, to be seen as a fool and madman for Christ’s sake, who himself was seen primarily as such, rather than to be esteemed as wise and clever in this world” (Ignatius of Loyola)

Now note that deliverance from evil is the very last thing that we do and ought to pray for. Under this heading we count strife, famine, war, pestilence, plagues, even hell and purgatory, in short, everything that is painful to body and soul. Though we ask for release from all of this, it should be done in a proper manner and at the very last.
Why? There are some, perhaps many, who honor and implore God and his saints solely for the sake of deliverance from evil. They have no other interest and do not ever think of the first petitions which stress God’s honor, his name, and his will. Instead, they seek their own will and completely reverse the order of this prayer. They begin at the end and never get to the first petitions. They are set on being rid of their evil, whether this redounds to God’s honor or not, whether it conforms to his will or not.

The Canaanite woman had the kind of faith which penetrates the clouds. She would not take any kind of refusal as a real refusal, as a real “no.” She kept on praying with faith. The more she was tried, the more she placed her trust in Jesus, until she finally achieved her goal and got all she wanted. This is the disposition God waits for in the crisis of faith: trust in his mercy no matter what kind of treatment he gives you. Only great faith can penetrate those apparent rebuffs, comprehend the love which inspires them, and totally surrender to it.

Barely a day goes by without ads or advice about how to save the church. Here is how to make your preaching more relevant, how to do outreach online, and how to grow this ministry, that ministry. If only you had a program like Alpha or Rooted or follow Purpose Driven Church theory or…

For someone who doesn’t even know what a box is, never mind think out of it, my answer for what the church needs to do is described well in the devotional readings I encountered this morning.

The answer to survival is that we again need the church to be considered fools and madmen/women.

The phrase comes from the reading of Balthasar – and refers to people who are willing to be humiliated for no other reason than we do so with Jesus. The world would say we are nuts; we are fools. We embrace the suffering we encounter, whatever God allows, to seek Him and find Him and be with Him.

That is what Luther was getting at as well, as he explored the phrase, “deliver us from evil.” It is not the first plea in the Lord’s prayer but the last. It is not the most important thing – in fact, the most important thing is that we use God’s name to address Him. We need to set it apart for those deeply intimate conversations. We ask to ask for a lot, but only last do we ask for delivery from evil. If we believe all else is answered and delivered, where is the power of evil? It has already been broken and shattered.

Take a moment and think about it – what has Satan left if we are sure God’s Kingdom has come, and God’s will has been done?

This is what servant-leadership truly is in the church, being willing to embrace the suffering and remind people of God’s presence in the most broken parts of their lives. It requires tenacity, not to endure, but to pursue God like the Samaritan woman Keating praises! Jesus praised her, for she trusted that Jesus loved her and her daughter. We need to seek that experience of His love and His mercy, counting on Him to reveal Himself there.

That is why we endure… to depend on Christ – to dwell in Him… and as we do, we serve amid brokenness. We embrace it, knowing that God rules, and therefore it works. and if the world things we are fools and madman… that’s okay.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 42. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

Real Peace is Not the Absence of Conflict…

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17  Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18  Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Romans 12:16-18 (NLT2)

20    You clash with the character of one person or another…. It has to be that way—you are not a dollar bill to be liked by everyone. Besides, without those clashes which arise in dealing with your neighbors, how could you ever lose the sharp corners, the edges—imperfections and defects of your character—and acquire the order, the smoothness, and the firm mildness of charity, of perfection? If your character and that of those around you were soft and sweet like marshmallows, you would never become a saint.

I have never liked conflict.

Like many people, I would go to great lengths to avoid it, and I fear its approaching.

I think this is, in part, because we don’t know how to understand it, and we either fight for victory, or we settle for compromise. As a result we are not aware of the sweetness of harmony, the true peace of living in concord, and the hope that comes from finding the true peace that happens when we reconcile.

As a result, we dwell in a time where conflict is played out strategically, in back rooms and parking lot conversations, via text messages and other social media we gather our side, and are ready to go to war, or run away from our opponents.

And all suffers.

Living in peace with everyone is not about being liked, it is not about being popular, it is about working for true reconciliation, true unity that is not at the cost of diversity, or does it force conformity to anything else but Jesus. ANd since the Spirit is in charge of that transformation, the very clashes we, can lead to reconciliation.

Real peace is found there, not in the apparent absence of conflict.

It is a hard lesson, and to be honest, one I have refused to learn, even as I prayed for such a peace to grow in my life. Yet I have begun to see it, I have watched God at work bringing together those who trusted Him enough to be honest, and desire to see Him honored more than to be proven they are right. I have seen it in those who journy together. I have seen it at the communion rail, and in the passing of the peace.

So trust God, be willing to pay the price for true peace, knowing God will help, He will be there, and the person you are in conflict may come to realize, as you do, that you are on the same journey, being drawn by God into His presence.

Heavenly Father, help us to trust and depend on you more than we fear and avoid conflict. In those situations, help us to honor you, and seek the peace that is found in reconciliation, not settling for compromise or avoidance. Give us the patience to see this happen, in Jesus name. AMEN!



Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 209-213). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Please Come Back Soon, Lord! Huh? You Are Here!!!!

Jesus foot washing7 God sent me ahead of you to rescue you in this amazing way and to make sure that you and your descendants survive. 8 So it was not really you who sent me here, but God.  Genesis 45:7-8 GNT

Trial and temptation are the initial means of spiritual formation. Through them the Christian is stripped time and time again of presumption and the delusions of righteousness. One is thrust into a kind of existential free fall with nothing to break the descent into darkness, nothing to hold onto but Jesus the Christ.

309         Far away on the horizon heaven seems to meet the earth. Do not forget that where heaven and earth really meet is in your heart of a child of God.

Yesterday, I posted on FaceBook the following thought

“Struggling with the idea that Maranatha shouldn’t be just a prayer of despair, but one of expectation.”

Let me be honest, the last week or so, as I’ve have witnessed so much trauma, that I would be very grateful for the Second Coming of Christ.  And in a desperate way, I want to plead for it, for the release from the tribulation and tears that seem to be occurring wherever I turn.

And yet part of me regrets wanting the Second Coming for such a personal excuse, for such a homecoming, for such peace.  I know I should know this peace, and there are times where I know it, especially as I hand to my brothers and sisters the Body of Christ, as my elders and deacon encourage them to take and drink the Precious Blood poured out to activate the New Covenant, a relationship where we are free from sin.

As I look out on this broken world, this shattered community, as I see the sin ravaged relationships, my instinct to run and hide from the pain.

And gently confronting my angst this morning, I came across the readings above, and sit in wonder, as I realize God’s providence.

In the reading from Luther’s Spirituality, I see the blessing of such tribulation, as it strips from me everything but Christ.  Out of need I cry out to Him and find He’s already there.  He’s not on the distant horizon, not somewhere out there in time.  But He is here, He is wonderfully sustaining me! He is wonderfully here!

And then, like Joseph, I realize the pain’s purpose, the salvation of all of those around, the chance we all have because even in this midst of the trauma, I see God at work.  Oddly enough through some of the most broken, those in the deepest pain, those with no other option but Christ.

What an amazing paradox, what a wondrous mystery. What an unbelievable peace that is found now, in the presence of the Lord who will wipe away every tear one day, yet now cries with us, even as the Holy Spirit comforts us,

And as I think this through, I realize the peace, the incredible peace of being claimed and cleansed in baptism, of the feast where God celebrates our being united to Him. And though the trauma remains… so can we.

If you too are dealing with, or surrounded by those who are dealing with trauma, pain, whether from nature or because of sin, consider this prayer for you as well.

Lord, there are so many in need of Your peace, as they feel pressures crushing them, or feel for those who are being crushed, Lord reveal yourself to them, may they know the presence of the Holy Spirit, that in the midst of everything, builds within them the undeniable peace that is unable to be explained, but comes from knowing they are loved by you, Jesus, and the by the Father and Holy Spirit, as You reign and care for us, forever and ever, AMEN!

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxvii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1471-1472). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Church, Know Who Your Enemy is… and isn’t!

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

the devotional thought of the Day:

12  For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Ephesians 6:12 (TEV)

1  To you, who were spiritually dead all the time that you drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living, and obeyed its unseen ruler (who is still operating in those who do not respond to the truth of God), to you Christ has given life! We all lived like that in the past, and followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else. 4  But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ – it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved – and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve – it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:1-4 (Phillips NT)

The circumstances of various regions being duly considered, students are to be brought to a fuller understanding of the churches and ecclesial communities separated from the Apostolic Roman See, so that they may be able to contribute to the work of re-establishing unity among all Christians according to the prescriptions of this holy synod.
Let them also be introduced to a knowledge of other religions which are more widespread in individual regions, so that they may acknowledge more correctly what truth and goodness these religions, in God’s providence, possess, and so that they may learn to refute their errors and be able to communicate the full light of truth to those who do not have it.

66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Even back to my childhood, I remember people telling me who the enemies of God are, and therefore who the Church’s and my enemies are.  And often, far too often, we would rise up to figure out how to start a new Crusade to crush this new enemy.

Some of the enemies were external to the church.  Atheists and Agnostics who were so burnt by the church that they felt they had to “save” people from it.  Other religions that were out to convert us (before we converted them!)  Some of our enemies were internal to Christianity, (ex the Catholics pointing to Luther, the Baptists pointing to the Catholics, the Pentecostals pointing to the less emotional Presbyterians and Methodists.  And some of these enemies were even in our congregations, like those who went to war over worship styles, or those that supported t this change, or those that just wanted them to remain the way they always were.

But we treat our enemies as if we were on a holy crusade against the heretics and infidels of our times.  The church too often focuses on witch-hunts rather than ministering to those who are in need.  Especially the ministry of reconciliaiton, and the ministry of deliverance,salvation.    Deliverance from sin, deliverance from idols, (see Ezekiel 36:25) deliverance from the broknness that plagues our lives and relationships.  THat should be our focus, to the believer and unbeliever, to our brothers and sisters in Chirst, and towards our enemies and adversaries, who, we pray, will become our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As Paul says, we don’t battle against them, but aginst those that hold them in bondage!  Vatican II and Luther note that they have some ideas of God, What they know isn’t enough, because while they understand that God must be just, that there has to be “karma”, a payment your have earned for the sin you have committed, they have no idea that God could be, that God desires to be merciful.

That is our message, that is why we need to understand their religions, not to defeat them in battle, but to realize what they do teach about God, however they have veiled Him, and reveal Him fullu, so that they can depend on Him fully.  We need to tell them the good news about God’s mercy and love, so that the Holy Spirit will fulfill the promise of working through the word, to illuminate their hearts.

We can’t have that kind of focus if we remain in ignorance, nor can we see this as our mission, what we’ve been sent to do, if we think of the people as our enemies and adversaries.  This is why scripture commands us to love our enemies, because, in the final analysis, they are not our enemies.

Get to know them, share wth them the reason that we broken sinners have found hope…. and look to God, who loves you so much, and has an eternity planned for you that is beyond comprehension.

The Lord is with you!

Question of the day:  If we know God is with us, why would we fear those with different beliefs?

 

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 419). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

How to Survive When Prayer or the Sacraments Seem…Meaningless.

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:
7  “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8  Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. 9  With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. 10  Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. 11  Keep us alive with three square meals. 12  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 13  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. Matthew 6:7-13 (MSG)

18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT2)

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.

Recently, my son wanted to help me.  He’s noticed I’ve been under some stress, and he knows I can’t share some of those things with anyone, even his mother. Another friend asked how they could help.

In both cases, I answered prayer and the response led me to believe they were disappointed with that answer.  I could see it in my son’s eyes, “Can’t I do more?”, and in my friend’s response as they try and give me ideas on how to spend my “free time”

Pray, simply pray.

It might be, and is often for me, in a pattern.  Some people don’t do that well, and the pattern becomes rote, automatic, simple repetition.  For me, it can become that, but I have learned to try and savor the words, rather than just repeat them.  I try to tune into what they reveal, and how they help me experience the love of God that is too great to understand fully.  

That was St Josemaria’s key, that when prayer, meditation, adoration, studying the scriptures, etc become routine, we need to flee from it becoming routine is to realize the constant presence of God. 

Fleeing from routine doesn’t mean fleeing from the practice, it means fleeing from the practice being routine, about realizing that you are in the presence of God, to give to Him your burdens, to entrust to Him, to depend upon Him because you know He’s promised to be there.   To experience that love, despite what the world would throw at you.

For experiencing love is never simply routine…

I included the Lord’s prayer from a paraphrase, Peterson’s The Message.  I by no means want to abandon the way each of us learned it, but sometimes reading another version helps us to appreciate what we are praying a little more, to realize what the familiar words mean.  (the words that are like family)  How they do reveal the love of God, how they help us experience it, how all-encompassing it is.

We need that, we need to be in communion with God, in communication with Him. We need to leave our burdens on His doorstep, We need to pray, and receive the sacraments, and spend time seeing Him revealed to us, so ready to love us as we read the Bible, as we read those who realized it before us.

This is God, right now, right here!  He is with you! (me too!)

Talk to Him, realize how much He desires to be with You!  Adore Him, and begin to realize what it means for Him truly to be YOUR God.

Dwell in His merciful peace..  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How revival and renewal begins…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written.  But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. 21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread seven days with great joy,  and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments. 22 Then Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who performed skillfully before the LORD. They ate at the appointed festival for seven days, sacrificing •fellowship offerings and giving thanks to Yahweh, the God of their ancestors.
23 The whole congregation decided to observe seven more days, so they observed seven days with joy,  2 Chronicles 30:18-23  HCSB

462    The power of charity! If you live that blessed brotherly spirit, your mutual weakness will also be a support to keep you upright in the fulfillment of duty—just as in a house of cards, one card supports the other.

I have read this Bible passage before. and yet it struck me this time as a critical part of the love that is shared between God and His people.   What amazing lesson about God and His people!

Despite the sin of the people, and despite them following the proper methods and rites for being cleansed of those sins, the prayer of Hezekiah was heard, and those who were supposed to be shut out were welcome to the feast. (even the foreigners and aliens among them if you keep reading down to verse 25)

The people prayed for weren’t pure, they weren’t holy, they shouldn’t have been included according to a strict reading of the Law of Moses. Hezekiah should have just told them – forget about it, take a year, study more, ensure you know the right way to appear before God, then we will welcome you back.

He didn’t.  He prayed, acknowledging the sin, and asking that God would provide the atonement, the satisfaction, the healing that would allow these people to enter into the celebration of God and His people, and the life that is ours as we dwell in God’s presence.  

And as James would right centuries later, 

16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT2)

God heard the prayer, healed His people, and the party began. A party that was supposed to last a week, and lasted two.  A party that resulted in people giving away their riches, of the congregation having more money than the people could give, and of those who were previously unclean going home, and removing from their lives of all of their idols.  (see Chapter 31)

Not by command, they just knew this was how they could live, assured they were God’s people. This is the power of charity, the power of love.  You see it in the prayer of Hezekiah (would all church leaders have this heart!) who prays on behalf of these people.  You see this charity in God, whose love Hezekiah knew so well that the Spirit could lead him to pray on behalf of those who were sinners and unclean. You see this love in the people, bound together in celebrating the love of God, and in their charity/love in their destroying their idols 

This needs to happen in the church today, for this is how the church is revived, how it is renewed, how it returns to its First love!

Let us pray  †
heavenly Father, cause the hearts of your leaders to be so filled with your love, that they think of those who are cut off, who the world says aren’t clean enough.  Lord, help us, for their sake, pray that they would know that Jesus has fully atoned for them, that they are welcome to this feast of those who love You, who would walk with you, depending on your love. Move our hearts Lord, and may all those around us come to dwell in Your peace, in Your Presence.  AMEN!

 

NOTE:  If you have been made ot feel like an outsider by the people of God, please forgive us,

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1128-1130). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

This Church is For Misfits and Outcasts

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts were following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?”  17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”   Mark 2:15-17

580    Humbly ask God to increase your faith. Then, with new lights, you’ll see clearly the difference between the world’s paths and your way as an apostle.  (1)

They were the those who were sent away, either to an island for toys that didn’t meet the standard, or out of the camp of Israel because they had sinned, or perhaps, their sin was just more obvious than the rest.

They didn’t fit in, and to be honest,  I count myself as one of their number, and sometimes, I even wonder if I am a mis-fit in their circles.  I have days like that, even a year or two where I feel that way.

Which is why it is hard at times to realize I do fit in at my church.

If I, their pastor, can feel this way, how many others do as well?

How many of us who gather on a Sunday morning know intuitively or because someone told us, that we aren’t like the others.  Maybe it is a psychological challenge, or one of intellect.  Maybe it is what appears to be a physical deformity or disease.  Maybe it is the weakness of character, or some other distinguishing factor that the world would use to separate us from the norm.

But the church is Jesus’s territory, not the worlds!  It is not so different from the Island of Misfit toys, the place where the outcasts would be gathered, and form a tightly-knit community.  One gathered around Jesus, because He shows us we do fit, we are fine and safe.

The incarnation was not for the people in perfect places, with perfect clothes, with sinless perfect lives.  The incarnation was among the misfits, the outcasts, those who others sent away, as if they were broken, or undesirable.  Such make up the One, Holy, catholic (universal/complete) and Apostolic Church, and indeed, of those who were judged mis-fit, some become some of our greatest heroes of the faith, those we call saints (even though all who walk with Jesus are!)

For the world’s paths can’t be tread by them, and as they learn to depend on God, as their faith increases, as they talk and pray with God, He sends them out to bring the healing they are experiencing to the world. They reach out to the other outcasts, and even to those who have pretended they are not!

This is church, real church, with real people who have real problems, and are sustained by a real God.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1386-1387). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Has the Church become a pathetic loser?

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Devotional Thought fo the Day:
I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors.* 3 Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first! NAB-RE Rev. 2:2-4

414    How pathetic: a “man of God” who has fallen away! But how much more pathetic: a “man of God” who is lukewarm and worldly!

A lot of conversations I’ve been in recently have been about the church in decline.

One talked about how we need to start lots of new churches because old churches can’t grow.  

With another friend we talked about how three churches, healthy two decades ago, may share in the services of one pastor, rather than simply have someone come in every Sunday to preach.

A third conversation was about one of the largest of mega-churches, and how it, and its worship, are but a shadow of what they once were.

We look at the extremes of the church, and it is no less grievous.  One side wants to embrace society’s ills, setting aside the scripture that tells us to shine the light in the darkness.  They do such by just agreeing to live there.  The other extreme also avoids shining light in the darkness, by shining light where there is the brightness of day.  Like in the passage from the Revelation, they do all the good things, they detest the false teaching, they suffer abuse and endure.

What you don’t often hear anymore, is how in love the church is with God!

How head over heals we are, how much we are in awe and wonder, and how we adore God. How amazed we are to find ourselves counted as His loved ones.

The result of loving our love for God?  Lukewarmness, busyness, being focused more on what is going on around us, than being aware of His glorious presence in our life.  A church that focuses itself on outreach, or on maintaining a level of purity.

We need to remember this – we need to rekindle that love!  But how does that happen?

We need to spend time, resting in God’s presence, meditating on His love, hearing His voice which calls out to us. We need to hear of His love for us, His desire for us to be in His presence.  As we meditate on such things our love for Him grows, depending on Him, having faith in Him becomes easier, as does sharing that love with others.

Pastor  – you want you church to come alive, for people to grow in faith (and in a pure faith?)  Then fall in love with God, rejoice in His love for you.

The rest will fall in place.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1033-1034). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It’s not Inconvenient! It is theft of a treasure, your treasure.

Devotional thought for the weekend:

16 He replied to him, “A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. 17 When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready.’ 18 But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 The servant went and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out and still there is room.’ 23 The master then ordered the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled. 24 For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.’ ”  Luke 14:16-24 NABRE

 3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?   Hebrews 2:2-3 (NLT)

I’ve got to work!  I’ve got responsibilities!  I’ve got family obligations! (Though what obligation a newlywed has to his wife… or wait – nevermind!)  

Following Christ doesn’t have a simple agenda.  It can’t be planned out a month in advance.  There are times it means that after a hard day’s work, you spend the night helping a neighbor, or helping (with love) to that obstinate, pain in the ass relative. 

There will be long days, days where plans are changed, days where things are moved around.  Days where our devotions may not happen when we want. There might even be a day when we have to miss church, not to go to a ball game, but to help a hurting person.

The temptation is just to skip it that day, to pick up tomorrow what we should have done today, and just push it all back a day.  Been there, done that. One year – my read through the Bible – which should have gone November 1 to October 31st, well – I gave up mid-February as I was already a month behind!  Guilt and shame set in, because I wasn’t giving God the proper response He deserved.  I wasn’t a good disciple, and I wondered if I was so weak, why would people follow me as a pastor?

But I didn’t understand discipleship – and I didn’t really understand the purpose of devotional time, and that misunderstanding gave me the ability to set it aside, to declare it inconvenient. An inconvenience somehow excused the necessity, because the ministry was more important than devotions, or work projects were, or family and family…uhm… obligations.

I realized sometime in that year that I missed the reading, and the liturgy I entered into every morning. I realized I didn’t “do” devotions to prove that I was devoted to God!  (Sometimes we do it to prove to Him, and sometimes just to prove it to ourselves.)  I can’t prove my devotion, and too be honest, as long as was my motivation, I would falter and fail.

Devotional time is not about proving our devotion as if providing us improved us.  I need my devotional time – because it proves His devotion to me. I need to know that, I need to know the love that won’t let me go, I need to be convinced that I can run to His arms, depending on a mercy that promises to forgive my sin, and cleanse me from the sin of a world that could crush me.

This is my time with my Father, to hear of His love, His mercy, His desire to rescue me from the brokenness of my life.

And so, if life made me miss, I get back and make it up, savoring the little steps I take with Him, as He points out a little more of the height, the depth. The width and breadth of His love for me, and for my people, and for the community of humanity.

I need this time, which comes all together as I write a blog, or a sermon, or just worship and pray.  I desperately need it, so much so I can’t count it inconvenient to miss, I consider it theft, and do what I can to get what God would give me back…. 

You too need a time like this, not just to read, not just to pray, but to realize the blessing of God; that is in your life. No, that is your life.

Start simple – and as you begin to be in awe – add a little more….. and become hungry to know more and more of this Lord of life.

For this is His mercy… the mercy we sinners cry out for… 

The Only Real Hope for the Dying Church…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 O God, you are my God— it is you I seek!
For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless, and without water.
3 I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory.
4 For your love is better than life, my lips shall ever praise you! Ps 63:2–4 NAB-RE

Let me know Thee, O Lord, who knowest me: let me know Thee, as I am known. Power of my soul, enter into it, and fit it for Thee, that Thou mayest have and hold it without spot or wrinkle. This is my hope, therefore do I speak; and in this hope do I rejoice, when I rejoice healthfully. Other things of this life are the less to be sorrowed for, the more they are sorrowed for; and the more to be sorrowed for, the less men sorrow for them.

About twenty years ago, there became a movement known as being “seeker-sensitive.”  The problem is that they were looking for the wrong seekers.

The seekers were the people in the pews already, the members and regular folk who came to church, seeking God.  To learn that they could pray like David did in the Psalm above, or like Augustine in the quote in blue.

The seeker-sensitive movement, later re-defined as the “attractional model” didn’t change the course of the Church.  Nor did the counter reaction to it,  which focused on purity of teaching and practice before doing anything else.

In the meantime, the people who could have been seeking the presence of God, who could have learned that God would answer their desire, their yearning for His presence, were given academic studies, and told to save the world. And the Church suffered, having lost her First Love, the one She was betrothed to marry at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

What would happen if we realized God was waiting for us, yearning for our company, desiring our love, wanting to enter our souls, making them fit for Him, and holding them in that condition?

What if we realized that in sanctuaries, we could find the stillness that would allow us to know that He is our loving God, our refuge, our impenetrable fortress?  That there we would see the glory of His love for us, pouring out in the words fo scripture, and through the waters of baptism, and in the celebration that His body was broken, and blood poured out for us?

My dear brothers in ministry, my dear fellow believers walking with Jesus.  Seek Him out!  Know that the Lord is with you!  Yes!  Revealed in Word and Sacrament, there incarnationally, and truly present with you, even when the sanctuary is your body.  For you are the temple of the Holy Spirit in the midst of a broken world that the Spirit would bring hope and healing too.

If what you desire is to see the Church stop its death spiral, seek Christ.  Dwell in Him.  Rejoice in His love and mercy.

Years later, you will look back in awe.. amazed at what He has done.

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

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