Category Archives: The Forge

Includes citations from The Forge by St. Josemaria Escriva

Is he evil incarnate or an angel or?

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day

 24  Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25  But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26  When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. 27  “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ 28  “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. 29  “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30  Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30 (NLT2)

16  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT2)

We believe, teach, and confess that there is a distinction between man’s nature and original sin, not only in the beginning when God created man pure and holy and without sin, but also as we now have our nature after the Fall. Even after the fall our nature is and remains a creature of God. The distinction between our nature and original sin is as great as the difference between God’s work and the devil’s work.
3 2. We also believe, teach, and confess that we must preserve this distinction most diligently, because the view that admits no distinction between our corrupted human nature and original sin militates against and cannot co-exist with the chief articles of our Christian faith, namely, creation, redemption, sanctification, and the resurrection of our flesh.
4 God not only created the body and soul of Adam and Eve before the Fall, but also our bodies and souls after the Fall, even though they are corrupted, and God still acknowledges them as his handiwork, as it is written, “Thy hands fashioned and made me, all that I am round about” (Job 10:8).

It seems like we either want to anoint people as angels or condemn them as demons.  We want to be able to accurately pick out which are sons of Satan, and which are children of God.

We want to separate the wheat from the weeds, we want to declare that not only are the reformed theologians correct when they say people are predestined to heaven, and therefore others are predestined to hell but that we somehow know which is which. Somehow we think in our baptism we were all given the spiritual gift of discernment, that enables us to see into people’s hearts and souls, and determine who is saved, and who is not.

Then we can declare this person is a good person, and that person is the purest evil.  People we don’t even know, but that we judge from thousands of miles away.  People we’ve never talked to, that we’ve only seen in the news, or mentioned on Twitter.

What we aren’t allowing for, in these judgments, is the work of God, and we deny the grace which is extended to all, including us.  We deem what God desires to be impossible, and then for others, which sins we willing overlook, as automatic.  By automatic, I mean we judge the heart based on works we see and assume the person is righteous.

In either case, what we’ve done is stopped seeing the need for praying for them.  If we think they are saved, we think that prayer redundant.  If we think they are condemned, there is no need to ray, as their fate is already determined.   If they are close, not only do we stop praying for them, we may stop telling them about God. We might give up on the power of God to transform them, just as we need Him to transform us.  Eventually, this leads to complacency affects our own walk with God.

This thinking about people, the Lutheran Confessions brought out in my reading this morning, is counter to our theology.  FOr we should see in even the most notorious of sinners the handiwork of God’s creation.  It may be marred by sin, it may be broken, but it is not, in this lifetime, marred so much so it is beyond recognition. They are still God’s creation, they are still His children.  AMEN!

We are not our sin, and our weakness to temptation does not define us.  Or the person next door, or the person being lambasted or praised on FB or Twitter or SnapChat or the nightly news. That sin and sin nature is removed by Christ so completely that it proves it was never meant to be us, or how we are defined.

We are new, we are complete.  What God does in us, can be done in others. What we pray to happen in their lives, we testify can and is happening in ours.   This is our hope for everyone, near or far, friend or enemy, family member, and ourselves.

That all would come to experience the love of God.

So next time you are tempted to say someone is pure evil or pure good, remember the impact that makes on you….

God’s peace.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 466). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Same Words… found back to back, that help in the dark times of life!

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.  ( Psalm 42:11 AND 43:5 HCSB)

695    In the moments of struggle and tribulation, when perhaps the “good” fill your way with obstacles, lift up your apostolic heart: listen to Jesus as he speaks of the grain of mustard seed and of the leaven, and say to him: Edissere nobis parabolam—“Explain the parable to me.” And you’ll feel the joy of contemplating the victory to come: the birds of the air under the shelter of your apostolate, now only in its beginnings, and the whole of the meal leavened.

As I was reading Psalm 42 this morning, the verse in red and it hit me.

The amount of trauma and conflict  (more of the former than the latter)  I have had to deal with recently has me somewhat depressed. Okay, more than somewhat. The accumulated weight of trying to guide people to God in at least 10 situations has taken its tole.

So I highlighted the verse, thankful for the reminder that my hope is in something far more stable, far more faithful. and knowing that, even in the midst of this dark time, I can praise Him.  Can?  I must, for that is the reaction of relief, as I remember He is here, as I remember His promises.

At least I do for a moment, then move on, back into reading the next Psalm, which is a little more positive, a little more upbeat, and yet, it ends with the same exact same words!  Okay, I’ve got the message Lord, and paused to let them sink in a little more.

I need to… I really do.

Then I scroll over to my friend’s writing.  For I resonate with so much that St. Josemaria Escriva writes, it feels like the words of a wise friend when I read them.

WHich takes the hope, seeping through the darkness, and causes it to shatter the darkness.

Even though I reached on the passage yesterday, I forgot that often how Christ minister’s to us in our brokenness, is how He ministers through us ot others.   Knowing how we have died and risen with Him, and find shelter in Him, means that in my death and resurrection Christ’s work will help others find peace and freedom. They will find rest as I minister to them, they will find hope, and by God’s grace, the darkness they encounter will be shattered as well.

including the 10 plus situations where brokenness and darkness seem so… overwhelming.

What kind of God do we have, that can take someone as broken and struggling as I am, and give me the peace to help others who are breaking and broken?  What kind of God can help people find refuge and sanctuary through all of us, even as our faith wavers a little?  How incredible is that?  How amazing?

Only the God who is loving and merciful, the God who is our Savior, who is our God.

As we realize what it means that He is our God, that we have been drawn to Him and made His people, it is time to react… it is time to praise Him and adore Him, and walk with Him!

Amen!

What joy would it bring you to know God will use all things for good for you, even the trauma, the suffering, even the conflict?  

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1620-1625). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

You Need to Get Loosed!

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737Devotional Thought of the Day:

41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank d You that You heard Me. e 42 I know that You always hear Me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so they may believe You sent f Me.” 43 After He said this, He shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him and let him go.”  John 11:41-44 HCSB

422    Jesus is your Friend—the friend—with a human heart, like yours, with most loving eyes that wept for Lazarus. And as much as he loved Lazarus, he loves you …

No, my blog hasn’t developed a Brooklyn accent, and no, I am not being rude.

I am not telling you to get lost, but indeed to be loosed, freed, from that which clings to you like the death wrappings clung to Lazarus.

Things like bitterness, resentment, envy, the need to gossip, the struggles with lust; you need to be free of these things.

We can add anxieties to this, for often these lead to temptation, and to doubt.

We can add sin as well, and all of the effects sin has on us, from the guilt and shame and fear of God’s wrath to the brokenness of injustice when we are the victim of sin.

We need to be freed from these things, to have them stripped from us, taken away, even as the burial wraps were unraveled, and he was free.

It starts with the Easter cry, “Come out” and our hearts souls, and minds follow Jesus out of the tomb, We have to hear His voice, and let it draw us past this other stuff that held as prisoners inside the tomb of our stone hearts (see Ezekiel 26:25ff)

As we hear His voice, the Holy Spirit breaks the power of death over us, and gives us life, the life He is Lord of, (this very thing we confess in the creeds! )  If the Spirit didn’t generate life in us, we couldn’t answer the call,  He has, and this is something incredible.

A life lived in the presence of the Lord and Savior, who calls us His friends.

A life lived loosed of all the sin that so easily ensnares us.

A life lived loosed of all that is not of God’s love.

What are we waiting for?

Lord have mercy on us, and help us to live in your resurrection, for it is ours as well! AMEN!

What are the things you need to be freed from?

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1047-1049). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Having one of “those” days? You aren’t alone…..

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional THought of the Day:
41  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby moved within her. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42  and said in a loud voice, “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43  Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord’s mother comes to visit me? 44  For as soon as I heard your greeting, the baby within me jumped with gladness. 45  How happy you are to believe that the Lord’s message to you will come true!” Luke 1:41-45 (TEV)

2  John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3  “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” 4  Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5  the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6  And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” Matthew 11:2-6 (NLT)

32  And John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and stay on him. 33  I still did not know that he was the one, but God, who sent me to baptize with water, had said to me, ‘You will see the Spirit come down and stay on a man; he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34  I have seen it,” said John, “and I tell you that he is the Son of God.” 35  The next day John was standing there again with two of his disciples, 36  when he saw Jesus walking by. “There is the Lamb of God!” he said. John 1:32-36 (TEV)

106    You wrote, and I well understand: “Every day I spend my ‘little time’ in prayer. If it weren’t for that …!”

As I was reading the 3rd reading about John the Baptist this morning,  (part of my daily routine) I thought of the other two readings.

John, before he was born, and while Jesus was even younger, recognizes the presence of God. (not to mention what happened to John’s mom must have been cool!)  Incredible experience!

Move to the second reading, and now John is in prison, he is having one of “those” kind of days. Miserable, depressed, anxious and afraid, he needs to be encouraged, he needs to remember that what he devoted his life to, actually was worth it.

A bad day to say the least.

A day where even he, a prophet, doubted the very prophecy he was meant to give.

John, who had pointed to Christ, who knew him well, who proclaimed he was Israel’s hope, doubted and struggled with trusting God.

Just like we do!

There is a lot of hope in this realization, that John the Baptist could have one of those days, and apparently more than one.  That he could be so caught up by his own situation that he needed to know God was at work, that God’s promises are true.

And God responded to his query, John wouldn’t die without knowing for sure Jesus was the Messiah, that John’s ministry was validated, it was good, it was needed.  That Jesus was still there, doing what John knew he would do, even when he didn’t know.

And Jesus is here for you and I, His promise is that we are never alone.  ( Read Psalm 139 sometime – David realized God couldn’t be outrun either)

Even when we struggle, even when we doubt, God is there…. and will respond to our cries, our cries of despair, our cries of doubt, even our cries of anger and frustration.  He hears you and I and responds.  As St. Josemaria notes, if it weren’t for those little times of prayer, where we listen, where we vent, …

This is the lesson of John the Baptist, the lesson that even the greatest stumble and struggle, and are ministered to by God.  For He hears us…and loves us.  AMEN

Does it help you to know the prophets and apostles struggled and doubted?  That they ahd bad days as well?
How do you feel when you realize God was there, working behind the scenes?  Can you accept that you won’t always be able to see Him at work?

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 397-399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I Need the Church! ( a pastor’s confession)

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My Church’s Building – our goal – to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus while helping others heal

Devotional Thought of the Day:
22  So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. 23  Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. 24  Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, 25  not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. 26  If we give up and turn our backs on all we’ve learned, all we’ve been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ’s sacrifice 27  and are left on our own to face the Judgment—and a mighty fierce judgment it will be!  Hebrews 10:22-26 (MSG)

940      “Where charity and love are found, there is God” we sing in the liturgical hymn. Here is what a certain soul noted down: “Fraternal love is a great and marvellous treasure. It is not simply a consolation—which it certainly often has to be—but it really brings home the certainty of having God close to us, and shows itself in the charity our neighbours have for us and in the charity which we have for them.”

Yesterday, our church was blessed to have a great pastor come and preach, just months before he retires from a prominent role in the church.  I really wanted my people to hear him preach, to hear him talk of God’s love.  But I also wanted him to hear them respond to him, to minister to him, as they have for nearly 10 years, to me.

You see, I need them, I need the church,

Not to pay my salary as a pastor, (though that gives me the freedom to teach and care more)  I need them to encourage me, to lift me up, to help me survive in this crazy broken world.  I need them to remind me that my sins are forgiven. I need to hear them fire back with great confidence “And also with you” which is what I wanted my district president to hear.

He’s going to need it as life dramatically changes.  Just as we need to hear it now.

St. Josemaria has it right, this bond between brothers and sisters in Christ is not just a consolation, it is far more than just the comfort we bring, it brings home the certainty that God is with us.  The love, the charity, the mercy we find ourselves dwelling in, sharing with each other, is beyond our own ability.  It is because of the love of God. It is His work, it is His love that empowers and enables us to love each other.

The challenge is that we get so distracted by life or by work, even by the business of church that we forget to look around, to pray for that person, to give that one a good solid hug, to look in that person’s eyes and make sure they hear us when we say, “The peace of God is with you!”

I need to be a part of the church because I need to know God’s presence, that He is at work, to be reminded of this when sorrow hits, to be encouraged to re-focus when I am distracted to be encouraged.  I also need to be able to make that difference in other people’s life.  I know that I am not the only one that needs the church, that needs to know God is present, not just as a doctrinal statement of omnipresence, but as a reality seen in a life in the community, in a life with others God has gathered together.

I need the Church, simply because through the Church we find revealed to us the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us.  I find the comfort that God offers when I cry to Him, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner”.

I pray you find that need in your life answered as well.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3321-3325). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It is NOT Enough to Be Theologically Orthodox…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
14  Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15  Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16  He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NLT)

959      We cannot give way in matters of faith. But don’t forget that in order to speak the truth there is no need to ill-treat anyone.

One thing that history has shown us is the need to be theologically astute, as well as to know the history of theology.  There are no new heresies under the sun, and they come back with greater frequency than the seasons.  As St Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, the role of ministry is to stop us from being tricked, by people who sound like they have the truth.

But it is not enough to simply be orthodox, to have the right explanation theologically, or apologetically.

There are a lot of theologians out there, brilliant men and women who can correctly and clearly explain why they know about God, and even why a contrary view is not dangerous.  And there is a myriad who are quite vocal and prolific in their writing, yet still have gaps in their knowledge.

But even for those who have a mastery over theology, it is not enough, and those learning need to learn this as well, less their zeal for orthodoxy become a barrier to the ministry they desire.

Theological orthodoxy is not enough.  It never has been.

We have to speak the truth, but it is not enough just to speak it.  We have to speak it, loving the person to who we are engaged in conversation.  Desiring not to win the argument, or that we were able to zing them.  Rather we need to desire that they can glorify God more because they have gained a greater insight into the dimensions of His love for them, that they have experienced His love and mercy.

Too often I have seen the damage the theologian ( or a theologian-in-training like myself) has done because their words were not delivered in love. Words which had unintended consequences, and to use a military phrase, severe collateral damage. The damage that leaves people thinking the church, and therefore God, is heartless and doesn’t care about them, just creating clones, or getting people inside without caring enough to confront their brokenness.

And for us who claim to have some level of wisdom, how heartbreaking it is to realize that we have driven someone away from the love of God.

We can change this tendency we have, we must change it! But it is not simply through our will and determination.  FOr we will find ourselves doing the same thing, to different people.  Or we will find ourselves responding defensively to others.

It is through learning to adore Christ, as we ourselves are changed by His love, that this change occurs.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, revealing to us and helping us explore the depths of God’s love.  That love changes us, enables us to love, and therefore to speak the truth in love.  A maturity that is nourished in sacramental times, and in times of prayer and meditation.

So let us encourage each other to know the love of God, which is the reason we have hope and peace in this midst of this broken world, fr we know He will answer when we

Lord, Have Mercy!!!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3383-3385). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who Am I? Escaping our own self-delusion.

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
10  and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself. Colossians 3:10 (TEV)

871      Tell him slowly: Good Jesus, if I am to be an apostle, and an apostle of apostles, you have to make me very humble. May I know myself. May I know myself and know you. Then I will never lose sight of my nothingness.

875      Lord, help me to be faithful and docile towards you, sicut lutum in manu figuli, like clay in the potter’s hands. In this way it will not be I that live, but you, my Love, who will live and work in me.

 

Each of us suffers from a delusion about who we are.

Some of them are simply naive, the young kid who thinks they will be the next Tom Brady ( or in my day Roger Staubach), the beautiful lady who thinks she is too fat, the average guy, who believes he is God’s gift to women, or the person that believes they are worthless, and beyond hope.

We each live, caught in the maze of self-delusion.  We don’t really know who we are, or what we are worth, or why we are worth anything.

This is one of the benefits of having a relationship with God; for as we are drawn closer to him, as He transforms us, our identity becomes clearer and clearer. An identity that finds contentment and serenity in knowing we are God’s creation, His masterpiece, the children He loves.

There is a paradox in this quest for self-awareness, in our search for the answer to “Who am I?” It requires an incredible amount of humility to realize the masterpiece (Eph 2:10) that we are.  It requires that we intimately know and are aware of God here, in our lives.  Not just the doctrine of His omnipresence, but the presence of God, the real, active, intimate presence of God in our lives. 

That is what it means to have a full knowledge of God.  We aren’t talking about theological knowledge, but moving with God, dancing with Him, confident of His presence and guidance.  It is then, as He reveals Himself to us, that we realize what our transformation is going to result in when it is complete.  Being in the image of God, not that we will be gods in our own right, but that we will have the qualities He has, especially the quality of being able to love purely.  The transformation happens as God strips away those delusions, as He draws our eyes to Him, This is what Jesus meant when He taught, 25  For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.” Matthew 16:25 (TEV)

Is this easy?  Nah.  We are still going to pick up our self-delusion, dust them off and try them on again.  We will try to convince people are far better than we are.  We are still going to battle what we’ve convinced ourselves of, that we have no worth. Which is why we don’t do this journey alone, it is why we have each other, pointing each other to Christ, reminding each other that God is at work and that He promised all things work for good for those who love God.

He is with you, and the more you know that the more you can cry out to Him, and have the confidence that He listens, answers, does and transforms you!

So relax, stop trying so hard to find yourself, relax and realize He is your God.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3091-3094). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Necessary Ingredient of Heroism.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for our Days:

3  I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12:3 (MSG)

821      Work with humility. I mean, count first on God’s blessings, which will not fail you. Then, on your good desires, on your work plans—and on your difficulties! Do not forget that among those difficulties you must always include your own lack of holiness. You will be a good instrument if every day you struggle to be better.

We are no different than the children who put on superhero costumes for Halloween.

There is a part of us that wants to be the best, at something, anything. 

Especially the idea that we are the best at what we do, whether it is a parent needing the hero for their kids, or being the superstar at work, the one everyone turns to, that everyone counts on, the person who is indispensable.   

We want to be the heroes

We’ll even attempt to the difficult, the impossible if that will lift us up, not just for the praise, but for the acceptance.  For heroes are always accepted, aren’t they?  They always are welcome, aren’t they?

But this desire to be accepted, to be the hero, to be indispensable will fade, or we will fail. For we can never do enough, not for those whose favor we want, but to assure us own hearts that we will never be forgotten.

Compare this drive to the idea of humility, the idea of knowing who we are based on who God is, and what He does for us.  I love that St. Josemaria says that humility is counting first on God’s blessings.  Humility then is not a matter of self-abasement. It is not primarily an understanding of who we are, of recognizing our talents and limitations.  That comes into play, but even then, that should drive us back to the first step.

Who God is: our Father, our Brother, our COmforter, our deliverer, our Lord, and Shepherd.  WHat He does for us, creation, reconciliation, and as we are united to Jesus, the miracle of holiness happens to us.  We are holy in Him, in no other way, yet so incredibly transformed by the Holy Spirit.

This happens as the Spirit enables us to trust, to depend, to have faith in God, who loves us.

You want to be the hero?  Why?  You have one, and that Hero has provided what you need, accepting you, making you His child, treasuring you!

Humility is found in depending on this.  The Lord, your God, is with you…always!

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2912-2916). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can the Church Leadership Quit Lusting for Power and Control?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you 2  to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3  Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (TEV)

705      Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.

A society that tends to turn people into puppets of production and consumption always opts for results. It needs control; it cannot give rise to novelty without seriously compromising its purposes and without increasing the degree of already existing conflict. It prefers that the other be completely predictable in order to acquire the maximum profit with a minimum of expenditure.

I often receive advertisements for books and seminars about Christian leadership.  Books that talk about the management of the church, the proper way to administrate things.  Some bring the best and brightest of secular management and leadership theorists into play.  This is nothing new, as names like Peter Drucker, John Maxwell and Steven Covey have long tried to bridge the gap between secular leaders and leaders in the church. Most of the church consultants I know use those kinds of models, those kinds of systems.

By leaders, I mean anyone who leaders, whether it be the Sunday School leader, the deacons, elders, or altar guild, or the pastors and denominational leaders that go by terms like Bishop, President or even Pope. My favorite title for a leader, and I have heard every Pope in my life refer to it, is their title, “servant of the servants of God.”  Not the King, or the Lord, or high exalted leader but the servant of those who serve.

Back to leadership itself.  I think the problem we often see when secular leadership style and theory come into play in the church is the idea of profit.  Not necessarily monetary, but the idea of profit as in return on investment (ROI).  I’ve seen this as churches prepare budgets, as denominations determine where to plant new churches, and whether to close other, smaller churches.  The latter because they use up too many resources (money, land, building space)

St Josemaria calls us o think differently, to work with the love of God.  Not just putting in the hours, but truly investing our talent, our knowledge, our competencies, all bathed in the love of God.

Francis likewise warns of turning the church into a puppet kingdom, where we strive for results and growth, forgetting the person’s needs, and basing outreach on maximum profit for minimum expenditure.  I’ve seen this in meetings where rather than come alongside smaller churches in urban areas, advisors tell them to become legacy churches, closing and selling their properties to help growing churches thrive.  We want predictable and sure methods for growth or revitalization, something with a quick turnaround, rather than something that might consume us.

We come full circle back to Peter’s epistle then, where he tells us not to do out work for pay (whatever the “payoff is – it might not be money)  Rather we should do our job from a desire to serve, even as our Lord served.  To work, not demanding this and that of those we are entrusted to, but by being examples to those we care for, investing in them, not expecting them to invest in us first.  We need to love them, not manage them,  Just as Christ loves and guides us, with gentleness and care.

This is contrary to modern business practices, yet it is the nature of ministry, of serving others, it is the nature of imitating Christ Jesus, who expended it all to save a bunch of corrupt and often shameless sinners like you and I.

May we lead our people into the peace and wonder that is found as Christ is revealed, as He ministers to, cleanses and makes us Holy. May we all find that healing available only in Jesus, as we help others heal.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter But Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

The High Cost of Love

devotional thought of the day:

44 Turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. 46 You didn’t anoint My head with olive oil, s but she has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 
49 Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 
50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”  Luke 7:44-50 HCSB

 

760      The cheerful love that fills the soul with happiness is founded on suffering. There is no love without renunciation.

There was a song when I was growing up called “Love Stinks” and though it was talking more about infatuation, there is some truth to the idea.

For love is commitment, and that commitment often requires us to go without, to make sacrifices, to lay all we are on the line, in order to truly care for the one we love. 

Parents know this very well, as they will go without to provide for their children,  From little things like watching television shows their kids like, and not watching the ones they want to, because they are inappropriate for their child’s ears and eyes.   Teachers who give up time to plan, or to think of how to reach “that” student understand this as well.  

It is a mystery, a paradox, that delaying or denying your gratification for the sake of the one you love can lead to greater joy, greater happiness. 

The lady in the gospel reading found this out. She did something quite costly, anointing Jesus feet with oils that cost her much, oils she probably bought ot treat herself well, to help her forget the pain of life, after suffering the humiliation of submitting to others desires.

Still, in awe of God’s mercy, she sacrificed the reward of her labors to treat Jesus with love, to adore the Man who didn’t drive her away.  Maybe she was one of the people invited to Zaccheus’ house, one of the sinners Jesus was accused of eating and drinking with by the Pharisees. She tried to repay that love, with the most costly thing she knew of, with a action of love that showed how much she adored the man that didn’t want sex from her, and still talked to her, and interacted with her.

The suffering that love costs is high, and often it stinks.  Yet in the case of loving God, what it demands, though pleasurable, or profitable, is the thing that stops us from knowing joy.  We go without the pleasure, without the gain, and find ourselves free.

Just at the prostitute found herself freed from sin, and shame, and guilt.   Instead, she knew love, and that she was welcomed in the presence of God. She gave up what was costly and pleasurable and found a joy so much greater, and happiness that comes from being accepted and loved.

knowing this, realizing it in our heart, gives us the motivation, the ability to desire to give up what we need to give up.  Not because we have to, but for the joy set before us, the same joy that drove Jesus to endure the cross, for us.

Lord, help us to embrace you, receiving your love.  And as our love and adoration “costs” us, help us to realize the joy that comes from knowing that love.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2743-2745). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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