Category Archives: st josemaria escriva

Another Day, Another Struggle, but that is why there is Hope.

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
2  Our LORD, how long must I beg for your help before you listen? How long before you save us from all this violence? 3  Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice? Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty to spread everywhere? 4  Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser; criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around. 5  Look and be amazed at what’s happening among the nations! Even if you were told, you would never believe what’s taking place now. Habakkuk 1:2-5 (CEV)

We still stumble daily and transgress because we live in the world among people who sorely vex us and give us occasion for impatience, wrath, vengeance, etc.
87 Besides, Satan is at our backs, besieging us on every side and, as we have heard, directing his attacks against all the previous petitions, so that it is not possible always to stand firm in such a ceaseless conflict.
88 Here again there is great need to call upon God and pray, “Dear Father, forgive us our debts.” Not that he does not forgive sin even without and before our prayer; and he gave us the Gospel, in which there is nothing but forgiveness, before we prayed or even thought of it. But the point here is for us to recognize and accept this forgiveness.

223      Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.

I came across the Luther quote this morning, and it resonated with me.

We stumble and sin far too often. We want to use other people for the reason, but it is still our weakness that allows us to sin. Luther was right, it is not possible always to stand firm in such a ceaseless conflict. Every fall seems highlighted by Satan, emphasized to cause us to grow in despair, and even to doubt God’s presence and work in our lives.

My reaction to the passage from Habakkuk is that I don’t have ot look out into the world to see the brokenness he describes. He could be looking at me, prophetically. Maybe at you as well. I resonate deeply with the question of why do we have ot watch this all?  Why do we have to see the sin and brokenness in the world, and then realize it is just a reflection of our own lives?

I missed out on other things in those passages, and it took St Josemaria to see what I was missing.

It is the impression that I am going backward, not necessarily reality.  It is a deception of Satan, much as he did when he took Peter’s eyes off of Jesus while he was strolling on the waves. (I just realize the winds and waves weren’t the issue to be scared of – drowning was!)  St Josemaria urges us to keep struggling, don’t worry about the progress,  for the struggle is proof of it.

The struggle is proof of God at work in us.

God is still doing what He promised Habakkuk – He is at work, and if we look at Him and see it, we should collapse in awe. God is at work, and even the passage from Luther notes that –  we need to recognize and accept the forgiveness God already provided. He forgave us already! He took care of it!

I didn’t see that beforehand but reminded of His promise, I remember He is there. Perhaps that too is understandable, for God says, “Even if you were told, you would never believe what is taking place now…”  We just have to trust Him that He is at the world, and depend on His view, for He is at work in us.

Mercifully, lovingly, compassionately comforting and healing broken sinners like you and me.

Even before we cry out, “Lord have mercy on me, a poor sinner!” God has, and our healing is beginning and guaranteed to be completed!

AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 432.E

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

Want to Overcome Sin? Start with this…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 [By David.] With all my heart I praise the LORD, and with all that I am I praise his holy name! 2 With all my heart I praise the LORD! I will never forget how kind he has been. Psalm 103:1–2 (CEV)

We were told in the Second Commandment, “You shall not take God’s name in vain.” Thereby we are required to praise the holy name and pray or call upon it in every need. For to call upon it is nothing else than to pray.

It is just as true to say that every snowflake is a gift of God as it is true to say that every cent in a father’s inheritance is a gift to his children. It is just as true to say that every leaf on every tree is a work of art made by the divine Artist with the intention that we see it, know it, love it, and rejoice in it, as it is true to say that every word in a lover’s letter to his beloved is meant to be seen, known, loved, and enjoyed.

33 What are you so proud of?—Every impulse that moves you comes from Him. Act accordingly.

Sin is a huge issue in our lives.

We can not deny it. We can’t really hide it either.

It leaves us broken and shattered.

It leaves us avoiding people, some because we resent them because of some sin they committed against us. Some people we want to avoid because we feel so guilty, so ashamed, and being in their presence brings those feelings crashing down upon us.

As we look at the commands, there is one that sticks out to me, one that can be quickly dealt with, and as it is, we find the grace to deal with the others.

Luther talks about it, the commandment to not use God’s name in vain. Luther points out that means we sin when we should use it when we should cry out to Him for help,  and do not use it. When our vanity causes the Lord’s name to be misused.

Imagine not eating because you don’t want to spend the money you have in the bank. I imagine going barefoot on a hike in the mountains because you don’t want to scuff up your new boots. There is a logic that simply doesn’t make sense to these imaginations, that still doesn’t make sense when God pleads with us to call upon Him, to cast our burdens upon Him, to let Him heal us.

You want to stop living in the dark shadows of sin?  Cry out to God, call upon Him, don’t leave His name unused, for that is as wrong as using it wrongly.

What happens then, as you begin to converse with God, is that you realize how much He is doing, you start to look for how He encourages you! You see it in the care he takes with the color of a leaf, or the smile of a child, you being to see His artistry in everything, and realize that this artistry is at work in your life as well.  As St. Josemaria describes we begin to understand the good things in our lives are there because the Holy Spirit is guiding and empowering us in them, providing the impulse that drives our work

That beauty, that wonder is what leads the Psalmist to praise God, to exclaim in wonder at God’s kindness, at His mercy and love.  Our praise is always generated from seeing God at work in our lives.  Even in the hard times, even when we have to confess our sin, or lay some burden down at His feet.

This is what happens when we stop using His name in a way that it shouldn’t be used… but call out to Him, even if that cry is as simple and profound as,

Lord have mercy one me a sinner…

He hears, and He answers… and we begin to dwell in peace.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 420.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 20.

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

The Easy Way to Become a Saint

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought for your Day:
16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
Ephesians 3:16-17 (NLT2)

For a saint is simply a great lover of God, and nothing elicits love more than love. “Everybody loves a lover.” Nothing makes us saints faster than being hit over the head with God’s love.

37 When you love somebody very much, you want to know everything about him. Meditate on this: Do you feel a hunger to know Christ? Because…that is the measure of your love for him.

Thus the Creed is nothing else than a response and confession of Christians based on the First Commandment.

In the old comics, a lightbulb would click on in a bubble over the head of a character who got a brilliant idea. It is a way to describe the aha moment, what they once described as being enlightened.

As a former martial artist, there is another time you see bright lights, and that is when you take a punch or a kick to the head. You become a bit light-headed, you might even see stars!

I think we need the same kind of thing spiritually, we need to be hit upside the head by the love of God.  The love that makes us realize how stupid our sin is, how incredible the love of God is. He did this with Paul the apostle, spiritually hit him over the head with love, so much so it took Paul a few days and a miracle to see again.

We need to see God’s glory, and we need to realize that His glory is nothing more and nothing less than His love.

His love for you… and for me.

We have to see him, looking down from the cross, and in love saying, Father forgive them… (that means you and me) We need to see that love poured out on us as we were baptized, as His Body and Blood are given to eat and drink, as the Holy Spirit clothes us with righteousness.  It is that love that makes us holy, set apart for one thing – to be loved and love. That is what makes us saints.

This is not just the quickest way, it is the only way…

Lord Jesus, confront us in our brokenness, and ensure that we know You love us! AMEN!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 13.

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

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 412.

Why We Don’t Understand the Sin is Sin… a matter of perspective.

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Devotional Thought of the Day!
31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all. 1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 1 Corinthians 12:31–13:3 (NLT)

999    And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave him.   

We must see things in their proper and real perspective if we are to live well. But the key to this seeing, in turn, is loving things rightly. If we over-love things, we tend to over-value them in our minds in order to rationalize our over-valuing of them in our lives. If we under-love God and people, we tend to undervalue them in our mind to rationalize our undervaluing of them in our lives. If I love money more than God, I tend to think of money as an absolute need and God as a mere extra. Thus loving and seeing depend on each other. If I do not love properly, this clouds my vision. And if my vision is clouded, I will not love aright.
This sounds complicated, but it is simple when we live it. Say I want to take revenge on someone. God forbids this. Therefore I see God as a bother. But if I first loved God, I would then see that revenge was the bother. When I am in the grip of a lust, God appears as a puritanical interferer. But when I am in the grip of God’s love, lust appears as it truly is: a pale perversion of true love and joy.

Since the 1980’s I have been reading books and articles written by Peter Kreeft, from Socrates meets Jesus and the Best Things in Life, to the classic “Christianity for Modern Pagans”  (which is simply a modernized version of Pensees by Pascal) The man is brilliant, as much of a scholar as any I’ve met or worked with over the years.  Nothing he has written has hit me as deeply as this.

We see God as a bother, we see His rules to heavy-handed, too restrictive, As Kreeft notes we see him as the puritanical interfered, whose disciples are for the most part hypocrites.  If we are honest, we don’t understand the logic in them, simply because we don’t understand that we are truly, deeply, loved by God

And it all boils down to what the Apostle Paul wrote nearly 2000 years ago.  It boils down to love. It boils down to what we adore, what we cling to, what we cherish and value, what we try to perfect in life. What we love, we are committed to, what we love, we guard and protect.  We persevere to keep it in our own lives.

In Colossians, the apostle Paul talks of circumcision our hearts, cutting away these idols, letting them fade into the distance. In doing so, we can see His love clearly. demonstrated there on the cross. A love for us that no person, nothing could ever have. The more we love God, the more these other things we cling to are revealed to be what they are. The more we don’t need them around. When we realize we can love God, this stuff we have wrongly loved is revealed to be the crap that it is. And its grip on us grows dim, as the hymn noted, in the light of His glory and grace (love).

That is why we preach Christ crucified, the hope of glory, the hope of finding what we can truly love. For He loves us.

I pray we all come to know Him more, that this time leaves us the room to contemplate His love.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 192.

Random THoughts on Exhaustion and Prayer

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT2)

But we still cannot change God, can we? No, we cannot. But is that why we pray? To change omniscient Love? Isn’t it rather to learn what it is and to fulfill it? Not to change it by our acts, but to change our acts by it.
The fact that God’s love is unchangeable does not change the fact that it is love. It always wills what is best for us. And
Start Reading Pg 148 Tomorrow ×
prayer is best for us. Therefore, we must pray precisely because God’s love is unchangeable. He is unchangeably loving and commands prayer for us.

895    Work tires you physically and leaves you unable to pray. But you’re always in the presence of your Father. If you can’t speak to him, look at him every now and then like a little child … and he’ll smile at you.

Let me be honest, last week was a long, exhausting blessed mess.

It took a while to wake up and get going this morning, and even though I am in my office now, I am still dragging. Dragging enough that I thought I could not pay good enough attention to really make my devotions “worth it.”  (Whatever that means!)  So I almost moved past them to “get to work” studying scripture and preparing next week’s order of worship.

Logically, at least with what little logic was available, I realized how stupid that sounded. Overlook prayer and time with God to plan… prayer and time with God?

So back to my devotions, and what’s the common topic?  Prayer, of course!  (God does have a sense of humor!)

And I remembered why I love the practical faith of St. Josemaria!  He remembered the ultimate truth about prayer.  It is not the flowery words, it is not about the incredible dialogue. It is simply about being in the presence of God, our Father!  It is about looking up to Him, unable perhaps to even speak of our need to depend upon Him… and realize He is present – that He is looking at us!

Perhaps that is why the most meaningful time of prayer is when we are simply silent!

From St. Josemaria’s simplicity to Peter Kreeft’s philosophy, where I found the same message. There it takes the essence of why do you pray if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and unchanging? Are you going to change God’s mind? ( As Abraham thought he might be able to with Sodom?)

Ot is it something more than by struggling with prayer, by seeking God out, we begin to understand His love, His passionate care? In our times of prayer, we learn that He does desire the best for us and actively works in our lives to make it so? That even times of bargaining with Abraham, or the Samaritan woman who argued for her daughter’s healing, God is teaching us the lesson of interacting with Him, and not just using Him as a genie from the bottle?

Think through this… I decided to look up the Lord’s prayer… and missed it by a few verses, coming to those above in red. Which says the same thing…

Stop worrying,

Leave it in God’s hands…

Look at Jesus, look at the Father… seek them first… and see Them smile.

Amen!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 147–148.

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

How the Church is Not a Sanctuary…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Listen when anyone in Israel truly feels sorry and sincerely prays with arms lifted toward your temple. 39 You know what is in everyone’s heart. So from your home in heaven answer their prayers, according to the way they live and what is in their hearts. 40 Then your people will worship and obey you for as long as they live in the land you gave their ancestors.
41-42 Foreigners will hear about you and your mighty power, and some of them will come to live among your people Israel. If any of them pray toward this temple, 43 listen from your home in heaven and answer their prayers. Then everyone on earth will worship you, just like your people Israel, and they will know that I have built this temple to honor you.  1 Kings 8:38-43 CEV

884    You are full of weaknesses. Every day you see them more clearly. But don’t let them frighten you. He well knows you can’t yield more fruit. Your involuntary falls—those of a child—show your Father God that he must take more care,….   Each day, as our Lord picks you up from the ground, take advantage of it, embrace him with all your strength and lay your wearied head on his open breast so that you’ll be carried away by the beating of his most loving heart.

One of the names often used for the church building is a sanctuary, a safe place. Usually, that is interpreted to mean that we have found a place to hide from the world. Indeed, there was once a time in Europe when those in authority could not remove someone from a church, even if they were wanted for a crime.

But if we think that is is a sanctuary from the world, as in others arent welcome into it, as if it is the place of protection from those who are sinful, who are broken, who are oppressed and even possessed by evil, think again.

It is not.

Solomon made that clear, at the dedication of the temple – all are welcome in the presence of God, all are invited to pray in those places where God puts His name, where He makes it clear that this is where He will meet with all of us.

Age doesn’t matter, color doesn’t matter, ethnicity doesn’t, even the sins you have committed ( and don’t ever doubt they are sins!) do not matter.

For church is the place to come and discover that God loves you enough to erase those sins, to wipe them out wIth the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, cleansing you of that sin. And that isn’t just for the little white lies, or the gossip that is listed along with sexual sins and murder.

It is about all sins, your deepest, darkest sins that your thought you buried and concealed, along with the sin of your neighbor which you said is so bad that it makes you want to throw-up.

You see, that sanctuary is first a place to come and be restored from your own brokenness, it is the place to come to be healed when you are broken. Look at the prayers in the scripture. It is our own sins that we need to know are forgiven, it is our own brokenness that we need to know will be healed. That is the prayer that we need to know will be heard.

These places aren’t a sanctuary from others, They are where we find healing in communion with each other, as Christ heals us all.

That is something the church needs to remember, especially when the time of brokenness is upon us, as it is now.  We need to help others see that God will pick them up, even as He has picked us up!  We need to help them be comforted by Him and carried by Him.

Even as we are!

Heavenly Father, help us to know your presence in our lives. Lord lift us up, and help us to bring others into Your Holy Place, that wherever You are, they will know Your mercy, and Your Love, and Lord, help us rejoice in the sanctuary You provide for all of us, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

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

Priorities in a Time of Plague

20170124_103703

Devotional Thought of the Day:
31  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT2)

Raise magnificent buildings? Construct sumptuous palaces? Let others raise them. Let others construct them. Souls! Let us give life to souls—for those buildings and for those palaces! What fine dwellings are being prepared for us!

There is a balance to life, especially a religious life.

It is hard not to worry about the food we will eat this week or next.  It is hard not to see the pictures of the lines. It is hard not to try and make large plans, and make decisions that affect our people. It seems every other day that the government is changing what restrictions are out there, and foreseeing the impact on our people is hard.

As I get to work, my instinct is to lay aside my devotions, to get right to work. There is so much to do, so many people to talk to, care for, so many different things to consider, how do I have time for 30-45 minutes (or preferably 75-90 to catch my breath and remember I  dwell in God’s presence?

My devotional readings this morning were kind of bland.. which didn’t help. I didn’t see anything much to think through that was applicable to my day until I got to St. Josemaria.

Soul care!  What German Lutherans call seel-sorge – this is our calling as the church. Making sure our people are looking to God – realizing that even now, we still need ot seek Him, and lay our burdens down.  Then take the guidance He offers, and go about our lives, assured of His peace.

So I will let those who make the decisions, make the decisions.  I will care for those who come to me and go to the ones who are mine. I will point them to Jesus, and find ways to help.

God is with us, and the peace that news brings gives us the ability to live, and love those around us.

Seek Jesus first!

It will make a difference.

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

 

Praise… and Prayer: Which comes first?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

22 People of Israel, every year you must set aside ten percent of your grain harvest. 23 Also set aside ten percent of your wine and olive oil, and the first-born of every cow, sheep, and goat. Take these to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped, and eat them there. This will teach you to always respect the LORD your God.
24 But suppose you can’t carry that ten percent of your harvest to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped. If you live too far away, or if the LORD gives you a big harvest, 25 then sell this part and take the money there instead. 26 When you and your family arrive, spend the money on food for a big celebration. Buy cattle, sheep, goats, wine, beer, and if there are any other kinds of food that you want, buy those too. 27 And since people of the Levi tribe won’t own any land for growing crops, remember to ask the Levites to celebrate with you.
28 Every third year, instead of using the ten percent of your harvest for a big celebration, bring it into town and put it in a community storehouse. 29 The Levites have no land of their own, so you must give them food from the storehouse. You must also give food to the poor who live in your town, including orphans, widows, and foreigners. If they have enough to eat, then the LORD your God will be pleased and make you successful in everything you do.  Deut. 14:22-29

Fifth, your trust must not set a goal for God, not set a time and place, not specify the way or the means of his fulfilment, but it must entrust all of that to his will, wisdom, and omnipotence. Just wait cheerfully and undauntedly for the fulfilment without wanting to know how and where, how soon, how late, or by what means. His divine wisdom will find an immeasurably better way and method, time and place, than we can imagine.

714    Yours is a desire without desire, as long as you don’t put firmly aside the occasion of falling. Don’t fool yourself telling me you’re weak. You’re a coward, which is not the same thing.

Prayer is hard.

Very hard.

Every week, with 50-80 people, I pray for about 150… Some are just people we need to pray for – those in government, those serving people and responding to protect and heal.  Others are grieving, or are ill, others are facing a struggle that cannot be discussed.

And we pray… I attempt to lead us in putting all these people, and their concerns, in the hands of God.

There is a balance between telling God what to do and having the faith that God not only will act but is acting at this moment. Part of me wants to say with Jesus, “not my will, but Yours.” and part of me wants to be the old lady that hassled the judge.

And to this I hear the words, “you aren’t weak, you are a coward..” and I wonder if it is true, at least when it comes ot prayer. Am I afraid to really let God have everything in my life? Am I willing to let Him answer my prayers in His time, in His wisdom, in His way? Luther advocates this, but how hard is it to do?  And how the heck did he learn to wait “cheerfully and undauntedly” without even the slightest bit of knowledge or control?

That’s why I asked which comes first, true prayer or true worship?

I think it has to be worship!

And we can’t worship until we know why we worship!  That is how the Old Testament passage relates. One of the major tithes the people had to gather, 10 percent of their harvest, and all the firstborn of their flock was to throw a party!  What kind of party? A party to “respect” the Lord- to realize His presence, to realize how He provides and cares for you. To celebrate the fact you aren’t alone.

With that knowledge, prayer seems… easier, it seems more natural, it seems to be how we are to relate to God, for it is in response ot how He cares for us.

I only have thoughts about whether prayer is effective when I am not thinking about God, when I am not in awe of His presence, of His love, of His care. When I am focused on that, such as during a worship service, prayer flows, it works, it is…

So, if you are struggling, if you aren’t sure God is with you, get with some other sisters and brothers in Christ. Be reminded of God’s love and mercy, and His presence… and praise Him for that, together.  Then pray about what stresses you, what causes you anguish, anxiety, stress, pain…

And leave it in the hands of the Lord who loves you.

 

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 89.

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

We Talked About What People Should Expect of Their Pastor, But What Should He Expect of Them?

St Paul closing

Devotional Thought of the Day:

2 I have chosen Bezalel from the Judah tribe to make the sacred tent and its furnishings. 7 Not only have I filled him with my Spirit, but I have given him wisdom and made him a skilled craftsman who can create objects of art with gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood. 6 I have appointed Oholiabh from the tribe of Dan to work with him, and I have also given skills to those who will help them make everything exactly as I have commanded.you: Ex 31:2-6 CEV

†3 Judas had betrayed Jesus, but when he learned that Jesus had been sentenced to death, he was sorry for what he had done. He returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and leaders 4 and said, “I have sinned by betraying a man who has never done anything wrong.”
“So what? That’s your problem,” they replied. 5 Judas threw the money into the temple and then went out and hanged himself.
6 The chief priests picked up the money and said, “This money was paid to have a man killed. We can’t put it in the temple treasury.” 7 Then they had a meeting...  Matt. 27:3-7 CEV

612    Get rid of those proud thoughts! You are but the brush in the hand of the artist, and nothing more. Tell me, what is a brush good for if it doesn’t let the artist do his work?

Yesterday I wrote about the things that pastors should be doing, sharing the gospel with people everywhere, forgiving and retaining sins, and being that hands that administer the sacraments. The people of God should be able to expect these things, and indeed, ensure their pastors have the time to do so.

But what about the other side of the coin?  What should a pastor (and other church leadership) expect of those people they invest time serving?

I think we see that in the reading from Exodus, as two men are called, not to be priests and pastors, but to use their gifts in the service of God.  These two, out of two million people, were ordained and commissioned, set apart for a certain task. See how God has made it clear that the Holy Spirit is guiding him in this, and God has given him wisdom and made him a skilled craftsman for this very vocation?

Pastors shouldn’t have to beg people to use their God-given skills and wisdom to do what the Holy Spirit is preparing them to do.  Most of it isn’t miraculous stuff, it is day to day things, like these guys sewing together the tent, and making the furnishing.

The other thing is the one thing scripture shows Judas doing right, even as he does what some consider the worst sin in scripture. With great sorrow, desiring an answer for the guilt and shame he is feeling, e goes to the priests, looking for hope, looking for mercy, trying to figure out what do with his soul being crushed.

He did the right thing, even in the Old Covenant there was a way to confess sins and be given the hope of forgiveness, of having the sins washed away, of having God breathe new life into a soul oppressed by darkness. (That they “held a meeting” rather than absolving Judas might be the worst case of clergy malpractice in history)

Pastors need to expect people will come to be given hope, to confess their sins, that they will know they are forgiven. That is part of people’s responsibility, but it also takes pastors being open to it, encouraging it often. They need to be helping people to know the burdens they bear, guilt, shame, resentment, anger, are all within God’s ability to remove.  They need to know it is God’s desire to free them from that crap.

If these things happen, we won’t need to talk about reviving churches… it will happen naturally.

In summary, the people need to do, as part of the ministry of the family of God, what God has called them, gifted them with skill and wisdom, to do.

And come, as often as needed, to be assured of the grace of God cleansing them of every sin.

Lord, help this occur!

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

I can’t do this! (God says, “Here, I will hold your beer”)

Rainbow at ConcordiaDevotional Thought of the Day:
12  My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 13  God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. 14  Do everything without grumbling or arguing. 15  Then you will be the pure and innocent children of God. You live among people who are crooked and evil, but you must not do anything that they can say is wrong. Try to shine as lights among the people of this world, 16  as you hold firmly to the message that gives life. Philippians 2:12-16 (CEV)

That false humility is laziness. Such a “humbleness” leads you to give up rights that really are duties.

I could come up with 1000 parables about this, the Marine Recruit who doesn’t think he can climb the wall, the student who doesn’t think they can handle algebra, the new employee who is convinced they can’t do the job on their own, the pastor who…

O wait, I can’t make this too personal.

I can’t direct it towards me, after all, I am nobody.

( I say this, despite reading Exodus for the last couple of weeks… )

St. Josemaria’s words cut me deeply, as I think of all the things I claim I can’t do. After all, I have a load of ready-made excuses.  Genetic ones, you know, the kind I don’t want pity for, but heck, I will take a lesser burden if you want to help a poor guy out.  And then there is this lack and that lack. And then there is the fact that I am a sinner. I obviously cannot do this.  A man has got to know his limitations, at least what the theologian Clint Eastwood said. And I know mine, and I am not capable. I know this.

In fact, I don’t know that.

But is my focus on my inability a sign of laziness?  If not, what if I am just afraid of what God might require?

Either is a possibility if I am honest.

For what I forget when I do my self-evaluation is the work God is doing in my life, and in yours. God has saved us, and we need to realize that means we are changing.  That we can listen to God and hear His vision, what He wants us to do, whom to forgive, whom to love, who to reach out to, in sharing that love.

He gives us even, the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him, what He has created us to do, what He has called us to do, what the Holy Spirit has equipped us to do.

Maybe it is time to stop procrastinating, stop finding excuses, and simply let God lead us, as He builds His Church.

Lord God, Heavenly Father, remind us that You are the potter, that even as Jesus obeyed and went to the cross we can bear our crosses with the joy You have set before us, knowing that You will be with us all the way! Thank you Lord for not giving up, but calling us and working in us, giving us the desire and ability to be Your faithful children.  AMEN!

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

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