Devotional Thought of the Day:
Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do to these men. 36 *Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing. 37 After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered. 38 So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. 39 But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him. Acts 5:35-39 NABRE
His name was Gamaliel, one of the greatest of Jewish Rabbi’s, not just of his time, but in history.
Not exactly a friend to those who followed Jesus; though, in this situation, he certainly had words of wisdom that were beneficial to them.He’s not the only one throughout history who was not a believer, yet God used to deliver and guide his people. Jethro’s father was one, and Cyrus the Persian for another. I’m not sure that Balaam’s ass was a believer, but God even spoke through it.
So how do we deal with such things?
We know that there are two forms of revelation, that is two ways in which we know about God. The first is through scripture, specific revelation. This is where we get to know God deeply. He tells us who He is, how much he loves us, how Christ came and proved that love. The second way is what is called general revelation, and is what we can discern of the Creator through nature, through observation, through the various sciences.
Even the observations and thoughts of man that create idols and establish man-made religions have some truth in them, some portion that is written based on how God has ordered things. For such false religions were created based, not in a vacuum, but withing God’s creation, within His world, by humans who are made in His image, and have a portion of the truth.
Remember – they aren’t His enemies, though they may fight against God, and struggle with His direct, specific revelation.
That doesn’t mean they have the complete truth. Or that we should just accept what they can observe as being equal to what we interpret from scripture. But we can consider their wisdom, measure it against scripture ( not just our interpretation of scripture). and rejoice where it is found consistent.
Is this easy or fast? No. Sometimes testing their belief means that we spend a few hours in scripture, and in prayer. But Gamaliel’s advice is similar – let’s see if God is at work in this. And hold fast to the truth we know!
Does it change how we relate to those who believe other than we do? Yes – we see them as people who are looking for God, and doing what they can to deal with their own brokenness.
This change in attitude leads us to a position that means we aren’t opposition, but rather working alongside them. There may be a line in the sand – but that isn’t to divide us, it is to remind us of what has been specifically given to us, through Christ’s life, death, burial,and resurrection. There is the line – that love of God revealed in Christ. That specific, merciful, glorious revelation of His love.s
In the midst of all of this, praying and asking God to bless us, we find a very special ministry, that of seeing all reconciled to Jesus.
And that my friends, is worth it. .
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 But I know there is someone in heaven who will come at last to my defense. 26 Even after my skin is eaten by disease, while still in this body I will see God. 27 I will see him with my own eyes, and he will not be a stranger. Job 19:25-27 (TEV)
235 Don’t complain if you suffer. It is the prized and valued stone that is polished. Does it hurt?—Allow yourself to be cut, gratefully, because God has taken you in his hands as if you were a diamond. An ordinary pebble is not worked on like that.
Ignatius describes the pattern of life as one where we move from being aware of God’s consoling presence into times of desolation, times where we feel abandoned by God. The latter times are when we cannot easily recognize His presence in our lives. It is a devastating feeling. It’s the Spiritual equivalent of a month of Mondays.
It can wipe you out, this feeling of darkness swallowing you. Satan may try to convince you God doesn’t exist, that’s he a fable. Or failing that, you might struggle with your past/present, sure that some sin weakened you so much that God can’t even heal you, that His mercy isn’t enough to save you.
You may feel like St Josemaria’s diamond, being polished and cut, yet unaware of the precision that God is using to create in you a righteous spirit, a holy priest, a blessed child and co-heir of Christ. But even knowing that doesn’t stop the pain and feeling of abandomnet and loss.
So how do you survive these times?
Job’s focus was eternal. He knew the promise of God, that God would save Him. That even in death, in HIs body He would see God.
Knowing God, knowing God’s ultimate desire does that. This intimate knowledge of God doesn’t ease the pain or the grief by eliminating it. Instead, knowing that promise helps us to realize the emptiness is temporal, and isn’t our reality. St. Paul saw this as well,
2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:2-4 (TEV)
So are you stuck in a spiritual cycle of Mondays? You are defeated, for you are Christ’s, and nothing can separate you from His love. Patiently hold onto the hope that Job and so many others testify to, that when we see God, He will be not be a stranger.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1179-1182). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Transformations of Easter
The Change to Our Demographics
† IHS †
May the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so heal and transform our lives that we continually hear His desire that all come to the same healing and transformation. And may we dedicate our lives to this very work!
Whose conversion would leave you “out of your mind”?
Have you ever been so confused that you felt out of place? That life all of a sudden was so jumbled that you wondered if you were out of your mind? That life didn’t make all that much sense, that your world seemed to be turning upside-down, inside-out and backward,
You aren’t alone. I’ve had those days myself. Matter of fact, I’ve had more than my share of them!
So did the apostles. Imagine how you would feel if at the next combined service – with two hundred people to feed, we only had 5 filet-o-fishes from McDonald’s, and Jesus said, “No problem, let me pray and then hand out what you’ve got?”
Or the time Jesus was asleep in the middle of the storm, wakes up and tells the sea to be still. That one left them more afraid of Jesus than the storm.
Think about how things changed that night when Jesus, who they witnessed dying on the cross, just walked into the room and told them to stop being afraid, to stop being anxious. That confused them a bit, don’t you think?
The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus transforms everything in our lives, and sometime, okay, most of the time, we aren’t even ready for it.
Like in the story from Acts today, when the Roman soldier and his family, the enemies of Israel are saved. The word for amazed in our translation is the word existemi – to be displaced, or more bluntly, to be out of your mind.
That’s what happens when God transforms your enemies into your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
Yeah, your enemies. God wants to transform them and welcome them to our family.
Whether that is the ISIS leader, some politician you don’t like, your neighbors whose dog keep you up last night, there is someone whose salvation might confuse you a bit.
You see one of the transformations of Easter is God changing the demographics of His people, to include people of every group on earth.
the Challenge of Grace
As we walk through life, we are going to encounter those people who are described with words like enemies, adversaries. They may seriously threaten us, or they may simply irritate us.
For the most part, the Romans were counted among the former group in Peter’s day. And the animosity and fear were mutual. Jews were taught that non-Jews were not people because they weren’t allowed to be people of God. That isn’t what the Bible taught, but it was so often heard in synagogues that it became part of the religion.
This resulted in a culture of fear, and the oppressive Roman government didn’t help much, nor did the extremists like the zealots, who made every issue a critical one. Jewish men weren’t supposed to go into the homes of Gentiles, whether, Greek or Roman.
We may not feel this way about a nationality or race of people today, but most of us do have people we find hard to love or accept. Maybe it is because they are of a different economic class, or because they belong to a different political party. Maybe they are family, these people who you would struggle with, And maybe your own reaction to them causes you to grieve, to be filled with anxiety, to even give up hope for reconciliation and healing.
Maybe we have even been dealing with the brokenness of a relationship so long, we believe it beyond God’s ability to heal?
For the Jewish people, these relationships with Greeks and Romans, even with their Samaritan neighbors, had long since been shattered. Even though, God had promised Abraham that his descendant would bless all nations, even though David and Isaiah wrote about it, even though Solomon dedicated the Temple to both Jewish and non-Jewish people praying to God there….
The relationships were shattered; there was nothing there but animosity, fear, resentment, division and hatred. Simply put, they were shattered by sin.
As have our relationships…indeed all relationships… until the hope of Easter transformed our relationships.
Among the things we can “take away” from this passage, it is the hope that realizing how “out of their minds” the Jewish believers were, when they witnessed their natural enemies and adversaries being touched by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit who they counted on, who they were comforted by, who transformed their world, in a moment healed the broken relationship Cornelius’s family had with God, and therefore healed all the brokenness between them.
It is as radical as if we got a call from the leaders of Isis, to come share God’s love with them, and we ended up baptizing them and their families.
It is as radical as the guy who killed and captured pastors, coming to know Christ’s love, and becoming an incredible missionary,
It is as radical as God saving you, or I.
Making us the body of Christ, the people of God, the friends of Jesus.
As it happens, as God transforms this Roman military commander, and his family and household, there is confusion and joy and a myriad of emotions as they realized that God doesn’t have a list of types of people that are welcome before His throne.
There are people of every nation, every culture, every language, every economic class. People who grew up worshipping idols, people that grew up knowing of God, but needing to know Him. All types, all kinds, all ages,….
And those who, when God begins working in them, cause us to pause, to wonder, and then to be beside ourselves with joy!
That is why we don’t lose hope for those we struggle with; that is why we try to live at peace with them, care for them, love them. That is our hope for dealing with them and seeing reconciliation happen.
Because it can, and it has….
Because of a cross, a burial and a resurrection of Jesus Christ the son of God.
Yes, because of that we can all know the peace of God, which passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.