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Offended! Renewal or Revenge: I beg you…choose wisely

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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day

9 I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, 10 appeal to you for my son, Onesimus. I fathered him while I was in chains. 11 Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back to you as a part of myself. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will. 15 For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, 16 no longer as a •slave, but more than a slave—as a dearly loved brother. He is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 
17 So if you consider me a partner, accept him as you would me. 18 And if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self. Philemon 9-19 HCSB

187         Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning, and act in consequence.

Christianity is Love, or better said Jesus Christ is love.

In recent weeks, there have been some issues where people have been gravely hurt, situations in which they feel they have been offended, gravely offended.  Some of these things are sinful, even including some that are considered abominations,

Yet Christianity is love, St Josemaria reminds us.

Our mission, the mission of the church and everyone who is a part of her is found in loving others, to have the positive experience of being concerned for them.  This isn’t easy, this mission of ours.  It calls us to love the unlovable, to be concerned for the very people who hurt us, whom we pin the blame for our brokenness on, looking for someone to take the fall

Yet Christ is love.

This morning, my reading plan hit the book of Philemon, one of the greatest encouragements to love a neighbor found in scripture. Paul is encouraging Philemon to love more than the betrayal, to love more than he was sinned against, to love more than justice, in fact, this love flies in the face of civil justice.

Christ is love.  Imitate Him!

Paul so desires Philemon to love the escaped slave, he is willing to risk having Philemon disobey him, willing to risk a betrayal.  He so desires to teach Philemon about love, he is willing to sacrifice the one he wants Philemon to love.

The one who betrayed Philemon, the one who hurt him, stole his property, made him the object of ridicule.

Paul wants Philemon to love the most unlovable person in Philemon’s life.

And he is willing to risk everything to teach this important lesson, even as he encourages Philemon with just as much energy, reminding Philemon how much he is loved.  Even reminding Philemon how much mercy has blessed him.

Christ is Love!

This is our calling, this is our way of life, this is a level of joy when we find that in Christ we can love the unlovable when we can love the one who has betrayed us when we can show mercy even as we show mercy.

What a joy to do that which we cannot do on our own. To so depend on the power of the Holy Spirit who comforts us, who gives us the ability to do what we cannot.

Christ in us!  LOVE!

Take a moment, think of those who you would struggle to love, whether a famous person, or a family member or a neighbor.  Hear those who have loved you when you were unlovable, pointing you to Jesus, and pray that someone would do the same for those whose actions and words hurt you, bring them to the Lord who will renew their lives.
Lord have mercy on us…..all!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do We Need to All Get Along? Do We Have A Choice?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day
12  You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13  Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 14  And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 (TEV)

480    Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.

13 Although we cannot and should not compel anyone to believe, we should nevertheless insist that the people learn to know how to distinguish between right and wrong according to the standards of those among whom they live and make their living

I am tired. 

I am tired because of the fighting going around us.  In this world as nation is against nation.  As nations are divided into camps we call parties but are not exactly fun!  And even inside those parties are divided, starving for attention and often, revenge.

The Church, the one, holy, catholic (as in united, universal church) is likewise fragmented, and denominations and congregations know bitter division, know its horrific pain and avoid the issues.  Too often we determine reconciliation and renewal is not possible, or perhaps if possible, not desirable. 

I see this all around me, and it makes me weary of life. 

I want to compel people to have enough faith in God, to trust Him enough to let Him heal them, and surely He would. I want to force them into a maturity that cares more about being merciful than the pain that has been caused by others.  That cares more for Christ being revealed than for hiding our own sins and pretending we are not shamed by them. 

But I can’t compel people to trust in God more, it is not the way it works.  No amount of threats can do it, no amount of pleading, all I can do is ask, and point to the scriptures.

It is a common dependence on God that turns the church into something more than a group of individuals separated by their own brokenness.  That unity, that being woven tightly together, it can create a bond that can conquer anything.  That unity is found in Christ’s love, 

Nowhere else.

It is found in the love that is the source, of mercy that empowers us to of set our own discomfort and pain, even the agony aside. That enables us to forgive, for He has shown the way in forgiving us. 

Only in Christ Jesus is this possible. In that love that weaves us together, binding the broken, splicing us together, making us stronger than anything else can.

Can we all get along?  Only in Christ, who draws us all into Him.  This is what is good and right… everything else is wrong. 

Lord have mercy on us, mercy that is so overwhelming that our anger, our pain, our resentment and even shame our washed away, revealing that we dwell in You, and in You, we are already one.  Amen!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1175-1177). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 339). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Can We Recognize The Brokenness, so We can Recognize that We are part of God’s answer to it?

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God, Have mercy on us!

Devotional Thought of the Day
18  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20  So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT)

669      The co-redeeming—eternal!—efficacy of our lives can only become real with humility, passing unnoticed, so that others can discover Him.

Recently, the president of the United States was reported to have commented with harsh language about several countries.  There is no doubt the phrasing he used was wrong.  But there is also no doubt that those countries, much like our own, are broken.

Sin does that, and in some places, the sin is more evident to us, and to others, our sin is much more evident than theirs.

But rather than focus on the brokenness, both those backing our president and those opposing out president focus n the words of the message.  I would not say the reason they d this is conscious and deliberate, but in focusing on the President’s phrasing, they are able to forget about the real problems in those countries and our own.

The brokenness, the sin that dominates our culture, whether it is corruption, or theft, or murder.

We would rather get mad, or get defensive about the word order than doing something about it

And these places, (including the USA) continue in their brokenness. And very few do anything about the problems.  Which, in and of itself, is just as sinful, just as corrupt, and just as wrong.

St Josemaria wrote about the humility required to become effective, to have a real meaning to our lives.  He talks about it from the point of our not caring about the credit we could receive, but rather being satisfied with only one goal, seeing people see God’s love for them.  It doesn’t matter if I am the man baptizing them, or whether it is my Catholic priest or Methodist pastor friend.  It doesn’t matter if it is my sermon that opens someone eyes to God’s love, or someone else’s.

All that matters is that they know God’s love and mercy.  As they do, they will be changed by God, and their little area of the world will be filled with less skubala. (that’s is crap in Greek)

But humility doesn’t start with not caring who gets the credit.  If it does, it could just be a nice excuse for apathy, and not working in the ministry God gave us all, the ministry of pleading with people to be reconciled.

Humility is found in our own reconciliation, in realizing the crap that we’ve got ourselves into, and that on Christ can reconcile us with the Father. He saved us from our crappy life, full of sin, and cleaned us up, and gave us life.  As he doesn’t in just about every country in this world.

And He does it through us, the people He reconciled.

He shares this incredible work with us and makes it happen.

As we simply point to the cross and the empty tomb and invite people to know that is all for them. For Christ would unity with them there, as He did with us.

This is our hope, this is our joy, this is who we are meant ot be, working with people to see their lives change, and then to rejoice and see that every day.  This is what makes our lives and communities a little less crappy…. and will do the same for the world.

The love of God, the power of God that would reconcile everything back to Him.

So rejoice in what God has done and is doing in your life, and pray for those who need reconciliation, and as you can, plead with them to let God do what God does… and then rejoice some more, in awe that God does work, and works through you!

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2460-2462). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Brother to Brother…..one glorious hope!

church at communion 2Discussion Thought of the Day:
3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.    Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)

Where man is no longer believed to be under God’s protection, to have God’s breath in him, then people begin to assess him from a utilitarian point of view. Then there appears the barbarity that tramples on human dignity.  (1)

Twenty-one years ago, an album containing the music of two masters was put together, one singing the lead of the other’s composition, both playing the instruments and blending their voices together.  They went on tour together, and while I would love to see many people in concert, to see Michael Card and John Michael Talbot together, would be one of my dreams.  

The album was called Brother to Brother, and it was playing in the background when I came across the words of Pope Ratzinger in my devotional reading this morning.  The lead song, One Faith,  comes from another favorite album, JMT’s The Regathering, which finds its inspiration in the words above from Ephesians 4.  It pictures the regathering of all the saints, into the perfect communion that is Christ Jesus.  As I look out on a broken world and the one holy, catholic (small c means all of us) apostolic and sadly fractured church, that day seems so precious, so wonderful and so far away.

It is the prayer and desire of Jesus fulfilled, that we truly be one, even as the Father and He are one.

And we see the glimpse of it in Pope Benedict’s (Cardinal Ratzinger when he wrote them) above in blue.  When we realize that every man is under God’s protection, every man has God’s breath in them, we can no longer view them as anything utilitarian.  We cannot hang generalizations, we cannot define them by affiliation or hang demographic labels on them.  Even the labels adversary and enemy fade away, along with fears and anxieties, as we see Christ in them, and therefore find someone who is loved, even as we are loved.  Someone Jesus is calling to, even as he calls to us.

Pope Benedict went on to say, We must always look upon other men as persons with whom we shall one day share God’s joy. We must see them as persons with whom we are called to be members of the body of Christ, with whom we shall one day sit at the table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the table of Jesus Christ, as persons called to be our brothers or sisters, and to be, with us, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, children of God.”

This isn’t easy.  It means we must trust and depend on God more than our fears, our anxieties, our resentments.  it requires seeing the individual as more than important than those things.  The only way to do that is to see the heart of God, the Lord who gave His body to be broken, and His blood to be shed for all on the cross, and then unify all He calls in a meal where He shares His body and blood again.

Including those that don’t understand yet, for we are called to love them, and invite them to this feast…..We won’t conquer our fears, we won’t willingly become martyrs if necessary if we don’t see them loved by God, even as He loves us.

Lord have mercy on us sinners, and help us to see that You died for each and every individual.  AMEN!

(1)  Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Is it too much to ask for a miracle, for peace, this day?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  Some Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Jesus wanted to trap him, so they asked him to perform a miracle for them, to show that God approved of him. 2But Jesus answered, “When the sun is setting, you say, ‘We are going to have fine weather, because the sky is red.’ 3And early in the morning you say, ‘It is going to rain, because the sky is red and dark.’ You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times!n 4How evil and godless are the people of this day! You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of Jonah.”
So he left them and went away.  Matt 16:1-4 TEV

535    Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.  (1)

I am struggling with my sermon manuscript this morning.

The struggle is not with the text, it is glorious, it can, and it will preach Christ.

My problem is with my friends acting like the Houses of the Capulets and Montagues. No, I must be honest, there is  a growing desire to call them out and curse them both as Shakespeare wrote, “a pox on both your houses!” There is my problem, the enormous weight that causes my writer’s block.

I am not sure I can get these friends, the fellow citizens to stop attacking each other, to lower the defenses enough to look each other in the eyes and see each other’s struggles and brokenness, and to limp together to an altar and pray for each other. And as I receive emails, tweets, and read posts, I am reaching that point where I question whether I want to anymore.

There is a temptation to wipe the dust off my feet, to walk away and leave people pointing at each other, yelling at the top of their lungs the very same insults, the very same attacks, crying as they are assaulted by the same fears and anxieties.

Though I am not trying to trap Jesus, (or am I? In truth, today, I do not know.) I want Jesus to stop this; I want the miracle that will create the peace that will enable people to stop attacking each other, to know the mercy that will allow them to lower their defenses, to remember that we have been given the role of servants, to facilitate reconciliation.  To allow people on both sides of the issue to be still, and know that God is still God.  That He is our refuge and strength.

But how do we get people to lay aside their sin, the idols they have manufactured to provide the answers they desire?  How do we get them to consider there are hopes greater than what they expect, that what they have counted on to be the norm?  Surely I can’t out yell the masses that are yelling at each other.

I sometimes joke that St Josemaria Escriva is my patron saint, simply because I resonate with what he writes at a level that is deeper than just my poor intellect.  The words in blue above were probably written during the Spanish Civil War, a time of unrest that puts the hatred espoused on Social Media in perspective.  I imagine he grieved for his nation as he saw them killing each other, as a house divided fell apart as the bodies that composed it fell to the ground.

His answer is my answer, the place I must run to find hope, and find the strength to offer hope.  A sacramental, incarnational, miraculous answer found in God’s presence. Fount at the cross, found as well in those things that unite us to the cross – the sacraments through which the word assures us of God’s grace, His mercy and peace.

As God unites us to Himself, as He invites us to feast, as He communicates with us, as the Word comes and dwells among us, as we see and declare His glory.

As we know, love.

As much as I want my friends, to love each other, the miracle happens in Christ, not by logic.  They are delivered from their fears and frustrations, their shattered idols and broken hopes as Christ is revealed.  As they see Him, crucified to bear it all, to bring them healing from it all.

Sometimes the answer isn’t found in engaging in the mess, or getting depressed and angry as I grieve over it.

Sometimes the answer, the hope is found in seeking Christ, in letting His presence assure and comfort me, reminding me that all things will work for good and that nothing can separate us from His love.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 1295). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Florida, An Elevator, and Peace….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 

1   On that day, you will say: I give you thanks, O LORD; though you have been angry with me, your anger has abated, and you have consoled me. 2  God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior. 3  With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation, 4  and say on that day: Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name. 5  Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth. 6  Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!
Isaiah 12:1-6 (NAB)

The impression that people have today is that being a Christian is something irksome, a multiplicity of commands and prohibitions to which new prohibitions are added with every increase in knowledge and every new possibility that is opened to us. Little by little, it begins to seem impossible to live all that, to bear all that. Ultimately, faith seems to be just a burden. But when a person has once met Christ, when a person has once seen Jesus and really learned to know him, then everything is changed. Then everything else is comprehensible and life is renewed. And you priests have really only one task: to present Jesus to all people in such a way that they see him and learn to love him. Then everything that faith teaches will be self-evident.

I remember then that Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Galatians, described his activity as apostle and priest in the following words: “I depicted Christ clearly before your eyes” (cf. Gal 3:1). Ultimately that is what the priesthood is all about: to have seen Jesus oneself, to have received with love him whom we have seen, to live in that seeing, and then to show him to others.  (1)

Yesterday, I awoke to the news that there was a tragedy, an act of terrorism by a man who was described by many as always angry, always wanting to strike out. A man who grew up here, in a land full of churches, in a land of freedom.

Today I woke up to a memory on Facebook, reminding me of another angry young man.  One who was specifically trained in the middle east to be a cold-blooded assassin.  He grew up in a nation torn by war, where both sides persecuted their enemies.  Where family members died, and where revenge was a way of life. It was tied to religion and culture, ethnicity and historic hatred.  A man who didn’t murder 49 people yesterday, but instead helped other know peace.  A year ago today he visited my church and shared about both his anger and brokenness, and how he now knew peace.

As I look at the star contrast, the difference between the two men, the difference comes down to a moment in an elevator.  AN elevator in a war-torn country that is still torn apart today.

Yeah, started in an elevator,  maybe the time it takes to travel 10-12 stories.  The man with the history, whose brother was killed, who family was torn apart by war, stepped into the elevator where another man was.  A man who could have represented everything the man was against.

And in those brief moments, everything changed.  In those moments, the brokenness of both men, and the fact that one found hope and healing, enabled the other man to do the same.

Peace became evident where it should not have had the slightest chance. Love made the difference, as an old man reached out to an angry young guy and who over time would depict Christ clearly to him, who would give him hope, who would see him come to know God’s love and praise the God, who saved him. The angry young guy is now a pastor, trying to reach out to others, and bring them peace.  The older man, simply took the time to listen, and talk, and share the peace he knew helped him in his brokenness.  The story of a man who loved his enemies enough to let them kill Him, so He could bring them peace, sanctuary, rest, and joy.

I am not sure if anyone ever tried to reach out to the man who terrorized a community as he killed people whose parents, siblings, friends who are traumatized and grieving this morning. I have heard that many recognized his brokenness and even lived in fear of him.

I don’t know about the past, save that we can learn from it.  We can reach out to those who are broken, who seem depressed, who are angry, hurt, even those who aren’t like “us.”  (Whatever that means)  We can make known His works to all the nations, doing so in a way that is loving and respectful.  We can love them, and pray for them, and see God work in their lives.

For in our brokenness, we have seen Christ, we have received Him and learned to love Him, and living in fellowship with Him.   We can show him to others….loving them,

even in an elevator…

Lord have mercy upon us ALL!  AMEN!

 

 

 

 
(1)   Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 191). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Augustine’s confession and the reality of Monday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  No! I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak. 12  Why do you keep me under guard? Do you think I am a sea monster? 13  I lie down and try to rest; I look for relief from my pain. 14  But you—you terrify me with dreams; you send me visions and nightmares 15  until I would rather be strangled than live in this miserable body. 16  I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense. 17  Why are people so important to you? Why pay attention to what they do? 18  You inspect them every morning and test them every minute. 19  Won’t you look away long enough for me to swallow my spit? 20  Are you harmed by my sin, you jailer? Why use me for your target practice? Am I so great a burden to you? 21  Can’t you ever forgive my sin? Can’t you pardon the wrong I do? Soon I will be in my grave, and I’ll be gone when you look for me. Job 7:11-21 (TEV)

For I bore about a shattered and bleeding soul, impatient of being borne by me, yet where to repose it, I found not. Not in calm groves, not in games and music, nor in fragrant spots, nor in curious banquetings, nor in the pleasures of the bed and the couch; nor (finally) in books or poesy, found it repose. All things looked ghastly, yea, the very light; whatsoever was not what he was, was revolting and hateful, except groaning and tears. For in those alone found I a little refreshment. But when my soul was withdrawn from them a huge load of misery weighed me down. To Thee, O Lord, it ought to have been raised, for Thee to lighten; I knew it; but neither could nor would; the more, since, when I thought of Thee, Thou wert not to me any solid or substantial thing. For Thou wert not Thyself, but a mere phantom, and my error was my God.  (1)

Yesterday’s sermon was on the slaughtering of the innocents, and the despair of Israel as the children were led away into captivity.  An odd way to begin the year, I thought.  I included statistics that were overwhelming, the number of martyrs, both those who died without denying Jesus, and the number of lives cut short before their 

It’s enough to make you stagger, to bluntly reveal our brokenness, to tear our hearts apart by simply being honest.  Even those who helplessly look on are devastated and struggle to find God, and even more, we often push away the comfort He would give us.  

Often times, we are too polite, to bound by a sense of hospitality, to address these things.  We want to shove the pain into some dark corner or our soul  We are afraid to be honest with God, to openly cry about the pain, to admit the anger, to let ourselves be purged of our bitterness.

Augustine tried to find such solace, he couldn’t escape the pain. Neither could Job.  But it is as they confess this, as they struggle with the god they cannot see, that they cannot fathom, that hope begins.

I understand them, perhaps all too well.  When I am at such points, overwhelmed, I want to run and hide.  To find solace in a place like Lake Ossipee, NH.  To dive into the fictional works I love, of earlier times in history, or the worlds of Tolkien or Feist. I long to be someplace other.  To replace prayer with the study of theology, to replace the sacred times, the sacramental life with busyness serving others.  Ministry can be a great place to hide in the illusion of self-preservation known as denial. 

David knows this grief, as did Solomon.  the emptiness, the lack of the peace we pursue. You can’t read the Psalms without noting it, or Ecclesiastes without finding the bitter pain of a life that seemed only to be defined by vanity.

It is in facing that vanity, that lack of peace, that emptiness that we can realize our need for God.   That we can understand what faith is, that we can understand how intimate the relationship is, where God teaches us to desire and pray to see His Kingdom come and will be done. 

Stop running, cry out with your soul until you can be still. For then you will know that He is God, know He is here, and that He is your refuge.  For being still is not possible until we deal with the pain that would have us fight or flee. It is then, broken, wounded, weeping, that we come to the cross, and indying to ourselves, we find Him.

There, at the cross, worn out and weary beyond measure, you will be still; ou will find what Agustine and Job, David and Solomon all found, and what transformed them.  A God who comes to us… and brings healing and peace.

AMEN.

 

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

Justice, Mercy, Thirsting for Revenge or Righteousness?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6  Arise, O LORD, in anger! Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice! Psalm 7:6 (NLT) 

A few days ago I wrote about mercy.  A disclaimer, I was struggling with the topic myself.  In at least 3 cases, I was trying to figure out how to respond mercifully, and yet honestly.  Try to seek reconciliation, and pursue what is right and just.

After reading that day’s blog, and a couple of tweets, a good friend asked how we are to balance justice and righteousness.   In fact, she asked me to write on it.

Darn it, now I have to think it through!

That’s what real friends do – they help drive home the lesson God is trying to teach you!  And so my friend did for me….and others helped.

Tough question, not just because of the thought needed, but to face the answer, I don’t want to face.

I just want to pray with David the top quote from Psalm 7.   Bring JUSTICE!  Trash my enemies.  Get rid of those who are my adversaries!  Whether they be ISIS/ISIL or whether they be… well, God knows who I am struggling with presently.  Anf I find myself too often wanting revenge rather than justice.   Revenge is never justice; it is a judgment against some in my favor.  It is, therefore, contrary to justice.

I thank God for some other friends that study the Bible with me a couple of Thursday mornings a month.  We looked not only at Psalm 7:6, but the verses before and after in the chapter.

If we are to hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness AND show mercy, we need to find the point where both are valid.  In the Psalm, as we discovered, there is the answer.

1  I come to you for protection, O LORD my God. Save me from my persecutors—rescue me! 2  If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion, tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me. 3  O LORD my God, if I have done wrong or am guilty of injustice, 4  if I have betrayed a friend or plundered my enemy without cause, 5  then let my enemies capture me. Let them trample me into the ground and drag my honor in the dust.  Psalm 7:1-5 (NLT)

Developing a heart that desires justice and mercy starts with examining one’s own heart, and one’s behavior.  Knowing how easy our heart can deceive us, we do what David does, we don’t examine it.  Rather it is in prayer we beg God to examine it.  We welcome His judgment, and the means He will use to bring about in us humility.  The humility needed to answer a call to holiness; the humility needed to trust God to make things just, to make things right in our lives.  The humility to know we need His mercy, we must depend on it.

For otherwise, a call to the purest form of justice will see us judged.

We need to be examined, cleaned, healed.

Foremost of us, this process of being refined will be painful.   It will be difficult; it will be filled with grace, applied to the darkness, most sin-dominated areas of our lives. That grace will sting at first, but will soon turn sweet, and joyful.

It is then we can thirst for justice, and to love mercy.  Mercy for our enemies, adversaries and those who we see being unjust.  Our being refined will counter that as we realize that God’s justice, at this point in eternity, is still synonymous with other words.

Reconciliation.

Restoration.

Healing

Those things are just and right, and exactly what the Great Physician ordered.

Lord, have mercy on us all!  AMEN!

God, please turns their hearts.. not to me, but to You!

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
1 John 4:11-12 (NLT)  Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

But after the Holy Spirit has performed and accomplished this and the will of man has been changed and renewed solely by God’s power and activity, man’s new will becomes an instrument and means of God the Holy Spirit, so that man not only lays hold on grace but also cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the works that follow.

But the real heart of Christianity is, and will always be, love of neighbor. For, in very fact, each individual is infinitely loved by God and is of infinite value. Christ says to each of us the words so feelingly formulated by Pascal: “In my mortal agony, I thought of you. I shed these drops of blood for you.

We all have people that seem to cause pain in our lives.  Often we label the pains in the neck, or compare them unfavorably to hemorrhoids.  Some of us have people that cause a more negative response, people who threaten us, who we label adversaries, or perhaps even enemies.

We may not even know them, they may be politicians of the opposing view, or someone who has their 15 minutes of fame for something that causes anger to well up in us.  We may even label them names – either in discussion on FB or over lunch.  Maybe we even can keep those names in our minds,  But we still think of them as jerks, the personification of evil or simply call them assholes.  You might, having read the last word of the prior sentence be shocked I use it, or you might be saying, “But pastor, they really are!”

Or you may feel guilt, worrying about why you can’t get over the feelings of frustration, anger, pain, hurt, and resentment.

Read the passage again that is in red above.  Can we do this?  Can we love each other, knowing that “other” has the same definition the lawyer received when he heard the parable of the Good Samaritan.

This ability to love them is the work that the Lutheran Confessions (in green) speak of, where the Holy Spirit makes our lives and instrument, and a means of the Holy Spirit’s work.  It is the heart of Christianity that then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of, to realize that for each one of us, every human being on earth, Jesus died, willing let his blood be spilled for you, and for them.

In an old hymnal (TLH), as part of the prayer of God’s people we found a very proper and timely prayer. It said something like this. “Father, turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries to you.”

This is where our heart begins to change, as we see their need, (and ours) to be reconciled to God.  For that is the answer to everything.   Without the blood of Christ, spilled to heal us all from the damage of sin, there is no hope to come together in peace.  In Christ, the peace is not just compromise, but it becomes community, it becomes love deeper than any other.

It is in Christ, seeing Christ’s love for them, which we begin to be able to love them as well.  That love may end up pleading with them, not to deal favorably with us, but that which is more important – their reconciliation with God. That becomes our goal; it becomes what we pray for, what we begin to do, to live for, even as God does…

And as we see the glory of God, as we worship Him, the glory of the Holy Spirit works through us… and they know they are loved.

As do we.

”Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 472). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 290). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Imitate God – Live a Life filled with love

Imitate God
Live a Life Filled With Love!

Ephesians 4:17–5:2

In Jesus Name

This is my prayer for you, that because of the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, you would desire to live a life filled with His love, and imitate Christ Jesus in everything you do.


The Difference Between Playing God.. and Imitating Him

It was once said that the sincerest form of compliment was for someone to imitate you.

Well, it is a compliment as long as they imitate something you like about yourself.

For example, a lady asking another lady for a recipe.

That’s a compliment.

Another pastor asking if he can use a sermon, or learn Chris’s liturgy music, those are compliments.

Someone choosing to become a teacher, or a doctor or even a pastor, because of the impact that a teacher, doctor or pastor had on their life.

Those are compliments as well!

Is someone trying to duplicate my golf swing?

That’s not a compliment; that is insanity!

In today’s epistle reading, there are two different models to imitate, to mimic.  One is insanity; the other seems impossible, but it is actually rather simple.

One is imitating the Gentiles.

The other is imitating God.

One possible, the other insanity….

Imitating the World is Simply Playing God  The Sin of Self Idolatry

Let’s deal with imitating the Gentiles.  Or as Paul says, living like the Gentiles, following the patterns and lifestyles of the world.

It doesn’t require a Ph.D. in Psychology to see how crazy the world is.

Paul describes it well by saying that those living without a relationship with God are hopelessly confused, that their minds are lost in a darkness that consumes them.  Paul goes on to describe them as close minded to God and having no sense of shame.  They are people that live for whatever seems pleasurable, chasing after whatever is popular, no matter how degrading, how filthy, how degrading, how evil.

As long as it meets what they consider their needs….

Need for pleasure, for fun, for comfort, for approval. Or simply if it helps them get what they want.  It is narcissism, self-centeredness Or put more simply, it is telling God his guidance is worthless, and replacing his rules with your own.  Don’t worry about those ten commandments, or loving our neighbor, the world says.  Scripture isn’t relevant or real! Do what seems right in your own eyes, and if peopled question you, tell them to not judge you.

That was the gGentilesattitude, it is definitely the world’s attitude today.

But there is a problem here… one we need to think through.

Lest we only judge those out in the world, I need you to recognize what Paul is telling this church, perhaps the most mature of all the churches he ministered to.

Look at this carefully

17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do,

Now, let’s think about this.  You don’t have to tell people to not do something, unless they are doing it!

And if you are an apostle, you don’t have to add, “with the Lord’s authority”, unless you know they are really going to struggle with you on the matter.

The people in the church in Ephesus struggled with living like the world.

If we are honest, we struggle with it as well.  It’s not that we really want to, but some habits are hard to break.  Temptations can be hard to overcome.

Paul lists a bunch of sin, buts the key is in verse 22.  Sin is the result of lives corrupted by two things, the first is lust, desiring things that aren’t yours.  The second thing that corrupts our lives is what is translated as deception, but is more like seduction.  The things that distract us, attract our attention and cause us to hunger for them.

The sin dominated one is a insane life, for we don’t have the wisdom to choose wisely.  It is crazy to say we know better than God. That we know what is good for us.

But there is an option to imitating the world.

Imitating God  The life of the Transformed

We need to make sure we understand the difference between playing God, and imitating God.

The gentiles and the world, and yes often we play God.  That is sin.

But Paul calls us to imitate God, to follow the example of Jesus.  That requires something important.  You see a hint of it on the cover of the bulletin.  It is a transformation as incredible as that which occurs when a hungry caterpillar becomes a majestic butterfly.

A transformation that begins when you were baptized.

A transformation that happens as Paul describes, in verse 23,

let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

and

Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Unlike the butterfly, our transformation is started, empowered and completed by Christ.  It occurs as we spend time realizing His presence in our lives, the promise of our Baptism.   It happens as we contemplate how much He loves us, and the freedom that gives us.

For the old controlling forces that corrupted our lives have been broken and we are free to see God’s reconciliation spread, even as Paul describes

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

This is not a command as we think of it, and imperative you must.  It is more like discovering something incredible, a blessing of proportions!

Bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, gossip, all evil behavior can be stripped off of us, and as we are united to Jesus, we find ourselves being dressed with God’s love, with His mercy, even as we begin to resemble Christ…even as we are being healed.

Because we are imitating God.

Like a child, wanting to be like his dad…

This is what happens when you trust in God, when you depend on Him.

We are changed, we are transformed… and instead of being locked into a life shaped and modeled by the world, we find something incredible, a journey through life, that as we mature, as we are drawn deeper and deeper into a relationship with Jesus… causes us to resemble Him more… and these words become our life

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love,

AMEN!

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