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

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

the devotional thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord is with you!

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

 

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

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

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.

Apologetics is Never, Ever, Defending the Faith!

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought for our Days:

18 All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself, and God gave us the work of telling everyone about the peace we can have with him. 19 God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold the world guilty of its sins. And he gave us this message of peace. 20 So we have been sent to speak for Christ. It is as if God is calling to you through us. We speak for Christ when we beg you to be at peace with God. 21 Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NCV

15 But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, 16 but answer in a gentle way and with respect.  1 Peter 3:15b-16

870         Matters can rarely be resolved by aggressive polemics which humiliate people. And things are certainly never cleared up when among those arguing the case there is a fanatic.

In my high school freshman or sophomore yearbook, there is a note from an acquaintance with I used to argue with a lot.  We were both interested in history and debate.  She was a disciple of Engels and Marx, me, not so much.  Her note was full of admiration, a salute to our ability to debate and still respect each other.  (despite frustrating the hell out of each other – because we couldn’t understand the position of the other! )

As I read the words from St. Josemaria this morning, my heart brought back the memory of those words.  And of many presentations, I have seen about “apologetics”.  Usually, these include th idea that we are on a “crusade”, that we have to defeat our enemy, crushing their logic, unveiling their inconsistencies, doing battle and claiming the victory in Jesus name.

There was no call for respecting them as those Jesus died for, whom God created.  No sense of love, or peace that would envelop the conversation, and rarely, any hope that was explained and explored.  I encountered this as well when teaching world religions once, where several of my seminary level students wanted to know how to crush people who depended on false Gods.  They chose the path of the fanatic and the aggressive polemics that leaves people broken and crushed. 

Compare that to the verses above, the idea of being ready to explain the reason (this is where we get the word apologetic from btw) for the hope we have!  Peter goes on to say, but do so with gentleness and respect.  Look at how many times Paul mentions peace that God makes with us.  Look at the idea that God is calling to those whom He would reconcile to Himself, to those He would give His peace to, through us. Reading that, does it seem that the tactic best suited to doing so is walking with them, exploring this hope we have, this incredible idea that God wants to live with us in peace.  Helping them see that Jesus would walk with them, in all the ways described in the beautiful words of Psalm 23.

Some might say this doesn’t allow us to properly deal with their sin, but I don’t agree.  Sin is brokenness, and whether we will admit that everything we do is sin ( and Christians play this game too!) we do recognize the brokenness it causes in our lives. Sin is not just our deliberate rebellion in this action or that, but those sins are the symptoms of the brokenness of sin, something every religion deals with, mostly through threats and punishment, of being cut off and sent away.

Christianity meets that brokenness offering hope, offering peace with God, because of the cross and the empty grave.  A completely novel way not just to scare people away from future sin, but to bring comfort to the shame, the guilt, and despair that we all live with because of our pasts.  

This is the apologia, the hope, the peace, knowing the love of God who comes to us.It’s not something we have to defend or hit people over the head with.  It is something offered with great love, with mercy consistent to God. 

It is what we depend upon, what we hope for… it is Jesus….with us. 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3559-3560). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tell Me The Story….Write on My Heart Every Word

Devotional Thought of the Day
34  Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. 35  This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”   Matthew 13:34-35 (NLT)

After a brief pause, Jack said, “Explain yourself. I’m willing to hear you out.”
“Okay,” I said, “but to explain myself I have to tell you a story.” I sensed a puzzlement on his part, so I quickly added, “All spiritualities are based on a story. You have to know the story of a particular religion to understand its spirituality.”
This statement aroused the curiosity of everyone. “Tell the story,” said Jack. “Maybe I don’t know the story; as a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Christianity told as a story.”
“Okay,” I responded, “but I have to tell you I can’t prove the story.”1
“I like that! I don’t like it when religious people try to prove their faith. Just the fact that you say that we shouldn’t try to prove the story with history and science makes me want to listen.”

899      The children of God are present and give witness in the world to draw others, not to be drawn by them. They should spread their own atmosphere, the atmosphere of Christ, not let themselves be won over by a different atmosphere.

One of the hardest lessons to learn in preaching is that it is very different from teaching, very different from teaching, very different from giving a lecture.  

The goal isn’t merely to impart knowledge and information, but to draw someone into a relationship, to draw someone into the story, to reveal to them that they have a part, a role, and are wanted.  (This is true not only about the sermon but about any time we bear witness to Jesus, that we share His love with others) 

This is profoundly different than the way I was taught in the early days, in classes like Expository Preaching and Homiletics.  I have written similarly before on apologetics, that the idea is not to win a case, to convince someone to judge Christianity right based on the proof I present.  

We simply need to tell the story, to tell it so well the people are drawn into their place in the story, 

This is why the post-modern sermon needs to be transparent, that the messenger be willing to tell his portion of the story transparently, the brokenness, the sin and shame (though not in great detail) the hopelessness that exists when we take our eyes off of Jesus, and His continual drawing us back, and the peace that comes when we see Him again.  For if they know God can help us, then we are writing on their hearts the word of the story, the “God so loved (me)”, the “body broken/blood shed for (me).  

I would assert that teaching the Bible without making the connection to the listener is not preaching, it is not bearing witness to Jesus.  It is simply giving people, overloaded with facts, more facts to deal with intellectually.  It appeals to their baser instinct, that they are the judge of reality.  But they aren’t the judges, they are not just interested observers.  So why preach to them if they were.  Telling them the story involves them, it helps reveal to them that they aren’t observers and judges, but part of the story. 

This takes the objective truth of salvation and helps it become subjective as well.  It takes the historical information stored in our minds and makes it meaningful to our heart and soul.

This is the mystery that has been revealed, that which has been hidden from the beginning of the world.  The mystery of God and His people, the people He makes His own, the mystery of how you and I, broken by our sin and the sin of the world, are picked up, healed, brought home.

That is preaching, that is bearing witness to God’s love, that is giving people what God wants them to comprehend.

Tell me the story, write on my heart every word, tell me the story of Jesus (and us), greatest that every was heard.

AMEN!

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3181-3182). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Will It Take you To Prove

What will it take to prove…

Luke 16:19-31

In Jesus Name

 May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as His unsurpassable peace guards your hearts, and your mind, until He returns.

From Lazarus’s Perspective

We know his name – but we’ve never heard his thoughts, save one.  Even as he stands at Abraham’s side, we hear him thought of as a servant – someone to dispatch with a message, not like an apostle, but like and errand boy.

While he is alive, suffering, unable to care for himself, the only thing we head from him is his desire to be fed by what falls from the rich’s man’s table.  How he longed for a piece of bread, a morsel of lamb, even and onion.

Something, anything!

And he was so weak; he couldn’t even brash away the dogs who would lick and nibble at his open wounds.

Some scraps, please? Please?

A man who knew only hunger and pain.

And then one day, a procession of angels came, sent by God, to bring him to Abraham’s side, to wait for the day when there will be a new heaven and a new earth when God will dwell with His people, and we will see Him!

He was welcomed home, as we will be.

For like Lazarus, God knows our name!

The journey home
But what is this screaming in the distance?

As Lazarus is standing by Abraham’s side, he hears something you can’t usually hear in heaven, in fact, this may be the only time.  Some un-named (and that is important) man is trying to get Abraham’s attention from across the gulf, from the place for those not welcome in God’s presence.

It’s a voice that sounds familiar, and maybe Lazarus even recognized it as the voice, that echoed through the gates, the laughed and enjoyed the fine banquets and parties.
But now the voice was one of anguish, one begging for help, begging for reliefs from the heat, crying for pity,

Because of his past, maybe we would think Lazarus was thinking Mr. No-Name was getting what he deserved.  Or more likely, because of the very reasons he was escorted by angels, his heart was moved, and as Abraham was asked to send a messenger, maybe Lazarus was in tears, wanting to help.

Even so, the man’s torment would continue, his heart still not turned. And as he pleads for his brothers, Abraham’s words are haunting,

“‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

What will it take to convince us?

These words that Lazarus hears are scary when you think about them, and who is saying them.  What kind of proof would convince someone about the consequences of their sin?  If the words of scripture will not, if even the fact that Jesus not only raised people from death but rose from the dead himself – if that doesn’t cause people to think a little more, what will?

How do we reach people, and bring them to Jesus, If they aren’t persuaded by Jesus rising from the dead?

Or perhaps a better question – does the resurrection of Jesus make a difference in our lives?

Does it give us hope?

Does it help give us peace?

Does that hope, that peace transforms our lives in such a way we aren’t tied to stuff, but that we realize people have names, that we are to love them in the way that God does?

What difference does the resurrection of Jesus have for the way we look at life, and death?

What difference would it make if we realize that God, and all heaven, knew us by name because Jesus lived and died and rose again?

What will it take for us to realize God knows us and calls us by name?

Col. 1:28 –

The apostle Paul explains it this way.

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

This is the message that changes us, knowing that God loves us, and indeed loves every human being changes everything.  It means everything.  It means that each one of us is God’s beloved.

Knowing that means that loving others is no longer a duty, no longer a sacrifice, but it is glorious and wonderful to see them come alive in Christ, to see their lives transform, for they begin to share in God’s glory as well.

They have a name; they mean something to us.  This is why Paul would go on to say,

28  So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29  That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT)

People need to hear of God’s love, while they are still alive. They need to see that love in a way that they can hear; that isn’t someone trying to persuade them, but rather share with them this glory, this love.  They

But that happens best when we know His love when we realize He knows our name!  It is then, as we hear Him calling us by name that we realize in awe that He has given us His peace, peace that goes beyond understanding, peace that we dwell in because Christ calls us His treasure, and keeps our hearts and minds there.

This is our life… where God calls us by name – so live it!  AMEN!

Words of Divine Wisdom from ???? him???

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.

When Reality Tops Reason, which will you choose?

Devotional Thought for the Day:
48  I am the bread of life. 49  Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50  this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 51  I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” 52  The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” 53  Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. John 6:48-57 (NAB)

40    Faith, joy, optimism. But not the folly of closing your eyes to reality.

As people are listening to Jesus, there is something wrong.

They get so distracted by what they can’t quite understand, that they give up something glorious.  They went to him, because He was the Messiah, they expected Him to save them, to teach them, to heal them of their brokenness.

I struggle with the fact that because they couldn’t understand the teaching, because they couldn’t connect the dots, they walked away.

Don’t get it; it’s hard, and so they walked away, and left life on the table.

We don’t do well with mystery; we don’t hear Jesus’ offer about eternal life – about real life, about the resurrection.  Because we go back to trying to discern whether he’s rolling real presence, or transubstantiation, or consubstantiation, or some other option which would satisfy our mind, and we starve our heart.

Some want to require others to understand this at a level far beyond how scripture teaches, and they drive them away with the same frustration we are not willing to admit that we share. So they force them to close their eyes to the reality as well. Far too much evangelism and apologetic material are geared this way, attempting to force people to believe our reasonable explanations of mysteries, rather than simply letting them be in awe.

In both situations, our inability to come up with a reason explanation results in such dissatisfaction that we close our eyes, that we refuse to believe what we see, that we refuse to hear what we hear. And we ignore the reality that is our life in Christ.

Consider Peter’s words a moment later, when Jesus asks if he is going to leave as well.  “Nope, you have the words of life!”  For Peter, man’s reason couldn’t trump God’s reality  They were used to not getting it right away, they were used to getting the parables explained, and trying to figure out how He could speak words, and calm storms.  How He spoke words, and blind eyes could see, and with limbs could function.  These apostles, these they didn’t leave, they heard words of life that caused the dead to rise.

They couldn’t explain it either!  They struggled with what it all meant.  Even as Jesus is about to ascend, the wounds still fresh in His hands, his ankles, his side, they doubt, scripture tells us. They couldn’t come up with reasonable explanations  for what they saw, they didn’t understand everything He taught, even when they had it explained.

But they knew Jesus; they saw his handiwork, and they clung to the one who did things they couldn’t understand.

Because He was real. Because He was present, they saw His work; they heard His promises, and they depended on Him when they couldn’t understand.

Reality is beyond our ability to reason; the logic is beyond our ability to discern. THe apostles went with reality, their faith in the one they know.

Our reality, our life is in Jesus….even though we don’t understand it all.  He is the one who died and rose, the one who spoke and created, the one who said, “eat my body and drink my blood – and live.

Live my friends, knowing the Lord is merciful. Even though that may not seem all that reasonable either.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 251-252). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can Christianity Be More than Simple?

Featured imagedevotional thought of the day

  And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.  I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.  Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten.  No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began.  But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:4-8 (NLT)

The model of enlightened reason cannot assimilate the structure of faith. That is our problem today. But faith, for its part, is comprehensive enough to assimilate the intellectual offer of the Enlightenment and give it a task that is meaningful also for faith. That is our opportunity. We must make the effort to accept it. (1)

24 But before man is illuminated, converted, reborn, renewed, and drawn by the Holy Spirit, he can do nothing in spiritual things of himself and by his own powers. In his own conversion or regeneration he can as little begin, effect, or cooperate in anything as a stone, a block, or a lump of clay could. (2) 

Despite it’s occasional plunge into the depths, this blog is entitled ASimpleChristian for a reason.

Being a follower of Jesus, trusting in Him and depending on Him for the love, mercy and peace that form our relationship is simple.

I’ve seen it as the deepest faith has been shown me by those with Alzheimer’s, who can’t remember their name or their love one. They show me that faith, that dependence as their anxiety is overwhelmed by peace as they hear the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm, or the Apostles Creed.   The faith given them in their youth sustains them.

This despite not being able to parse adequately Greek, or discuss the communication of Magestial attributes, or define the difference between transubstantiation or consubstantiation as they receive Christ’s Body and Blood.  They know and respond to the words, for you.

You see the depth of such faith in children, and those who have an intellectual handicap but are spiritual giants, causing many with Ph.D.’s and Th.D.’s to look like spiritual dwarfs.

Part of this, I firmly believe has to do with conversion, and bringing everything subject to the will and work of God.  Including our intellect.  To allow it to be renewed, regenerated, born again in the waters of baptism along with our heart and soul.   That is why Paul speaks plainly, as do evangelists and those preachers who understand that conversion doesn’t happen because we are logical or reasonable enough.  For that can’t be.

Reason can’t enslave faith, it can’t analyze it, it can’t conquer it. (GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy makes this point painfully simple!)  Pope Benedict XVI’s quote above makes this clear.  One of our challenges since the enlightenment is that we’ve traded training our pastors in meditating on scripture for analyzing it through either historical-grammatical or historical-critical frameworks.   We give them systems without allowing the word to transform them;  We overlook the sweat and tears that conversion (tentatio) often brings.

We want to enslave Scripture like a rat in a cage, rather than let the Holy Spirit transform us as we hear it.  We create elaborate systems, and fancy definitions and terms to explain that which scriptue doesn’t explain.

Rather than meditating on it, hearing it, letting it absorb into us and transform us, as the love of God, which is beyond our capability to fully know, is revealed to us. As the depth to which He will descend to come to us, and heal and cleanse us becomes known, for he comes to where we are. That is what the Lutheran reformers were discussing in the blue quote above. Before the Holy Spirit heals our blindness to the truth, we can’t know it.

It is like the child who wants to figure out how to use their Christmas present, based on the die of the box, but who does not know what it contains. So is it with those who base their philosophy of life, the universe, and everything without considering God’s purpose.   Or who determine that God’s revelation is subject to their own critical framework, simply because it is a mystery, a sacred thing beyond comprehension.

We have to start simple – with what God reveals to us  What He reveals too us in mechanics of this world, and in what He very specifically reveals to us in Scripture. This is what makes up the faith of those who have lost all, and those who we think can’t gain much.   Whose faith is extraordinary.  Whose faith, whose trust in God is simply there.

It is then, informed by that, with horizons set by that revelation, that we can plunge into and explore His love. It is then we, as His little children learn to enjoy the presence of our Father.

Such is a spiritual life, a simple one… sitting at His feet, letting the Spirit bring us to will and do the Father’s will.

Lord Have mercy on us sinners.

AMEN

 

(1)  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. 307). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. Meditation for 9/26

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 525–526). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration part II.II Free Will

They Don’t Love Your Religion, but They Like Your Jesus? What a awesome opportunity!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image21  Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent. 1 Kings 18:21 (NLT)

7  So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8  Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9  Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. James 4:7-10 (NLT) 

920      If you follow faithfully the promptings of grace, you will yield good fruit, lasting fruit for the glory of God. To be a saint necessarily entails being effective, even though the saint may not see or be aware of the results. (1)


Over the last few years, there have been a number of youtube videos were perceived to attack Christianity.  These videos question the validity of how the Christian religion is lived out, by those who claim to be Christians.

That means you and me.

Don’t take it as a personal attack, but please take those words personally.

When people point out our hypocrisy, whether they are inside the church or outside, there are two things going on, both which are beneficial.

The first is you have a chance to engage in relationships with them.  What would happen if someone says that to you, and your answer is, “Please, could you show me, and encourage me, in where I need to be like Jesus?”  They very easily could have valid concerns.  For example, without realizing it, the people of God once, in trying to help people, set up a swap meet with animal stalls and even moneychangers in the temple courts.  What started out as a helpful idea (providing sacrifices for people who travelled long distances) turned into a monstrous mess that stopped those not yet in Covenant, from being able to be still and know God.  They are being provided to you by God to help you focus on being in your relationship with Christ,

Please note I am not saying they know Jesus, but that doesn’t stop them from being used by Him. The dissonance they pick up on, may not be what they think, but there is still a problem.  Often what they are picking up on is our inability to follow God completely.  They could be picking up on the Romans 7 challenges to our life, when we don’t do what we should, and we do act and think like we should not.  Or that we’ve forgotten our first love or are lukewarm in how our faith affects our life. They may not know what they are seeing, but God can be using them, to help us grow.

The second thing happens if we take the time to hear them; if we to listen to their observations; if we ask them to assist us in really being Christians; if we welcome their comments so we are representing the life so well described in scripture.  As we sit down with them, as we study God’s word together, as we see the height and depth, the breadth and width of God’s love, they too are changed.

For together we journey close to God!  Together, as we focus on Christ, they have the opportunity to grow.  Together we find out what it means to imitate Christ and to reflect His glory into the darkness of a world that doesn’t recognize Him.  They become part of the community of faith, even if only to explore it, to find out if they don’t like our religion or just our poor example of it.

And they find a Jesus they might, or might not have known.  A Jesus, who came to help sinners, to help those who rebel from a life, lived with God. The God, who recognized wounds, and sin, brokenness, and injustice.  He brought them up, not to condemn, rather bring healing.  We can follow Him, together.

So welcome the conversations, welcome the assistance, provide the opportunity….engage in a relationship with them, knowing that God wants both of you to live a life transformed, repentant, cleansed and at peace.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3245-3247). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is God Reasonable or Logical?

Devotional Thought of the Day: God, who am I?


1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. 3  And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.Romans 12:1-3 (TEV)

ANOTHER TEMPTATION is to prefer head-values to heart-values. That should not be the case. Only the heart unifies and integrates. Intellect without a sense of piety tends to divide. The heart unites ideas with reality, time with space, life with death and with eternity. The temptation is to dislodge intellect from the place where God our Lord put it. He gave it to us so that we could clarify faith. God did not create human intelligence so that we could set ourselves up as judges of all things. It is a light that has only been lent to us, a mere reflection. Our intellect is not the light of the world; it is simply a flash for illuminating our faith. The worst thing that can happen is for human beings to let themselves be dragged along by the “lights” of reason. They easily become ignorant intellectuals or carefree “sages.” The true mission of our minds is to discover the seeds of the Word within humanity, the logoi spermatikoi.  (1)
On vacation, so a different set of devotions may appear for the next few days.  I left my normal devotional book in my office, and so I picked up Pope Francis’s book off my kindle – and came to this passage.

It addresses far more clearly that I something I have long thought.

We’ve somehow disconnect the heart of our faith, preferring the reason of faith.   We hear “logos” and reduce it to logic, to human reason, and make the “logos” of God submit to our ability to process it, to analyze it, to dissect it and categorize it.

This despite the numerous passages, scripture that remind us how God’s ways are not ours, how His thoughts are beyond ours.

The result is staggering!  Children of the enlightenment, of the age of reason, we consider ourselves judges of everything.  We judge manuscripts, ignoring the 99.996 percent consistency, but that gives us the right and authority to judge which texts are to be heeded, and which we can dismiss.  On the other edge of the spectrum, we build from scripture a legal system that cares less for mankind, but raises the system we produced to God’s writ.   There is no mercy, confession and absolution becomes a duty, not a sacrament (we even consider ourselves lords over the sacrament!)

The struggle is to dismiss the heart, if we cannot create cardio-eunuchs, we are least circumcise our heart until it is smaller than the Grinch’s. We let reason drag our Christianity behind it, as Pope Francis said.

Faith is like loyalty, like volition, a matter of the heart.  It is the relationship, both with God and with those who live life in our midst, or we in theirs.  Faith is a verb, better translated trust, and the trust we have in God supersedes our knowledge.  Just as a young couple in love will not be reasonable in their parent’s eyes when it comes to establishing a home and finances, there are times our trust and love in God will seem unreasonable and even foolish to those around us, and even us.  We will dare to love our enemies, we will forgive those whom logic demands eye for an eye.  We will sacrifice our desires and preferences in order to see people come to know God’s love, and to love Him in return.

We realize that God has planted, as Solomon wrote, eternity into the hearts of mankind.  As Francis wrote – the seeds of the Word.  That capitalized Word is not logic, it is not reason as man understands it. It is Jesus Christ, the one who came and suffered and died, and rose from the dead (which of these is “logical” by man’s standard?

Does our intellect have its place?  Sure!  Can academic theology have its place, a role in helping us understand the love we know?  Yes, but it is a servant, not a guardian.  It is a tool, not the foreman.

The great commands, and the Great commission bear that out – we are to love, God and our neighbor, we are to make disciples, not converts.  We are to proclaim God’s grace, that mercy and peace that is ours because He loves us…. Even though it doesn’t really seem reasonable….

Let us learn well, but let us trust and love the Lord, and may that love govern our reason.

Amen.

 

(1)      Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 27-28). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

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