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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.

Preaching as Craftsmanship; Communicating Christ as an Artform…

Devotional THought of the Day:
27  God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in meColossians 1:27-29 (TEV) 

Communication works best when your audience can tell that you love what you do. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and dare to be lighthearted from time to time. It won’t affect your message negatively— quite the contrary. Look how often humor is used in commercials. Think of the end of Return of the Jedi. Would you have preferred a long, philosophical monologue by Luke Skywalker about the dangers of the dark side to the joyful celebrations after the defeat of the Empire? If so, you seriously should consider trying out the light side of the Force. You’ll have a lot more fun!  (1)

This afternoon I was asked to respond to a pole – which would I rather be, a skilled theologian, or a skilled apologist.  My instinctive answer is neither, I want to know God’s love, and I need to know that love is revealed in the mercy He has for me. Without that love, it doesn’t matter how knowledgable I am about the communication of magesterial attributes, or whether I can recite all of Lee Strobel’s or Josh McDowell or Rod Rosenblaadt’s work defending Christianity agains tthe atheistic and polytheistic hordes.

I can talk for hours about theology, and I do like true apologetics (the kind akin to Pascal and Chesterton and Lewis) where we give a reason for why we have hope.  But without the relationship that God has made possible, it’s all worth as much as the the analysis of the 1986 budget and expenditures of the municipal region of East Ulan Ude. ( or more precisely – skulbala)

If that is true, then Paul’s words about preaching ring clear.  Our message – the message of the entire Church, is about Christ crucified, about the hope that He will share His glory with us, That in His death on the cross, He has unified us with His death, and with the hope of His resurrection (see Romans 6:1-8)  He endured all of this for the joy set before Him! (see Hebrews 12:1-2)   This hope is what we have to be sure to communicate, for it is a matter of life and death. Eternity is there, a gift of God, to share eternity with Him.

All the theological debates, all the apolgetic wisdom bows to this simple message – that Christ dwells in us, and we in Christ, because He loves us.  That news delivers all the glory of heaven to those the Holy Spirit brings to life and faith and the transformation that we call “repentance”. The change that comes when we realize God’s love, His gifts, His work in us.

Delivering that message takes as much craftsmanship as a painting of a sunset, or the composition of rock symphony.  It takes more than just our minds, but like the artist, the very heart has to be revelaed, the Heart given to us by God (ezekiel 36:35ff)   It’s not just a logical progression of teaching, of revealing the knowledge that we have that others do not.  It’s about revealing Christ, in all His servanthood, in all His majesty, in all His love.  WHich means we have to know it, we have to dwell in it,, we have to be people of prayer, men who love to meditate on, not just memorize, His words.  They have to spring from us like water from Isaiah’s transformed wilderness (see Is 35)

Roderick, in a book that teaches about digital age communication, says it well.  It’s about commuicating what we love.  It’s about the message being more important than our dignity, more important than anything else we know.

As we worship then… as we praise God, as we preach, whether in church or across the breakfast table at Denny’s, may that message be what we hold most dear in our lives.  So that we can reveal to them Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit, who has empowered us to do so, will assure the message of Christ’s love, creates and sustains life in those we share this great gift – the gift of knowing Jesus.

as we know the Lord is with us…. and loves us all.

(1)  Vonhögen, Roderick (2013-09-09). Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer (Kindle Locations 409-413). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.

Apologetics, far more than a “defense of the faith”… It’s about giving hope

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional thought of the day:

14  But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry. 15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)

As I was looking through all of the resolutions our group of churches will consider this summer, there are many that concern me.  One of them calls for our seminaries and our publishing house to work on training all pastors in “the defense of the faith”.  One of the texts such is based on, I’ve shown above.

The resolution troubles me…. a lot.

The word “answer” in the italicized text is the word in Greek that we get apologetics from, a word many translate as “defense”.  When they translate it either from a milatristic sense – we have to defend our position, or from the sense of jurisprudence – defending ourselves in court.

And for a Christian, neither is necessary, and it is not what the passage above is talking about – at all.

The word in Greek from where we get apologetics is a compound word – from “apo” the word “from” and logos – the word we get logical, and reason, and well “word” (as in John 1:1-14.

St. Peter’s words here aren’t about creating a philosophical, forensic defense of the Christian faith.  It’s not about defending the church from persecution for its beliefs. It’s not about doing battle with other religions, or with atheists and agnostics.  It’s not about the church at war. Apologetics isn’t about memorizing arguments and strategies for dealing with the enemies of God.  ( Atheists and agnostics and those of other religions aren’t our enemies… they are those we are called to love and serve and sacrifice for, that they may know God)

It’s about the church, the people of God and explaining the hope that we have, living in Christ Jesus.

You see – the logos part of the word apologetics is used again in the sentence….the word “explain” as in explain the hope.

That they would know the hope… that they would be able to rejoice and dance as they realize God’s love, and the freedom He gives them from sin, and from evil and that they no longer have to anxious about death… for they know they will then share in God’s glory.

We go on the defensive, we plead our case… they don’t hear why we have…. hope.

We don’t need to be trained to go into battle – we need to know God’s love, we need to know why we have hope….

When it comes to giving a plea before judges and courts, hear these words of Jesus,

 18  You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19  When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20  For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.     Matthew 10:18-20 (NLT)

One final thought – that word logos….

It’s Christ.

He is our hope, He is our reason… and He is what the world needs

 

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