Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 You are to open their eyes and turn them from the darkness to the light and from the power of Satan to God, so that through their faith in me they will have their sins forgiven and receive their place among God’s chosen people.’ Acts 26:18 (TEV)
182 Be filled with wonder at God’s goodness, because Christ wants to live in you. Be filled with wonder also when you are aware of all the weight of your poor wretchedness, of this poor flesh, of all the vileness of this poor clay. Yes, but then remember too that call from God: Jesus Christ, who is God and Man, understands me and looks after me, for he is my Brother and my Friend.
A lot of my thoughts these days seem to be about the Church, especially as I see it enduring an ebb tide, as the everything seems to be receding. From church attendance (especially in the USA and Europe ) to the number of men preparing for ministry as pastors, to numbers of other church workers, to the money which we think makes this all possible.
I also think about it because I get so many different “solutions” offered to me, or advice. I hate to say it, but most of it is treated with the same attitude I have towards used toilet paper. It’s not about the technology we use or the organ that we cherish. It is not the philosophy that will address the issues of only one generation. It’s not about planting new churches that are buying into the fact that they will be irrelevant in one generation ( that’s the justification in planting them – only significant growth happens in churches 25 years old or less – at least that is what we are told! ) It is not about keeping our doctrine and practice as pure as it was 50 years ago, or even 500.
Real growth, from maturity to conversion is the result of revelation. It is found in the awe of knowing this paradox, that those who are evil, vile, depraved, wretched, trapped by sin, its shame, its anger, and resentment; that these same people are understood by God, saved, found to be righteous, and made HOLY. They are made God’s children, HIs family, HIs people, are counted as Jesus’ siblings and are called by Him, friend, and beloved.
It is hearing this revealed that a light shatters the darkness, it is more shocking than getting in your car after having lent it to a teenager and not checking the stereo volume before turning the key. This is so shocking it is like a prisoner, kept in jail for 25 years, being let out, or the patient who was told they were dying being healed.
The shock of the Revelation, of the greatest Apocalypse ever, to know that God understands me, knows my weaknesses, knows my rebellion and brokenness and still loves me. Jesus names means it all – God Saves. His title Immanuel echoes it – He is God with US. More intimately, more completely that even the apostles knew before the cross.
Despite my sin, despite yours, He came to us. He cleanses us, He redeems us, He justifies and sanctifies us, not as a theological exercise, but as reality.
This is the Revelation we need, it gives hope to the Church, as it creates and recreates life in Her. It gives the meaning to her sacraments, to her work, to her worship and praise. It gives the churches hope, for as God is transforming the CHurhc – this Revelation calls men to shepherd, people to serve. And to each of us, it gives the most incredible of hopes, the greatest expectation, we walk with Him, from now through eternity.
Share this hope, reveal the depth and height, the width and breadth of Christ’s love for those around you to them, and be astounded as it becomes more that the hope it of your love. For His presence will be the focus of your life.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 840-843). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
How Easter is Transforming Our World!
The Change to Our Community
† IHS †
May the Grace of God our Heavenly Father and our Risen Lord Jesus strengthen you, even as it transforms us.
Change versus Transformation:
I am about to tell you something is coming, and I want your reaction to the word I use.
What is coming, what will happen to us here at Concordia is “change”. You will not be able to resist it, you can’t stop it. Resistance is futile.
If you are like 90 percent of the population, hearing that might make you a little anxious, or you might wonder if there is anything that can be done to stop it.
Some of you might even begin to wonder what is changing. Some will automatically look and think of negative changes. Some of you might be thinking of things that could change for the positive. And what is ironic – you might be thinking of the same exact thing!
For the rest of Easter, we are going to be looking at the changes that happen to a church, matter of fact that are happening at our church.
But to alleviate the stress, the worry, the concern, how about if I use the word transformation instead? A transformation so complete, we might not even recognize ourselves, or our church, when God is through with us!
Today’s observed transformation
In our reading from the Book of Acts this morning, we see an incredible description of the change that will, no, the change that is happening to us.
It talks there of a church, the people that trusted in God that became united in both their heart and their mind. In every part of their existence. They were one in the way they felt, in the ways they thought. They desired the same thing; they reacted together to what was going on, and they identified themselves, all 8000 of them or more, as sharing the same life.
Luke tells us the uniqueness of this church; they were of one heart and mind to the extent of sharing everything they had with each other. I love the way the word pictures describe this; everything is held to be common, nothing special and set aside.
Therefore, if there were people in need, the rest of the people found a way to meet that need. No one lacked, because how can you let your people go without?
What a transformation we see happening to the people who trusted God! Who continually heard that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! (wait…)
I mean, what kind of people would liquidate their wealth, to help others, people they barely know?
The Change to our Norm
If we look at what God does to his people from the perspective of “before” the cross, the change seems frightening, and the description of the early church doesn’t make sense.
Give up what is precious? Trust people with what I treasure? Give up my security, to make sure others feel secure?
We talked about this when we talked about the Lord’s prayer, and the idea that we trust God to provide everything we need. It takes faith to live like this, an incredible amount of faith.
You can’t listen to the questions that would raise doubts about our fellow man. You can’t wonder if people need, or if they will abuse the blessing, or whether someone will be there for you, when you need the help, instead of being able to provide it.
You need to reach out and trust rather than be cynical, you have to have the wisdom to discern need, and the compassion to meet the need.
Our nature, even on the good days hears this and takes it as an obligation. That God requires us to change our hearts, to reach out with this kind of love, making the sacrifices as proof of our faith.
And if that is our belief, we shall surely fall short. We need to change…
Our old nature that was once in bondage to sin, Satan and feared death calls for us to protect ourselves, and what we’ve earned, what is ours by right. That leads to sin, as we struggle to get what isn’t ours, or we overlook our neighbors, and what they need.
The change is not so much in what is individually ours. Instead, we see what is God’s, and treasure that more than anything else.
The Beauty of the transformation…
Though the vision cast here in Acts is that what it looks like financially to be of one mind, I think we’ve seen here, at Concordia, what it means to be emotionally of one mind.
Paul talked of this too, when he told the church in Rome,
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:15-16 (NLT)
We’ve become “of one mind” here. We share deeply in each other’s joys, the moments when someone is baptized, or when someone has good news. We’ve shared as well in each other’s sorrows and griefs, stood beside each other in moments of grief. We’ve cried with each other often; it seems as often as we laugh together over meals we have shared.
That is the transformation that God works in His church, in His people. That we respond to each other. To meet each other’s needs before thinking about ourselves.
It’s come about not by force, but rather by focusing on God’s love for us, the love seen in the cross, and reflected as we share in His body and blood. By sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It’s what happens when we look to Christ, and as Paul says in 2 Cor 3, the Holy Spirit changes us, transforms us into Christ’s image, as we reflect His glory.
This change that happens isn’t our work, just as it wasn’t the idea of the apostles. It happens when we realize the love of God, revealed in the death of Christ for your sins, in his burial, and in the fact He is risen from the grave.
He has given us life, now and for eternity, living in the glory of His love, with one heart, with one mind. AMEN.