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The Inconvenient Truth about Being God’s Children

Devotional Thought of the Day:

13  We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. 14  And we have seen and tell others that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15  If we declare that Jesus is the Son of God, we live in union with God and God lives in union with us. 16  And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17  Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18  There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.
1 John 4:13-21 (TEV)

282      Practise a cheerful charity which is at once kindly and firm; human and supernatural. An affectionate charity, knowing how to welcome everyone with a sincere and habitual smile, and how to understand the ideas and the feelings of others. In this way, gently and vigorously, and without concessions in matters of personal morals or in doctrine, the charity of Christ—when it is being well lived—will give you a spirit of conquest. Each day you will be more eager to work for souls.  (1)

5. We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: “He who does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8).  (2)

He chose to stay there. He had to stay there. He had to absorb their hatred and return love in its place.  They physically tortured Him, and He called on God the Father to forgive them anyway.

One of his followers said, Imitate me, as I imitate Christ!

Are you ready to do that? Are you ready to face hatred head on, and meet it with love?  Are you ready to surrender your pride, your rights, your position or reputation, your family and even your life, if that is what is needed, that your enemies and adversaries could be afforded the opportunity to be reconciled to God the Father through Christ?

Some would say we aren’t supposed to put ourselves in the place of Jesus, that there is only one mediator.  That God can’t expect us to love like He did, that such is not possible for sinners such as we are.

And so they refuse to love their neighbor, nevermind their enemy.

We can’t do that anymore, it is so contrary to what Paul talks of, when he talks about our being united to Christ’s death and resurrection, when he says we can use grace as an excuse for not trying to restrain the sin in our lives.  (For Lutherans, check out Article VI of the Augsburg Confession)

There is a new life in Christ.  There is the life in the Spirit; there is the life breathed into us, when we were spiritually dead, dry bones.

But this life is one that begins in the sacraments, as the word of God results in God taking root in our lives. It is encouraged in prayer, and in times of devotion, those times of quiet awe and adoration when we realize He is God, and He is here… It is a life where any fight is not over power or authority, but a fight to see people reconciled to God, rescued and healed from the damage of sin and hell.

To see their hearts turned to God, to see them be drawn to the cross, for there we have found hope, for there we have found life.

This is our ministry, whether pastor or priest, deacon or any other servant of God. Yes, it takes great faith, great trust in God, that He will raise you from the dead, that He has given you this life, He has given us the Holy Spirit to comfort and empower us and transform us into the image of His Son.

In this faithful life, we come to love our brothers who we can see, and so demonstrate our love for God our Father.

This is the baptized life.  Don’t accept any other ….

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1144-1148). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)   Catholic Church. (2011). Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions: Nostra Aetate. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Unfair Laws, Taxes, Corrupt Government and the Duty of the Christian

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Remind your people to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey them, and to be ready to do good in every way. 2  Tell them not to speak evil of anyone, but to be peaceful and friendly, and always to show a gentle attitude toward everyone.
Titus 3:1-2 (TEV)

10  So Samuel told them, delivered GOD‘s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. 11  He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, 12  regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. 13  He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. 14  He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. 15  He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. 16  Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. 17  He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. 18  The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect GOD to answer.”
1 Samuel 8:10-18 (MSG)

13  For the sake of the Lord submit yourselves to every human authority: to the Emperor, who is the supreme authority, 14  and to the governors, who have been appointed by him to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good. 15  For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. 16  Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves. 17  Respect everyone, love other believers, honor God, and respect the Emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17 (TEV)

As the political campaigns for President get more heated, I am becoming more and more concerned with our response as those who trust in and follow Jesus.  Some are Republican and some are Democrats. Most have a hot button issue, but even more often they have a candidate, within or without their own party, who riles them, whose success can cause great anxiety, whose name alone affects body language and betrays thoughts.  (And sometimes the words match!)

(the idea that Christians may faithfully follow God while in the other party also causes division, dissension and resentment!)

And so I take a moment to call to mind the words of Paul to a young bishop named Titus.  Who urged us to obedience, and St Peter, who urged us to respect those in authority and obey their laws as well.  I could also quote Jesus. who talked of giving to Casesar what is rightfully his, but to God what is His.

But it is this respect thing that will rankle many.

Some will even talk about respecting the office instead of the man, and then deride their opposition personally rather than the laws and policies they put in place.  As a side note, dividing the office from the person means that they are now your neighbor, and you should treat them accordingly!

Others will talk about how evil their leaders (or potential leaders) are, and the evil they do.  As if leaders in the past where always honorable and self-sacrificing.  Hence I call to mind the Emperors and Governors (Caesars, the Herods, Pontus Pilate who killed people and mixed their blood with the sacrifices) who Peter and Paul had to submit to and obey.  Or the words of Samuel above, who described what kings and national leaders would do, warning us of the cost of living in this world, as well as in God’s kingdom.  Evil and corrupt leaders are nothing new, nor are laws which seem patently unfair, and taxes that are not used for the good of all.

In countries like ours, we have the blessing of being active in our governance.  We have the ability to vote, to work for change, to strive for what is good, and right.  Yet we still have the obligation, not to man, but to God, of respecting those that are in leadership.  And striving to be in leadership.  Other countries don’t have that blessing.  It doesn’t even matter what kind of political system is at work, monarch, democratic republic, one based on Socialist or Communist, or even a Dictatorship that is less than benevolent.  Peter is clear, it is not because of their righteousness, or their corruption and threats that we submit to their leadership.  It is for the Lord’s sake!!

So we do, and so we become martyrs, witnesses not to the righteousness of the government, but to the righteousness of God.

For what should it matter that we gain the White House, have a clear majority in Congress and the Supreme Court, if we even gain the whole world, if the cost of that is bondage to sin, and losing our relationship with God?

Dear brothers and sisters, this is something we all have to work on, to so treasure God’s love that we hear him, that we give up our fears and frustrations, that we are good stewards of both Kingdoms we are in, that we reflect His love.  The only way to do this is to keep our eyes on Christ, our Lord, our master and King.  For He is our hope, for He is the One who can bring about real transformation, real change!  He is the King who is looking out after all our interests. He is our savior.

For in Christ nothing is impossible, knowing that even if those we are subject to plan to do evil, our God will use it for good.

AMEN!

The Apostolic Mission that is the Church… and overcoming fear…

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day”

 17  When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted. 18  Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19  Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:17-20 (TEV)

In grasping the outstretched hand of Christ, the Church of the twenty-first century, and of all time, finds the remedy for its fear. It also finds the criteria of authentic Catholic reform: the criterion of truth— for it is the truth of Christ that measures all in the boat that is the Church— and the criterion of mission— for it is by Christ overcoming our fear that the Church finds the courage to be the mission it is. (1)

Even after forty days of coping with the disturbing fact that Jesus died, and the more shocking fact that He had risen, the apostles struggle.  They know enough and desire to worship – but doubt and anxiety, even as it appears Jesus will be leaving them, begins to grow….they begin to waver… to be unsure of what’s next..

He commissions us, the entire church, to share this message.  But then there is the beautiful thing – He promises again, that we will not be alone, never alone, in this work which is our life.  Yeah, I said our lives, lived out in fellowship with God.  You see, mission is now about what we do as believers.  It’s not what we do to prove our salvation, or to become holy and sanctified.  It isn’t about working in the Kingdom, as if it is some other part of our lives. some chore we do as God’s children.  It cannot be – that kind of effort, programmed, built into us, can be used by God for sure….yes we grow in the skills, in the use of words, in understanding the people we serve and love, yet – you can’t plan to grow in love for someone, can you?

The answer to the wavering is in realizing the presence of God.  The “disciplines” we “endure”, the Worship Services, the  Bible Studies, the prayers, private confession and absolution, even things like fasting or almsgiving, is not about strengthening us like lifting spiritual weights, but they strengthen us – because we come into contact with Christ’s strong hand, we realize the presence of God, right here, right now in our lives.  The joy of that encounter is what causes us to be missional – to realize where we have been sent as God’s apostles.   It is His overcoming our fear, our doubts, our wavering, and the complete surprise that He is with us that those things we do have as their objective.  To create a dependence on God’s presence, that is what we do as believers instill in us.

Wavering about what happens next in life?  Where God would send you?  Who around you needs to know about Jesus’ love?   Look first to Jesus.  Find your hand already grasped by Him.  Relax and know His love… know He will not abandon you… and see who needs that same peace.

Go in His name, with Him.

 

Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 92). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Can a life be lived for God

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day

 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. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)

This has been a favorite verse of mine since Bible College.  A call to live a life that is dedicated to God, and to His work.

Most people who study to serve as pastors, missionaries, Christian teachers and a great deal many find this verse resounds with them.  O to live in such a way!  O to give up everything.   We think we might, just might be the next Bonhoeffer, or the next Mother Theresa, or maybe the next Luther – calling people to fix what is wrong with the church!  Or the next St Francis, who ushers in a time of peace and contemplation.

Then we begin to serve… and the realization hits us.  Sacrifice isn’t glamorous – it is often downright boring.  The crowds don’t come in masses (or come to mass/worship often) and it seems like forever between points where we can rejoice and be in awe of God’s work in and around us.

We also struggle with temptation and sin, and often joke that the problem with being a living sacrifice is that we can get off the altar.  Some of us become cynical or sarcastic ( or at least let that part of the “old Adam” come back alive)  I find that especially hard – as I think about the way I see the church here on the field, and the politics of the church at home causing them not to have the emotional, spiritual they need, or hearing how they have to go back to do fundraising, interrupting their work here.

I would long for our service, our sacrifice, to be as easy as Josemaria Escriva wrote:

“Each and every creature, each and every event of this life, without exception, must be steps which take you to God, which move you to know him and love him, to give him thanks, and to strive to make everyone else know and love him.”  (1) 

This is what – in our nobler moments we long for – to make every moment part of our journey toward, and with God.  Lord would You be so merciful as to let our nobler instincts come into existence!  Yet we find ourselves, falling so short!

That is where the second verse in Romans comes into play – we do not transform ourselves – God changes us, almost imperceptibly,  primarily because He does use each and every creature, each and every event, to draw us closer to Him. Paul describes this to the church in Corinth with words that are also so dear to my heart.

 18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)

Josemaria’s “must be steps” is true, but it is not our strength or wisdom, or even our desire that makes it so.  It is His work, the Spirit’s dynamic transformation that comes to us, even as we are helpless babes being baptized, or even the octogenarian, know realizing how much God has been calling them, courting them.

Spiritual Disciplines then, aren’t so much about our molding our hearts and minds and actions into an awesome tool for God.  It is far more simply looking to Jesus, dwelling in His love, realizing more than ever, how much He is present, that the incredible words that we say, over and over each Sunday – still ring true…. and because of that your life is not just lived for God, it is lived with Him.

The Lord is with you!

(1)Escrivaa, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2507-2509). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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