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Sin, Righteousness, Works, Holiness

Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19-20 (NLT) Galatians 2:19-20 (CEV)

1  What shall we say, then? Should we continue to live in sin so that God’s grace will increase? 2  Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it? Romans 6:1-2 (TEV)

288      You were still rather hesitant when you were telling me: “I am deeply aware of the occasions when the Lord is asking more of me.” All I could think of was to remind you how you used to assure me that the only thing you wanted was to identify yourself with him. What’s keeping you back?  (1)

I am still trying to understand the reason there is a long battle over the nature of faith and works.

For some, the quote from Galatians stops at the second hyphen.  “so I died to the law – I stopped trying to meet all its requirements-“  In doing so, there is missing the the second half of the statement, so I might life for God!”

It is as if they were answering Paul’s query in the second quote, “Yes, let us continue to live in sin, because to expect anything else from us is not only impossible, but it it bringing the penalty of the law back upon us.”  The claim of being a pietist quickly follows, when you encourage people to go to confession and receive absolution, when you encourage them to make regular use of the sacrament of Lord’s Supper, spend time in God’s word, or pray continually.  Theologically, there is no “third use” of the law they expound, we can only expect people to have “faith”.  Thus reducing faith to some kind of knowledge, rather than the trust which enables us to live in Him.

Some will cry, but it is impossible to live a holy and perfect life!  That God’s call to us to do that only serves us to run to Him for mercy.  But that reduces mercy to forgiveness, not the love which He binds Himself to show to His people.  it negates the work of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, equipping, empowering, setting us apart as the Bride of Christ, as His body, as the co-heirs of Christ.

Then why go so indepth in every epistle from Romans to Jude about what the Christian life looks like?  Why the incredible descriptions of the Body of Christ working together in Romans 12, in 1 Corinthians 12, why the discussion of the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us in II Corinthians? of the mutual care for each other in Ephesians 5-6, the striving in Philippians 3?  Why the words in the third chapter of Titus saying this is how we used to be – now be this?  Why the challenges in James 2-5?  Why the warnings to the 7 churches in Asia minor in the Revelation?

We aren’t saved by works, but as we are untied to Christ, that means His work becomes our, His ministry becomes ours, His apostleship becomes ours as well.  These things take a devotional and focus, not on our efforts, not on our capabilities, but on the Lord, even as the Holy Spirit conforms us to His image.   As Paul notes:

12  So then, my dearest friends, as you have always followed my advice – and that not only when I was present to give it – so now that I am far away be keener than ever to work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility. For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose. Philippians 2:12 (Phillips NT)

That’s the point, it is the work of God in us, the very blessing of His presence, in our lives. That is why it isn’t a question of faith and works.  It is walking with God, working alongside Him in His fields, sharing in His presence. That is how we work, not apart from God, but alongside Him, letting Him giving us not only the power to do what pleases Him, but the will, the desire to do it as well.

Confused about faith and works, tired of the arguments?  Look to Christ, the author and finisher of your faith, identify with Him abide in Him, remember to share with Him everything that causes you concern, anxiety, fear.  Let Him take those things away, while He shares with you the wondrous ministry of reconciliation.  Examine fully the depth of His love for you, and walk with Him.  That will produce good fruit, far more than the theological debates and discourses.   That which you consider impossible? He will accomplish it.

Love mercy, live in His righteousness, and walk humbly with God, your God.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1175-1178). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Faith, Hope, Love – they are verbs… not nouns

Andrei Rublev's Trinity, representing the Fath...

Andrei Rublev’s Trinity, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a similar manner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day….

James 2:17-18 (TEV) 17  So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead. 18  But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.”  

479      Whenever you speak of the theological virtues, of faith, of hope, of love, remember that, rather than to theorise on, they are virtues to be practised. (1)

I was reading this morning about the church – and one man’s ideas of re-invigorating it, of restoring it to its prior glory.  There were a lot of things he thought could be done to restore it in this “post-Christian” age in which we live.  And then he went on with his list – fix this, restore that, and basically laid down His law.

I closed the book, (well, the Kindle Ap) and was frustrated.  For one, I don’t believe we are in a post-Christian age – I think that sort of speculation is based on frustration and a lack of identity and mission in the church.  Specifically, we know what we are to save people from – but then what?  Salvation is a synonym for deliverance  – but a delivery takes us from one place – and brings us to another.

Or to paraphrase Jesus – what happens to someone who is demon-possessed and is freed – and does nothing?   What happens is the demon comes back – this time with friends – because the feasting on a empty soul is what they yearn for.

We have to deliver people to something – specifically to the relationship that Jesus provides us the opportunity to enter – with the Trinity.  To dwell with God – here when the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and then eventually, in the full presence and glory of the Father.

That’s what we are meant for – that’s what we are called to, this covenantal relationship…

That is where these verbs come in – the verbs faith, hope and love.   That is why James teaches us that they are not in a vacuum – things to be dissected, exegeted, studied by theologians who come up with libraries of books about them.

We are called to “do” faith – a better word- to trust in our God.  To do that which is basically laying every burden we’ve ever had, every worry, every pain into His care – including our very lives… and let His use it all.  To realize that every moment is our interaction with Him – and that He walks with us.

We are called to “do” hope – – to eagerly live life expecting Him by our side – expecting Him to fulfill His promises.  Not just hope like someone might hope their team wins the world series – but hope as in basing our entire lives and actions on what God has promsied us.

And love – the greatest of actions – for love is an action – maybe it is better to say it is ever more than action.  It is that which compells, directs, causes, guides and drives and defines our action.   It changes the very nature of all we do – and all that is done to us.  It is life itself – but life that lives with another as our core.

Even writing this – I am doing what I say shouldn’t be done – talking about these things…

So its time to do these things….

So trust in God…. expect His word to be true in your life… and love as you are loved.

AMEN

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1829-1831). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Will we ever…. get it? Our Intimacy with GOd

Devotion Thought of the Day…

 26  From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. 27  He did this so that they would look for him, and perhaps find him as they felt around for him. Yet God is actually not far from any one of us; 28  as someone has said, ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ It is as some of your poets have said, ‘We too are his children.’    Acts 17:26-28 (TEV)

There are a couple of young guys I get to interact with once in a while.  ( I get to interact with others, but this morning I am thinking and praying for these two. )  Like I was at their age, I want to change the world, or at least a small section of it.  Yet, like them, I wandered through careers, trying to find that place where I could not just excel at what I did, but find some kind of contentment at it.

I got to talk to one yesterday, the other, well I will hopefully see him soon.

But I feel both have a call to ministry.  They are avoiding it, and well I was there too, once upon a time.  Matter of fact, I can be pretty good at avoiding God still.  Pretty simple for a pastor – the more we minister to others, the more we don’t allow God to minister to us.

But this blog entry isn’t about them or about me, it’s about all of us, and what we try to avoid.  It is not about serving either – well one of the fringe benefits of realizing what this blog is about – well you will begin to desire to be more and more like Jesus, especially as He ministered to those who were, well, a little obstinate, a little desperate, pretty defensive, and well were sinners.  Because that’ what we were…when He found us.

This blog is too help us mature, but Christian maturity, as my young friends will realize, is less about becoming independent and self-sufficient.  It is, rather, about becoming dependent on God’s presence, on realizing He is with you – that your very life is found, in His presence, that He guides your movements, that because in Him we exist, He is never far from us.

I know most of us guys will grimace at the use of the word “intimacy”, but I have yet to find a word to describe this relationship that God has called us into.  But to try and accept this – even it is too much to comprehend –  God is with us.  We dwell, we live, everything we do is in His presence.   It is when we realize this, when we revel in it, when we dance with joy and abandon because we know His love… (like Snoopy)  that everything changes.  That we realize His promises, that we realize His providing for us and His protection.  That we take chances, that we sacrifice, that we endure – knowing, expecting, trusting that He has us in the palm of His hand.

It becomes the center of our existence, and everything else is measured – not by how many dollars we earn, or what we have, but simply – knowing God….

And it is there – in His presence, that we realize our true life, our true calling.

May S and K find that calling – that seems a bit obvious to us, and may we as well realize that where God has placed us, He has done so for a reason – it’s where He has chosen to dwell with us.

Godspeed!

Dare we pray…for mercy

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion thought of the Day:

 12  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Matthew 6:12 (MSG)

 38  And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39   40  Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’      Matthew 25:38-40 (MSG) 

 In this life of ours we must expect the Cross. Those who do not expect the Cross are not Christians, and they will be unable to avoid their own “cross”, which will drive them to despair.  (1)

If the atrocities that happened in Dr. Gosnell’s clinic sickened you, this blog may be difficult to read.  Please know that even a I type these words, I am praying specifically for those who will struggle with this.

I think we, as the church, must pray for this man, we must cry out to God that God would bring Dr. Gosnell to repentance, to the very transformation that leads to life.   I say this neither lightly, nor ignoring the horrors that occurred at his direction, at his hands.  I as much as any, struggle with the abortion issue, because of the circumstances of my birth.  If I was born 8-10 years later, society would have approved – heck – would have recommended that I be aborted.   Having now met my birth mother, I am pretty sure she still would not have…yet….

Obviously we need to pray for Dr. Gosnell’s sake that he finds the mercy that can only come through the Holy Spirit circumcising his heart, through the hardness being excised.  It would be a miracle as mind-blowing as any I’ve seen or heard of in my life, a conversion far more incredible than that of Chuck Colson, and perhaps even Dahmer. We cannot let this man go forgotten, we have to realize that sharing the gospel with him, and praying that God would raise up the chaplain who will minister to him in prison, is essential.

But, as we are taught to pray, we need to do it for our sake as well.  We can allow ourselves to be hardened and callous to this man, we cannot just demand justice, ignoring that he too, is a life.   If we do, if we are merciless – then we have turned into the same kind of monster we perceive him to be.

As St. Josemaria tells us – we have to expect this cross, we have to expect to bear the cross of ministering to the greatest of sinners.  We cannot avoid it.

For if we do we fail and despair.  If we do, we will convince ourselves that there is a limit to God’s grace, a limit to His reach, a limit to His ability to grant someone repentance.

And eventually, that limit will find itself growing – leaving more and more in the position of being beyond grace.  Until we find ourselves outside the limit of His grace.

If we determine Gosnell can’t be reached – if we decide his reconciliation is not something we will pray for, bearing that cross,  we will start down a dangerous path.

Dahmer was saved, as were Paul,  as was King David, as are we…

Let’s pray for Dr. Gosnell, and for those involved in the abortion industry, for the victims, for those convinced that it is “okay”, for those who work and advocate for it.

That they would come to know the grace found in the only begotten son of God.

May we find God’s mercy to pray for them, to pray for Him.

Let us pray….

LORD HAVE MERCY!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2748-2750). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Unforeseen, a second blog this day!

The Unforeseen Second Devotional Blog of the Day:

Plan everything? Everything! you told me. All right: we need to use our prudence. But bear in mind that human undertakings, whether they are hard or simple, always have to count on a margin of the unforeseen; and that a Christian should never shut off the road of hope, or be forgetful of God’s Providence.  (1)

If you read my first blog this morning, maybe you can understand why I am struggling to get about my “duties”.  About planning 4 services, two funerals, to regular church services.  I want to put off the work, as I would want to put off mourning – what sociologists call “denial”.  If I don’t plan them..well.

So I turned to a favorite book, some short quotes and comments (if you are a regular here – you know I often work off of these writings – or find them complimentary to my own devotions) and I see the above quote.  It strikes me as oddly powerful – even as I realize how much I am weak as my days change, as my plans have to adapt.

Don’t get me wrong, I tend to thrive in the unknown, in times of chaos…. there is something… thrilling isn’t the right word… but.. energizing? in dealing with the constant flow, where God’s presence is needed, and indeed, becomes palpable.   Yet even as I thrive on such times, they can weary me, unless I realize what St Josemaria tells us to focus on above.  The “road of hope”, the very journey expecting, knowing the promise of God that sustains our steps, the providence of God, the mercy and grace and love that more that causes us to be sustained, that causes us to soar with wings of eagles….

I am not saying God can’t work with us in our ruts, in our daily grind, in those days where we have to plan, to be disciplined.  For in those times as well – we have to dwell in hope, we have to account for the blessings we will encounter, the providence that lets us rest…

It all boils down to this very things…. the Lord is with you.

Therefore you have hope – and expectation of His grace…and you are sure of His providence.

Lord Have Mercy…. we cry…trusting He does!

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2648-2651). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Today is the Day…. (gulp) please pray!

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

Fifteen hours from now, I will board a airplane and head west…into tomorrow.

When I get to my destination, I will get to meet with Christians, to preach and teach and hear how God is with these people in a land foreign to me.

Have to admit – while I am looking forward to the experience, I also have a bit of trepidation, and more a sense of “why me”.   Some of you know that feeling, when God brings you to a place that you aren’t quite comfortable with, that you do not feel perfectly equipped for, that you think – “can’t God find someone…. better, someone wiser, someone more trained and equipped, someone more charismatic, or.. just someone else!”

I have heard all the cliche’s, (and unfortunately, ashamedly,  used them once or twice…)  You know the “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called” type of nonsense.  God knows what He is doing, of that I have no doubt, but we are trained, our lives have come to these moments, and the Spirit is working in us.  Yet…. the trepidation still remains.

In such times – it is good to look at those that went forth with the gospel in scripture.  (Ignoring the obvious fact that in the Old Testament most of them were killed…. and in the New Testament… yeah…same problem)  Paul writes often of the partnership he had with those who prayed for him.

Ephesians 6:19 (ESV) 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, (don’t look at the next verse… okay – at least I won’t.)

Colossians 4:3-4 (ESV) 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak

2 Thessalonians 3:1 (ESV) 1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, (again, the next verse… well uhm…yeah – don’t look!)

And of course, as I did my usual light reading this morning at the end of devotions, I came across:

664      During a war, the courage of the soldiers facing the enemy would be of little use if there were not others who seem to take no part in the struggle but who supply the fighting men with armaments and food and medicines… Without the prayer and sacrifice of many souls there would be no genuine apostolate of action. (1)

In a real way, you are that supply line for me, you are those whose prayers are as much part of my mission trip, as anything I do, anything I bring.  Knowing that some of you are praying will remind me of Christ’s work in us, and prayerfully, in the people I minister to. So, obviously, I am asking for your prayers, to still my soul, to help me reflect God’s love, to be able to do what Paul and  Isaiah described so well:

 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:27-29 (ESV)

 4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taughtIsaiah 50:4 (ESV)

May these things, be true of my ministry overseas during the next 2 weeks… and may God’s grace be evident – with you, as well as with them.

Thanks for the prayers!

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2442-2445). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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