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The Search for Who I Am. Why is it so difficult…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2  then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5  Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
Philippians 2:1-5 (MSG)

947         May you acquire the custom of concerning yourself every day about others, and give yourself to the task so much that you forget you even exist!

Many of us live in our own world, A world, that though we are broken, is chock full of stuff that gives us little chance ot be who we are. In reality, it gives us little chance ot find out who we are. And finding meaning in our lives? After so many years, it seems useless, and perhaps, even a waste of time.

I think part of our problem is trying to determine who we are from some theoretical, philosophical or even psychological study. These tools can tell me a lot of things about me, but they don’t tell me who I am. For example, my MBTI personality type is ENFP, and as I read the description, I resonate with it. It describes aspects of my personality, of my traits and behaviors.

However, I am more than that.

Ultimately, we are the children of God, the men, and women that Jesus says He no longer addresses as servants, but as friends, beloved friends. We are, as the church and as individuals, being transformed into the image of Christ, therefore the image of God.

And His nature should begin to be seen in us.

That is what St. Paul is talking about, this idea of being like Christ. Not that we have to or we aren’t saved, our merits gain us nothing in view of salvation. We are like Jesus because of the incredible love and comfort He pours out on us. If you have experienced this love, this fellowship with Christ, then we do begin to lose ourselves in Him, caring for those who He has brought into our lives. As we realize His love for us, that love is passed on to others, even to those the world tells us it is impossible to love. It is what happens

And our life is saved by losing it. By taking up the cross and following Him.

That is what St. Josemaria talks about as well, as we minister to the various broken people, ministering to the least of these, the sick, the imprisoned, the widow and orphan, the brokenhearted, to mourning, the hurting, the lost. We do it because as we are in fellowship with God, there is no other option, it becomes natural. (see article VI of the Augsburg Confession)

This is how we find “ourselves,” this is how we know who we are.

We are His.



Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3843-3845). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Lesson the Church Must Re-Learn, to Survive

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.      1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)

22  I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: 23  I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me.
John 17:22-23 (TEV)

74      We all have to be ipse Christus—Christ himself. This is what Saint Paul commands in the name of God: Induimini Dominum Iesum Christum—put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Each one of us—you!—has to see how he puts on that clothing of which the Apostle speaks. Each one personally, has to sustain an uninterrupted dialogue with the Lord.  (1)

It seems like every expert has a reason for the church dwindling in the last 50 years.  Some blame the declining birthrate among Caucasians.  Others say it is the necessary cost for remaining faithful to God, another group says it is because only new church plants grow, and that we invest too much in places where God put his name already.  ( I have to wonder, do they really believe God gave up on churches older than a generation? )

I am no expert, I have never spent money studying the issues, I haven’t left the parish to become a consultant, or a church bureaucrat.  I am not a mega church pastor, or a blogger with 10,000 subscribers.  I shepherd people, broken as I am, into the presence of Christ, and am in awe when He fulfills his promise, the promises I share in sermons, in classes, over a beer.  So take my words for what they are.

I think the issue  is simple,   

We’ve forgotten to share with people that not only are they saved, but that they become the children of God, the co-heirs of Christ Jesus, To use fancy theological terms, which while God hasn’t infused righteousness (He counts us righteous ) He has infused us with holiness. 

We’ve been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, to dwell within us, to teach us, to transform us into the image of Jesus.  Not that we become superheroes, but servants, slaves, those who humbly walk with God. (see Phil. 2:1-10)

What is missing in the church, whether liberal or conservative, confessional or missional, no matter what the label we place on ourselves or others is this.

We’ve forgotten the concept of Christlikeness. 

Or, rather than considering it the promise of the Covenant, the blessing of the Gospel, we turn it into some kind of foreign works righteousness, and dismiss it as the Law we cannot hope to fulfill. 

It is the promise, the gospel, this blessing and privilege of repentance, (see Acts 11) that is granted to all who believe:  Hear Paul’s words,

29  No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
Romans 2:29 (NLT)

It is the change of heart, produced by God, a change Ezekiel 36 attached to God’s sprinkling of water, that Titus 3 confirms happening as the Father pours our His Spirit on us.  

Finally, it is the blessing of the prayer mentioned in John 17 above, as Christ gives us all that the Father gave Him, the unity, the glory, the ability to love. The ability to serve, even to die for those who are in need.  Even our enemies. Even those we would have looked down on.   To wash their feet, to let those betraying us close enough to embrace us, to work with whoever is considered unclean, that they would know the love of God.

This is our life; it is why we aren’t whisked into the throne room immediate after our baptism.   This is being the church of Christ the family of God.

It is time to heed the gospel found in Hebrews 12,

1  As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3  Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (TEV)

 

 

 

1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 484-487). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Greatest Challenge To “American” Christianity

Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.   Romans 8:28-29 (NLT)

2  When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not. The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn. James 1:2 (Phillips NT)

42      Desire nothing for yourself, either good or bad. For yourself, want only what God wants. Whatever it may be, if it comes from his hand, from God, however bad it may appear in the eyes of men, with God’s help it will appear good, yes very good!, to you. And with an ever increasing conviction you will say: Et in tribulatione mea dilatasti me… et calix tuus inebrians, quam praeclarus est!—I have rejoiced in tribulation…, how marvellous is your chalice. It inebriates my whole being!  (1)

So often we quote Romans 8:28 to people who are going through hard times, who are suffering, who are grieving.  It often becomes a modern Christian cliche, a pious version of “don’t worry, God’s got this!” 

But I wonder if we realize the important of verse 29, and what that means.  That the reason God has our back, is because we are to be like his Son, Jesus.  We are to be Christlike.  a

That’s pretty cool when we think of the promises of reigning in heaven.  Not so cool when you think of the suffering and death he endured, even though it was for the joy set before him.  Being Christ-like means to love our enemies, to serve those who need our love, to embrace suffering to do it, as is necessary.

But how are we with embracing suffering, with trusting God through times where we put our own desires, our wants, even our own needs (and those of our families and friends) aside, to care for those God puts in our lives.

Think about this, we struggle and argue to take in people whose lives have been ravaged by war.  We would rather kill a baby who was conceived in rape than come alongside the victims (not the plural) and provide them with what they need spiritually and physically. We do everything we can to hide signs of aging, suffering, and death.  (This I think is one of the strengths of the millennials, btw – they are less likely to hide their grief, sorrow, and pain)

Even in the church, this is true, as we have experts telling us why the church is dwindling in number, for reasons that cannot be our fault, our sin, and to our shame.   We don’t teach our people to sacrifice; we don’t help them to learn to pray to embrace the cross.  We don’t help them learn to trust God in a way that will convince them of His presence in the midst of the suffering they endure, that they even embrace. 

That’s right; I said embrace!

Embrace sacrifice and suffering?  Be willing to embrace sacrifice and suffering?  

Isn’t enough that life throws enough suffering, sorrow and grief into our lives?  Isn’t that enough?

Maybe, but probably not.

Just so you are clear, this isn’t about earning your salvation, it merits nothing in that regard.  You don’t get a better view of the throne, or get next to sit next to King David in the choir, and your mansion isn’t going to be any bigger.

It is this, your joy will come, both then and now, from being in the presence of God, and knowing peace that pervades and comforts and satisfies like nothing else can.

For you will be imitating your brother, Jesus, walking with the Holy Spirit, and knowing you are a child of God.

And that my friend, we will learn is more than enough.

May God bless you, as you walk with Christ.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 382-387). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Prayer, and the Cross.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
29      My God, how is it that I do not cry out in sorrow and love whenever I see a Crucifix?  (2)

They are to correct the mistaken view that prayer is not action. The men are admonished to overcome the false sense of shame that would seek to conceal their interior life—their silent relationship with God—as something unmanly and old-fashioned. Granted, piety is not to become a public exhibition; discretion is always necessary. But neither is it to be hidden away. It should be courageous, for the body, too, belongs to God. Faith is not just a matter of the spirit; prayer is not just interior. The body must pray, too.  (3)

.Yesterday, I thought, and introduced the idea that the Lord’s prayer is not just what he taught us with words, but rather with how Jesus actually lived.  His life was the prayer, a lesson in humility, in being the Son, not the Father.

If we are to be Christlike, if we are to grow and mature in our trust in God, this prayer must be seen worked out in our lives as well.   For it is not enough to just say the words, but rather we need to trust in God hearing them, and answering them, here and now.  That is faith that is not just Spirit, but life.  It is prayer that is not just internal, but the prayer of our life.

So as I encouraged us yesterday, let’s begin to see the Lord’s Prayer lived out again, in the life of the Lord we are called to imitate, to be transformed into the image of.

 Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.  (1)

Here is where it all begins, as Jesus lives as the Son.  Fully obedient, fully adoring, fully bending His will to the will of the Father.  Equal in divinity, the creed informs us, Jesus still submitted in His humanity to the Father.

He didn’t seek emancipation, he didn’t strive to become the alpha male.  He loved the Father, He honored Him, He grew up (as a man) to be like His Father, to the extent that to look on Christ was to look on the Father. The image of the invisible God, that is how He is described.  We know about the love of the Father because we see it in Christ and his movement to the cross.  We know about the Father’s desire that no one should perish, again because of the love of the Son which accomplished the calling of all to repentance.

Something that doesn’t happen unless there is communication. And as Jesus lived in view of the first commandment, He lived in view of the second.  For to use a name, to keep it holy, is to use it well, to pray, praise, give thanks, to pour out your heart.  We see that in the garden so clearly, and in the high priestly prayer.  Prayers we know about, so that we can trust in Jesus, so we can learn to pray as well.

 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. (1)

I just referred to this, but it iis one thing to pray that God’s kingdom come and His will be done, and another thing to grow in desire and want it to come here, right now.

To love your enemies, to live life full of mercy and righteousness. To live a life where you live humbly, as Jesus did.  He laid aside it all that was self-centered.  Even facing the betrayal, the kiss of Judas, the denial of Peter, He loved.

Someone once said that Christ would have died on the cross for us, even if they didn’t nail Him there. He wanted the nails though, not because of some masochistic tendency, but because the Father had said they would look upon the one they had pierced.

God’s will, God’s kingdom doesn’t always seem pleasant, or easy, or joyous.  Until you realize the joy is in the one lost sheep coming home, one of the repentant who brings heaven so much joy!

To pray that God’s Kingdom comes, and will is done, requires that we accept the sacrifice of the cross of Christ, that we die to self with Him, and bear our own cross, humbly, and in love of the Father.

We need to pray, not ofor God’s sake, but for ours.  To communicate with Him, to know His love, to see His work, tfor it is in prayer’s dialogue, and in celebrating the sacraments (which is really prayer as well!) that we begin to see the trasnformation God would owrk in us, where faith and work are not longer divided.

It is the beginning of Christlikeness!

So cry out, and pray!

.
(1)  Matthew 6:9-13 (NLT)

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 344-345). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(3)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 98–99). San Francisco: Ignatius Press

Sunday of the Passion: Here is your repentant attitude!


Here is YOUR Repentant Attitude

Phil. 2:5_11

In Jesus Name

May the Grace and Mercy of God, which was revealed when Christ came in human form sustain you as you, as you help others know this incredible comforting peace!  AMEN!

How does this happen?

Paul writes to the church in Rome

15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with each other.  Romans 12:15-16 (NLT)

It is something we do here, one of the amazing things seen as we gather at the communion rail, and moments before, as we greet each other with the promise of God’s peace.

Living in Harmony, I suppose I could ask Chris to demonstrate harmonics on his guitar, to show you how a string vibrates when a string nears it vibrates at a precise pitch, without the first string doing anything.  It just happens.

Be happy when others are happy, and yes, far too often it seems like we are weeping as those around us weep, that our hearts are crushed as theirs is crushed.

This is the attitude of someone who is repentant, someone God is transforming.  It is the attitude that Paul calls us to, in His epistle.  Read again the first verse,

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had…

That sounds so hard, yet we see it so clearly, as we look to the way we respond to each other, in times where the peace of Christ must be known, where only God is able to comfort each other, and he does it through our words, our hugs, and the holding of each other, as we pray to God.

The struggle in our souls

The struggle is that we don’t always share in each other’s lives in that way.  We confessed that a few moments ago, as we prayed for God’s mercy, as we recognize that we sinned against God and too often, against each other.

Or does anyone around here want to confess something different, that they do love God with everything they are, and that they love their neighbors, even their enemies, as much as they love themselves?  Remember that passage I used, about being happy and sad with those we love, that we are in harmony with?  Well here is it in context…

9  Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11  Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12  Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13  When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14  Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with each other. Romans 12:9-16 (NLT)

Big difference isn’t it?  To know we can rejoice and weep with those we grieve alongside this week; but we are to weep and laugh with those we struggle with, that we may not like, or that we’ve been angry with for 7 years…

How in the world can we obey this?  How in the world does God expect us to love this deeply?

And if we can’t, are we condemned?

John’s epistle tells us that those who cannot love their neighbor, who they can see, how can they love the God who they cannot?

Harsh words, meant to make us think, and make us walk to the cross this week with Jesus…

The purpose of God’s word teaching us that is not to condemn us, not to make us feel guilty and ashamed, but to help us realize where our hope is found; to help us realize where our power is found to endure…

To realize the very work of the Holy Spirit in our lives…
We have to realize we aren’t alone.

You see, that is the message of this passage of Philippians, one of the earliest praise songs, that was common even as Paul wrote his letters, as two of the four gospel were not even written yet.

Christ humbled Himself, gave Himself, loved us in a way one songwriter declared it to be reckless, as he bought grace for us, by allowing himself to be treated violently.

This is why every knee shall bow, why every tongue will praise and glorify Him.

This is what it means for Him to be Lord, not a Lord who desires to control us, to force us, to use every power He has to manipulate us into behaving the way He wants…

He simply uses His love…  and the more we find sanctuary in that love, the more we find rest, the more we can realize the comfort that brings peace beyond all ability to comprehend….

This is how it happens.

You see, growing in the knowledge of Jesus love, of His presence, of all that he is doing in our lives is how we learn to love each other.  It is not some complicated thing, but it is profound.  For as we are drawn into fellowship with God,  as we kneel at this rail and realize that Christ gave His body and blood for us, we can’t help but love the person next to us, and even perhaps, love the guy handing to us the precious body of Christ, and holding out the cup of His blood, a blessing meant for us,

As we praise Him for that, as we know His love, we are transformed.  This is what repentance really is, this transformation God works in us, as our minds are conformed to His. That is what it means to be repentant, to be granted repentance by the Holy Spirit.  The very fact we hurt this deeply for Sandie and for the Jennings shows us that God can make this change in us, that He has done this….for we love them even as Jesus loves them.  And as we dwell in Christ, this shared love spreads out to all…

That this mind of Christ becomes ours…. That we experience a love so profound that those who simply know it, are able to love sacrificially, are able to share the sorrows, and the laughter, of those they come to love.

This is why we rejoice and praise Him, this is why the journey to the cross means so much,  as we are comforted by Him, as we know His peace.

AMEN

Forgiveness and Reconciliation – Dividable?

Devotional thought of the day:

12  Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Matthew 6:12 (TEV)

16  No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 17  Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18  All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19  Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19 (TEV)

236         Those who flee like cowards from suffering have something to meditate on when they see the enthusiasm with which other souls embrace pain. There are many men and women who know how to suffer in a Christian way. Let us follow their example. (1)

This post may cause you some grief, some anger.  You may want to dismiss it; I know I struggle even writing it. But it is something I am dealing with, and I believe most of us need to work through to see God’s peace revealed.

There are many treasured phrases out there, but they all say the same thing, “forgive – but don’t forget.”  I saw several today, basically saying that forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to let them hurt you again.  Or that the real reason we are to forgive is to free us from the resentment, not to free them from the consequences of their words and actions.

They are saying this, forgiving someone shouldn’t cause you to suffer more.  Even if that suffering is only becoming humble.

So here is the question, can you forgive someone without desiring reconciliation?

Can you really ask God not to hold their sins against, and vow to not hold their sins against them, and desire that the relationship remains in the broken, separated state it is?

I am not talking about their heart, they may refuse the reconciliation, but ours cannot harden to the possibility of it.  We have to grow in our desire of it. We have to pray for it, work for it, struggle with the sacrifice and humility of it.  And when it doesn’t happen, we have to weep.

It is that simple.

We have to bear that cross.  We have to love that deeply.

Reconciliation may be a long process; it may seem beyond our ability, beyond the ability to even desire.  It’s not going to be a smooth path, but it is one we are called to embrace.  It is our deepest vocation as children of God.

We may not like that;  we may not want to hear it.  We may rebel against it, find excuses, rationalize the need away.  We may say that God wouldn’t ask us to embrace that level of suffering.

We would be wrong.

God desires that none perish, but that all would be changed, their hearts and their minds.  Our hearts and our minds.

This is how we live in the baptized life, the reconciled life, the redeemed life.

Even on the days we have to cry out, “Lord, I believe, help me when I can’t believe”; on the days we cry out, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.”

He has..so rejoice and love.

AMEN.

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1183-1186). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Traveling Companions of the Cross – Lesson 1 Become Okay with being Last

Travelling Companions of the Cross

Lesson 1: Become Okay with Being Last….

Mark 9:30–37

 In Jesus Name

As we travel through life, may you be aware of God’s grace, of His mercy and love that rubs off on you, transforming your life, and the lives of your family.

The Theory

For the next 10 weeks, the lessons in our sermons are going to work on a theme.

It is based on the truth, that the longer you spend with someone, the more they rub off on you.  You parent of our preschoolers will notice this over the next 10-15 years, as your children will pick up behaviors they observe.  You might have already seen this, if they watch one particular show a lot and pick up on the verbal phrases of their favorite character.  It’s one of the reasons you will have to get used to handy many, doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer, and movies like CARS, UP, and Frozen as the kids watch them 475 times each!

Part of our role as a school is to help you help them pick up the good behaviors, attitudes and phrases and discard those not so good.

Picking up behaviors, phrases, and attitudes is something we will do all of our lives.  To put it simply – we rub off on each other!  Without realizing it, we begin to act like those we admire, those we care about, and sometimes, those who antagonize us!

That’s the nature of the sermon series, the behaviors we pick up – as Christ’s companions In life.

The First Lesson – The First Lesson

In our second reading, we are going to see the first lesson, that we can be okay with being last, with being the servant of all.  Jesus gets the disciples – basically a term for apprentice or people who master something through on-the-job training, Jesus gets them alone for a while.  He knows his crucifixion is near, so he wants to explain to them again what will happen.  This is what he taught them

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.”

there is a problem, though, as we keep reading

32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

He couldn’t get to the point where he would explain to them that caring about people means this is the length you go to, to show them, love. That is part of His lesson for them throughout scripture.  Paul does a great explanation of that in Philippians 2, and in Romans and 1 Corinthians 12.  It is what he means by, imitate me, as I imitate Jesus.

They don’t understand yet that He has to die, or that He has to die so that they can live, so they can be free of the punishment their sins deserve.

Rather than ask, they keep quiet – they decide the lesson is too overwhelming… but they will learn, as will we

The First Quiz

The second part of the lesson occurs as the disciples argue who is the top student, the assistant to the rabbi-master.  That is what they are asking, “Jesus, who is in authority if you leave?”  For the greatest student always succeeded the master in that day.

As they are arguing about it, Jesus gives them the lesson again,

“Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

And Jesus will show them what that means, as He heads to the cross, to die for them, and for us.  He does it because He is the greatest example of God’s love we have ever known.  He does it because the love of God drives him to do something no one else ever could.  He dies, as Isaiah prophesied said he would, 700 years before the cross,

5  But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)
The Refresher

Which brings us to the third lesson, as Jesus takes time for the youngest, the weakest, those that society would think aren’t worth the time of a master teacher.

Imagine a seminary president, taking the time to show an unknown preschooler around a university.  Not with television crews and thousands following him, but just the child and a few friends.  Or think of computer CEO, playing some chutes and ladders with the 4-year-old daughter of one of his stockroom clerks.  Again, not in the limelight, but because he valued them. Or a superstar taking the time to visit a senior home, or a President or international religious leader, who would spend time, without the cameras with someone in the hospital, or a forgotten convict in prison.

The lesson is to love the least, and that is what the disciples of Jesus need to learn.

Note I didn’t say they learned it – for we are disciples as well.

That is the example Jesus gives the disciples, and yet takes it even deeper with these words,

37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf* welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Here is the key to learning this lesson.  It is found in welcoming Christ, in welcoming the Father’s presence in their life.  Because Christ did exactly what He is teaching us, as He comes to us.  He loves those who everyone else says are not worth the time.  When we hear that by His authority, our sins are forgiven.  When He invites us to pray to the Father, and gives us the words for when we don’t have the words.

We show we’ve learned not just the lesson of not being first, and the value of serving others because we’ve realized that He is how He loves us.  As we realize that love for us, it changes us, to use a modern phrase, His character rubs off on us. We reflect the nature of God, the God who loves us, who comes to us, who put our salvation, our eternity before his own pleasure, and served us by dying for us.

It is because of this, that we know the peace of God that goes beyond all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

The Lord is With You? What you say matters….?

Devotional Thought of the Day:The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

45  A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45 (TEV)

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me.   9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7a,9 (TEV)

26      It is painful to see that after two thousand years there are so few people in the world who call themselves Christians and that of those who do call themselves Christians, so few practise the true teaching of Jesus Christ. It is worth while putting our whole life at stake!: working and suffering for Love, to accomplish God’s plans and co-redeem.(1)  

I hear people claiming they know God, that they invited Him into their heart, that respond, “and also with you” or “and with your Spirit.  I do as well, and yes, this blog is written at me, as well as many of you.

If this is true, an I read the first quote from St. Luke’s Gospel correctly, then what should flow out of our mouths should be Christ Jesus’s words.  Words that encourage, words that heal, words that forgive and reconcile, words that invite people on a journey with Christ, towards the Father, towards eternity.

But what comes out of our mouth more often is complaining, criticising, lofty words that extol theological treatises, but never point to Christ.  Words that are full of innuendo, cheaping the blessing that God gives in the intimate relationship between a man a woman that He has joined together in marriage.   Words that lie, or gossip (is there a difference?) the demean, or dominate.  Curses, swears, false oaths. Words dripping with sarcasm, not realizing the blood those words can draw. Words that not only judge, but condemn and call for death to those whose sins are different than us. Words that betray a heart that doesn’t trust in anything, nevermind praising God for the promises He is fulfilling in our lives.

When I was a younger pastor, I would suggest that we just need to be disciplined.  That we struggle to be righteous in our words by simply a force of will.  Except that I didn’t quite get that the words are but a symptom of a heart and soul issue.   We might be able to discipline our tongues in some things like word choice (though we will slip out now and then…) But what about our thoughts, our attitudes, and what we truly trust in?  Those still will betray us unless there is a change.

Unless our souls, our hearts, our minds find themselves being conformed to the mind of Christ. Unless we see the cross, and its suffering that Christ embraced as an example of His love and desire for us.  It is there, in awe of the Body of Christ broken, the blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of sins, that change begins to happen.  It is as we realize that God has marked us, claimed us, sealed us as His in Baptism, that He has reconciled and absolved us in sin.  That the Father in Heaven calls us His children, that Jesus will call us His brothers, that the Holy Spirit will reside in us; this is when this transformation, this metamorphosis happens.

it is them, like St Josemaria encourages, that we begin to desire to put our whole life on the line, and work and sacrifice in ways without even considering that it is work, that it is sacrificing our lives.  It is then, tired, weary, even burnt out, that what comes from our hearts, souls and minds are the words of God.  The miraculous words that bring to Him a people, who weren’t a people.

The Lord is with you always, dwell on that, recognize its truth, meditate on the blessing that is, a blessing revealed in God’s word, and delivered in the sacraments.

The Lord is with you…and He has brought you many gifts, the gift of faith, and the gift of repentance, the gift of reconciliation, the gift of life. ….

The Lord is with you, showing you the depth, the height, the width and breadth of God’s love you…. dwell on this, as often as you can……and then watch what happens to your words, and your thoughts.

The Lord is with you…

AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 329-333). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How To Deal with the Stress of God’s Mission!

How to Deal with the Stress… Of His Mission! My Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

In Jesus Name

 As you go out, bringing the news of God’s loving us enough to take responsibility for our lives, may you endure, knowing the grace of Christ!

The Mission

There were some words I read this week by a priest that resonated deeply with me.

I am going to paraphrase them here, putting the thoughts in words that would make sense to us…

In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments, in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly (pastoral) activity, we are collaborating (serving) with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do, the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own. (1)

What he is describing is what we are sent to do, to bring Christ to people.  We all do it differently.  Dane does it while going and checking on a good friend, Joanie does serves in such a way, at the Korean grocery Store, where she invited Jenny to Bible Study.  It is what Rainbow does at Hope International University, and what Wanda and Kay do as they interact in the office with all who come into see them.

This is our mission, the same one that started among us when Jesus sent the twelve out to a certain group – but now sends us to the entire world.

It is the same mission, to bring the gospel, the news of the Kingdom of God coming among them, or as the pastor said, seeing “the Lord establishing and rooting our hearts in His own!”

This incredible mission is ours, but, you need to be warned, as the apostles were, it might not be the easiest…

The Challenge…..
One might read these verses in our gospel reading and wonder what you’ve gotten yourself involved in, following Jesus, hearing and trusting Him and sharing your faith with others.

I mean what is this about, breaking up families, even to the point of one handing over another to be executed.  Why would people hate us? And real persecution, the kind of persecution where people zealously hunt us down and enslave or oppress us?

There are a number of temptations to dealing with such opposition.

The first is simply to be okay with their sin, to not see their sin, or ours as something we have to worry about.  Christ died for all those sins, right?  For jealousy and envy, for gossip and sexual immorality, for wanting to kill people, well at least with our thoughts and words, for not honoring those God placed in authority, or those who dismiss the times of rest with which God desires to bless them.  Or maybe we become comfortable with people using God’s name wrongly, or even worse, with their not using it at all.

The reading of Paul’s epistle should straighten us out on that….

Don’t be slaves to sins, and don’t let others continue to dwell in spiritual death as their reward,

Don’t weaken the message of God’s mercy, by pretending we don’t need it.  That will not free you from persecution. Don’t be cowed by those who would dismiss you from doing God’s work, by saying it isn’t necessary to treasure the life God has given us.

But that doesn’t give us the right to just stand up and act as jerks condemning people as sinners left and right.  We can’t combat the opposition to God’s word, by getting ready to wield the rock with which to stone them.  We can’t use the idea that using the Bible offensively is the best defense of the gospel.

We are called to love, and yes, sometimes to suffer, for the sake of those who need to hear of God’s love and mercy.  As I heard yesterday, a basic summer of the gospel, that they know God matters, and that people matter to Him.

So how do we do this, in the face of opposition from friends and family and those that would rather not hear of their need for God, and His desire to show them all His love?

How do we deal with the stresses of the Mission that God has given us, to take His message to the world, that they would be saved?

The Key – the Relationship We Have with Jesus

If you could see the verse that precedes the bulk of our passage, you would hear how we deal with it.

19  … 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 10:19b-20 (NLT)

How can this be?  That as we focus on God, the words we speak are not ours, but those of the Holy Spirit?  Who are we to speak for God, to utter not our words, but His?

We aren’t apostles, are we?

Hear verse 24 of the gospel again:

24  “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. 25  Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names!
Matthew 10:24-25 (NLT)

We are His students, His disciples, His slaves, He is our Teacher, our Master, the One into whose image the Holy Spirit is transforming us.  It should be natural, the more we think about His love, the more we contemplate the cross, and realize the link their to our unity with Him in baptism, and how we testify to that death for us, as we eat His body, as we drink His precious blood in communion, that we take on His nature, That we understand His desire is that not one of the people around us would perish in Hell, but that all would come to know His love and mercy.

The very unity we have with God in Christ, will see us through any discomfort, ever persecution, even as it did Jesus as He started this mission.

We are so His, that nothing can separate us from Him, and so we should go, and do that which He has sent us to do, to preach the gospel to all creation, to do so with each of our talents, with each of our gifts, abilities, to see this as the reason we are here, even as He came to us.

For that is the greatest miracle of this, that we dwell, we find our life, as St Paul said, in Jesus.

Or as the pastor I quoted at the beginning of this wrote,

In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments, in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly (pastoral) activity, we are collaborating (serving) with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do (in Christ), the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own. (1)
hear the last line one more time… as you go into the world to share Christ in such a way that people’s hearts are established in Christ…. Then know

At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do (in Christ), the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own. (1)

Established there, we know the incredible, indescribable peace of God our Father, the peace we know in Christ… in which He guards our hearts and minds.  AMEN?

(1)  Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 39-40). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

 

Church “Militant” I don’t think that word means what you think it means….

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

 12  For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens. Ephesians 6:12 (NJB)

18  So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. 19  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’  Matthew 16:18-19 (NJB) 

 1  For is not everything dark as night for a country in distress? As the past humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, so the future will glorify the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, the territory of the nations. 2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on the inhabitants of a country in shadow dark as death light has blazed forth.  Isaiah 9:1-2 (NJB)

Onward Christian Soldiers, marching off to war…. with the cross of Jesus, going on before…  

This morning, there are people crying for the church to wake up, to take up the challenges thrown before it this weekend, to reclaim lost territory as the forces posed against the church have attacked Christianity by once again trying to distort one of it mosts sacred symbols, marriage.  I’ve read concepts that this is the worst attack yet, that the evil people need to be stopped that we have to draw the line here, and reclaim what is ours by right, or else all will be lost. They urge the church to become the church militant… I can hear pipe organs warming up to lead the great anthems that will lead us into this great crusade to come..

And the words of that great philosopher Inigo Montoya come to mind.  “Church ;’Militant’  You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

When I see people talking about the church with military like speech, it is not a church locked in a life or death struggle with the Satan and his minions in the world.  It is not a struggle to keep what is ours, our culture, our rights, our dominant place in society, defining the norms and behaviors in our society.  That’s never been the proper battle arena in the church.   And those who “fight us”, aren’t fighting us, anymore than a blind man with two teaspoons could fight a Navy Seal unit. They can’t – they are locked in darkness, and they have absolutely no clue about who God is.

Luther says it well,
For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

We are talking about people we believe cannot know about God’s love yet, so why do we take offense at their attacking a god they perceive as un-loving?  Worse – why do we defend that God, rather than giving them an explanation for the God we know – the God that invaded our darkness, that showed us love? When we fall into this battle they want, we end up doing exactly what we aren’t supposed to be doing.  We are making them believe that it is a code of behaviors that matters, that we don’t care about their eternal soul as much as we care that they meet our behavorial standards.

And so the church militant is confused with a type of group that wages war on sinners, rather than does what its supposed to do – delivering them from oppression.  Bringing them healing and restoration from the damage caused by sin – their sin, the sin of the world, and yes our sin as well. Delivering them into the presence of God, where that healing begins.  Delivering them their, by living alongside them, for God dwells with us.

That’s the mission of the Church Militant, even as it was the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, who John tells us – came and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.  May as we live in the midst of this oppressed, broken, sinful world, reflect that glory, a reflection that continues to invade darkness, and see God set at liberty all that are oppressed.

AMEN.

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