Posted by justifiedandsinner
Devotional Thought of the Day:
This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning* of God’s new creation: 15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. Rev. 3:14-17 NLT
437 If one of my fellow men had died to save me from death … God died. And I remain indifferent.
In the last week I have received over 25 emails, texts, or posts referring me to articles that provide hope for the church. Well not, really. They don’t provide hope, they provide an answer to their doomsday prediction – that the church in the next ten or twenty years will be even more in decline than it is today.
They may state we are in a post-Christian, or post Church age. They may say the “nones” are a sign of our ineffective ministry, they may claim society is getting more secular, and even hostile to the church. There are more and more reasons that people come up with for churches in decline. They then give advice to counter the threat, many even coming to the theory that we need to “save what we can”.
But those answers are, for the most part, systematic, programmatic, and structural. They make the vision of the church a response to the perceived threat. They make what drives the church an almost militant response to the outside world, and a militant response that seeks to regroup, even while it retreats.
And in the process forgets God, and remains indifferent to His role in His church, in His Kingdom. We have become like Laodicea, trying to work in our strength, and our riches, when most churches have so little in the bank. When we churches have less in attendance that they are supposed to have on their various boards and committees. We look at the threats so much, we don’t realize how needy we truly are.
If we realize our need, it is the panic button, it is the hiring of consultants, it is the blaming of the lack of support and guidance of our denomination or our brotherhood. We might even think it is the congregation’s leadership, or its pastor that is at fault.
When what we need to do, is realize that we will, in this life, always be in need. We will always struggle, whether our church is 35 or 700, or 22,000. Not because we are failures, not because we are sinners, but because we need and have someone who cares for us, who provides for us, who is with us.
The One we neglect to depend on, even as we sing His praises. The Lord who gives us life, who makes right what is wrong in our lives. We need ot look to HIm, to remember He is present, to remember His love for us. We have to remember and celebrate His death on the cross, to do all the above.
There is our primary answer to the church being in decline – to look to Jesus. The church in Laodicea was told this, in this way,
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends Rev. 3:20 NLT
These words weren’t written to unbelievers, they were written to the church, to the one Jesus says he wants to spit out, just a few verses before! These words echo Paul’s who says we are to plead with people, “Come Back to Christ!”
He has always been our hope, and the hope for the world! He has the answer to our brokenness, and the trauma in our society. He is the answer for our churches, and whom we aren’t to neglect, in our sermons, in our worship, and in our meetings and planning and vision casting. We need ot remember Him especially in our response to the dwindling numbers in our churches. What will fill them again is not our wisdom or strength, not our structure, or our regrouping what we have. What will fill them in the power of God, the power of God that raised Christ from the dead, and is at work in you, as you walk with Him, as you hear and respond to the Holy Spirit’s direction. As we lead His people to remember Him, as we share in communion, as we walk out with Him into His mission field that is in our lives.
You want to see the church thrive? Realize what God is doing right now, in your life, as He is present. Look around you, see the people that need that very same blessing, and pray for them. As the s Spirit leads, even tell them you are doing so, or ask them if you can pray for them right there, confident that God is there, hearing you both.
If we, the people who are the church, would realize we live in God’s presence, the church will not be empty for long.
The Lord is with you! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1074-1075). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Posted by justifiedandsinner
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 The LORD took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the LORD to a valley filled with bones. 2 He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. 3 Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign LORD,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.” 4 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! 6 I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” 7 So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. 8 Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’” 10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army. 11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ 12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the LORD. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the LORD has spoken!’” Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NLT)
683 When a person really lives charity, there is no time left for self-seeking. There is no room left for pride. We will not find occasion for anything but service!
Imagine you are there, in the presence of the LORD, given the right to not just call him Lord, but to call Him by name. You are the son of Man, in this vision, the one He takes to the valley of the fry bones.
As the muscles form, as the skin begins to cover their bodies, as the effects of sin are reversed, you look in amazement at the miracle and begin to praise God for the miracle. You write liturgies to celebrate it, songs to teach people about it, you go off and establish ways to tell people – God has justified His people.
Yet they are there, still sitting in their pews… err… standing in the valley.
Without breath, without life, but righteous none the less.
What happens when the church forgets that God not only justifies us, but breathes life into us, sanctifying us?
What happens if justification is the end of our theology, not just the core of it?
Will our churches be like the bones covered with muscles and skins, present, undecayed, righteous and yet…. not alive?
We need to remember the third article of the Creed, the work of the Spirit, who is to be called upon, to breath life into these bodies, to breath life into these souls, for He is the Lord and Giver of Life. Sanctification is not some minor doctrine, slinking about in the shadows of its big brother Justification.
Sanctification, the Spirit making us alive and Holy is part and parcel with Justification in the larger concept of Salvation. Which brings to mind Hebrews 2 – how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
Sanctification, the Holy Spirit working is us, giving us life, repentance, revealing to us the height and depth, the breadth and width of the Father’s love, revealed in Christ. As He sets us aside and breathes life into us, that we would become God’s army, His family, As we begin to walk with God, as our lives begin to be described as St Josemaria mentions – lives lived in charity, where love prevails. Because we know His love, because we experience it, because our faith is alive…. there is the church – serving, ministering, loving… and as it does… growing and alive.
This is the church, this is the people of God, living in the presence of God. This is the baptized, sacrificed life….
LORD, you have given us your Holy Spirit in baptism, may that Spirit breath life into your people! May we never again be so focused on one part of salvation, that we neglect all of it. May your church be holy, set apart, brought to life and nourished by the Holy Spirit. AMEN1
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2514-2516). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.