Blog Archives

Missional Thought: We have to control our reactions.

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“There were two men who owed money to a moneylender,” Jesus began. “One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. 42 Neither of them could pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Which one, then, will love him more?”
43 “I suppose,” answered Simon, “that it would be the one who was forgiven more.”
Luke 7:41-43 GNT

630         Forget about yourself… May your ambition be to live for your brothers alone, for souls, for the Church; in one word, for God.

I looked at the comments to a video last night and was immediately depressed. Not because of the bad news the Cardinal was sharing, an announcement that seven schools were closing. Rather what depressed me was the self-righteous commentators who condemned the Cardinal.

Lots of them, expressing their….hatred of the cardinal, blaming him for a multitude of sins that caused the schools to close.

I think back a week, and the hostility geared to New York’s governor, and the week before that, to a teenager in Washington, D.C. I can think of other situations I’ve been in, where the same attitude occurs.

None of these were calls to repentance, none of them were direct communication with the person (as per Matthew 18). None of them showed any concern for the person they publicly tried, found guilty, and condemned. (Do we eve believe any more than condemning them is condemning them to hell for eternity?) What people were doing was playing God, for only He can condemn people, and that is the thing furthest from His desire.

In the gospel reading, a young Pharisee is trying to make sense out of Jesus, He did well, inviting Jesus to share a meal. But then, faced with an unwanted guest, he questions why Jesus would allow her to make contact with Him.

Jesus calmy asks the question, who will be more grateful.

Next time you go to condemn someone, next time someone’s actions or words cause you to respond with great emotion, consider that question.

How grateful are you, that Jesus washes you clean of YOUR sin.

Having gained that perspective, you have also set aside the perspective that you are the judge that sits at God’s right hand. You humbly set aside that reaction and set your sites on the person’s best interest. You learn to desire that they find the same peace that you have, rather than desiring to see them in hell. You begin to desire that they come ot know the joy of being forgiven, the awe at finding mercy.

That change in your reaction and sets aside emotions that would drive your reaction. It turns hatred into love, it transforms your sin into holiness, and even if the target of your rage doesn’t see it, others will…

and they will join you, captivated by the way you reflect the love of God.

So if you are talking about having a pure faith, or being missional, or taking your apostolate seriously, my suggestion is this, remember how you have been given forgiveness… and rejoice, for God is giving you the opportunity to share that daily.




Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2659-2660). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dealing with the Prophecies of Condemnation: Finding Hope rather than despair

484816_10151905916665878_807738773_n

Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

20 The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which are not able to see, hear, or walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts   Rev. 9:20-21 HCSB

10 I sent plagues like those of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I caused the stench of your camp to fill your nostrils, yet you did not return to Me. This is the LORD’s declaration. Amos 4:10) HCSB

212         Hominem non habeo— I have no one to help me. This—unfortunately!— could be said by many who are spiritually sick and paralytic, who could be useful— and should be useful. Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.

7 The source and cause of evil is not God’s foreknowledge (since God neither creates nor works evil, nor does he help it along and promote it), but rather the wicked and perverse will of the devil and of men, as it is written, “Israel, thou hast plunged thyself into misfortune, but in me alone is thy salvation” (Hos. 13:9). Likewise, “Thou art not a God who delights in wickedness” (Ps. 5:4).
8 God’s eternal election, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but by God’s gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus it is also a cause which creates, effects, helps, and furthers our salvation and whatever pertains to

Every year at this time I end up reading the minor prophets and the BOok of Revelation. It is not a pleasant time in my devotions, as I am forced to face passages like those above. 

Passages that deal with the stubbornness of man, and our ability to ignore God’s call to repentance, and to the healing repentance offers.  It is all too easy to see myself among the sinners, the idolators, to see friends, people I dearly love, condemned by such words.  

Our rebellion is clear, our inability to give up the sins that we fall into, time after time., to powerful. Reformed and Arminian Theologians will argue about predestination, in an attempt to hide from the sorrow that one observes in our lives. Even the Lutheran Theologians who come up with the answer that is described, their words about predestination and foreknowledge don’t help the one who is struggling, questioning their salvation in light of their sin.

For scripture declares that some will never repent of their idolatry and sin. 

And there are days when we wonder with the apostles, “Is it I, Lord?”

AM I the one who won’t beat sin and temptation?  Do I know people like these the prophets and Revelation describe?  And if I do, given that they won’t respond to the gospel ( or I won’t) what good is the ministry, what good is evangelism?

Why engage in a task that has no promise of being fulfilled, given the weight of our sin?

And what can I do, if, like Elijah, I see no hope for the brokenness of this day, and how those broken will have to stand before You, Lord?

I thank God for the words of St Josemaria this morning, the very first quote I came to among his writings, and the heartfelt prayer he wrote,

Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.

There are times when dealing with these quotes from the prophets and Revelation, I could give up, I could write it all off, and leave their salvation and mine in the hands of God.  It belongs there, right? 

But He calls each of us to take the news of His love and mercy, of the forgiveness of our sins, of our restoration and healing that He will provide into this world.  It is not all of us that Revelation describes, and the prophets always return to God saving Israel, to His saving a remnant, to the light of the world reaching out to every nation, every tribe, every language.

The answer to the prophetic trauma is to remember the end of the story, not just the cross and God’s wrath, but the Resurrection and God’s joy.  To know that God will save sinners like me, that I can trust and depend on Him for that, and to help me grow more aware of His holiness, His setting Himself apart for us – to be His children, His people, His beloved. 

If people will change, and many many will be changed, transformed by the Holy Spirit. We need to know His mercy and the promise.  We have ot let the Spirit internalize it, even as the Spirit transforms our minds, and replaces our hearts. For this scripture reveals as well, as His promise becomes reality.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1095-1098). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 617). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Pres

Why are we so willing to judge and condemn?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?  James 4:11-12  HCSB

28. Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.
This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.10 God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.11

There is a great difference between judging sin and having knowledge of sin. Knowledge of sin does not entail the right to judge it. I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town is not my business. If I interfere and pass sentence on him, I fall into a greater sin than his. When you become aware of a sin, simply make your ears a tomb and bury it until you are appointed a judge and authorized to administer punishment by virtue of your office.
267 Those are called backbiters who are not content just to know but rush ahead and judge. Learning a bit of gossip about someone else, they spread it into every corner, relishing and delighting in it like pigs that roll in the mud and root around in it with their snouts.
268 This is nothing else than usurping the judgment and office of God, pronouncing the severest kind of verdict and sentence, for the harshest verdict a judge can pronounce is to declare somebody a thief, a murderer, a traitor, etc. Whoever therefore ventures to accuse his neighbor of such guilt assumes as much authority as the emperor and all magistrates. For though you do not wield the sword, you use your venomous tongue to the disgrace and harm of your neighbor.

It is amazing how much judgment we see today in the world.  And equally disturbing how much we see in the church. So many people claiming to be experts regarding situations they have no intimate knowledge, of, but simply reacting to the news and rumors put out there. As so we somehow think we can judge (and prosecute or defend ) those whose situations are in the public eye.

A lot of our judgment is based on our own experiences, and on the experiences of someone who did something to us or to someone we love.  And therefore, all in a similar situation we judge based on our experience, not on the facts that we don’t have access to.

Or we judge the case because of the affiliations or demographic data of the person who accuses or is accused. They agree with us, so they are the ones under attack. The other side is only loyal to their peers, therefore, since their peers are wrong, they must be lying.

A great example of this is the present situation with the supreme court nominee.  I have some friends who have been sexually harassed and a couple who I have counseled because they were trying to cope with rape.   I also have been involved in situations where one accused of such was the target, and they were out to hurt him.  In the process of one such situation, the accuser was presented with evidence that proved her story a lie, and she confessed to it.

Been there, cried with both, was anxious with both, and the present situation has brought me to pray for those who stories are never far from my mind.  And as I hear the details, as I see people share the rumors across social media, both groups of stories come to mind. The victims who no come forth, and the victims who had their lives damaged by false claims.  No, let me rephrase, these situations today doesn’t just bring their stories to mind, it tears at the heart, as I remember the pain I tried to help them deal with.

Oddly enough, three of my readings this morning dealt with judgment and the notion of our judgment and condemnation of those people whom we don’t have the responsibility to judge, or all the information to judge the stories of those involved.

And then I see all those who would play God, who would decide this situation based on their own past realities, or worse, based on political issues.  And my heart tears for them as well.

And then we have scripture, and the writings of Vatican II and the Large Catechism.  All three warn us, they even command us not to judge.  They ask us to leave it in God’s hands, something that takes a lot of faith, to trust God with what we would rather handle. It takes humility, such humility that is only found when we are in the presence of God, witnessing His glory and wisdom, which show him to both just and merciful. It takes trusting in God to set aside our own presuppositions and to be healed by our own pain.

But this is God who I am urging us all to trust in, a God who would reconcile us all through the blood of Jesus.

Trust Him, depend upon Him, leave the lynch mobs behind…

And rejoice in the presence in your life.  AMEN!

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 401). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The One Exception to Judge Not… there is someone needing judgment.

484816_10151905916665878_807738773_n

Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:
27  It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (TEV)

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged,” says the Saviour of our souls; “condemn not, and you shall not be condemned” (Luke, 6:37). “No,” says the holy apostle, “judge not before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart” (2 Cor. 4:5). Oh, how displeasing are rash judgments to God! The judgments of the children of men are rash, because they are not the judges of one another, and therefore usurp to themselves the office of our Lord. They are rash, because the principal malice of sin depends on the intention of the heart, which is an impenetrable secret to us. They are not only rash, but also impertinent, because everyone has enough to do to judge himself, without taking upon him to judge his neighbour. 

As I read the words in blue this morning, I knew I had to write about them.  

I didn’t want to, because the moment I read them, I start judging all the people around me who are not just judging others but condemning them. The spirits of division, of bitterness, of hatred aren’t just seeping into their lives, we are drowning in the flood of them.

We aren’t foolish enough to claim we are more righteous than the world, but we are more than willing to bash people, Trump, Clinton, the Kardashians, people of other religions, heck some even bash the New England Patriots and their loyal fans.  And the bashing is always judgmental, always condemning, always done in a way that raises anxiety

It is a sickness, one which depresses and isolates.  Personally, I long for the days when I was an introvert and could shut out the world. Even as I write this, I see it for what it really is, a form of judgment, a temptation to isolate myself from the evil, without recognizing that I can’t escape from it, for in trying to do so…. I embody what I am trying to flee.

It was the last line from St. Francis de Sales that helped me this morning, the line about everyone having enough to do to judge themselves.

You might think it odd I found this to be good news, the purest of gospel.  For judging myself does bring the gospel into my life, erasing the need to judge others. For there, when I realize my frailty, when I recognize my sin, my instinct is to cry out for grace, to find sanctuary from the evil that not only threatens me externally but seems to well up internally.

In examining myself, I find the need to find a safe place, a place where judgment is cast aside, where burdens are lifted, where hope is revived and finds stimulation.  Where I find a love beyond measure, seen in a grace where God forgives my desire to judge others, and the times where I do so. Examining myself drives me to absolution, and to the altar where God reminds me of His love by giving me His body and blood to eat and drink, where I get to fellowship with Him!

There, I find not just the peace I need eternally, but I find others receiving it as well.  I find it offered to those I struggle with, those I want to judge, those I want to condemn.  And even if they aren’t there as my parish communes, they might be on their own, and they are to be welcomed at all places. 

Not only am I reminded of God’s grace forgiving me, drawing me to Him, into Christ, but I also am reminded that forgiveness is for all….

And for the moment, peace invades my darkness, shattering it, revealing a wholeness, completeness, that will be mine when we are found before Hi throne.

This is life in Christ, this is why I try to remain devout, depending on Him.  For there I find the answer to my cry,, not for judgment, but for mercy.  

For all of us.

Judge not… except yourself, so you may run to Him and find peace.

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Luke 13 The Special Attention that Leads to Repentance

The Special Attention that Leads to Repentance

Luke 13:1-9

† I.H.S †

 May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ make the call you hear to repentance one that you must answer.  AMEN!

A Week of Why’s

As I look back over this week, it seems rather convenient that I would preach on the gospel.  For in nine different very traumatic situations, no, ten situations, it would be easy to sit back and ask with the gospel, “is this why they suffer?”

Why is a family mourning they son/boyfriend was shot dead?

Why is a sheriff’s station wondering why one had to shoot someone, and why a community that normally is so supportive, could so quickly turn against them?

Why is a family being torn apart,

Why is someone facing a brutal betrayal of a friend?

Why did a 50-year-old mother die, just after burying her child last November?

Why did these things happen?  Who is to blame?  Was it their evil, or what God wrong to allow what happened?  Ten situations, hundreds of questions asked, so few answers to offer in response.

In a way, Jesus response to these traumas seems cold, even harsh.

Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”

What first seems heartless Is anything but.  For the questions we ask we may never be answered sufficiently, though we might have a thousand theories, not of which will help us grieve, never mind heal.  They just spin and spin our mind around.

Jesus asks us to move past the questions we cannot know the answers to, to contemplate, to meditate on something that has a real consequence, something that we don’t want to talk about, but we need to face.

Will we hear a call to repentance, or will perish?

I Won’t’ Perish, Will I?

I think we all need to ask regularly ourselves if Jesus came back today, would we perish?

We have to be careful with that question because it can lead to both self-righteousness and severe guilt.   Both those options are deadly.

Self-righteousness that would lead us to false confidence in our holiness leads to perishing because we will grow to assume we can be holy on our own, and don’t need God.

Severe guilt leads us to believe we are beyond hope, that there is not ability to recover from where we at, stuck in sin.

Even so, we still have to ask regularly the question.  Would I perish?  Do I love my sin and resentment more than I love God?  Have I set up false idols to worship, things that I put more trust in than God?  Do I even bother with God in my life except for on Sundays and Wednesday nights for an hour or ninety minutes?  Is God welcome in every part of my life?

St Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth talks about this, as part of preparing for communion,

31  But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. 32  Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 (NLT)

 

Most of us would prefer not to do this, to not have to face the unpleasantness in our own lives.  It seems much easier to bury it, to ignore it, or more than likely to justify it by pointing to others sins.

It is not the reason others undergo trauma, nor would I ever suggest that God puts us through trauma just to convert us and lead us to change. But Jesus is telling us to take stock of our lives, as these things happen.  To really consider where we need Him to change us. To really see the sin that we engage in as the horrible thing that destroys our relationship with God.

Unless we repent… we will perish.

A hard line to hear – even during Lent when we expect it!
The Patience of the Gardener

So how do we repent?   How can we be sure we have?  Where do we find the strength to do so…

We need to understand this parable of the Owner and the Gardner.  We need to realize that the Gardner is God in this passage – that the heart which is patient and wants to give special attention and plenty of fertilizer, to cultivate and cause us to bear fruit.

I love to watch Al or the Chinese congregation members tend the plants on campus.  There is a tenderness there, and you could see their mind church as they decide where to dig next, or which rose branch to prune.  If they do such a wonderful job, you know God will be doing the something special as He calls us to repentance.

That’s what he does at the altar, as He assures us of grace, as he lovingly nurtures us, as He provides a safe place for us to confess our sins, and hear His promise of forgiveness.  It is what he does as we read of the grace and mercy of God, as we see it as we picture Him on the cross, His blood pouring out. This is where he continues to give us special attention, where he nurtures and cultivates our faith in Him.

This is how we come to live a life of repentance, assured of His work nurturing us, pruning us, cultivating us.  It is an ongoing process of our faith in Christ. It starts here in Baptism, as God grants us faith and repentance, and keeps on going here at the altar, here as we worship, as we pray, as we study God’s word together as His people.

Because of His work, giving us special attention and yes, plenty of fertilizer, we are assured that we will not perish, that He has called and brought us to repentance, and is transforming us daily.

This is why we live in peace, peace that God promises is beyond understanding, peace He guards us in, our hearts and minds….  AMEN!

Why “They” Are Wrong About Sin….

devotional thought of the day

8  And when he comes, he will prove to the people of the world that they are wrong about sin and about what is right and about God’s judgment. 9  They are wrong about sin, because they do not believe in me; John 16:8-9 (TEV)

Prayer does not fall into a void; neither is it just a kind of psychotherapy that helps us to assemble our spiritual forces and bring them once more into balance; nor is it merely a kind of pious fiction to exercise our souls and calm them. Prayer is directed to reality. It is both heard and heeded. God, then, is someone who has the power, the ability, the will, and the patience to listen to us men. He is so great that he can be present even for those who are small.

If I bring you to this point, I have also brought you to confession. Those who really want to be good Christians, free from their sins, and happy in their conscience, already have the true hunger and thirst. They snatch at the bread just like a hunted hart, burning with heat and thirst,
33 as Ps. 42:2 says, “As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.” That is, as a hart trembles with eagerness for a fresh spring, so I yearn and tremble for God’s Word, absolution, the sacrament, etc.
34 In this way, you see, confession would be rightly taught, and such a desire and love for it would be aroused that people would come running after us to get it, more than we would like.

I am curious about who you thought “they” would be, when you read the title of this blog.

Maybe you were hoping I would lay into those rejoicing over the jailing of the court clerk in Kentucky.  Maybe you were hoping I would chastise those who complained about her being arrested, sure that she is the bravest person under persecution in the world today.

What if both groups of people are those that are wrong about sin?  What if, when they are describing sin, when they are pointing out sin in others are proving Jesus correct.  They don’t understand sin because they don’t get that it isn’t about breaking this rule or that rule.

It is because they don’t trust in God, they don’t know Him.  They don’t understand about sin because they don’t have the relationship where they depend upon Him.

Take away hat intimate relationship with God away from someone’s understanding, and sin can only be defined as breaking all the rules.  But that can’t be what defines sin, because to do so would result in condemnation, and there would be no hope.

For hope, for relief and comfort comes within a relationship. Forgiveness, mercy, love are all words that exist withing the nature of a relationship.

And sin is ultimately, denying that relationship is the ultimate sin.

You see that clearly in the quote from Pope Benedict XVI where he talks about prayer, about what it is and what it isn’t.  It is that greatness of God that He can relate to us, not in a condescending manner, but He comes to us.  He listens to us, not as a king listens without empathy or interest to his serfs, (or a CEO to one of his p/t employees) but as a friend, as a Father, as one who loves us.  He listens, He cares, He knows us.

Which brings us to the quote from Martin Luther, about confession and absolution. Sometimes we treat a sin, or a tendency to sin as if it is the worst thing that can happen.  In the Kentucky case, she is either the greatest sinner since Hitler, or those that deny her the office she was elected to.are the equivalent of those who crucified Jesus.  In either case, I will not say there is no sin, my instinct is that both groups of observers need to be called to repentance, and to reconciliation.   As do the actual people involved in the case

In fact, if there is a need to be reconciled to another person, you can be pretty sure that there is a need to be drawn closer to God.  Not for Him to punish, but for Him to heal.  For God to be so manifested in their life that His call on their life is understood, not just a law to obey, but as the loving guidance of a parent,  We need to realize His law is not punitive, bt based in wisdom.  Wisdom beyond us.

That is why reconciliation, why confession and absolution are so critical. We desperately need to hear that our sin is not going to wreck our relationship with God, that He will still hear and answer our prayers, that He will comfort us as anxiety threatens, That is what absolution does.  It reconciles us to Him; it assures us of His presence. It helps us to trust, to wait in His presence.

That’s why Luther says if we understand what Absolution gifts us with, we won’t hesitate to confess our sins.  We wouldn’t hide in denial of them, we wouldn’t play the game of “their” sins are worse than ours. We would rejoice in the word of God, rejoice in our forgiveness, and we would plead with others to be reconciled, rather than condemn others without the intent of showing them the love of God.

May we spend our days rejoicing in God’s answers to our plea – “Lord have mercy on us sinners!”.  Amen.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 286). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 460–461). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

“OH NO!” HE CRIED, “I SCREWED UP, AND GOD WILL GET ME FOR THIS!”

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
10  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11  “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more. John 8:10-11 (NLT)

168    “It made me laugh to hear you speak of the ‘account’ our Lord will demand of you. No, for you He will not be a judge—in the harsh sense of the word. He will simply be Jesus.” These words, written by a holy bishop, have consoled more than one troubled heart and could very well console yours.  (1)

A young man approached me today, concerned about a sin.  I won’t go into details, but the bottom line was that he was afraid of being judged for it. He felt that if he died tonight, God was going to use the law and crush him for this sin. 

We’ve all been there when some sin we’ve committed, whether this morning or 40 years ago is used to torment us, to single us out to face the wrath of God.  The young man isn’t alone, I’ve been there, you possibly have as well.  The number of people I have had in my office, or talking over lunch, or texting me at midnight to find out that they haven’t lost their salvation is beyond count.

Yes, there is the other side of the coin as well, those who think they sin isn’t big enough to merit the firing and pain of hell, and those people, who say they believe in Jesus, but dismiss the concept of hell, not because of scripture, but because of how they want to see God.

Both extremes, the idea that a sin won’t send you to hell, and that a sin is unforgivable, and will result in your eternal death, are misplaced.

God is just, and God is merciful. To the lady caught in adultery, His words are full of grace, so revealing the desire of God to restore us as His children, and forgiving our sin, all our sin is part of that restoration.  We need to be cleansed of it all; we need to be proclaimed forgiven, that we stand with the adultress, uncondemned.

Knowing this should cause us to run for absolution, to run to him counting on the promise that He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. To run to those whom He has entrusted to forgive and bind sins and go – this – I need this one forgiven!  I need them all forgiven. And to rejoice, to celebrate when you hear once again that He forgives your sins and cleanses you of all unrighteousness!

That is what people need to hear, so they never doubt the love of God, so they don’t have to try and justify or minimize their sin.

Sin is what it is, and there is hope for sinners.  Found in the death of Christ, for those sins, in His burial (see Romans 6) and in His glorious resurrection.  For the power of that resurrection will raise us as well.  Clean, holy, alive in Christ Jesus.

This is why we have hope… because of His love.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 520-522). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Lament and Prayer: An Option to Dealing With Others….

Devotional Thought of The Day:

Featured image37  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me! 38  And so your Temple will be abandoned and empty. 39  From now on, I tell you, you will never see me again until you say, ‘God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord.’ “ Matthew 23:37-39 (TEV) 

14  “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. 15  I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. 16  When that day comes,” says the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’ Hosea 2:14-16 (NLT)

In the last few days, I have seen behavior that causes me to mourn.  That needs to be rephrased, I see behaviours hat cause me to mourn, and indeed, cause me to want to pray.

It starts with someone who writes or proposes something that is heretical, or so close to it that it does not matter.  In a couple of these cases, (there isn’t just one) it has been pastors or professors who have denied Christ’s existence. Yet would stay “in the ministry” because it is not about Him.   It is about the people, he claims.  Not about God and His people.

The pain they cause is real.  Even from a distance, those who value their relationship with Christ, the hope gained by knowing and trusting Him, feel immense pain.  The reaction is to strike out.  We find ourselves judging such men, mocking them, condemning them in our hearts and attempting to in the court of public opinion.  We feel their betrayal of God as a betrayal of all we stand for, and we do not know how to respond.  I’ve even read of some praying, no, cursing them in the name of God. 

So we meet evil head on, by doing evil in return. Like in days of old we symbolically rip our clothes, and consdier them dead to us.  We shun them.  Okay, really we don’t – we try to get close enough to “kill” them with our words, to do battle with their viewpoint and crush it under our superious knowledge, and if that doesn’t work, by our castic wit. 

I have an option for dealing with our pain, with the betrayal, with those who have thrown away and tried to crush our Spirit.

Rather than react to them, I suggest we weep and mourn for them.  We cry out to God the Father, just as jesus did!  We need to lament and pray and intercede, that they would know God’s love, that they would find healing as the Holy Spirit comforts and strengthens them. In order for a person to come to a heretical position or notion, something has broken.   Something has deluded them, something is holding them in bondage. Something they are most likely blind too, caught up in the darkness.  To mock and curse them is like putting tripping hazards before a blind man.  

It is a sin.

Can we mourn for them, can we weep and intercede fo them in prayer?  Can we desire their reconciliation to God? Can we like Hosea’s chasing after Gomer, as the Father’s sending the Son to die, can we go beyond our brokenness to engage them, to confront them directly, in love?  

Can we encourage those who would judge, mock condemn and curse them to pray for them, to be prepared to even sacrifice time to pray, and if led to , to lovingly confront those who are erring?  

Which reaction testifies to God’s glory and action in our lives?  Which option tells others of our confidence in the mercy and love of Christ?

We need to learn to lament, to pray, to plead for their souls…. and to love them.  It is for this that we’ve been called, that we would walk in the steps of Christ.

AMEN.

A Tough Question….. Will We Answer it? Do We Hate Sin?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15  These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. James 1:14-15 (NLT)

20  But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21  Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22  throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:20-24 (NLT)

1002      To save mankind, Lord, you died on the Cross. And yet for one mortal sin you condemn a man to a hapless eternity of suffering. How much sin must offend you, and how much I ought to hate it!

For maybe 20 years, there has been a platitude circling around Christianity. It goes like this, “we should hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

It isn’t scriptural, in that it doesn’t come from the word of God.  We accept it because it seems logical, and it gets us out of sticky situations.  

I don’t think we hate sin anymore.  I think we tolerate it, welcome it, choose it, and count on God to take pity on us. 

If we’ve been brought up in the church, we know what the Bible says about sin.  We know that what it earns death and destruction.  Sin separates us from all that is good; it separates us from God and His love.

It deserves our hatred. It is something we should fear, as it seduces and enslaves people. It does such a thorough job, burying us deeper and deeper beneath its weight.   We excuse it, we claim that not sinning is an inconvenience, that living as God teaches isn’t possible anymore.  Theologians dismiss it with the very phrase that provides the title of my blog – that we are simply justified sinners, and that is all we will ever be in this life.

I think that we’ve come to a point where we don’t hate our sin anymore.   The sins of Isis, the sins of “those” people, the sins committed against us, yes, we still hate that sin.

Do we hate our sin?  Do we hate the sins of our friends?  Do we hate the sins of our children?  Do we fear the grip that sin can have over people, and the damage it can do to their lives?  Do we see it wrecking the relationships around us?

If we did, how glorious would the cross be?  How central to our lives would our baptism be?  what a celebration the Lord’s Supper would be, and the relief we would know as we heard the words, “you’re sins are forgiven!”

He broke the power of sin; he crushed it. He saved us from it.  He brings healing to our hearts and peace to weary souls.

During this Lent, we pause and take the time to not only love the sinner, but fear for them, and struggle to see them freed.  We look to Christ, setting that sin, that desire, that temptation aside… knowing He endured the cross so that we could be free.  Fr that to Him was His joy, to see us freed, cleansed and made holy.

Do we hate sin?  We need to…..


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3534-3535). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Those People Sin? How Convenient! We Have Something in Common!

Devotional Thought of the Day:A  Picture of our Journey... with Christ
15  Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One— 16  of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (MSG)

367 Among believers ( original read Catholics) it might perhaps be that some have little Christian spirit; or so it might seem to those who have dealings with them at some particular moment. But if you were to be scandalised by this fact, you would show that you knew very little about human wretchedness and… about your own wretchedness. Furthermore, it is neither just nor loyal to use the example of the weaknesses of a few to speak ill of Christ and his Church.  (1)

it is a rare day when looking at facebook and twitter doesn’t cause a bit of sadness.  Simply put, a lot of those who count on God forgiving their sins, forget that it is God’s desire to forgive all sinners.

Yeah – it means those people we don’t just judge but those we condemn. Politicians, athletes, movie stars, our neighbors, ex-spouses, bosses, employees, immigrants, criminals, instead of fearing God’s wrath and repenting, they feel our wrath. And that is a problem, because if they feel our wrath, they won’t know the blessing of fearing His, of having the Holy Spirit cut their hearts open and bring them healing. They won’t ask us about the mercy of God, the forgiveness poured out in love.  They won’t engage us in discussion, they won’t come into our homes or invite us into theirs.

There are a lot of religions out there, there are even some that have no deity, except perhaps one’s self.  Reaching them with God’s love isn’t some kind of war, some kind of argument.  Even Elijah’s “battle” at Mr Carmel wasn’t a head to head battle.  It was, let’s see whose God will answer prayer, let’s see whose God will reveal Himself, not for the prophet’s and priests sake, but for the sake of the people God would make his own.

When we realize we are sinners as well, there are a number of blessings that come.  The first is that we can hear that our sins are forgiven.  The second is that once forgiven, we can still identify with those who struggle in guilt or shame, we know what it is to deny the truth, we know the brokenness, and can speak their language and point them to the hope we know, the mercy we’ve experienced, the love that brings us comfort, and heals our brokenness.

That’s what Paul is getting at, when he says his sins top all ours. (and no that is not a challenge)  That is what St Josemaria is pointing to, when he calls to mind our own wretchedness.

We have been given hope, we know we’ve been delivered from the muck and mire of sin.

They need that – and yes sin can be confronted in a way that lays out hope – that takes them along the path we’ve been on, as we come alongside them.  that works a lot better than lasso’ing them and dragging them into God’s kingdom, or just leaving them in their brokenness!

Lord have mercy on us, and teach us how to have mercy on others…..

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1683-1687). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

%d bloggers like this: