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The Same Words… found back to back, that help in the dark times of life!

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.  ( Psalm 42:11 AND 43:5 HCSB)

695    In the moments of struggle and tribulation, when perhaps the “good” fill your way with obstacles, lift up your apostolic heart: listen to Jesus as he speaks of the grain of mustard seed and of the leaven, and say to him: Edissere nobis parabolam—“Explain the parable to me.” And you’ll feel the joy of contemplating the victory to come: the birds of the air under the shelter of your apostolate, now only in its beginnings, and the whole of the meal leavened.

As I was reading Psalm 42 this morning, the verse in red and it hit me.

The amount of trauma and conflict  (more of the former than the latter)  I have had to deal with recently has me somewhat depressed. Okay, more than somewhat. The accumulated weight of trying to guide people to God in at least 10 situations has taken its tole.

So I highlighted the verse, thankful for the reminder that my hope is in something far more stable, far more faithful. and knowing that, even in the midst of this dark time, I can praise Him.  Can?  I must, for that is the reaction of relief, as I remember He is here, as I remember His promises.

At least I do for a moment, then move on, back into reading the next Psalm, which is a little more positive, a little more upbeat, and yet, it ends with the same exact same words!  Okay, I’ve got the message Lord, and paused to let them sink in a little more.

I need to… I really do.

Then I scroll over to my friend’s writing.  For I resonate with so much that St. Josemaria Escriva writes, it feels like the words of a wise friend when I read them.

WHich takes the hope, seeping through the darkness, and causes it to shatter the darkness.

Even though I reached on the passage yesterday, I forgot that often how Christ minister’s to us in our brokenness, is how He ministers through us ot others.   Knowing how we have died and risen with Him, and find shelter in Him, means that in my death and resurrection Christ’s work will help others find peace and freedom. They will find rest as I minister to them, they will find hope, and by God’s grace, the darkness they encounter will be shattered as well.

including the 10 plus situations where brokenness and darkness seem so… overwhelming.

What kind of God do we have, that can take someone as broken and struggling as I am, and give me the peace to help others who are breaking and broken?  What kind of God can help people find refuge and sanctuary through all of us, even as our faith wavers a little?  How incredible is that?  How amazing?

Only the God who is loving and merciful, the God who is our Savior, who is our God.

As we realize what it means that He is our God, that we have been drawn to Him and made His people, it is time to react… it is time to praise Him and adore Him, and walk with Him!

Amen!

What joy would it bring you to know God will use all things for good for you, even the trauma, the suffering, even the conflict?  

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1620-1625). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Do We Need to All Get Along? Do We Have A Choice?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day
12  You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13  Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 14  And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 (TEV)

480    Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.

13 Although we cannot and should not compel anyone to believe, we should nevertheless insist that the people learn to know how to distinguish between right and wrong according to the standards of those among whom they live and make their living

I am tired. 

I am tired because of the fighting going around us.  In this world as nation is against nation.  As nations are divided into camps we call parties but are not exactly fun!  And even inside those parties are divided, starving for attention and often, revenge.

The Church, the one, holy, catholic (as in united, universal church) is likewise fragmented, and denominations and congregations know bitter division, know its horrific pain and avoid the issues.  Too often we determine reconciliation and renewal is not possible, or perhaps if possible, not desirable. 

I see this all around me, and it makes me weary of life. 

I want to compel people to have enough faith in God, to trust Him enough to let Him heal them, and surely He would. I want to force them into a maturity that cares more about being merciful than the pain that has been caused by others.  That cares more for Christ being revealed than for hiding our own sins and pretending we are not shamed by them. 

But I can’t compel people to trust in God more, it is not the way it works.  No amount of threats can do it, no amount of pleading, all I can do is ask, and point to the scriptures.

It is a common dependence on God that turns the church into something more than a group of individuals separated by their own brokenness.  That unity, that being woven tightly together, it can create a bond that can conquer anything.  That unity is found in Christ’s love, 

Nowhere else.

It is found in the love that is the source, of mercy that empowers us to of set our own discomfort and pain, even the agony aside. That enables us to forgive, for He has shown the way in forgiving us. 

Only in Christ Jesus is this possible. In that love that weaves us together, binding the broken, splicing us together, making us stronger than anything else can.

Can we all get along?  Only in Christ, who draws us all into Him.  This is what is good and right… everything else is wrong. 

Lord have mercy on us, mercy that is so overwhelming that our anger, our pain, our resentment and even shame our washed away, revealing that we dwell in You, and in You, we are already one.  Amen!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1175-1177). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 339). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Don’t Like the Heat? Stay IN the Kitchen!

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  I will take action against you. I will purify you the way metal is refined, and will remove all your impurity. 26  I will give you rulers and advisers like those you had long ago. Then Jerusalem will be called the righteous, faithful city.” 27  Because the LORD is righteous, he will save Jerusalem and everyone there who repents. Isaiah 1:25-27 (TEV)

 The LORD says that his people reject him.7  Because of this the LORD Almighty says, “I will refine my people like metal and put them to the test. My people have done evil— what else can I do with them? Jeremiah 9:5-7 (TEV)

485    Well, so what? Unless your motive is hidden pride (you think you’re perfect), I don’t understand how you can give up that work for souls just because God’s fire which first attracted you, besides giving the light and warmth that aroused your enthusiasm, should also at times produce the smoke that results from the weakness of the instrument!

I don’t like confrontations, and even less do I like politics, of either the secular or church variety.  They raise too much heat, they cause too much stress, they cause a reaction that is to fight or to flee, neither of which is good, right or beneficial.

Yet, as a pastor who is a sinner as much as the flock, he guides towards Jesus, I have realized two things about both confrontations and the politics that lead to them.

1.  Heat caused by conflict is inevitable in the church.

2.  Despite my dislike for it, despite how uncomfortable it makes people, there is always a blessing for those who neither fight nor flee, but depend upon God to resolve the conflict and reconcile those who struggle with each other.

Conflict can dull our enthusiasm for the church, and for the apostolate, the mission God has sent us all on, to bring the message of reconciliation to the people He would call His own.  But the very idea that reconciliation is needed means there is heat somewhere, and that the mission will be uncomfortable.

One of the reasons it is uncomfortable is that part of what the heat will remove, our pride.  This is the refining, the heat applied in such a way it gets rid of the imputiries, Even the pride that is buried deep within us, hidden even from our own conscious view.

If we can remember that even the person we are in conflict with can and will be used by God if we remember even if they are 90 percent wrong, there is ten percent of their statement that is a message from God, sent to purify us.

And it will, and the more pride that is hidden within us, the more the heat will rise. ANd we have to let it, w have to be patient, for to throw cold water on it will cause more of an explosion.   We have to let it work itself out.  It will, For God will perfect us, in His time, and this heat is part of the process!

That’s uncomfortable, but it is okay.  You and I can survive the heat, we can stay in the kitchen.  For I am confident that God will use this for good. He will refine us in it, the Holy Spirit will bring us comfort, even as we are transformed, purified.  (and I still won’t like it!)

For what else can God do?  He loves us, He can’t leave us broken, impure, spoilt. This heat can be part of our salvation, part of our sanctification.

So even as we struggle, even as we hate the challenges, the heat, we can stay, trusting God.  He will work during the time when the heat is up, when we have to cry out,, Lord have mercy!   And we can learn to cry it out confidently, and be patient for the resolution, for the reconciliation.

For He is with us!  AMEN!

Lord Jesus, send forth your Spirit to all who are enduring times where the heat is rising when life is challenging because of conflicts, even those that we try and ignore, or hide.  Lord during these times, help us depend on You, trusting You to keep your promises to us.  Humble us when needed Lord,  keep us pliable and patient, comfort us and sustain us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1186-1189). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Where Hope is Found…and a Hard Memory

Tau CrossDevotional Thought of the day:
1  And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5  so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.    1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)

777      Yesterday I saw a picture which I liked immensely, a picture of Jesus lying dead. An angel was kissing his left hand with an inexpressible devotion. Another, at the Saviour’s feet, was holding a nail torn out of the Cross. In the foreground with his back to us there was a tubby little angel weeping as he gazed at Christ. I prayed to God that they would let me have the picture. It is beautiful. It breathes devotion. I was saddened to hear that they had shown it to a prospective buyer who had refused to take it, saying, “It’s a corpse!” To me, You will always be Life.  (1)

Alas and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die?  Would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?  At the cross at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away! It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.

It’s been nearly twenty years since “the discussion.”  One of my church members was quite irate.  And to be honest, I struggled to understand her complaint, and why i couldn’t get through to her why the cross, more specifically, a picture of the Jesus on the cross was not blasphemous, but rather a source of great hope, a source of great peace and comfort.

St. Josemaria’s words that I came across in my devotion this morning reminded me of that day.  The picture was simple, a picture of a Tau Cross ( the Greek Letter T being Tau) with Jesus body on it.  The passage I was preaching on was the one above in red (and the chapter before which says “we preach Christ crucified“) and all the songs were ones like the one in green above.  The Wondrous Cross, The Old Rugged Cross, At the Cross, there was a theme working, I wanted them to work through the idea that Christ died for all on that cross, and that He died for you… and for me.

Simple?

Apparently not. For the dear lady thought I was being blasphemous, picturing Jesus as if he was still there, for we know He has risen  I have in twenty years of ministry only twice seen someone more angry at me, and this just moments before church was to start, moments before we were to worship God, indeed for sending Jesus to die for us, and for the Holy Spirit uniting us to that cross. 

The next twenty-four hours were hard, I questioned myself, both my theology and my ability to communicate it.  In either case, the answer was perhaps found in my returning to work at a university, to giving up on ministry.  An old retired pastor changed that thought process, he was wondrous in his support in those days to follow.   

I still preach about Christ crucified, and if I ever stop, then I should leave the ministry.  For as St. Josemaria describes it, where others see a corpse, I see life.  It is beautiful, it speaks of Christ’s devotion to save us, a love so encompassing that He could embrace that cross for the joy set before Him. A love for sinners such as I.

In preaching about the cross, it has to include us, for owe were united to that death of Jesus there, as He hung there, as He paid for our sin, as He died to justify us,, cleanse us, and plant a seed of life in us.  It is there that the Holy Spirit brings us in our baptism, so that having died with Him, we rise with Him.

Not as an analogy, but being raised to a glorious,, holy life, being reborn, recreated as the children of God. Being brought to repentance, transformation, being able to have faith in God and His promise.  This is where our burdens are rolled away, our shame, our grief, our resentment, and pain.  It is taken there, nailed there. 

This is all there at the cross……this is given us as He died there.  This is His cross, and it is ours, again the apostle Paul describes the power, of the cross, in our lives.

5  For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. 6  And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin.
Romans 6:5-6 (TEV)

.So think on the cross, picture Jesus there, know the power of His love, HIs devotion for you, and then love and devote yourself to Him, for that relationship is what He desired, and what He saved you for in the first place.

AMEN!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2787-2792). Scepter Publishers.
Kindle Edition.

(2)  Issac Whats, At The Cross – words in Public Domain

IS This What Christlike Means?

Devotional Thought of the day:
1  Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2  Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.   Philippians 2:1-5 (NLT)

That is what Jesus Christ teaches us. Mankind awaited the coming of the Savior for centuries. The prophets had announced his coming in a thousand ways. Even in the farthest corners of the earth, where a great part of God’s revelation to men was perhaps lost through sin or ignorance, the longing for God, the desire to be redeemed, had been kept alive.

When the fullness of time comes, no philosophical genius, no Plato or Socrates appears to fulfill the mission of redemption. Nor does a powerful conqueror, another Alexander, take over the earth. Instead a child is born in Bethlehem. He it is who is to redeem the world. But before he speaks he loves with deeds. It is no magic formula he , because he knows that the salvation he offers must pass through human hearts. What does he first do? He laughs and cries and sleeps defenseless, as a baby, though he is God incarnate. And he does this so that we may fall in love with him, so that we may learn to take him in our arms.

We realize once again that this is what Christianity is all about. If a Christian does not love with deeds, he has failed as a Christian, besides failing as a person. You cannot think of others as if they were digits, or rungs on a ladder on which you can rise, or a multitude to be harangued or humiliated, praised or despised, according to circumstances. Be mindful of what others are—and first of all those who are at your side: children of God, with all the dignity that marvelous title entails.  (1)

I have been struggling a lot this week.   Serious, soul wrenching struggle.

I originally thought the struggle was with other men, other men who, like me are called to shepherd the people of God.  I thought my struggle was with them because of actions and words that I have seen that divide the church more.  In one scenario, men are in opposition, not directly, but from bunkers of anonymity.  Both claim this is necessary because of a “fear of reprisal”. They actually both use that phrase, but I am not sure who they are afraid of, each other or some mythical third party?

Part of my angst, my struggle is found in wondering if this is Christ-like, or more specifically, if the adversaries think it is Christlike.  Even though I resonate with one side more than the other, I am repelled by the actions and secrecy of both sects. To be honest, there are days I want to utter a Shakespearean curse, “the pox on both your houses”.

Until I realize my angst is with neither group, my struggle is not in their ethical challenge.  My struggle is with my trust in God, the God whom Joseph had faith, telling his brother that what they meant evil, God used for good.  Or the promises of Paul that all things work for good for those who love God, and nothing can separate us from His love.

As I enter the arena of the discussion between these two sects, it must be with an attitude that Paul describes in the red above. Imitating Christ by being on one mind striving for that in love.  it is too easy to harangue and argue, to be dismissive and even paranoid.  It takes great faith to work for the reconciliation that Christ wants to see in the life of HIs people. If we see that we are reconciled to Him, then er can realize, and only then can we realize, we are brothers and sisters, the family that God loves,

Lord have mercy upon us, and may we love and pray for each other,

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1227-1239). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How To Find Peace in the Middle of Conflict…. is it possible?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

6  I am tired of living among people who hate peace. 7  I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war! Psalm 120:6-7 (NLT)

304    Each day try to find a few minutes of that blessed solitude you need so much to keep your interior life going.

I am getting very tired.

Tired of those who yearn to fight, whether trying to tempt others into confrontations or verbal arguments, and especially those over spiritual things. I’m tired of watching those who would try and dominate over others, forcing their opinions, even opinions about inconsequential things, on others.

Tired of seeing people react without thought, assuming the worst, rather than letting things settle down and work out.  I can think of international issues, issues in our cities, issues in the Church. People trying to take advantage of those emotions, encouraging division, encouraging the battles that can rob people of any comfort, of any peace.

So do we just walk away, do we fail to minister to those on embroiled in conflict?  Do we hole up in a cave, like some in the early church did, creating our own monastic fortress, a place where heaven is on earth, and there is no conflict, no battles, no one trying to take over our world?

Or do we stand and minister to those in the fight?  Do we enter the fray, with the intention, not of fighting, but simply giving aid and pointing out to those in turmoil the hope of peace that is always there in Christ?

It is not so much that we find peace; rather we need to know that we have it already.  We have it because the Spirit dwells within us, because the Spirit brings that peace into our lives from the beginning. Therefore, our presence in the conflict can bring peace there.We become the point of peace, not only for ourselves, but all of those involved in the conflict – even the aggressors.

For us to have the ability to do so, we must take time to be with Him, in solitude, to pour our heart out, to let Him take our burdens.  We need to let Him not only bear the weight fo the sins committed against us, but to deal with our sin as well. That’s what it means to be still, and know that He is God.

For being involved in conflict, even as the peacekeeper wears you down, and it isn’t your strength that will sustain you.  Even more so, if you are the one involved in the conflict, if you are the one being engaged,

We need Christ; we need to know Him, depend on Him and trust Him, in every situation, in every moment.

For as we grow in our relationship with Him, even in the middle of a battle, or an argument, or as our frustrations grow, we ill depend on His presence, and that will give us the hope and peace needed to survive.  That is the result of spending that time Saint Josemaria talks of, that time in solitude and silence,..with our Lord.

Lord, have mercy!

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 789-790). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do I Really Have to????? Yes! Love Them!

Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

7  And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray for her, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.” Jeremiah 29:7 (TLB) 

760         All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added. I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to?  (1)

I am on vacation, and we’ve driven a bit here and there, and my memories go back to my childhood vacations in the lake region and in White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Three kids in the back of the old Chevy Malibu, and later in the Monte Carlo. God a bit cramped back there, and let’s just say it is was about as peaceful as the Holy Land. There was even the innocent victim (me) caught in between the rival factions.. I can still hear my dad and mom instructing my siblings to get along, to love each other, sometimes even to give each other a hug… a nice gentle one.

And the loud pitched, whining reply, ‘do I really have too???????”

Move forward to today.  Even if we are not caught into a political and historical mess like Israel and Palestine, we find ourselves in serious disagreements, We have rivals, we have those we don’t like, and we have those we are seemed destined to hate, because they hate us.  We are at war, sometimes in our workplaces, other times in our neighborhoods, with distant family, and sometimes, sad to say, in our homes.

We justify our anger, we get protective to stop the pain, to defend our reputations, even our families. There is a meme going around, saying that if they drop their guns, there will be peace, but if we drop ours, we will be annihilated. Not sure how true this is, but we take it is as truth, and apply that truth in our lives. We want at least the personal version of Mutually Assured Destruction.

We don’t realize how damaging this is, this dealing with enemies, this always defending ourselves.

Israel was in captivity when Jeremiah wrote these words, with the ancestors of those they have been engaged in hostilities with for centuries.  The prophet’s words are different, they don’t call for strategy, they don’t call for defensive posturing.  I chose the translation from the Living Bible because it identifies the city, these enemies.  Here it is, as we would normally here it,

7  And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 (NLT) 

Do I really have to?  Do I really have to love them, to pray for them?  Do I have to sacrifice time and energy to work for their peace and not just survival, but prosperity?

Do I really have to?

I mean St Josemaria described them so well, “All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he deserves no merit at all. Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added.”

And the response, read it again,

I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to?

Here is a way, similar to the words above, that helps.  Hear Jesus words from the cross, Father, forgive (insert your name), for they know not what they do.  See Him utter those words, even as He is dieing, even as the pain wracks His body, even as the blood drips to the ground.  Now, Look at your adversary, see Jesus on the cross, begging the Father to forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing as well.  Let this thought be pondered in your heart for 10 or 15 minutes…. really dwell on it. Not just picture it for a second – go that’s nice.  But dwell on it until the tears come, till the pain is pulsing in your body, and then purged of it, the peace rushes into your soul.

See both of you, broken there… yet being lifted by Christ.  For in Christ, that which divides us is broken, in Christ there is mercy, in Christ, there is healing.

That’s why Jeremiah calls for us to pray for those who oppress us, because as God makes Himself known to them, as He calls them to be His children, as He blesses them, the blessing to us is beyond compare.

St Paul mentions this in his words to the Church in Galatia…

27  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28 (NLT)

There is our goal, this is our mission, our apostolate, to long for this healing, this reconciliation.  Tough?  Yes.  Painful?  Yes?  Calling us to sacrifice beyond our means?  Yes.

In Christ, there is no other choice.  It is our vocation, our life.

We pray, “Lord, have mercy on us sinners!”

 

 

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3158-3162). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Conflict: Fight or Flee, is there a third choice?

Is the glass half empty or half full? The pess...

Is the glass half empty or half full? The pessimist would pick half empty, while the optimist would choose half full. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the day:
 
14  Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. 15  Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. 16  Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17  Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. 18  If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. 19  Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” 20  Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. 21  Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.  Romans 12:14-21 (MSG)

 

An optimist looks at a 20 oz beverage container holding 10 oz of fluid and calls it half full. A pessimist looks at the same container and calls it half empty. I walk over drain the mug of beer, ticking off the optimist and the pessimist simultaneously. It was a good beer, the container served its purpose, and I caused opposing sides of an argument to be united. (against me – but that is cool) That’s a very good day! – Rev. Dt Parker

 

I have been thinking about conflict for a few days, as its come up in ministry to others quite frequently recently. Some are dealing with it at work, others in their homes or extended families, and yeah, some are dealing with it at church.

Normally, people deal with it (and indeed in any stress) in one of two ways – they fight or they flea. Some situations may seem to call for us to flee – to wait unti we are stronger, or we have all our resources marshalled.  Others may call for us to fight.  There are all sorts of works that teach us wisdom of each – I tend to lean to the classics – Musashi’s Book of Five Rings and Sun Tzu’s Art of War were books given to me read in a leadership program I was once in.

But I have to wonder, is there another way.  Are we stuck in a binary choice, with no other option?

Can instead of engaging in war…can we try to engage to live in peace? Can we work with those we would rather fight or flee from – even if it means our being crucified?  Perhaps the answer is in remember we have been nailed to the cross already with Christ?  Therefore it is our old adam – our self before salvation – it c–n die and we can live humbly, serving those the world would tell us to knock out.  And if their antagonism does cause us harm, we can cope, because Christ coped and even chose to die, that those who crucified him would live.

This is a hard road – no matter if we stick with the normal binary choice – fight or flee, or if we realize the conflict isn’t about the ratio of liquid to container, but there is something deeper at stake… eternity.

What do you think?  Really want to know!

Jesus rebuked “them” – but not those we think…

Illustration of Dante's Inferno, Canto 8

Illustration of Dante’s Inferno, Canto 8 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He Rebuked “them?”

Luke 9:51-62

Jesus, Son, Savior

 

May the grace, that love and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you, and help conform your will to His, as you walk with Him through this life.

 

The Invitation: Come Walk With Me

I asked some friends this week this question, 


“What would your excuse be, if Jesus showed up today and said, Come – follow me! ?”

Eleven of them basically denied that they would have an excuse, with comments that they were ready to go, that nothing would stand in the way, that they were ready.

I guess that they have more the attitude of James and John and Simon and Andrew – who simply let their dad’s and co-workers clean up the mess.  Or like Matthew, who left his collection desk with the Roman version of the IRS and went with Jesus.

How many of us are ready, or more importantly, willing, to answer God’s call that way?  How many are ready to suffer discomfort, or leave things undone, even not taking the time to get things in order with our family?

I have no doubt about our desire to follow God, to walk with Jesus, to learn of Him, to be mentored by the Holy Spirit.

What we need to consider is where that desire, that devotion is limited, and turn that over to God, that we may find the limitation fade, and our devotion of God grow, and the desire grow to where we can really understand that to walk with Him is the only way to live.

The Challenge:  Raining Down Fire!

Four times in this passage, Jesus confronts attitudes that would make walking with Jesus a process we control, that we are in charge of, where we decide when and where to follow Jesus.  Three are simply seen, as Jesus questions and rebukes those who would not follow Him because it is uncomfortable, or because we might lose family over it, or because we don’t have all our lives in order.  Jesus challenges each one of those pretty intensely, but I want to focus on the fourth issue, the one we don’t see right away.

The attitude demonstrated by the two brothers, James and John. The attitude for which Jesus sharply rebuked them.

All they wanted to do was rain down fire and have it consume those they thought were the enemies of Jesus.  I mean these Samaritans rejected the Messiah – don’t they deserve death and hell? Isn’t that how it works?

I mean, it is not like John and James wanted to condemn them for being mean, or having a different political view or falling asleep during the sermon, or daring them to do something they should not do.  It wasn’t just a selfish desire to judge and condemn.

These people rejected Jesus, they chose to refuse the Kingdom of God, they deserve it!

In making that judgment, even as they walk with Jesus, even as they follow Him, they prove that they really aren’t following Him.  They might be travelling with Him, but following is something entirely different.

Following Jesus isn’t about the miles they walked, anymore than it is the miles we walk.  It’s about traveling with Him through life, and allowing Him to guide us, support us, train us.  It’s about hearing His voice, and understanding the way of life and where it is He is taking us.

The irony is that these very people they are wanting to toast to a crisp are the very people Jesus will send them to, once He has died, and risen and ascended.  For they will once again witness to them, as Jesus will direct them just before He ascends.

8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.Acts 1:8 (NLT)
The reason Jesus rebukes them?  The reason Jesus would still rebuke us when we too want to call down fire and judgment on someone?  Because following Jesus means we will come back to them, and minister to them and proclaim God’s love, because He came to set them free.  Because that is that is why He is going through Jerusalem to get to where He is going… that we and they can go with Him.

The Observation… The Destination is Different

 

When I think of this passage – which is just after the transfiguration, I think of Jesus setting out for Jerusalem where he will be crucified.  It would make sense then, that when He is inviting them to follow Him, He is talking about the cross – about the sacrifice that we can be forgiven of our sins.

The passage in St. Luke’s gospel says it a bit differently.

51 As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

 

Note that the focus isn’t the crucifixion, it is the ascension.  The cross isn’t born by Jesus without a view of the Father’s promises, without the knowledge that because He bore it, we would “follow Him” and eventually he would return to us.

Hebrews 12 tells us that it is with this joy that He endured the cross – that he is both the genesis/beginning and the completion of our trust in God the Father.

John’s gospel tells us that even as Jesus prophesied His ascension, He told us that not only that he would return, but that the reason He was going was to prepare a place for us.

That’s the goal that Jesus has in mind as He rebukes the brothers, as He tells them that they shouldn’t even think about such a request – because it is so completely against the Father’s will.  Revenge and wrath aren’t the goal, punishing evildoers isn’t God’s will either, for He punished Jesus rather than us for our sin. 
It is God’s desire that those Samaritans out there, those who rejected His presence, would begin to value it, to welcome it, to desire it.

The same thing goes for those who would offend God today and all lesser offenses as well.  Despite their sin, despite their rejection, God hasn’t given up on reaching them, any more than He has given up on us!

What it means to follow Jesus, to walk with Him, to let Him be our Master, our Lord is that we realize His desire is to commune with His people.  His Father’s will that none should perish, for He greatly desires to be our God, and us to be His people!  As we walk with Him, more and more we realize His love for us,  That love, that mercy changes us, assures us, reminds us that the destination is more than just the cross or the resurrection, but it is our being with God.
That’s what this is all about, that is where we find life. As we walk with Him, our will is conformed to His will, even as our sinfulness is erased and we are see with His righteousness.   That means we see the “Samaritans” in our life differently.  It means we continue to pray and love those who don’t know God, desiring that as He does, they will hear and come and walk with Him as well.

That they will know His peace, a peace that passes all understanding – the peace of God that comes as we walk with Christ, as He keeps our hearts and minds secure in that peace.

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