Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross. 1 Corinthians 2:2 (TEV)
273 Dear Jesus: if I have to be an apostle, you will need to make me very humble. Everything the sun touches is bathed in light. Lord, fill me with your clarity, make me share in your divinity so that I may identify my will with your adorable Will and become the instrument you wish me to be. Give me the madness of the humiliation you underwent, which led you to be born poor, to work in obscurity, to the shame of dying sewn with nails to a piece of wood, to your self-effacement in the Blessed Sacrament. May I know myself: may I know myself and know you. I will then never lose sight of my nothingness.
A long time ago, the first church that entrusted me with the responsibility of being their pastor, their guide, had a motto. Simply, what they wanted to be, as a church, was the place that taught Christ-centered living.
A fairly narrow mission statement, yet one I think we still need to see happen in the church.
It came to mind this morning as I was bombarded with political adds and texts. As I also was bothered greatly by some emails that spoke of politics inside my denomination.
After trying to clear my email and my mind of all this crap, I tried to settle down into my normal devotion time. And only as I opened my last book, did I see something that reminded me of what I have tried to teach for decades… to be humble like Mary, and sit at Jesus’ feet, and know the peace that comes from this “madness of humiliation” that St. Josemaria speaks of so well.
For it is there, being centered in and on Jesus, being able to identify with His will, (not mine, not democratic or Republican, not the United List’s or Congregations Matter) that I find the healing I need to begin the day. It is when I come to see the glory of His self-giving in the sacrament, where He invites us to share in Him, in the love that permeates and defines the communion of the Trinity, as He draws us in, and cleanses us, and we start to adjust to living in His glory, and His peace.
When I say I need ot be narrow-minded, I am not talking about set in a political view, or in some narrow theological paradigm. My mind needs to be centered on Jesus, as does my very life, heart, soul’ mind, and strength learning ot love even as I experience the love of God too incredible to understand.
Only then, knowing His love, can I toss away the idols and sins that so easily draw my attention away from the Lord, who creates, restores, and makes me (and all His people, the church) holy and healing of their brokenness.
So set aside everything else for a little while, and think about the love of God, which is visible in your life. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1341-1347). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Faith in Action:
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, the mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that you find yourself dwelling, content in His presence! AMEN!
1.6 Billion dollars…. For what?
On Friday, I stopped by the local 7-11.
The parking lot was full, there were three clerks working instead of the usual one. There were people in line, and another line over in the corner, waiting for little pieces of paper to make little marks that they would put their hope in…
Seriously, putting all your hope in some little marks on a piece of paper.
And they will do it again this week, looking for a change in life because of that piece of paper, those little marks. Enough people doing so that the Lottery can easily put less than half the money back, and still raise the prize some 600 million dollars.
Some people buy those tickets out of curiosity, others buy them in despair and desperation. There was one guy, running through the “have you won scanner” what looked like 50 such pieces of paper.
I wonder how many of them realize what Solomon said some 3000 years ago,
10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!
We aren’t going to find contentment in things, we can only find contentment in something we have more than enough of…. But how do we realize it?
The Idol of Wealth
Solomon talked of reasons why wealth doesn’t breed contentment. The reasons it doesn’t bring happiness, why it doesn’t provide a beautiful life. I mean these reasons aren’t rocket science,
- You can never have enough. (Solomon would know!)
- The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it.
- You can watch it slip through your fingers
- Investments can sour, and the money is lost
- We eventually end up the way we started, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
- You can’t take your riches with you
- You don’t make a lasting impact on the world.
And yet, we will, as a country spend 3 or 4 billion dollars on the lottery. And we still won’t find contentment, even the one who wins.
Or we will struggle and put ourselves into debt, trying to get the right college education, or the right career options, playing all the games and work our fingers to the bone, trying to get ahead.
And we won’t find contentment.
But that won’t stop us chasing wealth, riches, fame, and all its accouterments. For we make these things our idols, we put our hope in them, thinking that if only we get the right numbers for the lottery, the perfect job, or health plan, the perfect home or spouse and family, everything will be okay, and we can finally be content.
But idols can’t buy happiness, even if we could gain them all. But Solomon, the richest, wisest man of his day, tells us we can never get enough. Our hunger will never be removed, the idols will just hold out their empty promise… and we will line up to give them what we’ve worked so hard for in life
it’s like chasing the wind. Except that we do it all too often.
There is an option, there is a gift that God gives us, the result of the gift is seen in verse 19,
To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.
He says it there, whether you are the CEO or the janitor, there are people who find contentment in their work and their life because they realize it is a gift of God.
That’s hard for us to understand, hard for us to deal with at times. Doesn’t God realize what He’s putting us through? Doesn’t he realize the pain, the grief, the anxiety that comes with our lot in life, this place He’s put us in? Doesn’t He know our struggles?
Yeah, he does, and that is why Solomon says finding contentment is a gift.
A supernatural gift, and ability that isn’t natural to us, but divine grace that is poured over us, allowing us to find the beauty in our lives, to find that elusive contentment.
A contentment that comes as we have faith in Him, as we grow in our trust and dependence on Him. As we go to him with our failures and sins, as we abandon the idols that cannot bring us contentment, and we hear Him, welcoming us into His presence.
That is what the cross and the resurrection is all about, to free us to live in the presence of God, a presence where all our troubles are taken from us, as God promises us life everlasting in His presence. For there, in the presence of God, we find how incredibly He loves us, a love we are told every week this year that we can’t understand, but that we can experience, and we do.
Contentment, true happiness, or having what in Hebrew can be translated best as “the beautiful life” comes not what we have in terms or worldly value. It comes from finding out we are loved, loved beyond measure. Loved even when we failed to love in return, as God picks us off the ground, saving us to Himself.
And knowing we are loved changes everything, adding color to a gray landscape caught in the darkness before dawn. Bringing life that is gloriously eternal to a life that was once going to end with nothing.
And with our eyes on Him, on the Lord who loves us, we come to know that life Is incredibly beautiful, a life in which we find contentment, a life in which we dwell in the incredible peace of God…..
And so I end with the prayer of blessing we began with….
May the grace, the mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that you find yourself dwelling, content in His presence! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. 12 I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. 13 I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. Philippians 4:11-13 (TEV)
117 “What do I have to do to maintain my love for God and make it increase?” you asked me, fired with enthusiasm. Leave the “old man” behind, my son, and cheerfully give up things which are good in themselves but hinder your detachment from your ego… You have to repeat constantly and with deeds, “Here I am, Lord, ready to do whatever you want.” (1)
e need to stopIt is rare these days for pe]eople to ask how to grow stronger in their faith. I am not sure whether that is good or bad. Some might not care to grow, some might be afraid to grow. While others are growing, their faith being stretched like taffy, or a balloon expanding so fast that you wonder if it will burst.
There is a secret to this growth, a need for freedom from things that tether us down, box us in, that define the boundaries that we think define us, but in reality simply constrain us, and eventually choke out our faith.
Let me give you an example. As a young man wanting to be a pastor, I set a boundary on where I would serve. I asked God to send me anywhere, except for the desert. I narrowed the scope of my vision, and I would come to realize that the people in that desert needed the comfort and peace, the contentment that only comes from when you realize you live in the presence of God. (Yes, my first three churches I served were in the desert – and I needed to be there more than the people needed me)
I still occasionally do that, narrowing down where I will serve, or to whom I would “allow” God to send me. God, you couldn’t have me in that kind of position, or ministering in that kind of church. God you couldn’t use someone like me like that, etc.
And so do you.
We need to stop setting boundaries, we need to stop tying ourselves down, tethering ourselves to things that stop us from growing in our faith. St Josemaria considers that might even include good things that hinder our detachment. Things our ego depends upon to identify us as individuals, and therefore stop us from trusting that God knows what He is doing.
For growth, maturity in the faith is not confidence in ourselves, it is confidence in God, a deepening sense of contentment. Whether it means we have to go without, or we have to learn to deal with having more than we need. ( I know some of us find that harder to deal with! ) Spiritual growth is the abandonment of self, assured that God will develop what in us, and dependent on His promises.
Whatever He wants, where ever He wants, however long He wants; depending on the presence of Jesus, the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit
This is faith, a faith that grow and be stretched, a faith without boundaries, a faith that grows significantly, because God causes the increase.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 614-617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 (NLT)
Therefore, anyone who seeks an office in the Church must know that he thereby declares himself ready for a greater share of the Cross. For, properly speaking, the real pastoral activity of Jesus Christ, through which he fashioned the Church and will never cease to fashion her, is his Cross, from which there flow for our blood and water, the holy sacraments, the grace of life. To want to do away with suffering means to deny love, to disavow Christ. It is impossible to struggle with the dragon and not be wounded. That is why what the Lord says in the Beatitudes is valid for all times: “Blessed are you when men revile you; blessed are the meek; blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:11, 5, 9). It is true, too, that where the Lord is, where the Master is, there must his servant be also. But the Master’s place was, ultimately, the Cross, and a shepherd who seeks nothing but approval, who would be content to do only what is required of him, would certainly not be taking his place where the Master has taken his.
I was once told that if I could be content in any other field, to avoid becoming a pastor. At the time, I didn’t understand. Today I do.
The blessing requires a high price to be paid.
I look at my friends in ministry, those I admire the most sacrifice so much to serve. Some are pastors and priests, others missionaries serving far from what most would consider their home. Some are teachers and youth workers, others are the leaders most don’t consider professionals. The elders, musicians, those who teach the Bible to young and old.
The costs are high, and while I am not talking about financial costs or the time demanded by the needs of those we serve, they cannot be dismissed either. The deeper costs include betrayals, it includes weeping with those who are weeping, crushed in grief. It means disciplining people that may not like be corrected. It means being willing to accept the loneliness of the prophet, being dismissed as we bring messages of hope, of being sent to stubborn and stiff-necked people as the prophets encountered.
It’s not about reports and strategies, it’s about laying aside our plans when someone is hurting, and helping them bear that pain. It’s not about giving a vision, unless that vision includes the cross, leading to the resurrection. It’s about the joy of the sacraments, and the pain when we see people in need for the comfort and strength they give, but who dismiss them. It’s about not giving up on the prodigal, it’s about showing mercy to the prostitute and tax collector, the drug addict and the scoundrel.
This is ministry, this is service, this is finding that as we minister to those who are drawn (and sometimes dragged ) to the cross, we find our healing occurs as well. For we are at the cross, where Jesus raises us from death, heals us from brokenness, comforts us in our grief, and gives us hope, even as we despair.
That is the paradox of Christian ministry, the sacrifice, the life surrendered at the cross is the great blessing of being such a servant leader.
Which is why Paul, the one we imitate as he imitated Christ praises God int he midst of sacrifice and suffering….
as will every leader in every parish, in every congregation, and throughout the Church in history, and throught out the world.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. 17 He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ 18 And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods 19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ 21 Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Luke 12:16-21 (NAB)
441 Take note of this. I told a certain noble, learned and dauntless man, on a memorable occasion, that by defending a holy cause, which “good people” were attacking, a high post in his field was at stake: he was going to lose it. With a voice full of human and supernatural seriousness, despising the honours of this earth, he answered: “It is my soul that is at stake.”
A long time ago, before I became a pastor, I remember being driven to do a good job. Not because I always enjoyed it, but because if I did well, if my numbers looked good, I would be promoted. I took my joy in the bonuses and added responsibility.
I eventually burnt out on that, for I found out it was all vanity, a never ending circle of having to do better, for you prior best was now considered the standard, and so yuo were driven to do more, to take one more, to feel more pressure. The temptation to take advantage of the letter of the law was large, again for both ego and the salary need had to be fed.
Then came a point where I didn’t want more responsibility, my ambition waned. I just wanted something I could invest myself in, and do well. But not so well that others would want to add more responsibility to my burdens. I didn’t want to coast, or slacken the work, but neither was I ready to take on more responsibility. In a way, I lost all sense of ambition, struggling with what appeared to be the cost. For I thought ambition would always lead to the end of the man in the parable, who fulfilled his desire, and didn’t get to enjoy it.
In those days, I would read that passage, or the St. Josemaria’s narrative, and use both to deny my sense of ambition, to pacify and counter it. Simply put, you can maintain status quo, and have that negatively impact your soul, and the soul of others. We have to realize that what we do, and our attitudes and drives can be costly. It doesn’t matter the goal, or whether we are driven to success or apathetic. We have more than that binary option, don’t we?
I am struggling with the idea that ambition and ethics, ambition and Christ-likeness may not be as contrary as I think. Nor is it the goal of the ambition that we must question. It is who benefits from seeing our goals acheived. Is it our ego, or our soul, or the souls of others?
Maybe the question isn’t between being apathetic (masqueraded as contentment) or driven. Maybe the question is how we define the “success” that we are driven to achieve?j
Can our ambition, our drive be harnessed to serve people? To care for souls, to be as effective as we can, because we know the love poured into us. To embrace the hardships that ambition requires, not to be praised as martyrs, but because we walk with Christ, and His desires become ours. Can our souls and the souls of others benefit from our “success?”
St Paul wrote, “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” (Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) )
This is the start to “holy ambition”, this focus on Jesus, on making Jesus known to others, to serving them sacrificially so that we give them the opportunity to find rest and healing in Jesus. To take our thoughts and make them obey, to have them hear and be consistent with the nature of Jesus.
That takes effort, and work, patience and ambition.
The end result is worth it all.
We know Him. Souls are saved…
It’s monday – time to get to work!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1960-1963). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Treasuring God’s Gifts:
Results in Living Content with What He Provides!
Exodus 20:17, Eph 2;!0
† IHS †
My friends, my desire for us for this Lenten Season is this, that from us is removed all that hides that we are the Masterpiece of Christ. For that is what God’s grace and mercy does, leaving us in His peace.
From now until Easter Sunday morning, we find ourselves in the time of the year know as Lent. Some think it is a time to sacrifice, to give up something, to embrace some suffering, and doing without, to help us realize what it costs to give up pleasure, to suffer. So they give up candy, or caffeine, or some have even suggested giving up all things electronic!
As I look at it, its not about sacrificing that which is good, or even that which we treasure in order to suffer. It’s about seeing our idols sacrificed, the things we give control over our lives, a time of testing them. Because if it is a god, it can be killed off and rise again, without our help, without our desire.
Lent is about purifying ourselves from our self-centeredness, not because we have to, but because we know these things have power over us, they take our attention off of God. In doing so, they rob us of remembering God’s grace, of remembering our access of Him.
As we journey through this particular year of Lent, it is going to be a journey where we begin to treasure God’s gifts to us more, to treasure the promises, and the life He has created us to live, the work of our lives that with Him are glorious.
The works that sin would mar, that self-centeredness would hide from us…
That is why we hear in Luke, that the life God commissions for us, the masterpiece He’s designed can be summarized in two statements.
Love those He brings into our lives.
All of them.
We are going to look at the 10 commandments, in a way that we don’t often talk about them. To see them as God’s blessing of our lives, as the Old Testament version of the Beatitudes. We are going through them backward, seeing them confront our lives, not to condemn or judge us, but to free us, in order to love each other, in order to love each other, and those who so desperately need the freedom we rejoice in.
So let’s get at it.
The Challenge of Contentment
In the ninth and tenth commandment, the issue is described as not coveting, not desiring that which others have been given, the blessings and curses with which they have to live. That’s one of the odder things, we often desire what those who have them consider great burdens!
The opposite of coveting, of desiring what others have, is knowing contentment.
Be satisfied with what you have, not letting some thing or someone so consume you, that your thoughts are consumed, and eventually your heart and mind by possessing it, by getting their affection. To believe that your life will only complete if you get that car, or can live in that kind of house, or get that next promotion, or if can have a relationship like the ones you have with others. Or simply have their life, or their health.
Contentment, a hard thing to have, its completely contrary to the environment we live in, that we’ve been raised in. Today it might be having the Benz, or the BMW, or going to that school, or on that vacation, or having a spouse that looks like, acts like, etc.
The Real Challenge – Will We Trust God Completely?
Do We Believe His promise?
As we will see with every single commandment, there is a challenge that is far deeper than the challenge we see. The “rules”, the shall nots and shalls, are often misunderstood as regulations, even as we often see religion and relationship with God somehow divided.
But the basis of the commandments, or the Decalogue as it used to be called, is not a list of impossible commands, it is the life that God described through the apostle Paul.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago!
The commandments, the Decalogue is about trusting God has made our lives into that masterpiece, into something where we can do the good things that He has planned, to live our lives in His presence, to love Him with all we are, and to love those around us fully, and with abandon.
TO live content is nothing less, than to see God’s blessing of each of us, and to realize He knows what He is doing. That if one person has more, or less, then God has given them a burden. It is there in contentment we find the healing that comes when we give up the desires that dominate and oppress us. The desires that somehow turn into what we deserve, what we have a right too, will slowly disappear as we see Christ, and the cross, and His gifts to us.
Contentment is about trusting God’s wisdom, trusting what He given us, from our talents and abilities, to the blessings of our homes and all in them, to the blessings of the relationships He has called us into, professionally, our family and friends, even our romantic relationships.
As we realize these treasures, given to us by the One we treasure above all, we find ourselves trying to help others realize how they are blessed, more than we chase what they have. More than we let desire consume us, we can help them, and they us, enjoy our blessings, the different things God gives us.
You see, the masterpiece God has commissioned, like a rich person commissioning an sculpture, or a painting, or a musical, is not about restricting us from fun, or living the good life. These commandments are about living a full and abundant life.
Lent is realizing that we need His presence to live this way, to have Him fix the times we fail to, to bring healing to the times we ignore His presence.
We can’t live this way, without Him, we don’t have the strength, or the power, or the ability to. But as we journey to the cross, as we realize His care and His design, and His desire to see us this way….
We find ourselves treasuring His ways, because we treasure Him. Because we know His love, and His work transforming us, and we trust Him because of it.
and there we find peace….
Let us pray..
Devotional Thought of the day:
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT)
“Let us learn to obey, let us learn to serve. There is no better leadership than wanting to give yourself freely, to be useful to others. When we feel pride swell up within us, making us think we are supermen, the time has come to say “no.” Our only triumph will be the triumph of humility. In this way we will identify ourselves with Christ on the cross—not unwillingly or restlessly or sullenly, but joyfully. For the joy which comes from forgetting ourselves is the best proof of love.” (1)
“Every heart needs to be set free from posessions that hold it so tight, ‘Cause freedom’s not found in the things that we own, It’s the power to do what is right! Jesus, our only posession, giving becomes our delight! We can’t imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind” (2)
If you look at facebook any given day, you will find a lot of dissatisfaction. People aren’t satisfied with government, with their jobs, with their family situations (spouses, children, in-laws) , with religious leaders, with those who serve them at the store or the restaurant, and yes we are dissatisfied with ourselves.
We live in an age of discontent, and we struggle to find that with which we are content, we chase after it, and the harder we chase, the more it speeds up – and we begin to lose ground even more, and peace and contentment becomes simply part of a dream we lose hope in ever finding.
Instead of aggressively pursuing life, instead of seeing it as a contest to win, let’s take a breath, and see if our strategy is sound. (Breath in, breath out slowly…. repeat 10 times….)
I meant it – 9 more to go….
Now go back up to the top and read the Bible quote – and the quotes from St. Josemaria and Michael Card, and see the answer to our inability to be satisfied, and to find contentment.
It is not in finding ourselves – or improving our position, or finding the perfect spouse, job or community.
It’s found in Christ-likeness – in giving up yourself for others, in serving (remember ministry is the word for serving in the Bible) in loving those who are around you. Especially in loving those who others do not – whether it is because they are overlooked – or they are considered adversaries. For that is what Christ has done for us. That is how He loves us – by serving us, by being there to clean up that which we’ve messed up, The incredible way He has taken us into Himself, into His love.
Obeying Christ isn’t a matter of law – a matter of obey or perish, it is a matter of the gospel, of our salvation, of being blessed. Of finding freedom from all of that which breeds discontentment. Of leaving the things that oppress us behind. It is a matter of our baptism – of finding ourselves cleansed and made hole. It’s not an option either, anymore than breathing is an option – it is how we are to live – it is how we do live. For anything else – is simply not living… it is existing in bondage to something – fear, anxieity, guilt, desire, covetousness – they all oppress us, they all steal life.
Our answer is to let God show us His love, and being humbled, to take up our cross, to be last, to serve those around us, and in doing so, without even trying, we find contentment, peace, and in loving, we find His deep love…
Lord, Have Mercy on Us
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 811-815). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Card, Michael “Things we leave behind” From the album Poiema
We Make it Our Aim to Please Him
2 Corinthians 5:1-17
† In Jesus Name †
May you revel in the grace, mercy and peace – that in which your Father in heaven has provided for you through Jesus. And as you revel in it – may you know you bring Him the greatest pleasure!
The juxtaposition of life… and death
we hear Paul’s words about life, in view of life, and death– to know that this earthly tent that will be stripped away, in view of something not crafted with human hands, but prepared for us by God Himself. To realize that we have confidence as we live this life, trusting in Him, and not focusing on that which we can see, that which surrounds us, that which would distract us from realizing God’s presence now…
I used to think of eternity as that which began, as Paul would say, when this earthly tent is stripped from us and we finally experience the our eternal home, the life God has prepared for us – that is when eternity begins.
Yet, looking at our lives from God’s perspective, we already dwell in that kingdom, He has already claimed us, and though we cannot see it, we already live in His presence, for the Holy Spirit has been given to us, until that day when our sight finally matches that promise of God, in which we trust. If we have His perspective, then how we live our lives, what we do, and how we survive the times when we are overwhelmed with life.. and death.
But having an eternal outlook – so well described in Paul’s words,
5:6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV)
The challenge is keeping that focus… or perhaps… the key is realizing that the focus isn’t a focus – but in grasping that He is our Father.
The Challenges to an Eternal Outlook
Given the world we live in, living life with a heavenly focus, setting priorities based on what matters eternally is going to be challenging. There are so many distractions from birth to death, from things external to ourselves and even our own thoughts, our own battles with our earthly nature which focuses in our wants, our desires, our own sense of what brings us pleasure and/or peace.
As I get older – it is less being distracted by pleasure and fun; rather, I find myself distracted by aches and pains, and longing for freedom from them. Paul’s words are so… accurate…
5:1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
2 Corinthians 5:1-4 (NIV)
While the groans are now more physical, in our youth the groans were those of frustration. Either we didn’t get what we wanted, and groaned as we compared reality to our dreams; or we groaned because we achieved those dreams, and found them empty, But the groans were there as well, and I am sure that those a little older than me find some days as full of groans as well. Those groans of course, are but a reaction to those things that draw us away from the promises given to us, the relationship that we struggle to walk in – as we have to ask why things happen to us.
The struggle to live life with an eternal outlook, and make decisions and act based on that with eternal significance is our relationships with sinners. Not just the sinners out there- but the sinners here. The sinners around you. Paul notes the change that occurs, when we see things spiritually, eternally, in the last paragraph.
5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
2 Corinthians 5:16-18 (NIV)
It is easy to look at someone, and based on either generalizations, or indeed, on past actions, and consider them from a worldly point of view – that is, they are jerks or idiots or other names you have created to avoid cursing. Yet, an eternal perspective looks at those people, and realizes that when Jesus says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do, He was talking about them.
Oh and he was talking about you as well.
But these people are the kind that can distract us, as we look at them with human, earthly eyes, and they challenge our ability to look at things, knowing as we do, that God has cleansed them or would cleanse them in baptism, even as He cleanses himself! Gosh we want them to receive what they are due! That tells us that we also get distracted from this view, when we catch ourselves being distracted, and take our frustrations, either on ourselves, or… on them.
So where is our hope?
Overcoming that challenge…by pleasing God
There is a secret to life, and to death, to all of eternity. A secret which helps us maintain our proper outlook on life, a viewpoint from which our decisions get things right eternally.
It is really simple, at least in Paul’s words,
5:8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 2 Corinthians 5:8-9 (NIV)
It is a well known phrase – that Christianity is less a religion, that it is a relationship. (Of course Lutherans ask the question- why can’t it be both?) If we look at the commandments of scripture as duties, we reduce it only to solely a religion. We have to understand that pleasing God comes from being with Him, being His children as we walk besides Him during life.
On father’s day perhaps – we get this the most – those of us without Father’s – realize how much we miss them – it doesn’t matter if it is a week or a decade. Those of us who have children realize how much we miss them – whether they are five, or fifty. This is the day when were wonder if we’ve went wrong, and/or look for evidence of how good we have been as a father.
If a earthly father rejoices in time with His children, then how much more our heavenly father would? Isn’t that what heaven will be about, being home with the Lord? Feasting with Him, spending time with Him – this isn’t about commandments for commandments sake – its about being with our Father, about pleasing Him, about sharing our lives, and sharing His work. Yes, He knows about your sin, and about the doubts, and hurts that need to be healed. He gives you His Spirit to help you heal, to help you realize the promise, to remind you that you are His child – here or there. He brings you comfort…when all there is, is tears.
He is there.
Pleasing Him, seeing what He desires fulfilled – except our heavenly Father doesn’t want a cold beer while watching a baseball game… He wants to see all His children come home, to realize that even while we apart from Him, we are still His… and because we are, because the Spirit assures us of His promise….
We can live either place…. Walking with Him… pleasing Him… sharing our life, lived in His peace…
“We are full of confidence, then, and long instead to be exiled from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 And so whether at home or exiled, we make it our ambition to please him.
2 Corinthians 5:8-9 (NJB)
To please someone, to bring them contentment, to see them with the peace and joy that comes from seeing life in its completeness.
It’s reading an update from a deacon I serve with, who this weekend celebrates Father’s Day, by seeing his daughter graduate from High School, and his son from Junior High. They have accomplished the task, they have finished a stage of life, and all is good. For a moment – a weekend, a summer, it is all good.
I don’t think we get that this same kind of contentment joyous feeling of contentment, of pleasure is experienced by God – when His children are living in His grace, in His peace, as we go through those stages when we “get it” a little more…
When we are baptized (if an adult) and our body reacts to the weight of the sin removed from us, or the look on so many dad’s faces as their children are baptized… and they know the peace that God has poured out on their child, and on them.
When we realize that when we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Christ – that it isn’t some act of our obedience that makes it special, but that it is the incredible love of God, spread before us, strengthening our trust in Him, rejoicing in the relationship He has brought us into….
When we love those around us, and show the imprint of the Holy Spirit on our lives. When we show the mercy and peace and love of God …. in a way that seems natural to us, we may not even realize we are reflecting the love of Christ. And in that moment, it is not natural – but supernatural. God working through us, in us… and like a child working at his toy tool bench while his dad is really building something, we too bring a smile to God’s face.. we please Him.
Or when we come crying, broken and beaten up by our sin, and then find the comfort and peace that comes as He cleans us up again… and we allow Him to be our Dad….
It’s not hosting the crusade with 10’s of 1000’s hearing about Christ that is what we can do, to please God, to bring Him contentment….
It’s letting Him be our Father, it’s sharing in His work, it’s in spending time with Him, enjoying His love…
Have a great Father’s Day tomorrow….with your Heavenly Father (today as well!)