Blog Archives

Hope for the Church II: Do Our People….

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
15  After they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.” 16  A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17  A third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter became sad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” and so he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.   John 21:15-17 (TEV)

“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
8 How is this done?
Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever.  (1)

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray. (2)

79      I will not stop repeating until it is deeply engraved in your soul: Piety, piety, piety! For if you lack charity it will be for want of interior life, not for any defect of character. (3)

There is a secret to ministry, A secret because it seems like we’ve forgotten it, not because someone has hidden it.  It is something Luther and Melancthon, Ignatius and Escriva all understood.

The necessity of prayer. The necessity of what is called “the interior life” or a devotional life.  Prayer not just as obligation, prayer not as a conversation between good friends (though that is part of it).  Prayer that actively turns over to God the things that are His, our very lives, and finds comfort and peace in the midst of it all.

But prayer is the kind of conversation that Jesus and Peter had on the beach, a time where we, broken, finally hear Jesus. It is then that we realize that He knows we love Him, that we realize He accepts us, and is transforming us, and is calling us to serve, even as we ourselves are being healed.

This is the piety that Escriva talks about, the piety that makes the difference, that teaches us to love, (to be charitable, to be grace-driven, not purpose driven) For as we realize the richness of God’s grace, of His love, of His presence, of His knowing we love Him; that love causes us to be devoted to Him, to adore Him.  (I think the old A.C.T.S. prayer model had it wrong, it should be Confession, Supplication, Thanksgiving, Adoration – for adoration flows out of the freedom given in that which precedes it!)

It is from that place of devotion, that place of adoring the God who welcomes Himself into out life, and walks with us, that ministry begins.  It is in knowing he accepts our love that our holiness and piety matures, a holiness and piety that sees the Kingdom of God established and revealed here, in our daily lives.

We do love Him, He accepts that love, because of the incredible dimensions of His love for us.

And realizing that changes everything in the church, including giving broken churches the hope we need to know…..

The Lord is with us!

AMEN!

 

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  (The Small Catechism Article III:The Second Petition

(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 346). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. (Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Article XIII)

(3)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 495-497). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are We Waiting for the End of Time with Joy?

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 10  Announce to the nations, “The LORD is King! The world stands firm, never to be shaken, and he will judge its people with fairness.” 11  Tell the heavens and the earth to be glad and celebrate! Command the ocean to roar with all of its creatures 12  and the fields to rejoice with all of their crops. Then every tree in the forest will sing joyful songs 13  to the LORD. He is coming to judge all people on earth with fairness and truth. Psalm 96:10-13 (CEV)

794         Mary spent three days and three nights looking for the Son who was lost. May you and I also be able to say that our willingness to find Jesus knows no rest.  (1)

Carmelite Vow:   Let each stay in or near their own cell, meditating, day and night on the law of the Lord, and vigilant in prayer, unless otherwise employed by the Holy Spirit!  (2)

As I look at the last quote, it seems odd for me, a Lutheran pastor, to quote a Catholic Monastic Vow.  Luther was not known to praise monastic orders, he saw little use for them.  

But to dismiss this thought entirely, is to forget the amount of time Luther spent in prayer, and in the word of God.

What would happen if we spent this kind of time with God, that whenever we weren’t involved in our vocations of life, we were using that time for prayer.  If we made the time we spent entertaining ourselves, the time we watched “reality shows”, the time we spent just doing nothing, seeking the Lord?  If we gave thought daily to His return, His glorious return? I think we wouldn’t fear it, or see Christ’s return as simply an escape from the day’s trouble. ( I will admit there are days I cry out for his return, just to be done with the trauma and drama of this life)

I think the experience of being so aware of His peace would change us dramatically.  

We would hunger for those times as the Psalmist does, as we read of men like Luther and Wesley who would make a priority of hours a day in prayer. I love St Josemaria’s thoughts as well, what if our willingness, or desire to find Jesus knew no rest – if we looked for His presence, not just in the fifteen minutes of the day, but also for hours, and for the seconds when we have nothing else occupying our minds?

That would change how we view our vocations, how we view the daily grind of life.

It would change every encounter, as fueled by our time with Hi, our hearts would be centered on the glorious day of His return. The time where judgment comes, and rather than fearing it, we welcome it, because of the work of Jesus Christ. We welcome His coming, seeing the Father face to face, knowing as we are known.

Come, let’s plunge into a life of devotion, come, lets spend time with our Lord! Not to impress Him, not because of some expectation we hope to meet, but rather, in love with a God who would come and make His life here… among us.

Lord Have Mercy!

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3286-3288). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Celtic Prayer Book, Monthy Devotional Thought for the 3d Day of the Month

Did You Leave God Behind This Morning?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:Will new camera 12 2008 167

66  As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. 67  Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NAB)

465         “Just one minute of intense prayer is enough.” Someone who never prayed used to say that. Would someone in love think it enough to contemplate intensely the person they love for just a minute?  (1)

Every morning that I am in my office, I use a morning devotion service from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  I like it for a number of reasons, it is well set up, and is a nice mix of liturgical form and meditation.  Instead of one of the three creeds, there is a simple declaration of faith (same thing really – Creed comes from Credo – I have confidence in) The declaration of faith is simply Peter’s response above, Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”

After using this devotional liturgy for a year, those words are well written on my soul. I have pondered them quit a bit as well in this last week – and wondered how often our lives do not match Peter’s response.  How often do we say that there is no where else to go, no one else’s words that give eternal life? Yet we leave our homes, and sometimes God is left behind.  Or we left Him at church on Sunday.  We run our lives as if he wasn’t there.

If we are honest, maybe we don’t want Him around, getting into our business, convicting us of sin.  Do we want Him answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation, when our minds and bodies are desperately trying to justify submitting to that temptation, or even searching it out.

Do we want to hear the words that give us life?  Do we want a life of continual prayer?  Or do we, like the crowds, want to leave Jesus places. so that we can return to our former way of life?

I’ve heard people ( and have even done it myself )justify their lack of prayer life by saying they pray in bursts, like the one St Josemaria points out.  I have a dynamic deep prayer life of 4 minutes, or I talk to God constantly through the day, so I don’t have to have devotional time.  And we leave Him behind again, preferring the television, or the computer or the company of others to spending time with God.  We play the quality versus quantity card too frequently.  The out for most of us pastors?  We don’t have the time because we are caring for people.

We need to be immersed in God’s presence, we need to realize how much a difference it makes, that this isn’t about discipline like calisthenics or working out in the gym.  We aren’t doing it for being holy for holiness sake. The only way to learn to value this time?  By being in it, tasting and knowing that God is good.

If you think these words are only aimed at you, my dear reader, they are not.  They are for me as well.  They are not to produce guilt, but to hold out to us that which is the most incredible news.

God, the creator of the universe, the One who died to bring hope and healing to the world, wants to spend time with you, to walk with you, to work with you, to encourage and comfort and rejoice and even dance with you.  That the Lord is with you….. and also… with me.

We didn’t leave Him behind, for He dwells with us.

I pray that we would receive the mercy of realizing that presence, and spending both time of quantity, and time of quality, in dialogue we our God, for we are His children!

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2052-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Does anyone really know what time it is?

"Saint Francis embracing Christ on the Cr...

“Saint Francis embracing Christ on the Cross” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does anyone really know what time it is?

Luke 12:49-56

 

Jesus, Son, Deliverer

My friends, may you be very careful about the sort of lives you lead, living  like intelligent and not like senseless people.  May you make the best of the present time, for it is a wicked age. 17  This is why you must not be thoughtless but must recognize what is the will of the Lord. AMEN!    Adapted from Ephesians 5:15-17 (NJB)

Synchronize your watches

         

The men are gathered around their leader, excited, anxious, a bit nerve-wracked as they consider what it will take to come out of this alive, and more importantly, bring those that they have been sent to rescue out alive.

They have gone over the plan, time and time again. They have it memorized, the exact time each will be called on to do their part, right down to the second.   They know the signals, the potential obstacles, and as they once last time are briefed, the leader calls for them to synchronize their watches, it is 9:35 on my mark….mark!

Timing is very important.  Knowing what time it is, can be critical. (except during the sermon)

When Jesus is talking to the crowd about timing, about how they should know what time it is, they cannot quite comprehend the mission He is on, nor perhaps can they understand how it will change their lives.

It is time for something to happen, for God is in their midst.  Jesus the Messiah is talking to them – and all of the promises of His work in preparing them to be the people of God are coming true, right before their eyes.

But that action will call for a painful division, one that cuts right through their souls, right through their hearts.

Jesus has been teaching them, and we’ve been hearing Him teach them for 3 weeks, about His work… really, we’ve been hearing Him talk to us, calling us to realize it’s time.

The question today is like the title of an old Chicago song…”does anyone really know what time it is?”

and if we do, are we ready for what needs to take place, within us, within our world?

The High Cost of the Mission

As Christ has spoken to us through the gospel readings this week and the previous two weeks, He has asked us about our priorities, or perspective in life and yes, our loyalty.

It’s not that there is something wrong with wealth, or things, or family.  Each has its place; each has it’s time; each should be treasured as a gift from God. The challenge is when they become more important that our relationship with God.  Make no mistake, the cost of hearing God’s love and responding to it, trusting in Him, can divide us from anything.

It can mean we realize that money or careers are not our priority.
It can mean we realize that even relationships with family and friends don’t quite compare.

Luther found this out, when he realized God wanted him to be a priest, his father wanted to disown him.  Francis of Assisi’s dad locked him up in a storage area that was 3 feet tall and 5 feet long because he wanted to become a monk.  Some relatives may call us nuts or fanatics, we may struggle to explain to them why our relationship with God is our highest priority…there is division… at first.

We may even struggle with this cost… after all, worldy logic tells us that blood is thicker than water… though I don’t think they understood the power of this water when the word of God is applied with it.

The temptation is simple – to allow the Trinity to be overlooked.  To see God’s mission to take a back seat, to be blind to our time with family to be time invested in God’s mission. Whenever  we forget it is time to see God at work, we’ve allowed false God’s to slip in,

Back to the question for us, which means more to us? Is it our relationship with God, or how we define ourselves apart from Him?
If it is time to see God’s Kingdom come in its fullness among us, if we are going to find our lives set apart completely for God’s use, then that means that we will be divided from things, and potentially our relationships with others will change.

And we need to ask are we ready for this time?

If we answer ourselves honestly, to really see our loyalty and how we invest our time and effort being centered in our relationship with Christ, we are going to need help.  Lots of it!

Christ’s desire

         

But as is the case over and over, when we have to face the harsh reality and demands of our life of faith, we find the one in whom we have faith.  I love the way the New Living Translation puts the first two verses of the gospel.

I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! 50  I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished.

 

The two verses are a parallelism – they are saying the same thing. What will set the world on fire – what will devour us, is the very baptism of suffering that Jesus would endure.  For us, that He endured.  Next year – on good Friday, you will hear Jesus proclaim “It is finished” (well you can read it before then too!) It is the same root word as accomplished.  For as He dies, everything in the universe changes – the world is consumed there on the cross – along with all of us, and our sin.

But I want you specifically to see the desire of Jesus – He wants to get on to this, He is under a heavy burden, waiting for His crucifixion!  Not because of the nature of the suffering, but because of what it brings – our deliverance, our salvation, our being united to Him, our being freed from burdens of sin, anxiety over death, from the oppression of Satan.

All of that will be consumed at the cross. All of that was consumed at the cross…

Being on fire for Christ, as some talk about it, is about His suffering, His death, consuming our sin, our idolatry.  It’s about responding to Christ’s enduring the cross because of the incredible joy that God, Father, Son and Spirit would have, with our life in Christ secure.

Look at the cover of the bulletin – that is what the author of Hebrews, tells us, in the chapter after our epistle reading….

What all of those people of faith looked forward to.. it is time for… time to..

2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 (NJB)

 

That’s the fire that changes everything – this baptism of suffering which Christ endures.  It causes a fire of love, of faith, something which consumes our hearts and minds, something that transforms them, purifying us, assuring us of God’s love in a way that is not illogical – but greater than any logic we can understand…

it’s like the blessing which I started the sermon with…

May you make the best of the present time, for it is a wicked age. 17  This is why you must not be thoughtless but must recognize what is the will of the Lord. AMEN!

The will of God, His greatest desire… to feast with you, to pour out His love upon you, to help you realize you are never alone, but that He would cleanse of all our idolatry, that He would divide us from the world in a sense, but give us back that same world and many of those relationships as they are cured of their brokenness, that they are healed of the sin which so ravaged them.

Because of His love for us…

His burden is over now… the wish that the fire were already burning is no longer needed – this fire, this desire to see the world saved – it is kindling in us, and as we come to realize how great the Father’s love for us is…. It will burn brighter and brighter, as we desire that all the people we know join us…all the people we meet, for as they join us at this altar, we know that they will join us before His throne…..

So yes – may you daily recognize what is the will of the Lord…

That because of the cross, because of Christ’s love, we would dwell now and forever in His peace, the peace that passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN?

Spiritual Growth, commanded, compelled, or?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day… and please discuss!

“You need interior life and doctrinal formation. Be demanding on yourself! As a Christian man or woman, you have to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, for you are obliged to give good example with holy shamelessness. The charity of Christ should compel you. Feeling and knowing yourself to be another Christ from the moment you told him that you would follow him, you must not separate yourself from your equals—your relatives, friends and colleagues—any more than you would separate salt from the food it is seasoning. Your interior life and your formation include the piety and the principles a child of God must have, to give flavour to everything by his active presence there. Ask the Lord that you may always be that good seasoning in the lives of others.” (1)

Over the centuries, one of the great issues for the church is how to encourage spiritual growth in the people of God.  How to get encourage them to live lives filled with prayer and worship and both meditation on God’s word, and the indepth study of it.   There is no doubt to the benefit of such interaction with God and His word, yet how do we do it?  Add to this the theological discussion about the proper use of God’s law and gospel, and the issue gets further complicated.  We have been told – and can make the case for from scripture, that we aren’t supposed us Law (rules with threats of active or passive punishment/reward) to motivate behavior within the church, but rather – receiving the incredible grace of God should result in our actions changing – as God works the change in us.

This is true not only for private spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, devotional study, and being involved in gatherings with other believers, but also things like evangelism, serving the needy…

The above quote is walking on the fence – primarily because of how people read the word “obliged”.  If obliged is read as to mean you are blessed if you do, damned if you do not, then it becomes law.  THe problem with using the law to motivate the behavior that should be natural to a Christian is that compliance is achieved through fear or greed – the positive or negative reward is why the act is being done.  (Some would say – at least its being done – and the ends justify the means.)  That form of compliance is often short-lived as well – for the reward diminishes over time, and what was once done with enthusiasm and excitement fades.  (This btw is why I believe when the end result of becoming a Christian is the “reward of heaven”, people will soon lose interest – becoming a Christian is about Who we are in heaven with, and Who walks with us here)

But if obliged is something different – an inner compelling to love as a reaction to love, if Christ’s charity to us, to humanity is so overwhelming as it is, then we are compelled the same way a piece of wood is swept away by a river’s current – and the discipline is something internal, natural, the norm, not the goal.   The spiritual growth simply becomes part of us, as we are swept along in Christ – the disciplines become part of who we are, rather than what we do.

Yet that still begs the question – how do we introduce these things to the new believer, how do we encourage and train, guide and pastor people, and indeed fellow pastors, in such beneficial and grace filled things. And how do we encourage it in our “mature” believers, those who have done without for so long, yet see themselves as “faithful”.  How do we encourage and teach this to those who see no great need for indepth prayer and meditation?

How do we cause them to fall into the river of Christ’s charity and become swept into a life, lived fully in relationship, interacting with God, not just on Sunday morning (or the occaisonal Sunday Morning..) but as part of their life…

For that matter – how do leaders find the motivation to let Christ sweep us away..?

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1722-1730). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

%d bloggers like this: