Blog Archives

Why Can’t They Learn From Our Mistakes? (The difference between instruction and discipling)

We must all come to the place like Peter, where we let Jesus wash our feet….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  So Moses wrote down God’s Law and gave it to the levitical priests, who were in charge of the LORD’S Covenant Box, and to the leaders of Israel. 10  He commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, when the year that debts are canceled comes around, read this aloud at the Festival of Shelters. 11  Read it to the people of Israel when they come to worship the LORD your God at the one place of worship. 12  Call together all the men, women, and children, and the foreigners who live in your towns, so that everyone may hear it and learn to honor the LORD your God and to obey his teachings faithfully. 13  In this way your descendants who have never heard the Law of the LORD your God will hear it. And so they will learn to obey him as long as they live in the land that you are about to occupy across the Jordan.”
Deuteronomy 31:9-13 (TEV)

The word of God is creative; and the Word he said, once and for all,
to human beings couldn’t be other but the Word made flesh, his Son, Jesus Christ. However only those who hear the Word made flesh from their experience of personal sinfulness and weakness will receive his saving power. This is the reason why the Lord says he has come for the sick, not the healthy.

Our lives are long enough to learn what we need to learn, but not long enough to change anything. That is our flaw. Each age must learn everything afresh. Such waste!
Such waste – making all the mistakes once and again, each generation making the same mistakes, fumbling in ignorance and darkness.
This oak was already old when I was born. Now I am old and soon to die, and this tree grows strong still.
We are small creatures. Our lives are not long, but long enough to learn.

There are times that preaching and teaching becomes tedious. It seems like we do the same thing, over and over, year in and year out. Sure, we use different words, but the story is the same.

But there is a time where you wish people would learn the lesson, internalizing it. making it part of who they are. There is also a time where those who teach wish that each succeeding generation would be able to hear and learn from those who went before them, not having to watch them make the same mistake generation after generation.

Or deal with the same issues.

Lawhead’s comments in green above brought me back to that thought. My generation struggled with extremes. Topics like the role of women in the church, or what is appropriate in worship (from music to dress), struggles theologically, it was so easy to become blown this way or that depending on who was teaching.

It seems vain, and without impact, as we didn’t see all that much change possible in the world. We could learn, or we could help, but neither left an impact on us, what hope do we have to pas this down to the next generation.

Which brings me to Pope Francis’s words, and the amazing insight in them. We give the same lesson over and over because the place where it is best learned is that place of brokenness we all inhabit. The valley of tears, where guilt and shame haunt us, and we need God to intervene in our lives.

Why does each generation have to deal with the same arguments, the same battles, the same sins over and over? BEcause it is in those paradoxical places, being blown about, struggling, we find out He is our rock, He is our anchor, He is our peace.

And that is the difference between a sermon that instructs your people and a message to those you are discipling. One promises hope, the other guides them into discovering it, and seeing God reveal it to them. The result is that their voices praise Him from the soul, and their hearing and the reaction of obedience is something natural, not something forced.

The people that we guide through life, each and every generation have to deal with the same issues, the same struggles, the same questions that plunge the paradoxes of our faith.

But we need to know the paradoxes are not the final issue and not the final battle. We need to discover the Lord who is deeper, the Lord who is greater, the Lord whose love goes beyond the dimensions we can explore. But exploring those dimension, that is where life is found.

And that is a trip you can only take from the point of brokenness… and each person, and each generation must deal with that brokenness…

Lord, help those on the journey be patient with those who are beginning it. Lord, help us see the struggles that we have, not as something to deny or hide, but help us look for those who will point to You, and remind us of that which is greater than our struggle. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 113). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Stephen Lawhead,
https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ (for this day March 30

499 Years Later How is YOUR Re-formation Going?

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

499 Years Later
How is YOUR Re-formation Going?

 Jesus, Son, Savior

 May the mercy of God our Father, poured out on us as we were untied to Jesus in Baptism, be as real, as reforming our lives and God’s church.

Does History Guarantee our Reformation?

There was once a group of people who thought themselves good, who counted their spiritual heritage back across the generations, for they knew God had worked across those generations, and had often preserved His people. They did what they were told would make them holy, they regularly met and celebrated the promises of God. They ignored their sin, often while condemning the sins of others.

It sounds like the descendants of Abraham, doesn’t it?

Could it be said of Lutherans, even Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Lutherans, Even the people that gather here at Concordia Lutheran Church, even those here right now?

I think Jesus’ answer to us would be the same to those Jews who needed to be freed from sin, as He calls us all to be disciples, to remain in the truth He instills in us, to celebrate the truth that indeed sets us free!

To put it in another way, to be able to answer the question,

“499 years later, how is your re-formation going?”

Or do we know that the Holy Spirit is at work, reforming us!

Are we still enslaved to sin?

Jesus told them and told us, that if we are sin, we are enslaved to it, in bondage to it, that it set a trap and caught us in it, a trap we cannot easily escape.  That’s why you can’t escape it at times, or the guilt and shame it can cause.

Ever lay awake at night, wondering why you said or did something, or have it come back to haunt you?  Ever feel the suffocation of shame, as you think, if they only knew how bad I was, they would never forgive?

One article I read said that Luther had an over-active sense of guilt, a by-product of depression, and a burdened soul that created the Reformation to find comfort for his broken soul.

Would we all have souls so hungry to be found righteous, and haunted by our own unrighteousness! Would we all seek out the comfort God offers to those who are broken, and would we all point others, in need of us, to the comfort the cross offers!

For we need relief of being ensnared by sin, we need to hear that we’ve been freed from it, we need to know, in the midst of broken lives and a broken world, that there is peace!

That’s why Jesus points out that in their slavery, they may seem to be part of Abraham’s family, but they are slaves, people without rights, who aren’t part of the family.  They lived in the illusion of it, while still in bondage.  But if they would follow Jesus, if they would walk with Him, learn of Him, and find their place in Him, they would be free.  They would be transformed.

We need to be transformed, which was the hope both the Reformation and the Restoration movements offered.

We need to see our reformation and restoration both personal, and permanent.  To declared us free from the power of sin, freed to become the children of God!

We are part of that family

That was the freedom, the comfort, the relief Luther, and so many before and after found.  In being a disciple, not just someone who learns by sitting in a classroom, but one who walks with Jesus in every aspect of life.  Where we let God form us, even disciplining us as the Holy Spirit works to reform and transform us.

This is what happens at the Cross when we are united to Christ’s death and His resurrection, that is where our personal reformation begins, ever as Paul wrote to Titus.

3  Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4  But—

That is us, back when before this happened>0

“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7  Because of his grace, he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8  This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:3-8 (NLT)

This is the teaching a disciple of Jesus remains in, the fact that He saved us, baptizing us in water and the Spirit, cleansing us from all sin.

That is where our confidence in being part of God’s family comes from!  Not from anywhere else!  That is where our reformation happened, even as it is revealed throughout the rest of our lives, and completed on the day of Christ.

And knowing that leaves us in a place of peace, A peace that is found as we remain in Christ Jesus.  In that peace, we find the stillness needed to know He is God, and we have not only been freed, but we’ve become part of the family.  AMEN!

What’s in you?

 14  Then Jesus called the crowd to him once more and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15  There is nothing that goes into you from the outside which can make you ritually unclean. Rather, it is what comes out of you that makes you unclean.”  Mark 7:14-15 (TEV)

It is necessary that you be a “man of God,” a man of interior life, a man of prayer and of sacrifice. Your apostolate must be the overflow of your life “within.”  (1)

In the last couple of days, I have heard a lot of people talking about the threats to Christianity, and indeed to Christians.  I’ve heard talk of teaching pastors to defend the faith ( using a very misguided translation of St Peter’s words about being ready to give the reason for the hope we have).  It’s as if these challenges to a Christian could possibly remove their faith, or break them.

That attitude is not unlike the attitude of the Pharisees in Mark 7.  They spent all the time working on the outside appearance of their faith. They want it to appear perfect, with no cracks, no gaps, not even with the slightest hint of guilt.  Except of course, we are all dirty, and whether we want to admit it or not – we are all weak and broken and needing to be cleansed – from the inside out, not the outside in.

The outside isn’t our threat – the inside is.

But just like that – it is not the inside that is the source of our holiness, even though we are called to a pure interior life.  It’s not something we can do on our own, but it is something that is done to us.   Hear the prophetic words of Ezekiel,

 25  I will sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean from all your idols and everything else that has defiled you. 26  I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. 27  I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. 28  Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29  I will save you from everything that defiles you! Ezekiel 36:25-29a (TEV)

This is what it is all about – this interior life that St. Josemaria speaks of so clearly.  It is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  It is the promise of His incarnation in us – as we are united to His death and resurrection.  It is the gift of the Holy Spirit – dwelling in us, and the communion that occurs.  That is the spring of a life from which no longer comes that which perverts us, but proof of God’s work in us – the fount of holiness.

So look within – not to see your own internal clock – not to see your own desires – but to see the love of the One who desires that you are transformed, repentant, made alive… and works in you……

and find that His mission, HIs apostolate – that even as the Father sent Jesus – so we are sent – to bring life and a walk with God to those he died to save.!

Lord Have mercy on us!

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter ...

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Fresco, 335 x 550 cm Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Ελληνικά: Λεπτομέρεια από την νωπογραφία του Πιέτρο Περουτζίνο, Ο Χριστός Παραδίδει τα Κλειδιά στον Πέτρο, 335 x 600 cm, Καπέλα Σιξτίνα, Πόλη του Βατικανού. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2226-2228). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Hungry for more than Discipleless Christianity

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Nave of Salisbury Cathedral, with Sibirica Min...

Nave of Salisbury Cathedral, with Sibirica Minor II in foreground – geograph.org.uk – 188287 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. 26  For there is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us. 27  Instead, all that is left is to wait in fear for the coming Judgment and the fierce fire which will destroy those who oppose God! 28  Anyone who disobeys the Law of Moses is put to death without any mercy when judged guilty from the evidence of two or more witnesses. 29  What, then, of those who despise the Son of God? who treat as a cheap thing the blood of God’s covenant which purified them from sin? who insult the Spirit of grace? Just think how much worse is the punishment they will deserve!  Hebrews 10:23-29 (TEV) 

 

 

  57  As they went on their way, a man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58  Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lie down and rest.” 59  He said to another man, “Follow me.” But that man said, “Sir, first let me go back and bury my father.” 60  Jesus answered, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” 61  Someone else said, “I will follow you, sir; but first let me go and say good-bye to my family.” 62  Jesus said to him, “Anyone who starts to plow and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God.”     Luke 9:57-62 (TEV)

 

 

28  “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30  For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”     Matthew 11:28-30 (TEV) 

Yesterday in Bible Study we came across the first passage above.  It is a bit scary, given the predisposition of people to sin, and even to argue that sins isn’t sin, or more commonly that my sins aren’t as foul, disgusting and pathetic as the sins of those people “out there”!   Indeed we love to look outside ourselves, outside our churches, outside our country even, and point out their sins, their idolatry, their evil.

Or better yet, let’s ignore the issue of sin altogether in the church, and focus instead on issues like music, or what is a proper liturgy, or what is the nature and relationship of sanctification to justification.  Let’s focus on church growth, or maintaining pure doctrine; even if that means the church must diminish because of how we work to purify it.  There are more than enough things to worry about, there are more than enough cute sayings we can make meme’s out of, or tweet till we turn blue.   We want to be Christians, whether Lutheran or Catholic or Methodist or Baptist or Non-Denom, without being disciples – and that is why our churches are so weak.

Instead we can be His friends, we can let Him mentor us, correct us, challenge our idols, especially the idol of our reason, our logic, our ideas of what is right and wrong, what is righteous, or what is sin.  We can go – okay Lord, I don’t get this, but I trust YOU!

Will we let the refiner’s fire work in our lives, will we let his abrasive fuller’s soap burn our filthy rags and transform them into glorious white robes?

Will we let Him heal us of our sin?

Will we be reconciled, redeemed, revived, renewed, recreated?

Or do we want a nice academic, thoughtful (but controlled) form of Christianity that asks nothing of us, that allows us to create a facade of righteous, with all the right actions, all the right words, all the proper things… but without a true and honest relationship with the one who hung on a tree to make that relationship possible?

I’ve said it before – following Jesus is more like Ballroom dancing that mountain climbing – will we move with Him, will we allow Him to guide us, to teach us., to bless us with His word, His sacrament, His Death and Resurrection?  This isn’t about some form of false piety, it’s about walking with God, and letting Him be our loving, merciful, faithful Shepherd and the Firstborn and Friend.

A last thought – the blessing from the Book of Hebrews:

 

 

 20  Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— 21  may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen!    Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Faith is Like Driving a Stick

Devotional thought of the day:

I often see people trying to create a division between “religion” and a “relationship” with Jesus. They bash the idea of there being a structured relationship, because somehow that limits them.  Personally, I think there is more to the discussion than simply saying you don’t need the structure, you don’t need the discipline, you don’t need that which so many before you found to be essential to their walk with God.  Let me explain using a illustration.

I  love driving a manual transmission – especially a five or six speed stick.  I really miss my old tiny Mazda 626 and the Sentra SE-R that replaced it.  I used to work at a university, and lived about 20 miles away.  The road was very winding and hilly, (Malibu Canyon) and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride – constantly shifting and just having fun.   It was even fun when rocks dotted the road in the canyon, as you had to really drive. I even learned a few different routes – winding through the Santa Monica Mountains.  The scenery was gorgeous- and driving a stick just made it a greater experience!

Driving in such a manner is a great example of religion and relationship functioning together.  I didn’t think, downshift now – upshift now – double clutch…right now. I just did it, I guess the word is intuitively, naturally, and the senses became even more aware of what was going on.  (for example – my carpool companion Ed screaming to slow down!!!) The “structure” of shifting and the discipline of driving were not negatives – they were part of the flow of life that enhanced the experience, that made it…incredible.  Driving an automatic (whether my wife’s Geo Metro or later her RAV4) was no where near the same experience.

If I were to say I didn’t need the structure – that I could shift from 1st to 4th, or didn’t need to depress the clutch, the ride would have been somewhat different.  And the damage to the car (our lives) could be exreme.  That is what I think those who try to divide our “religion” from the “relationship”.  They try to shift where they want, when they want – and there is nothing to keep their senses in check.  Unfortunately, life isn’t like driving on a 100 square mile dry-lake bed.  It is like driving through the windy canyon, with rocks falling, and a 700 foot cliff to the left!  We have to realize that prayer, and reading the Bible, and gathering as the people of God are not duties to hamper our faith, but blessings to form it.

There is another problem that becomes evident here – how we train people to “drive” and “shift”.  Nothing intimidates me more than contemplating teaching my wife to drive a stick.  It is so intuitive to me, I can’t even think about how to express it in works.  My brother in law once had a sheet of directions – “Zen and the art of Driving a stick”  – basically saying – when it’s time to shift, depress the clutch, shift, release the clutch”  Yeah – that’s about it… yet!   So we struggle as we teach people the “mechanics” of our faith, and we just expect them to treasure them the way we do.   Not to mention we get a little ticked when they grind the clutch, or don’t down shift or.. and our frustration frustrates them – and do we really need all this?

And so the idea of can’t we strip the religion from the relationship seems to be very… possible.  And often times, to our shame, we let them – thinking they will never understand.  Not remembering how long it took us to learn these things.

I thought so too – till I started ministering to people with dementia, or alzheimers, or near the end of their lives.  To go through a short version of the liturgy, and see those who cannot remember why I wear a clerical collar – though they do know it is a great thing I am there – say the Lord’s prayer with me, and even the Creed, to read Psalm 23, or John 3, or Eph 2:8-10 and watch them mouth the words, and the same during the words of institution, or the light that sparkles in their eyes and they receive the Lord’s Supper.  There is something to that structure, there is something to that faith – that is even intuitive when all else is failing. There is peace, and calm and even joy.  The same when a family goes through trauma, or when what would cause anxiety in ost just doesn’t stress them out.

For it is then, that “religion” calls us back to know that which we should know – when our driving becomes fluid and graceful and we can again rise out of ourselves and sense that there is something else at work, Someone else providing the power, the beauty, the grace.  When we are no longer just concentrating on the mechanics, but they are so natural, that we can more clearly experience walking with God. Because we know His promises, we know He is communicating with us in prayer, and we are ultimately aware of His presence… so aware nothing else matters.

So be patient, be diligent, listen to those who would disciple and train you… and if you are training someone – be patient, remember how it took you a while – and there were more than a few hiccups,

Lord Have Mercy, and help us to live in a way, that we rejoice in the journey, fully confident of Your presence.
AMEN

Convenient Christianity

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

 Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.’ 62 Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ “
Luke 9:61-62 (NJB)

As a pastor, I struggle a lot with those who have the attitude told in this passage.  Who say, “Pastor my faith means everything, but I am going to have to miss church (or Bible Study, or even their own devotional prayer time) because I must go and …(insert favorite hobby, activity, vacation, etc)
Of course, if I am honest, I am not much better, for I will allow things to crash my personal time with God, and there are days… if I didn’t have to go to church, I wouldn’t.  Partially because I wonder if what I do is effective enough, or whether it is worth the sacrifice that it costs – sacrifices to me, to my wife and son, to my parents and other relatives.
And then I come across this passage, and others like it, and I feel guilt, or sometimes I want to use this passage and the hundreds like it to provoke guilt in those whose commitment is divided, whose life shows the brokenness that comes from not spending it with God.

It’s not how it works though – for if we only do religious things because we have to, because we have an obligation to, because if we don’t, we feel guilty, then we’ve missed the point.

Religion isn’t about obligations, Christianity isn’t about obeying the commandments for the commandments sake,

It’s about walking (following is a word that denotes going on the same journey with the one we follow) with Christ – sharing our lives even as He has shared His life with us.

The reason my Christianity tends to be “convenient”, the reason Conventient Christianity is the fastest spreading form of it in our area… is because we don’t grasp the treasure of those simple words, “The Lord is with you”.

Lord, help us to know, to intimately get this truth, help us to encourage others to grasp it as well.  Help us to follow – and to realize nothing is as precious as our time spent with You and yours…
 

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