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Forging the faithful… and standing the heat…. Words of Encouragement for those who serve God’s treasured people


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the day:

28  So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me. Colossians 1:28 (Phillips NT)

12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.
Ephesians 4:12-13 (TEV)

There was a mother who, like all mothers, was passionately fond of her little child, whom she called her prince, her king, her treasure, her very sun. I thought of you. And I understood —for what father does not carry deep inside some maternal feelings?— that it was no exaggeration for that good mother to say: you are more than a treasure, you are worth more than the sun itself: you are worth all Christ’s Blood! How can I fail to take up your soul —pure gold— and place it in the forge, and fashion it with fire and hammer, until that gold nugget is turned into a splendid jewel to be offered to my God, to your God?

I was talking to another person in ministry this week, and we were talking about how to encourage young people to make the sacrifices of entering the ministry.  Within the context was also the discussion of the sacrifices we make to serve others. One of the sacrifices you might realize as you read the words in blue above.

If we are to be the instruments that which the Holy Spirit uses to “forge” people, to shape and mold them as we teach them and administer the sacraments, that weans we have to deal with the heat as well. Using more Lutheran terminology, you can’t preach Law and Gospel without hearing it yourself.  For that is how St Josemaria’s forge works, as we are purified and fashioned for the life God has planned for us – to be there for them.

Yet if we spend time at the forge, we have to be there in the heat, we have to hold on, and care for those God gives us to care for, to be there with the fire and the hammer, to work despite the heat, despite how it zaps our strength, despite their sweat and tears (and even the stubborn refusal to bend to God’s will)

Over 20 years of preaching in jails and churches, spending time at bedside and with those who are ill and dying, this is what ministry has taught me.  It is those moments where the heat is the hottest that I remember – not for the pain, but for incredible beauty that appears as the Holy Spirit transforms them, as the Spirit revitalizes them and reveals in them the image of God in which they were created, which was marred and broken by sin.

And being in the heat – you get to witness this, you get to see it. You get to look to God and say – I see what you did there, Oh my, how holy!  How they shine because of Your care, your mercy and love!  How they reflect your glory!  As we see this, the heat is forgotten, the Lord and His beloved children are all our mind can focus upon. It is an incredible blessing to see, more than any discomfort, far worth the sweat and the tears…

Miraculously something else happens, those of us who serve as tools, who endure the heat for others, realize the same heat that transformed them, is why we are able to bear the heat, because we too have been transformed and tempered as well.  While sometimes we think we are not made for this work, God turns our lives into masterpieces as well.

Praise God for the heat of His forge, and the work He gives us…. for it is an incredible thing to have a small part in, as He uses us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 226-231). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Discipleship, Spiritual Formation and the Mark of the Beast


 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
TDevotional/Discussion Thought of the Week

17 so that no one could buy or sell except one who had the stamped image of the beast’s name or the number that stood for its name. 18 Wisdom is needed here; one who understands can calculate the number of the beast, for it is a number that stands for a person. His number is six hundred and sixty-six. (14)  1 Then I looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion,* and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.  NAB-RE REV. 13:17-14:1

75 I know, O LORD, that your regulations are fair; you disciplined me because I needed it. 76 Now let your unfailing love comfort me, just as you promised me, your servant. 77 Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live, for your instructions are my delight.  NLT  Psalm 119:75-78

431    Don’t fear God’s justice. It is no less admirable and no less lovable than his mercy. Both are proofs of his love.  (1)

Looking at the three quotes above, it will at first seem like the first is not like the other two.

It is that passage that has people afraid of everything from Social Security Numbers, to Bar Codes, to Smart Chips and credit card smart chips.  Some preachers use that passage to cause a form a paranoia about the government, as if it can do what Romans 8 says cannot be done.  There in Romans it says that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Nothing.

Not even the mark of the beast!  For as we see when we dispense with man-made chapter headings, we see two marks, not one.  The mark of the beast – and the mark of the Lamb and our Heavenly Father.

But this fear of the mark gets to the heart of Christian discipleship, to what they call spiritual formation. That is how the passage from Revelation and the quote from Psalms and a blip from Escriva tie together.

For when we understand that God’s discipline, that spiritual formation at the hands of God is about His love, that the differing marks make sense.

David’s words are simple and precise, “we need it.”

First, so that we correct our ways, that we get rid of the idols in our life, that we are freed from those things that would enslave us, as we trust in them, as we turn to them, rather than depending on God.  Forming us means that God is putting in place the barriers that protect us from falling. It is not punitive as much as protective.

We don’t always see God’s discipline as protective, but that is indeed what it is, because it originates in the same place as His mercy – the incredible longsuffering, sacrificial love He has for us; it comes from the desire He has to see us transformed rather than perish. Formation isn’t always comfortable, for we can’t simply go where we want – and trying to may mean running into a wall.  And that can hurt!

David experienced, and therefore knew that God’s discipline, (some translations use affliction ) is followed by comfort, by an outpouring of mercy, by healing and restoration.  It is this pattern, this characteristic; that reveals His love, his devoted benevolent care for us.

We are His people; We bear His name, given to us, marking us in our baptism.

The more we explore that love, its height, its depth, its breadth and width (and we can’t, in this life know it completely) the more convinced we are that God loves us.  The more we entrust ourselves to it, even to reveling in it.  Recipients of this love, this Godly intimate affection we can, with complete abandon praise and glorify Him, with our voices, and with our lives.

Even as He lovingly corrects us, even as we struggle with our brokenness, even as we question how God will make this work out for good.

Such is a disciplined life; such is one who’s been marked, not with some counterfeit mark, but with the name of Christ, and of the Father.

666?  Not afraid of that, for I know the love of God, a love that is willing to suffer, and Will even form me though I may perceive it as suffering.

Lord, have mercy!  (even when it means disciplining us!)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1059-1060). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Hang On For the Ride of Your Life! A sermon on Deut. 30:15-20


Hang On For the Ride of Your LIFE!

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

I.H.S.†

 May, in the midst of this crazy life we live, you find exploring the height, the depth, the breadth and width of God’s love for you is more exciting than anything you have ever known!

A Pastor Parker Parable

It’s been a while since I did a Pastor Parker Parable, and today’s Old Testament passage seems to cry out for one.

The Kingdom of God is like a Cannonball.

Specifically, following Jesus, trusting and depending on Him is like a cannonball found in my hometown, just a couple of minutes ride from my house.

Specifically, this cannonball (click to picture) the Yankee Cannonball at Canobie Lake Park.

When I was a kid it was the most creaky, rickety, rollercoaster that I’ve ever been on.  It was a blast and very cool…yet scary!

One that wasn’t scary because of the 120 foot first drop, or the sharp curves, or the screams.  Sometimes it looked like this, when they replaced half the sticks holding up the tracks…

Which made it interesting.

Sort of like life.

And like, you can hang on for dear life, and enjoy the ride, or you can close your eyes, and miss it.  For like the ride, life passes by much too fast – I mean where did July and August go?

So when you hear Moses or myself says, God is giving you a choice between life and death, love God, and hang on for life!

Keep Your Eyes Open!!!

There is a temptation, as you start to climb the long first hill of a rollercoaster, to close your eyes.  To ignore the height, you are climbing above the ground, and if you could, you probably close your ears to the tatatataa of the tracks passing underneath the wheels, bringing you closer and closer to the top of the hill, and the change from a gradual, gentle uphill climb to a plummeting descent that causes your cheeks to be behind your ears.

You want to blame someone, whoever caused you to be on this rollercoaster, even as you feel the entire framework sway in the gentle breeze.

And then your stomach is hovering 128 feet above the ground, while the rest of body is bottoming out at 3 feet above the ground and starting to rise up the next hill!  ( you do wonder why you didn’t crash full force into the ground, especially as you noticed a lot of wood missing…)

That is our life.  There are times where our anxiety rises and turns into a paralyzing fear. We want someone to blame for the mess we are in, and we aren’t having fun.  Where we are certain that we are plummeting to our death, or even hell, and we can’t stop and get off of life.

And so we close our eyes to the sin, to the unrighteousness. We try to dismiss it, and say it doesn’t exist, even as it tears at our face, even as we get that sick to our stomach feeling, even as we are sure we are going to crash.
Without Jesus, we would do exactly that.  We would crash into the ground at 5000 miles an hour!  The supports would give out, and quite possibly, we would take a bunch of people with us.

I am not sure we see sin that clearly.  Oh, we might know the anxiety and the guilt and the shame, but do we realize that its end is death? DO you know that sin is disaster?  Hear scripture

17 “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18 then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed.

Do we get that sin crushes us, destroys us, that it leads us to worship other gods, to place our trust and hope in things that will let us down?

It does – and if the guilt and shame we try so hard to avoid, if the angst and anxiety sin and unrepentance causes doesn’t convince you of your need for Jesus, then take a serious look at hell. Consider life lived with eyes closed in fear, pain, separation from all of those around you.

Imagine enduring that for eternity?
Imagine the darkness closing in on you – that the choice you have, to open your eyes,

Jesus sets before you that, and real life today.  In fact, most of us live with that choice every day.

Life, death, that which is desirable and pleasant, or that which is broken, defective, abandoned.

You’re committed

You see, life is like the rollercoaster – you aren’t in line, you are on the coaster, the wheels are going, the rails are clicking, the wind is blowing past you.

You are committed, but how you react within that commitment makes the difference.

You can close yourself off, from others and from God.

Or you can open your eyes, scream every once in a while, smile and enjoy the ride, trusting in the Lord who is your support, who is your safety, who is your refuge.  Who designed the track, who knows the curves, who ensures that you will keep going!

In our reading – it says the way we “LIVE” is to love God, to treasure all that He has established, the laws, the gospel, the promises, the blessings, and where it says commit – that’s means simply to hold on.

And like the front bat on the rollercoaster, your have on for dear life – and it helps you in the curves and in the drops….

But what keeps you safe is that the coaster hangs onto you – you are belted in, you aren’t going anywhere, until it is time to unfasten this belt, because you find yourself safely back home in the station.  Until you are safely in His presence….even as you are here for a moment, but then for eternity.

He holds onto you – He is the author and finisher of your faith, and He will present you perfect to the Father.

Keep your eyes open, on Him, hold onto Him, knowing He has united you to himself in baptism, and he will not lose you, and live and enjoy the ride.

knowing the peace that comes, even on a roller coaster.  For we are cleansed, made holy, forgiven, healed and never abandoned by our Lord.

And He guards our hearts and minds as we dwell in the peace of our Father, peace that even overcomes fears on a 75-year-old wooden roller coaster!

AMEN!

Not all roads lead to God, yet…


Devotional Thought of the Day:
4  God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 5  God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 6  God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. 7  Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (MSG)

231         I like the motto: “Let each wayfarer follow his way”, the road God has marked out for him, to be followed faithfully, lovingly, even though it is hard.  (1)

It is one of the hardest lessons to learn as a pastor.  It is one that is not often taught in Christian Universities or Seminaries, except maybe a short aspect of a pastoral care class.

It is simple and profound, it wears you our and leaves you in awe.  Here is one of the greatest secrets to ministry:

You can’t minister to every person the same way, you can’t shepherd 100 people from 105 different places along the same exact path.  They need to be drawn/dragged from where they are at to the foot of the cross, to the very mercy of God, poured out as His blood paid for all our sins.

Yet we are trained to use the same materials, the same processes in our discipleship of those in our churches.  Those processes are based in some core thought that is essential ( for example, afflict those comfortable in their sin, comfort those afflicted by their sin. ) but how that is applied to the people in our churches should fit a particular process.   it is a big job, but discipleship is both corporate and individual.

Is it any wonder that most churches stop discipleship once people have passed a new members class?   Or if there is is a program, some drop out because it assumes a different starting path, and they are too frustrated to wait and see if it comes by where they are.

I know a great example of this, a lady who is a member of one of the churches I have pastored.  She insists that she is a novice when it comes to faith, yet lives a life a devotion to God.  A life I think is far more “along the path” that she realizes.

So how do you do this?  Do you make everyone take the same path?  Study the same scriptures?  Do you not care if people get lost or bored?  Or do you work with people individually?

It’s the same issue that Paul was talking to the Corinthians about. As they would serve in different ways, in different manners expressing the faith and growth in their trust of God.  Not everyone will do the same things, have the same vocations, have the same exact path to spiritual maturity.

So how do we minister this way, effectively discipling people, shepherding them from the basics of trusting God, to actually walking with them?

Not sure yet, but it will be a lot of what I think through during advent.

Discussion very welcome on this one!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1161-1163). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are You Ready to Serve God? Yes, this means you!


Featured imageDiscussion Thought of the Day:
14  “Now then,” Joshua continued, “honor the LORD and serve him sincerely and faithfully. Get rid of the gods which your ancestors used to worship in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, and serve only the LORD. 15  If you are not willing to serve him, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors worshiped in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are now living. As for my family and me, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:14-15 (TEV)

364    Ah, if you would only resolve to serve God seriously, with the same earnestness that you put into serving your ambitions, your vanities, your sensuality …  (1)

Over the years, I’ve heard part of the Bible passage quoted above used to call people to faith, to challenge those who do not believe, to believe.

It has always bothered me a bit because when you look at the entire context, you see that Joshua isn’t challenging the people who are not yet in a relationship with God. He is challenging those who are in covenant, who have known God’s promises and have been blessed because God is faithful.

He is challenging us, my fellow believers!

Imagine what would happen if the church were as dedicated to serving God as they are to television?  If they were as dedicated to prayer as they were to playing Candy Crush Saga or whatever version of Farmville exists? What would happen if we heard Joshua’s call and began to take seriously the call to look out for others, to love and care for them?

What if we were willing to embrace the call to correct in love those whose disobedience drove them apart form God?

What if we were so committed to God that His passion overrode our passion?

I can continue to ask all the “What if’s”, they are good to use to see we need to do more like Christ, to be more like Jesus. If we are to live like those who are baptized believers.

But that won’t cause us to be.  We can’t “decide” to do this, and be successful at it. What we are choosing is more than to do stuff, though as we are transformed, we will find ourselves sacrificing our very lives (see Romans 1:1-10)

What we are called to do is more than serve.  It is to serve the Lord.   TO walk with Him, to be in a relationship with Him, to so know and trust Him that all He is is revealed to be who we are.  We are remade in His image and are called to imitate Him, transformed into His image!

Choosing this day to serve Him is a call to discipleship, to prayer, to sacrifice, to witness, to put aside our own vision, our own passion, everything we are.  It is time to live with Him.

It is a high calling, but it is your calling, and the calling to which you are tasked to share and encourage others to take up, as they come to know Him.

Let’s walk with Jesus… it is time to hear His call.

Lord, have mercy upon us!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 927-928). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Do People See You?


Devotional THought of the day:The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

34  I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. 35  It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples. John 13:34-35 (NJB)

95      Think what would happen if we Christians chose not to behave as such… and then rectify your behaviour.  (1)

As I read this verse this morning, and came across the words in my devotional book, the Forge, I couldn’t help but wonder if those who don’t know I am a believer in Christ, would recognize me as such.

It’s a sobering thought.

Note what is not said.

I am not recognised as a believer because of my expertise in theology.  (some might question that anyway)

I am not recognised as a believer because I have a “Rev.” in front of my name.

I am not recognised as a believer because I am a member of the best congregation in all of California.

I am not to be recognised as a believer because of anything I am, save that there is a miracle that has occured in my life.

I have been made able to love others, I have been given the desire to as well, even those I struggle to love.

It isn’t easy, it isn’t natural to me prior to Christ, and I struggle with it now.

But we are recognised as Christ’s brothers, sisters, friends, as children of God, simply because we can love one another.  Because that means we know He loves us.

We are encouraged to rectify our behavior, but that doesn’t come because we force our will to, our behavior changes as we think about Chirst, as we receive His love, as we let the Holy Spirit transform us as 2 Corinthians 3 discusses.

We don’t love because we are great people.  We love because we are loved.

So let God love you… really love you….

Then, humbly realise when people say somethings hanged, that it has happened because of God’s work.

Go in peace!  

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 551-552). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Forgiveness is Not A Learned Action or Skill


Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6  For when we were still helpless, Christ died for the wicked at the time that God chose. 7  It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. 8  But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! 9  By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger! 10  We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! Romans 5:6-10 (TEV)

804         That friend of ours with no false humility used to say: “I haven’t needed to learn how to forgive, because the Lord has taught me how to love.”  (1)

There are times where I am amazed by the simplicity and truth in St. Josemaria’s writings.

A lot of ministry deals with reconciliation, bringing back together, and balancing out that which is broken.  It might be reconciling the relationship of a married couple who have “fallen out of love”.  Or reconciling a church that has too long buried conflict, thinking that if they ignored it, they could all get along.  OR reconciling someone who is so burdened and oppressed by sin, that they cannot even imagine that they could be forgiven.

Reconciliation begins with forgiveness, which is where the healing starts.

But forgiveness, true forgiveness, where we ask that God doesn’t count their sin against them, (and therefore neither do we) is difficult or hard, or at least it seems to be.  It seems to be unnatural, something we have to be forced to do.  Our hearts cry against it, saying things like, I will forgive, but I won’t forget.  It requires we give up our right for revenge, we lower our defenses, we acknowledge that this could happen 7 times 70 minus one more time.

Forgiveness leaves us weak and defenseless, or so we fear.  It leaves us anxiety ridden, as we await the next blow.  If it is not real, but if forgiveness is simply an act, it leaves us grumbling and ready to complain to whomever will listen, and assist us in self-justification.  We can even justify ourselves by pointing out that while we’ve forgiven them, they haven’t done anything to reconcile the situation.

Forgiveness can’t be done simply because it is commanded.  It is not a matter of obedience and discipline in its own right. There has to be something in us, that causes us to desire forgiveness, to desire to find that reconciliation, to give up all of our rights, in order to do what is best for the other person.

Forgiveness is impossible, without love.

Deep, abiding love.

The kind that acts like superglue in our relationships.

If we love them, we will seek what is best for them, which includes the forgiveness of every sin.

St. Josemaria has it right, if we love them, as Christ loves us, it is not a matter of needing instruction, or even being commanded to forgive, to reconcile with them.  We become like Paul, willing to sacrifice anything, in order that they would be reconciled to God, for that is what forgiveness is about as well.  Asking that the Father not hold them accountable, asking that God forgives them.  Forgiveness and reconciliation become what we are naturally compelled to do, as we love them.

Which means we have to know Christ’s love first.  We have to see this in action, and more importantly know that we’ve been forgiven this way.  Romans 5 above has to become so integral to us, we have to realize what it means that God loved us, and therefore forgave us, and made His home among us who sinned against Him.

It is that love of His, which we are embraced in, that leads us to know the joy of having sin removed, of having guilt and shame done away with, that brings us to the joy He sought for us, the joy that He shares in, as reconciliation is not just a word, but a reality.  We are loved, we are free to love in return, all else is shed.

In that moment, loved by God, we find that forgiveness doesn’t take strength of character, it simply is the natural action of one who loves, as they are loved.

Waiting to See God’s Glory in Them… Can’t it Come Sooner?


Devotional and Discussion Thought of the day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

23  “At that time I earnestly prayed, 24  ‘Sovereign LORD, I know that you have shown me only the beginning of the great and wonderful things you are going to do. There is no god in heaven or on earth who can do the mighty things that you have done! 25  Let me cross the Jordan River, LORD, and see the fertile land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon Mountains.’ Deuteronomy 3:23-25 (TEV)

783         It is good that your soul should be eaten up by that impatience. But don’t be in a hurry. God wants you to prepare yourself seriously, taking all the months or years necessary, and is counting on your decision to do so. With good reason did that king say: “Time and I against any two.”  (1)

I tend to think of the future a lot, In my management courses, I was identified as a catalyst, the idea man, to some extent a visionary. (btw Never confuse such people with great managers/administrators! )   I love to consider the potential in people and try to help that come to fruition.  This is especially true when it comes to deacons, vicars and young pastors, anyone involved in ministry.

This doesn’t always work out the way it should, sometimes because of a failure to buy into a vision they’ve developed, sometimes simply because it takes time, sometimes because the vision has to be defined more closely, or the original vision was only the first step.

As I read Moses words to God, I felt the desire in them, God can we see your glory now? Can we see Your people realize the fullness of Your plan for their lives?  Can we see them mature?  Can we just skip through the times in the wilderness, the times where we rebel, the times where we can’t see you, where we doubt? I want to see your glory revealed in their lives, and I want to see it soon!  After all – this is what you called them for, isn’t it?  When will we see the wonderful things we know You are capable of, as you do them through Your people?

As St. Josemaria talks – the impatience can be good, but not if it forces us to hurry.  Preparation is necessary, sometimes it takes years for God to form them, (sometimes that is because He is using us to do it!)  Sometimes it is because the relationship and the trust they need in God needs to develop to the point they can do what God has called and prepared them to do – the amazing works talked of in Ephesians 2:10 and 4;12-14. They’ll get there, maybe we will see them there, or maybe like Moses, or Paul, we can only guide them most of the way, then others ( Joshua, Timothy, Titus) will take them the rest of the way.

We don’t know, but God is their shepherd, we just help for a time, a time He has determined.

And we have to realize, the ultimate glory, the perfect promise land is not just them mature in their trust, in their love, in their devotion to God.  The ultimate glory is when they are, with us revealed in Christ’s 2nd coming.

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

May we long to see them there, complete, whole, healed, and may our desire to see them in God’s glory spur on our ministry to them, in the time we have!  For this is what we work for, according to Paul,

28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)

Lord Have Mercy!

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3251-3254). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Church, Discipleship, and “No pain, no gain”


Devotional Thought of the Day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

10  For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:10-11 (NLT)

65         Once again you had gone back to your old follies!… And afterwards, when you returned, you didn’t feel very cheerful, because you lacked humility. It seems as if you obstinately refuse to learn from the second part of the parable of the prodigal son, and you still feel attached to the wretched happiness of the pig-swill. With your pride wounded by your weakness, you have not made up your mind to ask for pardon, and you have not realised that, if you humble yourself, the joyful welcome of your Father God awaits you, with a feast to mark your return and your new beginning.  (1)

This morning I went to work out.  I still am sore from my last work out, still moving slowly.

Instinctively, I wanted to skip this workout, to wait until I feel better, till the pain subsides, til I am no longer stiff, and can move freely.  Which is, of course, exactly the wrong thing to do.

The pain is a sign of progress, the soreness is not a bad thing.  That’s why coaches talk about “no pain, no gain.”

So why do we think our walk with God is any different?

A few days ago – a friend put a post up on FB talking about how one should never, ever use the Bible to cause pain. The picture was of three men bashing a fourth man nearly to death, with Bibles in their hands. What is interesting is that the meme and the words that accompanied it were as confrontational and divisive as what was being done.  It sought to use the bible to bash those who would confront sin.  Similarly, there has been of posts and emails about the recent World Vision decision, and counter decision.  One of my favorite writers wrote saying it is not right to condemn the sins that we hyper-focus on, then he goes and condemns those who…. yeah…. are guilty (in his opinion) of the very sin he has spent most of his ministry confronting.

Which brings me to the question of this blog.

Does the church, and those who are its shepherds, have a duty to disciple people?  What if that discipline will hurt?  Do we have the responsibility to still bring the issues to the surface, to confront the sin, so that healing can take place?  That the people can be free of its oppression?  What if the sin is simply not forgiving the sins committed against them?

There is a need to do all things in love, but that love can require us to do things that can be painful, that can cause heartache, for such is often required,  Even so, causing that pain is a daunting and scary proposition. No matter what the sin is, no matter who the person is,  For it is not loving, to refuse to disciple someone, because it might hurt.

It is just like working out, where parts of our body need to be broken down, in order to create healthy muscle. That which separates us from God, has to have grace applied to it.  The behaviors and thoughts that are not of Christ, have to be nailed to the cross with Christ.  And those who love us, our family of God, have to know that we are willing to willing to be challenged, willing to hurt, to be sore.  Willing to let God bring healing into our lives, and confront the darkness that clings to us, which we sometimes want to cling to as well.

Are you willing to suffer, that you may know God’s grace all the more clearly?  Are you willing to suffer, that someone else will?

That’s not the question to ask..really, for it puts the emphasis on us, when the work of cleansing us from sin is already accomplished, in Christ.

The question is, do we desire the peace God has prepared for us to dwell in, as we dwell in Christ?

Lord – have mercy on us sinners…….

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 490-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can Pastors and all Christians Speak a Non-Christian’s Language?


Devotional THought of the Day:

 20  While working with the Jews, I live like a Jew in order to win them; and even though I myself am not subject to the Law of Moses, I live as though I were when working with those who are, in order to win them. 21  In the same way, when working with Gentiles, I live like a Gentile, outside the Jewish Law, in order to win Gentiles. This does not mean that I don’t obey God’s law; I am really under Christ’s law. 22  Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 (TEV)

After all, in my parish, I would reach about a hundred and fifty people in church on Sunday, but thanks to the Internet and a shared passion for something beyond Latin and liturgy, I was able to reach out to many thousands of Star Wars fans. Most of them probably would have never been in contact with a priest otherwise. In a way, just like the people back home in Holland, these Stormtroopers, Jedi, rebel pilots, bounty hunters, and Twi’leks had become my parishioners— very unusual parishioners indeed.   How to Speak Wookiee When I have to prepare a homily, I always try to place myself in the position of those I’ll be talking to. What are the issues they deal with, and how can the Gospel help them in their daily lives? For communication to work, you need to speak the same language. If you want to communicate with a Wookiee, you need to learn how to speak Wookiee. (1)

One of the challenges in training lay people to serve in ministry, and in working with students who are preparing for ministry is the helping them learn to connect to those who speak a different language. No I am not talking about Mandarin or German or Tagolog, I am talking about the fact that Christians have their own language, much of which is, if known, defined differently.

Fr. Roderick – the author of the quote in purple above – gets this.  I highly recommend his book- though protestants might need to “translate” it themselves!  THe section describing a Christian’s conversation to a Wookie is alone worth the price of the book.  There is a whole lot of of good material for helping us understand the people with whom we interact, with whom we live our lives.  The very people to whom God has sent us, that we reflect Christ’s life and His love.  Here is a priest that has learned to communicate with people who speak a different language!  ( and has a great line about not arguing with a wookie!)

It’s not a matter of plotting every conversation, we are talking about our lives with them.  But it is necessary to realize we don’t always speak the same language, and that some of our terms mean different things to them.  Another example helps us understand this.  Robert Schuller was once invited to give a message in a Mid-East Muslim Mosque.  In talking to its leadership – they asked him not to talk about Christianity.  He asked if he could talk about knowing God’s love, as reavealed in Christ, talk about walking and following Christ, and talk about the relationship which brings such hope, a relationship with God the Father.  The answer was affirmative – for they didn’t know that was Christianity.  They defined Chrsitianity as a religion hostile to them, the very word caused great anxiety.  But in describing what Christianity really is from a Christians perspective – there was no issue. From that point on, Robert Schuller talked of following Christ, or the relationship, rather than just “being” a Christian.

This isn’t about dumbing down the Faith, and more than Paul’s words, written in Koine Greek, dumbed down the faith because it was a common language.  It rathers invests the time (which is an act of love) in those people, assuring they can understand what we talk about, because the topic, their relationship with God, is more precious than anything else we could do.  THat we understand this helps us be more patient with them, helps us to understand that the objections they have to what they perceive our faith to be, is not our perception.  It helps us cut through their frustration and often anger, and prevent our desire to become defensive. It helps us realize that we are taling to the very people Christ died for, even though can’t even begn to comprehend that love, that desire of God.

Bottom line – do we want to want to see people join us, being freed from guilt and shame, from the sin they commit and the burdens of sins committed against them?  Do we want them to understand the grace and peace that is beyond our ability to comprehend – or describe, but that we know its from God?  Will we love these brothers and sisters that we can see, on behalf of the God we cannot “see” but whom we perceive?

Then we need to communicate to them.. in their language.

Lord have mercy on us, and empower us to do that which is in accord with Your will, that no one should perish – but all are transformed in Christ.

AMEN.

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17.

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

(1)  Vonhögen, Roderick (2013-09-09). Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer (Kindle Locations 295-303). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.

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