16 “Now tell your fellow-exiles what I am saying. I am the one who sent them to live in far-off nations and scattered them in other countries. Yet, for the time being I will be present with them in the lands where they have gone. Ezek. 11:16 GNT
But God is trying to reveal by His Holy Spirit the utter weakness of the child of God who is still putting his trust in himself.
Why does it take us so long to put our complete trust in God? He has made it so simple, so rewarding to yield what we are to Him!
767 What really makes a person—or a whole sector of society—unhappy, is the anxiety ridden, selfish search for well being, that desire to get rid of whatever is upsetting.
As I read Ezekiel’s words to the exiles, I can easily put myself in their shoes. There are days I feel like I don’t belong, that I am all by myself and feel like there is no hope.. no relief from the pain or the loneliness. I also know I am not alone in this – all you have to do is look at the number of pastors leaving the ministry, the number of teachers leaving education, the number of frontline workers leaving sheriff’s departments, police departments, and the rise of “coaches”–more often than not those who could not continue in their vocation, but someone want to help those who remain (and find a remnant connection to it)
Often times we call such times of self-imposed exile “burnout.” And truly, they are.
Those times come with a promise though, one seen by Tozer, that God will reveal our weaknesses, and use those times to deepen our relationship with Him–that we would come to trust Him more. You see exile and burnout are a matter, not of a lack or weak faith, but a time that reveals those times so that we value what God’s presence in the brokenness provides.
What it we took St. Josemaria’s idea of what was upsetting – and instead of getting rid of it, saw it as an opportunity to get to know Jesus better? To look for how He will provide? To find the joy in the presence of God who loves and embraces us, even in the midst of all that we consider negative. What if we heard Ezekiel’s message – that our exile was not just a disciplinary action by God, but a chance to see Him active in our lives, restoring us, calling us back–fulfilling the promise He made through the words of Ezekiel.
God sends us off into the exile we choose in our rebellion, so that He can be with us, and therefore restore us. Even there, WE ARE NOT ALONE!
God is with us… even in our doubt-filled, sin caused periods of exile we choose and impose on ourselves. He lets us go there.. so He can bring us back..
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you as you walk through this time of Harvest!
- Context! Context! Context!
I recently began riding a bike again, and I am amazed at how much more you are aware of everything around you than you are in a car. From the potholes to neighborhood dogs to whether you are going uphill or down.
You end up so much more aware of your context!
As we look at scripture, we need to be aware of the context of the passage! Not just who is talking to whom, but what surrounds the passage we are looking at, what bookends the passage.
Today we see these bookends:
10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.
4 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish…
And so there is a lot of focus on those God considers His little ones… and the rest of the passage gives us insight into who they are…
- Take Care of the Little Ones
So who are these little ones? We start to see who they are in what the two comments book end.
12 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! 14 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.
So this isn’t just about those we normally think of as “little ones.” It follows through their lives, and God is the Shepherd who never gives up. So God’s little ones include those of us who have occasionally wandered away, whom He is working to return.
God cares about each of us, as much as every parent cares for their child. It is something that never changes, this care that God has for us. The only difference is God doesn’t worry like a mom whose son just got a new bike. (Even if he is a 58-year-old pastor!)
But God rejoices when we He is able to forgive and restore us. His joy is so enthusiastic that Isaiah says He will dance when we arrive at the point where all of God’s children are home! And that, even now, when someone comes to depend on God and the promises He has made to save them, all heaven rejoices!
That’s something that to me shows God’ love. It doesn’t stop because we throw a tantrum, or we tell Him off, or we decided we would rather have it our way, and dwell in what we call sin – the destructive behaviors God has warned us about—because those behaviors destroy our relationships, with God, with others and our internal peace.
What is worse is that when we are caught up in such behavior, we are like that lost sheep, we don’t even see the mess and the danger we’ve gotten ourselves into!
Which is why God sends Jesus, and his followers out to find us, and bring us home.
And He does do that—He searches for us, He sends friends and pastors and other believers to find us, He might even drag us to see a friend or family member prayed for, or a child’s back blessed and to see them sing…
All to bring a lost wanderer home to where they can find peace, where they can know they belong, where their souls can find rest and healing.
Because we are God’s children, this is what He wants for us!
- Those Needing Forgiveness
Which brings us to the last section of our gospel reading this morning.
15 “If another believer* sins against you,* go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid* on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit* on earth will be permitted in heaven.
We have to see that this passage isn’t about just correcting someone who has done us wrong. It’s about bringing that little one, that sheep that is wandering lost, back into the family, to make sure they know they are welcome at home.
Notice it doesn’t put the emphasis and the work on the sinner, but rather on the one who was sinned against, the one still in the family, still part of the church. It is our job to restore people, to take on the sin and work for reconciliation in a process.
Not just one conversation, several, then several involving wise men of the church skilled in reconciliation, then even bringing the entire church into the discussion – that the lost sheep might be restored…
That is the responsibility of forbidding and permitting, what is called the authority of the keys. To use the responsibility God gives us to say sin is forgiven, or not, to rejoice in the announcement of reconciliation—this is even the end of treating someone like a pagan or tax collector – the people that Jesus reached out to, and died to save.
It’s all about bringing the children of God back to Him – no matter how far we have wandered.
SO let’s go bring everyone who is lost and wandering home, even as God has brought us here.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ 10 Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” Isaiah 6:9-10 (NLT)
540 In the interior life, as in human love, we have to persevere. Yes, you have to meditate often on the same themes, keeping on until you rediscover an old discovery. “And how could I not have seen this so clearly before?” you’ll ask in surprise. Simply because sometimes we’re like stones, that let the water flow over them, without absorbing a drop. That’s why we have to go over the same things again and again—because they aren’t the same things—if we want to soak up God’s blessings.
I probably have written this blog,before, or something like it.
I probably need to hear the lesson again, to make sure it sticks, just as St Josemaria mentions, I need to hear it over and over again, and to be honest, I get frustrated by my inability to hear God…Like yesterday’s blog, about loving people, not just tolerating jackasses.
I know it, I preach it, I teach it, yet I need to hear it again, to realize how in that very thing, it is all about God, about His being my benevolent Master, who wants the best for me. it isn’t just to behave right, or a matter of perfect obedience.
It’s about growing in my trust of God. It’s about hearing Him, really hearing Him. Hearing of His love, His mercy, His desire to create a relationship with us. A relationship with us that is so precious that He will go the ends of creation to make it happen.
He will heal our broken hearts, forgive our sin, comfort us, correct us, call us back to Him, reassure us that we don’t walk alone. He will be patient with us, for He desires our trust, that level of relationship where we count on Him.
In the Romans reading above, the lesson I need to grasp again, is what it means.
Hyper-akuo in Greek. To Hyper-hear God, to be so attuned to His voice, to so hear it, that it forms and shapes us, that we trust Him to the extent that we simply move, guided by His words, the words that reveal His love. That is what obedience/ hyper-hearing Him is all about.
Today He is asking – can you hear Me?
May we respond like children, and run into His arms….
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2034-2039). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
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.
Devotional THought of the Day:
13 We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and tell others that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If we declare that Jesus is the Son of God, we live in union with God and God lives in union with us. 16 And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17 Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18 There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21 The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:13-21 (TEV)
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! 11 But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God’s friends. Romans 5:7-11 (TEV)
194 You have to be a live ember that sets fire to whatever it touches. And, when your surroundings are incapable of catching fire, you have to raise their spiritual temperature. If not, you are wasting time miserably, and wasting the time of those around you. (1)
I was at the gym this morning, working out when I thought of one of my PE coaches from high school. As we used to work out, he would “encourage” us with a constant mantra…. LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT!.
It pumped us up – enabled us to run a bit farther, lift a little more, grind it out. But I don’t think many of us loved it. Matter of fact, a few of us didn’t like it or Coach Carter (during class) all that much. But the results across a semester in the weight room and on the track showed us the benefit of being trained and “encouraged.” And because Coach Carter had been there before himself – he knew how to discipline those willing. I am leaning on those lessons a lot as I return to working out. With a genetic disorder that affects my heart and spine. For my heart it has resulted in two heart valves being replaced and internal defibrillators, and a limited lifestyle – so starting to work out again is a challenge.
Yesterday, there was a discussion online about our enemies, about those who verbally attacked a Roman Catholic Cardinal who seems to be a pretty good guy. My response was, knowing of him, he was probably praying for those attacking him. One lady didn’t quite get that – and over a number of posts told me to mind my own business, and not talk to her about the concepts of self-defense and faith. I didn’t, but I’ve thought and prayed for a bit since then. Wondering what issues prompted a response that wasn’t where I was going at all. I thought as well about our attitude towards those people who are the thorns in our life, those who are incredibly difficult to love and forgive. Those who test our ability to live life trusting in God, like that extra 20 pounds tested my endurance on the calf press this morning – and that .2 of mph faster made the difference on the treadmill.
These people, hopefully, are a burden we will embrace – or as Coach C would say – LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM!
For in doing so, we have to that which is extremely difficult, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross and walk with Jesus. We have to have no fear (for love casts out such fear – see above) and even if our lives are sacrificed as martyrs… (which few of us will face) we must love them anyway. (Many, many saints serve as great examples of this.)
Whether we realize it or not, these people can be those in our life that help our dependence on God, our faith and trust in Him grow the most. And in loving them, wholeheartedly, even as they are our enemies, we begin to see how great God’s love is for us. We find the strength in Him, in HIs cross, which we are united to, to love them, to be patient with them because we want them to be transformed by God and not perish, to be our brothers and sisters in Christ, feasting together at God’s table. As St. Josemaria noted – sometimes we have to turn up the heat — sometimes we need the heat turned up on us…
It’s not easy. It is significantly harder than getting up an hour earlier to get to the gym, or being embarrassed by realizing how weak we’ve become over the years.
Even so, as John said, we are loved…so Lord in your mercy, help us to
LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM!!!!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1022-1025). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- On Discipleship (catholicjules.net)
- Ministry is not a profession… it is the vocation of all…. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- “Make them one as we are one.” (leoron01.wordpress.com)
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!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2226-2228). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.