Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
20 He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? 21 It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” Luke 13:20-21 (NLT)
5 In coming to the other side of the sea, the disciples had forgotten to bring bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” ………11 How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:5-6,11-12 (NAB)
397 Don’t place obstacles in the way of grace. You need to be convinced that in order to be leaven you must become a saint, and must struggle to identify yourself with Him. (1)
The exquisite elites know how to pucker their noses when confronted with failure; they are scandalized. They prefer to set up models of the Church based on “common sense” rather than on the failure of the cross.
Being effective is not always a blessing. In fact, some of the most effective things in the world are deadly, those viral and bacterial infections that can run amok and kill or gravely would everyone that comes in contact with them.
The scriptures above show this as well, as two different things are compared to the idea of yeast or leaven. The Kingdom of God can be like that, as we see the church explode during the time of the apostles, and in certain parts of the world today. Growth that goes beyond anything pragmatic, that causes us to scramble to try and adjust our plans to compensate for the growth. Yet the other passage shows a negative form of leaven, that of the teachings and practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees, groups that promoted a very pragmatic approach to being the people of God.
Yet their very approach was an obstacle to grace, a way that blocked people from identifying themselves as God’s children, And they were very effective – so effective that they were able to kill God, even as they nailed Jesus to a cross.
St. Josemaria talks about effectiveness that arises out of faith, not of reason. That the leaven we need to become is found in our holiness, in our being set apart to God, It is found, as Francis says,, not in models set up in common sense, but in the failure of the cross. For drawn to the cross we find Jesus, that is where the Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus, binds us to His death and resurrection. That is where we are given gifts like repentance and faith, where we are declared God’s people, where we are cleansed. At the cross, we are infected/affected by His great love and mercy, and find ourselves set apart to Him. It is here we become infectious and spread the gospel simply by being in people’s lives.
Not a very pragmatic or reasoned approach, this dying and rising to life, this admitting our failure and our desperate need for God.
Yet it is how God would affect us, infect us, and see our effectiveness, as the Kingdom of God testifies not only to our presence but His presence in us.
Lord, help us see you on the cross, and know the depths of your mercy, and know you have risen, as it testifies to Your immeasurable love, and may our lives be effective, as we are united to You. Amen!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1548-1549). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1 (Phillips NT)
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)
280 If you lose the supernatural meaning of your life, your charity will be philanthropy; your purity, decency; your mortification, stupidity; your discipline, a lash; and all your works, fruitless. (1)
Every so often I find my e-mail and Twitter filled with advertisements or advice for being effective, for improving your impact, Ways to ensure you have meaning in what you do. Go through this program, master these five trips, follow your passion, it seems like everyone has somewhere between three and twelve things to become successful in life.
Josemaria Escriva encourages us to one thing – a simple thing. To enjoy God, to be set apart to Him, to adore Him as you realize that He cares for you, that He loves you. Without it, all of our other actions, our sacrifices, our suffering, our prayers and worship and dedication to orthodoxy, is worthless.
To be blunt, if we live apart from the love of God, if we ignore his presence, we could be Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Martin Luther, John Calvin and St Augustine rolled into one, and we would have wasted our lives.
Yeah – living supernaturally, living dependent on God, having an intimate relationship with God is that important.
Ultimately, without it, nothing else matters, nothing else is worth it. With it, everything becomes an incredible blessing.
This is why baptism matters because God makes you His own as He baptizes you. That is why the Eucharist, Communion, the Lord’s Supper should be CELEBRATED, for the feast is God and man, together. The same can be said for our times talking to God, hearing His voice, meditating on His word and simply resting, confident and secure in His presence.
That is where the peace comes from that we need to know if we are to survive the grind of life. It is where our healing comes into play, where lives are reconciled, where we find that we are God’s work of art.
It is where we find that reality isn’t based on our emotion or our logic, but on His love and what He reveals to us because of that love.
St Paul is clear to the church in Corinth of this very same point – that without the love of God, even it doesn’t matter what we do, we have no value, no worth. But knowing that love? It transforms us and causes us to do that which is amazing, we can bring God glory.
So don’t set aside your time with Him, enjoy it, savor it, relax and have fun with your Father. Everything else will then fall into place.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 745-746). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)
513 The secret of being effective, at root, lies in your piety, a sincere piety. This way you will pass the whole day with Him.
It seems like almost daily I get e-mails from well meaning people, who want to help pastors to become more effective. They define effectiveness differently, and often talk of different aspects of ministry. Some on discipleship, some on outreach, some of being more pure in doctrine. Many are willing to be consultants, put one seminars, even become coaches of those who serve the church.
Some of these people have great experience in ministry and rely on their experience. Some have studied it from a distance, and teach and coach based on observing others effective ministries. They all have god ideas, some work better in this place, rather than that place. It is good to have their ideas available, but it takes wisdom born of prayer to know which might work, and when to shift from this idea to that.
But effectiveness as a servant of God, in whatever role, is found apart from methodologies, strategies, and even experiences. For even as Christians are not clones of each other, but are gifted and driven by the Spirit as the Spirit desires, so are churches. Some are great at evangelism, some are great at being resource centers, some are great at ministering to those that don’t feel at home in a church, who need very tender care.
Because they are different, because we are different, the same rules, programs, processes, worship styles don’t work in the same places.
What is needed in every place? Piety, or what I prefer to define simple as “walking with Jesus” or “walking in Christ”. Piety is simply the practice of realize our lives are focused in Christ, they are not lived some how distant from God, and this is a good thing. We need Him!
He is there.
With His grace, His wisdom, His love, His comfort, and yes, He shepherds us. We learn of His heart, and we are transformed into Him image according to Paul in 2 Corinthians 3. The transformation results in working in the ministry of reconciliation, just as presenting our bodies as living sacrifices results in the Holy Spirit using us in certain roles to minister to each other in Romans 12, and receiving the Lords Supper resolves into a similar discussion in 1 Corinthians 12-13.
Walking with God, Abiding in Christ, or even more clearly, the passage from Romans above – it is Christ that is living in us as we trust in His promises, in His work; there is the key to effectiveness, success, and even survival, whether as a church of 20, or one of 2000. Each different, each not just being directed by God as if we are soldering in Afghanistan receiving orders from the Pentagon and White house. Rather we are directed here, where we live, for we live and breath with Christ. There is where effectiveness occurs, there is where there is peace and joy, even in the midst of trauma, tribulation and even real persecution.
Walk with Him… talk, listen, love.. and see where He leads.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1949-1950). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Week:
3 He said to me, “You’re my dear servant, Israel, through whom I’ll shine.” 4 But I said, “I’ve worked for nothing. I’ve nothing to show for a life of hard work. Nevertheless, I’ll let GOD have the last word. I’ll let him pronounce his verdict.” Isaiah 49:3-4 (MSG)
657 Sometimes the immediate future is full of worries, if we stop seeing things in a supernatural way. So, faith, my child, faith… and more deeds. In that way it is certain that our Father God will continue to solve your problems.
658 God’s ordinary providence is a continual miracle; but He will use extraordinary means when they are required. (1)
One of the better professors I had in my Master’s program taught young pastors to be to never change anything in their churches, until they could mourn the loss the change caused.
His idea was two-fold, the first that we need to work in ministry patiently, not just changing things, whether to make them more tranditional or more missional (which I don’t think are contrary – though I admit many do). Things will not become more successful just because you change how you go about things. Far too often we have the attitude, the view of the servant in Isaiah, we look around and do not see any results for our labors, for our sacrifice. So we get desparate to see results, and we react by changing eerything to produce the results we want. We may try to become “holier” to do things in a more regiemented, disciplined way that seems to have worked at some point in the past. Or we may try to throw off the past, and do tings that get back to the “core” of the early church, far more missional/apostolic.
In both cases, we are not trusting in the providence of God, but rather in the direction we feel should be set, often without looking to see where we are at, what we are doing. We want results now, great, glorious results, results that are undeniably miraculous, and to which we can point to a place in time and say, it was at this point, when we discovered, revealed, made this change… that it all happened.
I would contend that our desire to change things – either to restore the practices of the past (romantically viewing them as the solution because the church was so perfect or to make them cutting edge to see better results) can be driven by despair, by frustration, by the feeling that we are simply spinning our wheels in ministry. I am not saying we shouldn’t evaluate what we are doing, or that there shouldn’t be a standard that includes both scriptural integrity and pragmatic effectiveness (does our preaching Christ crucified communicate) but that spinning our wheels may only be in our perpspective.
So the first question we should ask – are we trusting in God in doing what we are doing now? Are we working form the assumption that God is already working within us, within our lives, within in our ministries? Do we see His hand in our present situation, providing for us, caring for each of us? Or are we seeing the “spinning of wheels” as evidence to the contrary? Do we see the supernatural miraculous, the sacred that is already occuring in our midst?
You see, its easy to see the lack of our effect easily, it is almost our default – our impatience, our self-determination taking over, but faith demands seeing God at work, even when we don’t see it in our own lives. To know He is there, listening comforting, strengthening. He is at work through HIs word, which never returns void, and in the sacrament, the word combined by God with water, with bread and wine, through the hands and voices of the people of God. THat His work is always beneficial, that it always provides results, including the greatest of results, calling us into His presence.
From that position, we perceive our work differently, we trust in His judgment more, we rely on HIm, more, and ours plans are synthesised into His will.
Breathe, be still and know that He is God…. then having heard, realize His glory will be seen in your life, in your work. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2419-2423). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.