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Spiritual Formation, Gossip and Presidential Campaigns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought fo the Day:
16  “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
Exodus 20:16 (NLT)

263 The third aspect of this commandment concerns us all. It forbids all sins of the tongue by which we may injure or offend our neighbor. False witness is clearly a work of the tongue. Whatever is done with the tongue against a neighbor, then, is forbidden by God. This applies to false preachers with their corrupt teaching and blasphemy, to false judges and witnesses with their corrupt behavior in court and their lying and malicious talk outside of court.
264 It applies particularly to the detestable, shameful vice of back-biting or slander by which the devil rides us. Of this much could be said. It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others.
265 To avoid this vice, therefore, we should note that nobody has the right to judge and reprove his neighbor publicly, even when he has seen a sin committed, unless he has been authorized to judge and reprove

444    Never speak badly of your brother, not even when you have plenty of reasons for doing so. Go first to the tabernacle, and then go to the priest, your father, and also tell him what is bothering you. And to no one else.

As I have been considering God’s discipline recently, and the way in which God forms us, I realize we are in a season where our faith is either tried significantly.  It is a time where we can depend on God, or we can rebel, being disobedient children ruled by fear and anxiety.

For the temptation is great during this presidential campaign to gossip, to speak ill of people, from the candidates themselves to those who back them.

Please hear me, there are issues that we need to discuss, issues that themselves lead to sin, advocate and approve of it.

There is more to the debate, both in this world and in the cyber portion of it.  There are rumors, which we are ready to believe and exaggerate as we spread them throughout our spheres of influence. There is character assassination done, and we rejoice as we have the chance to “speak the truth.”

If we took St. Josemaria’s advice, how better off would we be?  If we took those anxieties and laid them at the altar from which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ?  If we still struggled, going to our pastor, our priest, those who assist them in guiding us, and let them reassure us of God’s promises, his presence, and His benevolent, loving merciful reign over all of His creation including our hearts and mind.

What we happen if we didn’t try to destroy the people running for office, but instead prayer for their salvation, and that they would know, without any doubt, the love of God or them?

What I am saying takes a lot of faith, it requires us to depend on God in a way similar to the children of Israel were supposed to trust during the Exodus a the Exile.

This is spiritual formation, this is spiritual growth, this is living the life of a disciple.

It is my prayer that this election season that we all may grow in the awareness of God’s grace and love, so that this faith would be revealed to all.

AMEN!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1090-1092). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

My thoughts on the election…

 

 

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. 17 In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world.i 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”   NAB-RE 1 John 4:16-21

As i worked through my social media accounts last night I grew quite depressed.  Friends of mine, including pastors and priests, were commenting about the upcoming presidential elections.

Let me make it clear, I don’t mind people discussing the issues, or the candidates.  I think that is beneficial.  When the things discussed are not based in fear and anxiety, when they don’t spew hatred towards the candidates and those who support them.

I may never again talk to Mr. Trump, or ever talk to Mrs. Clinton.  Yet they still are neighbors, those we, who claim to love and follow Jesus, are called to love and not hate.  We are also called to love those who support them, and not insult them, or belittle them.  (see Matthew 5:22)

I am not saying this will be easy, we need to be on guard, whether we support or the other. There are many fears, there is much in the lives of those running for office that we cannot approve of, that may even cause us to recoil in disgust, or horror.  Yet their sin is no worse than ours, we have no right to stand before God and thank Him for our not being wretched sinners like them, apart from the grace of Christ.

We have to overcome our fears and anxieties, we have to get past the hatred, and there is only one way to do that.  To remain in Christ, to dwell in the love of God,.  We need to be focused on that which is revealed, the presence of God in which we dwell, safe there, welcome there because of the Cross of Jesus.   Because he died, we have been freed us from sin, and Satan, and even the fear of death.  Because we are united to that death, we are also united to Him in the resurrection, and nothing can separate us from His love.

Even having to vote.

So look to God, continually think about your Creator, who hasn’t abandoned you, and will not. Rejoice in His presence, and from that place of unsurpassed peace, pray for those running for office, not just president – but all those we elect.  Pray for them a lot, and even for yourself, that if you do get the chance to talk to them, you would show them love, the love of God reflected through your very being.

Lord Have Mercy on us, sinners all!  AMEN!

How and Why do we confront sin?

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day: 

It is widely reported that there is sexual immorality among you, immorality of a kind that is not found even among gentiles: that one of you is living with his stepmother.  2  And you so filled with your own self-importance! It would have been better if you had been grieving bitterly, so that the man who has done this thing were turned out of the community. 3  For my part, however distant I am physically, I am present in spirit and have already condemned the man 4  who behaved in this way, just as though I were present in person.  When you have gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus, with the presence of my spirit, and in the power of our Lord Jesus, 5  hand such a man over to Satan, to be destroyed as far as natural life is concerned, so that on the Day of the Lord his spirit may be saved. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (NJB) 

 5  If anyone did cause distress, he caused it not to me, but—not to exaggerate—in some degree to all of you. 6  The punishment already imposed by the majority was quite enough for such a person; 7  and now by contrast you should forgive and encourage him all the more, or he may be overwhelmed by the extent of his distress. 8  That is why I urge you to give your love towards him definite expression. 9  This was in fact my reason for writing, to test your quality and whether you are completely obedient. 10  But if you forgive anybody, then I too forgive that person; and whatever I have forgiven, if there is anything I have forgiven, I have done it for your sake in Christ’s presence, 11  to avoid being outwitted by Satan, whose scheming we know only too well.  2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (NJB)

This morning as I looked at facebook, I was a bit in shock at the response of some people to the election of the new leader of another denomination that shares the name Lutheran with my own.  We are, in many ways radically different, but the mocking and deriding of their decision was sickening and to be blunt, sinful.   Confronting sin, whether just perceived or actual, never justifies sinning in the confrontation of it.   What is worse, Luther’s rants were used to justify their own mocking and ranting.  Luther’s large catechism was also quoted, talking about the confrontation of sin.   Here is the passage used to justify mocking and berating others:

All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.-  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

But this brings to mind – what is the reason we confront and challenge sin, or in this case – practices or others who are in Christ that we know/feel/believe are not in line with scripture?  We may truly believe they are in sin, and we may be right.  If so, the reading from 1st Corinthians above tells us actions we can and should take- but it also informs us of the reason – to save their soul.  If we understand Luther’s Large Catechism, that is the sense there as well, and warning others of the danger they face in following that direction.  But the purpose is never to mock sinners, the purpose is never to taunt or increase the division that may exist.   It should never be done with joy, but rather with sorrow and with great pain.   Love will never rejoice over sin – either in approving it, or in calling for repentance.  Instead it desires to see the damage of sin broken, the bonds that it has shattered.  It always looks for ways to embrace the cross – for the joy that is awaited when reconciliation occurs.  That has to be our goal.  Anything else… well it is our own sin which should drive us to that very same altar of grace.

The reason to confront sin determines how it is to be done, whether in accord for Matthew 18 privately, or in the case of “Public sin”  The law must be applied with the intent that when repentance is granted – the love and comfort of grace is poured out without hesitation, without thought.  Every sinner, including those who have the task of confronting sin themselves, need to be at the altar, at the foot of the cross.  That is where it is supposed to occur. (Paul isn’t kidding about that in First Corinthians, its not just a expression)  The same goes when we challenge each others practices, as we discuss.  DIvision caused by sin is a grievous thing – not something that should gain us kudos and “likes” as we mock them publicly, as if we were perfect in our thoughts words and practices.

The goal is unity in Christ, unity found in His mercy, in His grace, in His forgiveness and love.  It is to call all sinners to receive repentance and faith and to find joy in our relationship with God.

We cry, Lord have mercy… but we

Dr. Martin Luther's Church Door - Wittenburg, ...

Dr. Martin Luther’s Church Door – Wittenburg, Germany ’93 (Photo credit: Mikey G Ottawa)

need to remember we all need it!

Your Mission for Today, for you’ve been chosen to accept it….

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day.

“Looking on the immense panorama of souls who are awaiting us, and being struck by the wonderful and awesome responsibility before us, you may at times have asked yourself, as I have: “Can I contribute anything, when the task is so vast? I, who am so puny?” It is then we have to open the Gospel and contemplate how Jesus cures the man born blind. He uses mud made from the dust of the earth and saliva. Yet this is the salve which brings light to those blind eyes! That is what you and I are. Fully aware of our weaknesses and our worthlessness, but with the grace of God and our good will, we can be salve to give light and provide strength for others as well as for ourselves.” (1)

I sit and my desk and wonder.  What if the church was as diligent, as determined, to spread the gospel of Christ as it is to see a candidate elected who they assume shares their moral beliefs?  Why don’t we?  Why do we look at a world where as many as 6 billion people do not understand God’s love, who can’t comprehend God’s mindest towards them?  How can we put one mission – that of a political and economic cause, above the mission where everyone becomes a child of God, where true peace is found, as mercy and peace rule?

If Romney wins, the bulk of the world lives in the darkness of sin andin fear of death, and are oppressed by Satan.  If Obama wins, the bulk of the world lives in the darkness of sin, in fear of death, and are oppressed by Satan.

Is the reason we don’t take our call as the people of God, as the servant-priesthood of all believers more seriously?  Do we see the incredible  task before us, and think it is too big?

It is time for the church to step up, not to get involved in politics of the earth, or even politics of the church, and reflect Christ’s light to the world.  But the church isn’t our buildings.  It is you and I, people who have begun to see Christ’s work in our lives, healing our brokenness, cleansing us from all sin and all injustice.  This is our life  – to bear witness to light, following in the footsteps of fisherman and tax collectors and rebels.  It’s not in travelling the world for most of us, but simply in bringing hope to the hopeless, sharing peace with those who are riddled with anxiety, showing mercy to those who cannot conceive of anything but cold justice and retribution and revenge.

Today my friend, you are called to be God’s child – to be like Christ to a world that is lost and broken.  It starts in your workplace, and your home.

Look to Him, reflect His love… you will be amazed at how local your task is.. and how immediate.

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1454-1460). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Election That Truely Matters!

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day….

If God’s Love has chosen you out and called you to follow him, you have a duty to respond to him… and it is also your duty, an equally serious duty, to lead and to contribute to the holiness and good progress of other men, your brothers.  (1)

As I am a bit late writing my devotional blog today, I have to think of all the political hype that is dominating everywhere I look.  Driving down the streets, the television, the radio, Facebook and Twitter.  It is as if many believe our very fate as a nation, or as a state, depends on this election.  Not just the presidency, but even ballot measures at state and local level.  In one ballot initiative here in California – the amount of money being spent could underwrite 6 private/parochial schools for 50 years! (Nearly 120 million!)

The word for church is from the root word for being called out, being selected or chosen or elected to fulfill a role – that role of being the family of God.  It is our primary vocation in life, this relationship we have with God, this relationship He has, not just with an individual, but with His family – what we call the church.

I would say, knowing that many would disagree. that it is the “election” that truely matters, and I would go so far as to say, it is the ONLY election that matters.  For you can win or lose another election, and it will not have the impact of responding to this election, or denying it.

St. Josemarie Escriva points out something obvious here, that being elected changes things.  He uses the word “duty”, some may refer to it as an Obligation.  I tend to think it is simpler than that.  If you are elected to office, your role, your responsibility changes in life.  You are not as free to do certain things, you may have to even have limits on your personal freedom.  The same is true in our lives.  As we have become children of God, our life dramatically transforms, we change priorities, and yes, in a way, we lose some of our personal freedom.  We have a new relationship, a new role in life, we are the children of God.  As such, in that transformation, we realize the heart of our Father, we realize His love and mercy, we realize His peace.  And we realize that we respond to that love, and being to see the need to respond to it by bringing those God also calls to be part of His family.

There is such a difference, that we become driven to see people come to know our Father, our Lord, the One who called, chose, selected, elected us to be His.  And so we begin our work to see others begin to comprehend that they two have been elected to be transformed into being a son or daughter of the Father.

And they will, eventually, even as we do,  realize this is the only election that matters…

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1422-1424). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(10

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