Devotional Thought of the Day:
33 The king was overcome with grief. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he cried, “O my son! My son Absalom! Absalom, my son! If only I had died in your place, my son! Absalom, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:33
19 When David noticed them whispering to each other, he realized that the child had died. So he asked them, “Is the child dead?”
“Yes, he is,” they answered.
20 David got up from the floor, had a bath, combed his hair, and changed his clothes. Then he went and worshiped in the house of the LORD. When he returned to the palace, he asked for food and ate it as soon as it was served. 21“We don’t understand this,” his officials said to him. “While the child was alive, you wept for him and would not eat; but as soon as he died, you got up and ate!”
22 “Yes,” David answered, “I did fast and weep while he was still alive. I thought that the LORD might be merciful to me and not let the child die. 23But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”
55 Is it possible, you asked me, that Christ should have spent so many years—twenty centuries—acting on earth, and the world should be now what it is? Is it possible, you went on, that there should still be people who do not know Our Lord? And I answered you with conviction: It is our fault. For we have been called to be co-redeemers, and at times, perhaps often!, we do not follow the Will of God. (1)
A man suffers the death of two of his beloved sons.
The evil one, the one who died in open rebellion trying to kill and replace his father, is grieved over. Grief consumes the father, unbelievable, paralyzing grief.
The innocent one, the one who dies because of his father’s sin, seemingly isn’t grieved over. The death is accepted, life moves on, even to the extent that God is worshiped, not questioned.
This doesn’t make sense! Why wouldn’t David have the opposite attitude? Why wouldn’t guilt and shame and grief eat him alive as his “good” son dies? Why wouldn’t there be a sense of relief, even a little joy as the son who tried to kill him, who raped his concubines died? Why does he move on from the first, and become a paralyzed, bawling wretch over the death of the second?
Revealed in David, at this point, is the heart of God. The God who reveals through Ezekiel that he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked, the God who reveals through Peter that He is patient, because He wants everyone to be transformed, through Paul that our ministry is one of reconciliation. And shows Paul has the same heart when Paul says,
1 I am speaking the truth; I belong to Christ and I do not lie. My conscience, ruled by the Holy Spirit, also assures me that I am not lying 2 when I say how great is my sorrow, how endless the pain in my heart 3 for my people, my own flesh and blood! For their sake I could wish that I myself were under God’s curse and separated from Christ.
Romans 9:1-3 (TEV)
This is David’s heart as well. This is what is meant when he talks of preferring to die rather than Absolom. For if Absolom doesn’t die, there is still hope for reconciliation with God, there is still hope that God will work through all the blocks, and Absolom would find the gift of repentance. The same for Paul, who values his relationship with God more than anything, yet would surrender it, if it meant his people, Israel, would become the people of God again.
(note as well the assurance of David in regards to the “good” son. I will go where he is…)
I think this is the missing key in St Josemaria’s discussion, the reason we don’t follow the will of God, the reason that the world isn’t saved, that really, no major attempt is being made to do so.
Is is that we count our enemies as something less than those God desires, something not worth Christ’s death on the cross? Or do we value that death enough, realizing that our enemies are not the only enemies of Christ that He died for, for we were once, as well?
I don’t’ think we fix this by having conferences on evangelism, and training seminars on arguing people into submission to our doctrine. That hasn’t worked all too well over the last 40 years. Being obsessed with methodology – church growth, liturgical rubrics, etc doesn’t bring about this heart.
What does is prayer, worship, adoration, contemplated on the mysteries of God’s mercy and love. What changes us it knowing in our heart and soul that we are loved, that God is here, that we are standing on Holy ground.
For people to not know this peace? To not know this love? For us to not desire it for all we come into contact with? This needs ot become inconceivable.
Lord, have mercy on us! Give us your heart, your will to see people dwell with you. Help us to learn to cry when enemies and adversaries face death, or when they suffer. May our hearts move to help them, may we serve as servants to reconcile them. For we pray this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 423-426). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12 cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 14 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. 15 Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. 16 Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.
Romans 12:9-17 (MSG)
Christ raised up the image of Adam. You are not just clay; you extend beyond all cosmic dimensions to the very Heart of God. It is not the one who is scourged who is degraded, but the one who scourges; not the one spat upon, but the one who spits; not the one put to scorn, but he who puts to scorn; it is not pride that raises man up, but humility; not self-glorification that makes him great, but that union with God of which he is capable.
Union with God, what a concept laid out for us in this quote in blue. Union with God.
I hear in the background two voices, one saying we can’t be buddy buddy with God, the other where Jesus tells us that we are not his servants, but his friends. One that cries out for reverent submission, one which sees God the Father running faster than anyone else to welcome us home.
I struggle with this because I have seen the extreme where Jesus being our friend mutates to the idea that He is a good ole boy who understands our sinful nature and simply turns a blind eye to it. I have seen the other extreme as well, where we are so terrified of being caught in sin that our reaction is to try to run and hide from Him, rather than run to Him.
The balance isn’t even on the radar of the extremes, for the balance is found as God draws us in and in His cultivation of our relationship with Him.
Even as we do this, we need, we must realize when we talk of God loving us this way, we are talking about a larger group than you and I. We are talking about all the people that Christ died for, really we are talking about all people.
You aren’t just a bunch of dirt, and neither am I. Our value is that our lives don’t just matter to God – they are previous, we are precious – priceless in His evaluation. So are those we discount, those we struggle with, those we fear. Their lives are just as precious, they are people that God has in His heart.
This is why Paul calls us to love people, to recognize God’s Spirit in them, and to see God’s desire that all would be His family. Just as we are. To realize our enemies have the same God who cares for them, the God who doesn’t dismiss or write them off, or consider them lower that dirt. He discovers the beauty in each of us, or rather, He created us with that beauty, and reveals it more and more as we know HIs love.
This no “them” for a Christian, no dividing line, even that label enemy cannot divide people from us, for it didn’t divide us from Jesus. He draws us into himself anyway, loving us, cherishing us, healing our souls, and helping us to see others whose souls He would heal as well.
Lord have mercy on us all… AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” 12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Matthew 9:11-13 (NLT)
36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:36-38 (ESV)
277 Rather than commit a fault against charity, give in, offer no resistance, whenever you have the chance. Show the humility of the grass, which yields without needing to know whose foot is stepping on it. (1)
Mercy is elusive, and it is inconvenient, and perhaps most challenging, it is necessary for those who claim to be believers, those who have faith in, trust in and depend upon Jesus Christ.
It’s really elusive when you are trying to encourage others to be merciful, but the irony is, it isn’t the merciful that need your mercy. It is the merciless that desperately need it. It is those that are spiteful, that place conditions on their love and acceptance of you in their midst.
I know this all too well, I’ve been challenged the last few days with showing mercy to those who are condemning others, living life contrary to the life they are called to, the life they look to me to encourage.
And I struggle to be merciful to them, part of me just wants to write them off as they write others off. But that would feed the monster that would deny mercy.
Complicated isn’t it! 🙂
Mercy doesn’t facilitate mercilessness. Nor will it facilitate sin. It does facilitate reconciliation, forgiveness, love. In fact, in the Old Testament, love and mercy are both used to translate one word, “cHesed”. I am not sure the are synonyms, but I do think you can’t have one without the other. Mercilessness is not loving, and to love requires you to show mercy.
Even to those who don’t deserve it.
Even to those who aren’t merciful to you or others,
Even to those who you fear.
For those who are merciful themselves are, because they know God’s mercy.
Such is what it means to be Christlike, to imitate the Lord God who loves and is merciful to you. For it is only in Christ that we would even begin to desire to show that kind of mercy, or as St Josemaria talks of, to be able to yield no matter who it is who presses us.
Something to ask God to help you struggle with…. today.
I know I have….and probably will a number of times.
Lord have mercy!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1356-1358). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
1 John 4:11-12 (NLT) Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
But after the Holy Spirit has performed and accomplished this and the will of man has been changed and renewed solely by God’s power and activity, man’s new will becomes an instrument and means of God the Holy Spirit, so that man not only lays hold on grace but also cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the works that follow.
But the real heart of Christianity is, and will always be, love of neighbor. For, in very fact, each individual is infinitely loved by God and is of infinite value. Christ says to each of us the words so feelingly formulated by Pascal: “In my mortal agony, I thought of you. I shed these drops of blood for you.
We all have people that seem to cause pain in our lives. Often we label the pains in the neck, or compare them unfavorably to hemorrhoids. Some of us have people that cause a more negative response, people who threaten us, who we label adversaries, or perhaps even enemies.
We may not even know them, they may be politicians of the opposing view, or someone who has their 15 minutes of fame for something that causes anger to well up in us. We may even label them names – either in discussion on FB or over lunch. Maybe we even can keep those names in our minds, But we still think of them as jerks, the personification of evil or simply call them assholes. You might, having read the last word of the prior sentence be shocked I use it, or you might be saying, “But pastor, they really are!”
Or you may feel guilt, worrying about why you can’t get over the feelings of frustration, anger, pain, hurt, and resentment.
Read the passage again that is in red above. Can we do this? Can we love each other, knowing that “other” has the same definition the lawyer received when he heard the parable of the Good Samaritan.
This ability to love them is the work that the Lutheran Confessions (in green) speak of, where the Holy Spirit makes our lives and instrument, and a means of the Holy Spirit’s work. It is the heart of Christianity that then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of, to realize that for each one of us, every human being on earth, Jesus died, willing let his blood be spilled for you, and for them.
In an old hymnal (TLH), as part of the prayer of God’s people we found a very proper and timely prayer. It said something like this. “Father, turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries to you.”
This is where our heart begins to change, as we see their need, (and ours) to be reconciled to God. For that is the answer to everything. Without the blood of Christ, spilled to heal us all from the damage of sin, there is no hope to come together in peace. In Christ, the peace is not just compromise, but it becomes community, it becomes love deeper than any other.
It is in Christ, seeing Christ’s love for them, which we begin to be able to love them as well. That love may end up pleading with them, not to deal favorably with us, but that which is more important – their reconciliation with God. That becomes our goal; it becomes what we pray for, what we begin to do, to live for, even as God does…
And as we see the glory of God, as we worship Him, the glory of the Holy Spirit works through us… and they know they are loved.
As do we.
”Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 472). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 290). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day
24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
28 “ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
“ ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
29 “ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’ ”(Mt 13:24–30) NLT
792 Duc in altum.—“Put out into the deep.” Cast aside the pessimism that makes a coward of you. Et laxate retia vestra in capturam—“And lower your nets for a catch.” Don’t you see that, as Peter said, In nomine tuo, laxabo rete—“At your word I will lower the net,” you can say, “Jesus, in your name I will seek souls!” (1)
I’ve often read the parable above as being about the end of times. It is an eschatological treasure after all, and challenges those with complicated end times theories.
But this parable has a heavy focus on ministry as well, about how we are to deal with evil and that which doesn’t seem to be correct or dare I say kosher. To hear this lesson is challenging, because it goes against conventional wisdom, It goes against leadership rules and all those ideas about dealing with alligators in the church. These people may be your enemies, your adversaries, even your pains in the neck. But they have been given to you.
To hear Jesus’ words here takes a level of courage, even a level of courage that could be taken for complacency. It actually takes more work, more pastoral concern, more leadership, more devotion and obedience.
Leave them in the field you care for, letting God determine whether they are weeds or wheat at the end of time..
Continue to share with them both their absolute need for Christ, and His mercy that overwhelms that need.
If they walk away, so be it, but don’t push them out of vineyard. That isn’t your call. It isn’t within your pay grade to uproot them and burn them in the furnace, or at the stake. Even in times of church discipline, keep them in sight! Minister to them, plead with them to be reconciled to God. (1 Cor 5 – note it doesn’t say reconcile themselves to God – He still does the work)
This is going to take courage, and obedience. it is going to require hearing the Master’s voice, and trusting that He knows what He is doing, what He has commissioned. It may take sacrifice, and yes, more than a little pain It will take creativity and ingenuity as you minister to them, But since when is ministry about the ease of our jobs?
Even as you call them to repentance, even as you shepherd them in view of the others growing in the fields that will be harvested, you need to love them. This is exactly what Peter is talking about, as he mentions the Lord’s long-suffering nature, not willing that any should perish….
So hear His voice… listen to His words… care for those that you think may be weeds..Seek the salvation of the souls He brings into your sight… and love them. ..
God might surprise you both!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1828-1831). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for. 12 Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you. Jeremiah 29:11-12 (TEV)
545 Live a special Communion of the Saints, and at the moment of interior struggle, as well as during the long hours of your work, each of you will feel the joy and the strength of not being alone. (1)
The above quote from scripture (the red quote) is often used to lift people’s spirits, It appears on cards and meme’s with beautiful sunrises and glorious backgrounds. People share it with those they know need a spiritual boost, a holy “pick me up,” assurance. jeremiah, the prophet of troubling messages assured us of a light at the end of the tunnel. He promises, as God’s spokesman, that there is hope, and it is found in the presence of God. The presence that we are believers dwell in, for we are His people!
He will hear our prayer, He has a plan, He has an answer, and all of that is true.
You might ask where the fine print is, and there is something in the context of this verse that you need to hear. Read this carefully,
7 Work for the good of the cities where I have made you go as prisoners. Pray to me on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too. Jeremiah 29:7 (TEV)
Read the verse again? Do you realize that God is tieing the future of the Babylonians to the future of the Jewish people? That God’s people are to pray for their enemies, their persecutors, that the future and hope of both Jews and Gentiles is linked? That the people of God should work hard to benefit those who oppress them,
We are called to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute. That is what we do, as we trust in Jesus’ promise to us in the sermon on the Mount. And it is nothing really new. That kind of love Israel was supposed to show people back in the Old Testament. It is very radical, it is not logical by man’s standards! Yet in 1 Cor. 5 we are told that we don’t judge men by those standards, but by the value Jesus has placed on them. They will become part fo the Communion of Saints, the very people that will lift you up.
God has radical plans for you, plans that are beyond awesome. Those plans include all He brings into His family, all He wants to bring into His family. That includes those people, the ones you struggle to love. The ones who take every bit of trust you have in God to deal with, and then some.
Pray for them, do everything you can to help them… trusting not in their response, but in God’s role in your life. You will be amazed at His plans, at the reconciliation and restoration he accomplishes!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1317-1319). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
How Do You Plead? 1 Corinthians 5:11-21
† In Jesus Name †
May you realize the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that mercifully and lovingly reconciles you and brings you back to our Father!\
Two men stood in front of the judge and the jury, waiting to hear how their pleas were heard, and how their pleas for just would be answered. Whether they believed their pleas or not, their long struggle for the justice was about to be answered.
It was different this time, as I handed the bailiff the verdict, as justice was delivered.
In the back of my mind, I heard the words of Barry, one of my fellow jurors, CLICK
I would rather have justice, than the outcome of the law….
How I wish we could have had the time, and the opportunity to share with them the true nature of justice, that they could have heard that plea.
For that day, in the court room, the plea for reconciliation, the plea for true justice, was the furthest things from what occurred, the furthest thing from anyone’s heart.
And as everyone walked away from that courtroom in Norwalk, the verdict we had given was fair in our minds, but scripturally, it was far from just.
You see the wrong plea was entered… the plea should have been the pleading we’ve been given by Christ, as Paul wrote:
We speak for Christ when we plead, CLICK “Come back to God!”
Our Need For that Judgement
All over the news and the internet, people crying out for justice, crying out against what they perceive as injustice. If you talk to a judge or a lawyer, they can tell you the wait for justice can be three to five years. If you talk to those who are pleading for justice, their ideas differ. And a jury can struggle to determine what is truly just, for in a civil trial how can you put a price tag on it? How can you place a number of years in a criminal trial, that will bring to balance the injustice?
Even so, people cry out for justice, for things to be made right. We so want what we think justice is. But here is how God defines justice, (verse 19) CLICK
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them!
21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
True justice, true righteousness is seen in the work that God our Father commissioned, the cost of reconciliation, of making people right with the Father.
True justice then, would have resulted in a friendship between the two men suing each other, and their ability to do so, knowing that Christ paid the price for both of their sins!
They could have known that, they could have known a kind of justice that would have healed the broken relationship that they had. For as their sins were counted against each other, as they were erased, what could separate them?
That’s justice, and it is so completely unexpected. CLICK
This is how Jesus saves us, this is how God planned for this, as we hear from Isaiah, whose words were written centuries before the cross.
5 But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received. Isaiah 53:5 (TEV)
10 The LORD says, “It was my will that he should suffer; his death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness. And so he will see his descendants; he will live a long life, and through him my purpose will succeed. Isaiah 53:10 (TEV)
In the very suffering and death of Jesus, we find all of us reconciled to the Father. That is justice. Being reconciled to God is the kind of Justice He seeks.
From my devotions yesterday, this quote explains it well, CLICK
But when a person has once met Christ, when a person has once seen Jesus and really learned to know him, then everything is changed. Then everything else is comprehensible and life is renewed. And you [priests] have really only one task: to present Jesus to all people in such a way that they see him and learn to love him.[i]
When God reconciles us, we are that new creation, as Paul says, the old life is gone, the new life, our new life in Christ has begun!
Everything has changed, the gift of God that is so incredible!
Our plea is different now…
As we look at what has changed, our plea for justice stands out. It is no longer a plea to some vague idea of justice that favors us over others, it is a plea for God’s justice, that they would know His love, that they would welcome His mercy.
It has changed as well from a plea to God for that justice, to a plea to those who cry out for justice, to hear God’s version of it, to be called back to God.
This is what the ministry is all about, this is what the Christ’s love compels us to do.
To share with each other, that in Christ, we have been reconciled to God. Christ’s work is so perfect, that there is no relationship that is beyond His ability to heal, as He brings us into Himself, as He makes of us, one family, one people. His people.
Reconciled to the Father, which is how we see each other. As His children, as those He died for, as those who no longer live for themselves, but live in Christ, who died and was raised for us. That’s why we plead, not to God, but with people to come back to God.
A plea that is an interesting word picture. We become their paraclete’s, the one’s that come alongside them, lift them up and lovingly carry them back to Jesus. If the word sounds familiar, it should. It is one of the names for the Holy Spirit. That is why our pleading is effective, for it is done in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit’s power!
What an amazing thing this message of reconciliation we have been given, this plea that God entrusts to us, to call out to others, to beg them to see the work of God, done for them, and to trust that God has reconciled them as well.
Two last thoughts about God’s Justice CLICK
When we love our neighbor, pleading with them to see Jesus, to recognize His work reconciling them to the Father!
And there is no greater testimony to God’s love and mercy at work in us, that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in us, than to plead with our enemies to be reconciled to Jesus Christ.
For it takes a level of peace to do this, a peace that goes beyond logic, that goes beyond understanding, a peace that unites all in Christ, where He guards their hearts and minds. AMEN!
[i] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 191). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45a (TEV)
174 Don’t say, “That person bothers me.” Think: “That person sanctifies me.”
It may be a political figure, stoked by the internet gossip that reports and interprets what he is doing.
It may be that guy who cut you off on the freeway.
It may even be that church leader, either in your congregation or perhaps in your denomination.
It could be someone much closer, a family member, a best friend, even your spouse.
It might be me.
Everyone has someone who can irritate them to the point where the frustration dominates their life. We may be ticked off, or hurt. It may be for a few minutes or a few hours, or if the adversary is irritating, a week or a month or a lifetime.
We would love to “fix” them, we would love to see them change, or if not, to just leave them alone. We might even think our life would be better without them. I’ll tell you a secret,
We need them!
We need their irritation, even their persecution. We need them to teach us how to love them, how to care for them, how to listen.
For St Josemaria is correct, they are part of our sanctification!
Part of their role in our lives is to make us holier, to cause us to be closer and closer to God. For it is only as we see them as He sees them, that we will find the strength, the courage, to power to love them, to minister to them. To reveal to them the healing power of the love that we find, when we see Jesus.
That is why we are urged to pray to Him, that God would intercede in their lives. This is why we love them, for they (should) drive us closer to Jesus. As we abide in Christ, we find the peace from which we can minister to them. He gives us the assurance that allows us to sacrifice for them, no matter whether it is our time, our money or even our lives.
I am preaching on 1 John 3 this weekend, where the Apostle hears the Holy Spirit telling us that we should love as Christ did, that we should minister to those in need, who lack what we have. The context is physically, but it works emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well. But we only find that ability, as we live in Christ. As we embrace the discomfort, for their sakes, for God’s glory. If we trust God, we encounter Christ as we encounter those who irritate us. Amazing this Lord of ours!
It is a challenge, but it is what we are called to… so it is time do our job.
May God reveal His work in you, as you minister to them…. and may His peace, which is beyond our imagination, guard our hearts and minds, as we follow in His steps.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 Then I said, “LORD, you understand. Remember me and help me. Let me have revenge on those who persecute me. Do not be so patient with them that they succeed in killing me. Remember that it is for your sake that I am insulted. 16 You spoke to me, and I listened to every word. I belong to you, LORD God Almighty, and so your words filled my heart with joy and happiness. 17 I did not spend my time with other people, laughing and having a good time. In obedience to your orders I stayed by myself and was filled with anger. 18 Why do I keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable? Why won’t they heal? Do you intend to disappoint me like a stream that goes dry in the summer?” 19 To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them. Jeremiah 15:15-19 (TEV)
419 An apostle must not remain at the level of the mediocre. God calls him to be fully human in his actions, and at the same time to reflect the freshness of eternal things. That is why the apostle has to be a soul who has undergone a long, patient and heroic process of formation. (1)
A few days ago, I wrote a blog that we as Christians don’t really have enemies, we have adversaries. That our goal was not to defeat them, or crush them, but instead to love them, to pray for them, to come alongside them, that they may know the love of God. That is what following in the footsteps of Jesus is, that is what being a child of God looks like. Growing in our trust of God to the extent that we begin to love as Christ does.
I got a bit of feedback, some quite defensive saying we can’t avoid enemies – they will come after us. My point seemed to be lost, or maybe poorly communicated? It is not that they don’t oppress us, or challenge us, or even hate us. That’s on them. But when we decide that they are enemies, when we make that judgment, it places us in a battle, either offensive or defensive, and negates our ability to minister to them. Our reaction to enemies is different than our reaction to an adversary.
this morning in my devotional time, I read the passage from Jeremiah above. Jeremiah is one who had significant opposition, primarily for speaking out for what God wanted from His people, what He expected as part of the relationship, how He expected them to love each other, and Him. Not a easy message then, nor is it one today. He got a lot of opposition, and here we see him asking God to take care of it. The opposition is real, death threats have been made, serious ones. This isn’t just whining because he didn’t get his way.
But his attention in the midst of the opposition has shifted. It has become personal, this opposition to God’s word. Jeremiah has lost his focus, as we all do at times. He focuses in on his on righteousness, his own goodness.
And God rebukes him, takes him back to the beginning.
God doesn’t promise vengeance on them, instead He tells Jeremiah to return, to repent, to re-focus on the relationship between God and Jeremiah.
That’s a message many of us, including me, perhaps today especially me, need to hear. For we get tired and weary, as we see people choose evil, make decisions that ignore God, and walk on paths that are self-destructive. The temptation is to compare their journey to ours. “Wouldn’t they be better off like us, why can’t they see this?”
While what we should be doing is speaking to them about Jesus’ love, about His mercy, about their need for it in their lives. They need to hear His message, His gospel, His word, and that may take some time. It may take some time for us to get it right, to learn to speak His word, not focus on our situation, to bear His cross, to pray for those who persecute us. Rather than just condemn them and desire wrath, or to give up hope for them, we need to learn that if God is patient with us, not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance… than that is our path, our desire. This focus on the eternal takes time – even for prophets and apostles… we just need to remember to turn to Him…..
So we need to pray for them, ask God to save them, Speak the truth in love regarding their sin and ours, and that God offers hope… He will return them… He will welcome them home.
Lord, have mercy on us ALL…. AMEN
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1878-1880). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Matthew 5:43-47 (MSG) 43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“Think of the good that has been done you throughout your lifetime by those who have injured or attempted to injure you. Others call such people their enemies. You should imitate the saints, at least in this. You are nothing so special that you should have enemies; so call them “benefactors”. Pray to God for them: as a result, you will come to like them” (1)
As I feel a need to write this blog, I am also a bit wary of it. Simply put, many of my blogs – almost all of them, are written based in personal reflection and need.
As I sit in my office this morning, haven’t had to deal with any of those people mentioned in the title. So maybe this blog is for you, and not me?
Even so, if James is right about trials and trauma being beneficial to us, then it logically can be stated that those who are the cause of some of those trials and traumas are likewise blessings and not curses. That we can view the lesson they teach us, as a gift from God, and rather than get more and more frustrated, we can give thanks and praise for their being in our lives.
Well – were are you going to find the strength to rise above your own sinful nature and love them – as Jesus asks you to? How are you going to find the focus to pray for them, not that God would change their habits, or their ability to just tick you off, but instead that God would richly bless them, and reveal His love to them?
There is the lesson…
They aren’t your cross, they simply drive you to it. They are a reminder that you aren’t God, that you can’t walk alone in this world, that you cannot conjure up this transformation in your own soul, in your own heart – on you own.
You need Jesus love, you need the power of the Holy Spirit, you have to know that you dwell in the presence of God – and assured of His presence, His mercy shown to you – then you can love them, then you can pray for their best, then you will realize the blessing that they are…. and give thanks for them.
Pray for me, even as I know within the next month, I will need to come back and remember these words..
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2859-2863). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.