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What if We Are Not the One, but One of the Ninety Nine?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Let me ask you this. What would you do if you had a hundred sheep and one of them wandered off? Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go look for the one that had wandered away? 13 I am sure that finding it would make you happier than having the ninety-nine that never wandered off. 14 That’s how it is with your Father in heaven. He doesn’t want any of these little ones to be lost.  Mt.18:12-14  CEV

16 Don’t be a gossip, but never hesitate to speak up in court, especially if your testimony can save someone’s life. 17 Don’t hold grudges. On the other hand, it’s wrong not to correct someone who needs correcting.  Lev. 19:16-17 CEV

The Holy Spirit, however, permits us to censure sin, and prescribes the way in which we are to do it. It must be done by rebuking our brother to his face, not by railing behind his back. This course is manly, brotherly, Christlike, and under God’s blessing will be useful. Does the flesh shrink from it? Then we must lay the greater stress upon our conscience, and keep ourselves to the work, lest by suffering sin upon our friend we become ourselves partakers of it. Hundreds have been saved from gross sins by the timely, wise, affectionate warnings of faithful ministers and brethren.

For most of us, the statement about leaving the 99 is comforting, for most of us know we wander off too frequently.

Put a different face on the 99, and we might have a different reaction.

If it is a person that antagonizes us, we might say good riddance, and let them go.

It is someone who has hurt us, we may pretend we do not notice.

If they are a politician or someone who expresses themselves politically is a way we oppose, we might even pack their bags and give them a map with the fastest way out of town, and try to inflame them enough that they burn bridges behind them.

We should not take those attitudes, but they seem natural to us, and many would cheer us on if we allowed them to wander off.  After all, we didn’t push them away or force them out. We just let them go, off to get what they deserve. (not to mention what we deserve.)

The answer to this sin is not found in forcing our will to do what we don’t want to do. We might be able to subject our will once or twice, and yet, somewhere down deep, resentment will only grow, not just toward the one who offended us, but towards God and those who would encourage reconciliation.

So how do we do the impossible, how do we pray that Jesus is able to rescue this one stray?  Or even more impossible, how do we come to desire that we assist in some small way?

I don’t think it is by focusing on them, or the pain they have caused.

I think it can only be by looking to Jesus, to seeing Him at work in our own lives, bringing about the healing that we need, forgiving the sin we’ve committed, removing the guilt and shame, and indeed the fear of death that comes from knowing we will be judged. To experience the love of God that makes our life new, and free from the power of sin.  In awe of that, with the joy that only knowing we have passed from death to life can bring, is reconciliation with others possible.

For free, and full of joy, we see them out of the corner of our eye, and in awe of Christ’s work, we invite them to share in it. We then find great joy walking with Jesus after the one, because as they share the in the wonder of Christ’s healing them, we see again His healing us, it is made more complete.

Another part of us is healed, when they are cleansed and healed by Christ.

Then the joy of seeing Christ at work becomes greater, as it is shared.

Heavenly Father, help us to see and wonder about the incredible things Christ is doing in our lives. Help us to know He is with us, and as we gaze upon the cross, help us to rejoice as the Spirit brings healing to all our relationships.  AMEN@

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Are Our “Rights” More Important Than Their Salvation?

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21  “You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’ 22 But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother a worthless fool you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell.
Matthew 5:21-22 (TEV)

9 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12 Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13 Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.
Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)

866         Violence is not a good method for convincing anyone… Even less is it so in the apostolate.

The answer to the title is simple to say, but very difficult to implement in our lives.

I am teaching a man, preparing him to serve more at church. He’s currently reading about the reformation and how violent it was. Catholics burning those who would attempt to break away, Henry ordering the death of many, Calvin and Zwingli and Luther were prone to violence as well.

It wasn’t right then, and the more subtle versions that exist today in the church are not righteous or holy either. Jesus, of course, anticipated our thoughts, actions, and words, when He laid out the understanding of sinning in Matthew’s gospel.

Pretty blunt, call your “enemy” or adversary names, deride their character and you are in danger of going to hell.

Even if their action would remove what the world considers your “rights”.

You are still to love them. You are still to be concerned about their life and their salvation. You are to ask God to bless them, rather than curse them. Do not take any violent action, wish that they get what they deserve.

This isn’t easy, in fact, it requires great faith. It requires us to look past what is “ours” to what is God’s.

We are.

We are His responsibility, and we are the way His love becomes known to a broken world that needs it. That mission, the reason that God is patient with us is more important than getting angry. And to remember that, when people are making decisions that cause you stress and anxiety when politicians are polarizing when you are dealing with violent threats yourself, requires great trust in God.

And that trust, that dependence, that faith requires us to know He is with us, to know His attitude toward us, to know His love for us, and to know that nothing can separate us from His love.

Knowing that… we can love them, and that love may be the very thing that allows them to see Jesus love for them revealed.

But it all comes back to walking with God…


Lord, send Your Spirit to strengthen us, to draw us so close to You that your love drives out all anxiety, all stress. Lord, help us to know you are with us. In Jesus name. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3549-3550). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Our “enemies” and “us”, is there hope for healing?

Devotional Thoguht of the Day:

“So may all your enemies die like that, O LORD, but may your friends shine like the rising sun! Judges 5:31 GNT

12 It is foolish to speak scornfully of others. If you are smart, you will keep quiet. Ps. 11:12 GNT

12 For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Eph. 6:12 GNT

As Martin Marty summarizes in his biography of Luther, “The benefit of faith was that it united the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. ‘They become one flesh,’ as Paul puts it. What Christ has is the property of the believing soul, what the soul has becomes the property of Christ, including the soul’s sins, death, and damnation. Faith negotiates the exchange.”

An absolute and rigid justice becomes a circulus vitiosus, a cycle of retaliations from which there is no escape. In his dealings with us, God has broken through this circle. We are unjust before God; we have turned away from him in pursuit of our own glorification and so we have become subject to death. But God waives the merited punishment and puts something new in its place: healing; our conversion to a renewed Yes to the truth about ourselves. So that this transformation may take place, he goes before us and takes upon himself the pain of our transformation. The Cross of Christ is the real elucidation of these words: not “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, but “transform evil by the power of love.…” In the Cross of Christ, and only there, these words open themselves to us and become revelation. In the company of the Cross, they become a new possibility even for our own lives.

If I looked at social media as a barometer of conflict and stress, I would be (and admit I get) very depressed, and I would lose hope.

The division and unrest I see is growing, and unless you agree with someone’s political and social views you are considered their “enemy”. There is no middle ground, and if someone tries to occupy such a place, they are insane, or accused of hiding their true agenda. The polarization is causing more stress, and everyone wants a form of rigid justice prosecuting their enemies.

A justice system that is ruled by our logic, and our rules. And we want the justice as swift and complete as it was on Sisera in the Book of the Judges. God’s enemies are ours, of course, and like the fools that Proverbs describes we do not hesitate to pass on something to judge someone on, and truly find them worth condemnaiton.

In doing so, we play God, or better, we create God in our image, refusing to acknowledge who He revealed Himself to be. We make the error St. Paul warns against in Ephesians 6 – we think we are to fight human beings and cast them down. We don’t see them as broken and needing our care, and we really don’t want to admit we are broken and need theirs!

So how do we reconcile? How do we bring people who are so angry, so hurt, so broken by others to the point where they can find the peace that comes with such a miracle as my enemy becoming a beloved friend?

it doesn’t start with our efforts to heal the other person. It starts when we realized what Pope Benedict and Martin Luther discuss. The fact that we are drawn into Christ, and in the depth of the relationship, as we are being reconciled to God, as our brokenness is exchanged for Jesus’ completeness, we find that relationship with others healed as well. It is in this transformation that I find myself able to heal, able to forgive, able to love and even sacrificially love another.

That’s our hope in this life, (and that’s but the briefest glimpse of the future!) That drawn into Christ we find life itself transformed. That with given a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25ff) and the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5-10) we find all out relationships being healed.

Our enemy is no longer seen to be that person, for we see them in Christ as our sibling.

Lord, help us to look for your healing in our own lives and praise you for that same healing being offered and available to everyone, especially to those we struggle to like/love. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 69–70). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 78–79). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

What We Pass On…. Is it Truly Good?

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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for Our Day:

5 Isaiah then told the king, “The LORD Almighty says that 6a time is coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have stored up to this day, will be carried off to Babylonia. Nothing will be left. 7Some of your own direct descendants will be taken away and made eunuchs to serve in the palace of the king of Babylonia.”
8 King Hezekiah understood this to mean that there would be peace and security during his lifetime, so he replied, “The message you have given me from the LORD is good.”  Isiah 38:5-8  TEV

802         When someone has a very small heart, it seems as if he keeps his desires in a narrow, neglected drawer.

The king in the passage indicated he thought the message of God’s wrath was good, and that bugs me.  Is he so self-centered that he doesn’t realize he is welcoming, even approving of God’s wrath to be poured out on others because of his own sin?  Doesn’t he realize he is rejoicing in his people’s, his descendants suffering? 

What kind of king is that? 

What kind of father?

Which brings a hard question to ask, what kind of things will our children, our grandchildren, and those who follow us in Christ have to face because of our lives today?

I am not talking “our” in a corporate sense of America, or even of the entire Church, or my denomination or congregation.  I am talking about you and me. 

In my case, my cynicism, my own reactions toward those I don’t relate well too, that I don’t trust, that I struggle with, and consider my adversaries, my enemies.  Those, if I am in a more condescending mood, that I consider a royal pain in the ass.  How will I treat those who add fuel to my already raging sense of cynicism or those who provoke my fine sense of irony? 

I have struggled a lot with this as I’ve seen people react to a reaction of other people.  That it turn created a reaction, which more people are reacting to with more extremism, more hatred, more calls for violence and acting in anger.  

I want to react, I want to call people out on their hypocrisy, I’ve written twenty or thirty replies, then caught myself before posting them.  (and a couple of times, I didn’t) 

My reaction has to be one of love, it has to be less about me, and more about helping people reconcile, but oh this is difficult, it is brutal, it cuts me to the heart…. and yet, that is exactly what I need.   It is this process that St Paul wrote about when he wrote,

11  In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:11-15 (TEV)

The only way I can love those who seem unlovable to me is to live in the reality of my baptism.  To know that when I was (and still can be)unlovable, God did anyways.  And because He loves me (and you) He is working on me (and you), as I must trust He is working on everyone!  Even those who don’t know Him, yet He is calling them to this change of life. To this circumcision of the heart (see Ezekiel 36:25 and following) which cleanses us, changes us, transforms us.  (this is what repentance is, and it is far more than saying, “i am sorry”_

It is in His work, that I must trust.  Not must in the sense of my obligation to Him, but rather must because if I don’t, I will soon realize I am what I annoys me, I am what I rail against, I am what i hate.

My hope?  In the one who loved me enough to die for me.  Who loves me enough to transform me, even as I struggle against it.  My hope is in Jesus… who is still my advocate, who is still my shepherd, who is my Lord.

May we all let Him change us, as He calls us to his side.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3314-3315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

They couldn’t be… but they are so…

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:

34  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35  And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36  I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37  “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38  And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39   40  Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)

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.

As I read St Josemaria’s words this morning, my mind drifted towards the passage from Matthew above.  Well, more like the passage smacked me.

We often think of that passage in regards to the needs that are mentioned, which are mostly physical.  Hunger, thirst, loneliness, health issues.   But what about the spiritual issues?  What about that rude person, who desperately needs mercy?  What about that antagonistic person, who is that way because of being in bondage to sin?

Could we really be reaching out and serving Jesus by serving those who are twisted in their brokenness?  Whose are offensive, who are so against us that we would even classify them as enemies?  Who won’t listen but love to argue, and even try to bait us into the arguments?  Or those who are, through no cause of their own, so frustrating we want to give up, to run away from them.

This isn’t easy!  I am preaching on Jeremiah this week, who laments trying to reach out to such people.  He gets so frustrated he accused God of deceiving him, basically saying – it shouldn’t be this hard to share YOUR message.

Which is perhaps why Matthew 25 came to mind.  We can’t pick which people we help, which types of brokenness we will care for, disregarding the rest.  We are sent to minister to the needs of those around us, physical, spiritual, psychological, no matter the cost…

We simply serve, we simply offer that glass of cold water, the listening ear, the prayer, and patience they need.  And on occasion, we even get to see God draw the to Himself and unite them to Jesus.

What a wonder that is, what an incredible thing God has sent us to do!

So next time you see someone roaring like a lion, hurt and bleeding and ready to pounce on you for trying to help, ask God for the wisdom, strength, and patience to be able to do so, knowing you are serving someone Jesus died for… and trust God to provide what you need!

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1356-1358). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who would weep when those who do evil die…?

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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.

Why there is no “them”

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

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.

The Inconvenience of Mercy…

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.

God, please turns their hearts.. not to me, but to You!

Featured imageDevotional 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.

A Second Look at How the Church Should Deal With Sinners and Even Evil.

Featured imageDevotional/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.

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