Blog Archives

Really God, You Want Me (or Us) to Do What?

Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)
7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8  Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7-9 (TEV)

FOR AN INITIAL MEDITATION, I propose that you consider the ministerial mission you will receive. Having been formally commissioned, you will be confronted yet again with this reality: you are created and saved by the same Jesus who now calls you to serve as ministers, and you will therefore need to exercise the discerning generosity required for greater service in this specific mission.

MUCH TO OUR CONSOLATION, scripture has preserved for us the special relation that was established between the Lord and those he sent on mission: Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Joseph, and so many others. All of them felt deeply their own inadequacy in the face of the Lord’s request: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exod 3: 11); “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa 6: 5); “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak for I am only a youth” (Jer 1: 6); “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matt 3: 14); even Joseph, who made plans “to dismiss Mary quietly” (Matt 1: 19). There is the initial resistance, the inability to comprehend the magnitude of the call, the fear of the mission. This sign is from the good spirit, especially if it does not stop there but allows the Lord’s strength to express itself through human weakness and to infuse that weakness with consistency and solidity. “I will be with you, and this shall be the sign that I have sent you: when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain” (Exod 3: 12); “He touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven’” (Isa 6: 7); “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you ” (Jer 1: 7-8); “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3: 15); “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1: 20).  (1)

I’ve tried to write this blog a number of times. It is…difficult at best, because most people don’t see ministry as something that should be challenging, that can break a person who is serving others, who is loving them as Christ commanded, as Christ demonstrated throughout His life and on the cross.

We forget that Jesus even, as He was preparing to die, showed how the pressure could break someone.

It does matter whether you are a parent, ministering to your children (or as common these days, to your parents) It could also be a teacher ministering to her students, or a youth ministry person, trying to help a family work through adolescent traumas.  It could be the musicians and singers who facilitate worship, trying to lift spirits of the congregation while they themselves are grieving.  It could be the pastor who struggles with needing to repeat the same lessons over and over.

Ministering, serving to others, is rough.  You have to go to where the people live, into the lives of pain, or doubt.  We end up immersing ourselves, even to the point where we often find ourselves over our head.

We have to face facts.  As much as we want to be capable, as much as we want to be successful, on our own – we cannot.

We can’t do this ministry. It is beyond us, just as it was beyond Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Peter, John and Paul.

We can’t handle it on our own, but only by remaining focused.

Not on the ministry, not on the problems, but focused on Christ.  As we know His mercy, His compassion, His love and His faithfulness…… for that is what sees us through.

Cry out Lord, have mercy!  Trust in Him, even while you have to pray that He strengthens that trust.

AMEN

 

(1)  Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 35-36). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

Ever Feel Like a Failure?

Devotional Thought of the Day:Will new camera 12 2008 167

28  We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29  Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers. 30  And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. Romans 8:28-30 (TEV)

68  It is all too easy to say: “I’m useless; nothing turns out right for me—for us.” Apart from not being true, that pessimism masks a great deal of laziness. There are things you do well, and things you do badly. Fill yourself with joy and with hope on account of the former; and face up to the latter—without losing heart—to put things right; and they will work out.(1)

It creeps up on us slowly, like a tiger stalking its prey.  We are doing okay, perhaps struggling a bit, and then, as things seem to fall apart, it strikes.

It’s our fault, the reason we aren’t successful, or happy, or even simply content. Sometimes even when we are achieving our goals, because we aren’t achieving them fast enough, or the results aren’t as awesome as the next guy.

We beat ourselves up, perhaps we listen to voices of our pas, the voices that were trying to spur us on, but tore us down.

We think we are failures, no good, useless, that nothing good will ever come from us.  So we extend ourselves, we go after some other proof that we aren’t worthless.  A better car, another degree, a nice house, We try to find success in our children, or perhaps in our ancestors. We find distractions, support groups, we listen to “positive thinking” speakers, and we surround ourselves with people who we think will lift us up…. and they don’t, for they are the same as us,

That is where faith, where confidence in God comes to play.

He’s promised all will work out for good – all things!  All things!  Even what we perceive to be our failures. Maybe especially in those times, as we get to our wits end, as we are bottoming out.

It is then that we have to remember He is with us, it is the only answer to the despair e feel. But as we find the joy that is found in knowing God, in understanding what His presence means, in realizing His promises are for us; we find the joy, the peace, the mercy to realize there is something more going on in life.  That God is here, crafting everything into something that is a blessing beyond our wildest hope.

Filled with that joy, we leap into life, we take the opportunities that come, not to bring ourselves glory, but to see God glorified.  To know that our lives are in His hands, and there is no better place to be.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 506-509). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can a Christian Leader let his people fail? He must!

 

Devotional Thought of the Day:

And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: 2  Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3  Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.  1 Peter 5:1-3 (NLT)

If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in us; 9  if we acknowledge our sins, he is trustworthy and upright, so that he will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil.1 John 1:8-9 (NJB)  

402    People have to be taught how to work, but their training need not be overdone, for actually doing things is a way of learning too. They should accept in advance their unavoidable shortcomings: the best is the enemy of the good.  (1)

It is one of the hardest lessons that pastors and other Christian leaders have to learn.  I still struggle with it, the guys I mentor, yes they do as well.

It seems a paradox, counter-intuitive to the responsibility for them that we have been given.  We want them to succeed, we want them to grow, we want them to rejoice in all things.

So we have to let them fail?

Yes!  And yes, it hurts, yes we want to go in and fix everything, to make an event succeed, to help a couple before they need counsel,  FOr oto wait, the problems will be worse, the pain to correct them more intense.  The question then arises, will they blame us for their failure?

But I think it is caring even more to embrace the pain of their failure, to be their, waiting for the prodigal to come home.

Two reasons for letting them fail.

1.  We learn better from our mistakes.  It stops the learning process if everything always goes smoothly, They have to learn when to ask for help, when to admit they are overreached, and how to do the work to correct their errors, For it is there, that the most significant

2.  They need to learn about God’s presence there, ready to cleanse them.  They need to know that failure doesn’t result in condemnaiton, but in reconciliation.  People have to realize that God loves them, (and so should we) even when we fail, so that we run to Him first, so we know we will encounter grace not condemnaiton.  That they will realize what it means for God to be God. To be their Father.  They have to get that, and it is more important than their doing everything right the first time.

Two reasons for those around them…

1.  We all need to learn to be graceful to those around us.  If failures are treated with grace this will happen.  We don’t want to encourage people to fail, but we want them to know that some failure, some shortcomings is unavailable.

2.  We, as servant leaders, need to grow in our faith of God.  Every servant leader in scripture failed, some dealt with it (King David, St. Peter), many didn’t (king Saul for example).  But to let our people fail, to even stand by and watch it happen, requires us to have both a pastor’s heart and a deep faith that knows that all will work for good for those that love God.  That in failure, our people will have to meet Christ crucified, that they will adore the God who knows their sufferings and will rescue them.  We must trust God…. and that trust has to grow…that expectation of His grace has to be so ingrained in our lives, that it is lived in view of our people.   THat we realize that the sins of the people of God and all unrighteousness and evil is cleansed from us.

So let them fail, and be there with God to lovingly pick them up, be there to see the wounds heal, and to help them learn the lesson.

FOr that is what we do….

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1816-1818). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Lessons about God re-learned from Candy Crush Saga

Devotional thought of the day….

14  So, when gentiles, not having the Law, still through their own innate sense behave as the Law commands, then, even though they have no Law, they are a law for themselves. 15  They can demonstrate the effect of the Law engraved on their hearts, to which their own conscience bears witness; since they are aware of various considerations, some of which accuse them, while others provide them with a defence . . . on the day when, 16  according to the gospel that I preach, God, through Jesus Christ, judges all human secrets. Romans 2:14-16 (NJB) 

35  Bless the Lord, all the Lord’s creation: praise and glorify him for ever!   Prayer of Azariah 1:35 (NJB)  *

 7  O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Jeremiah 20:7 (NIV)

Sitting in the airport the other day, getting frustrated by playing a silly game on my phone, I recognized the same kinds of frustrations that I’ve been dealing with for a while in life.  As I got on the plane, I was reading a new book, recommended to me by a friend.  Written by a Catholic priest, it talked about the lessons of faith learned through watching Star Wars, and how to apply those to ministry.   Very well writtent this book, and so while taking it in, I thought of my frustrations and decided to write this blog.

So here are the things I’ve learned about God from playing this frustrating, addictive game.

1.  Achieving your goal may take some time!
Nothing in Candy Crust saga is impossible.  It just seems like it!  Eventually the little things will line up, you’ll get rid of the bombs and you will finish that level.  It may take you a week, or 30-40 trips to the bathroom (come on – be honest – you play Candy Crush there!).  You might put it down for a couple of days, you might even delete it off you tablet.  But the levels aren’t impossible.  Likewise, we will endure through the struggles in our lives.  Some may take longer to play out, some may be very very frustrating, some may cause us to want to drop out. The funny thing is, we get all excited to finish a level… only to take on… another level!
But we will endure them, and in fact, sometimes we will learn a lot more about life (or the game) because it takes so long!

2.  You aren’t God
How many times have you wanted to choose what colors fall next?  How many times have you gotten wanted to bargain with the processor, just drop me a blue candy there, and I will get you a new SD card, or a pretty new case!  Or gotten angry as that last bomb ticked off, and you had to start again?  There are times I wonder if my failues are deliberately caused by the computer – that they want me to fail.  Most of that anger is silly, but it shows me how much I want to be in control of the game… and of my life.
Sometimes, I’ll be honest – like in the game I want to play God.  Sometimes I am actually foolish enough to think I can do better, or that God is playing with me, like He did with Jeremiah, at least in Jeremiah’s mind (see Jeremiah 20 quote above…) But God isn’t the programmers of CCR.  He’s promised that He’s in charge, that He is our Master, that He has obligated Himself to do exactly that which is good for us.

3.  Mistakes are in the past!
So you failed 40 times at a level. Guess what!  When you hit play, all those failures are history, and they have no impact on the new game, or the new attempt to solve the problem.
Likewise in faith, when we hear 1 John 1:8- when we confess our sins, and trust God to forgive them and cleanse us of all unrighteousness, we start as new as the day we were born, and the day we were born again.  The sins we’ve committed are in the past, the failures are gone, and while they lurk in the shadows, they really can’t affect how we live today,   We might listen to them, we might learn from them, but the glory of the Ministry of Reconciliation that we’ve been given (see 2 Cor. 3-5) is that God’s work is complete.  He has forgiven us, He has cleansed us, and hit the play button again.

I could go on and on about this one… there are things about this game that so mirror the frustrations of life.  There are amazing things, when you think all is lost and a striped candy and a mirror ball show up next to each other with one move to go, and the day is miraculously saved.  But there is one thing for sure, and that will be my last point..

4.  The makers want your time.
I bet that the designers of CCS have an innate or learned knowledge.  They have a goal, expressed in how many minutes we maddle move little things around, trying to achieve our goal.  They want our time, because for them, it means $$$$.  God is neither so manipulative or so greedy for stuff that doesn’t matter.  But He wants our time as well. He wants to spend it with us, showing us His love, showing us His mercy, sharing with us He re-creation of the world, because the blood of Christ was spilled on the cross.  He wants your time, because He loves you, because that’s what this life is all about.  The people of God, and those who have yet to realize that He loves them but will.  Gathered together in His arms, cared for and loved.

As incomplete this silly little game is, that last point, in their brokenness and ours, says it all.  For they realize how precious our time is….and want it.  Not as much as He does, and not for the same reason.

Maybe.. we can spend some more of it with the Lord who loves us, and takes care of our failures, and walks with us through the levels of life.

Pro Football, Pastoral Care and Christian Leadership

Tom Brady

Tom Brady (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

 11  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14  Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15  Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16  He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT)

It was one of the worst games that I have seen Tom Brady play in 14 years.

Two of his rookie wide receivers drop 17 passes between them  Besides one veteran returning from injury, only six passes of 26 were caught in the game.  It was frustrating, obviously so.  Even the fact that they beat a nemesis didn’t take away the sting that this game was just…. ugly.

An espn article quotes Brady after the game…

“It’s unrealistic for them to feel like they can do it like 10-year veterans. That’s not what they are,” Brady said. “But they’re trying hard and they work real hard and they have a lot of skill.”

As I thought about the game that night, and yesterday, I saw some great applciation to ministry.  Especially to the very unique combinaiton of pastoral care and how that makes Christian Leadership somewhat different than Leadership in the world.

Yousee, in the real world – you play that badly, and you will get cut, or you will lose your starting position, until you can demonstrate some level of trustworshiness. Until you can prove you can get the job done.  In business, you might just get fired.  Some coaches and bosses can be quite callous about that. They would just get rid of you.. no questions to be asked.  Here’s your last check, and don’t let the door hit you on the…

Some would even argue that the Patriots owe it to their fans – and especially to Tom Brady, one of the best qb’s in history, if not the best, to get rid of these guys and get him some real football players.

But Christian leaders have another level of responsibility.  They aren’t just called to develop the good people, they are called to equip all the people of God.  Including those that, how can we say it, mmove at a different pace than the rest?   

It’s unrealistic to expect people not to fail in their walk with God.  It is unrealistic to expect them to grow at the same rate; to comprehend to the same depth, that all would awlays trust God, as completely, as deeply…

Yet i think that’s what we sometimes do, I know that is how most Bible Studies are written, as if every congregation, and every Bible study, and every confirmation class developed in the same way.  And we are trained to use them, right out of the box from the publisher – hand out the individual books – and get the study down in 13 weeks.

If people drop the pass, if they miss a week – wel, that’s their fault, and that one or two truths.. they aren’t that important.  Are they?  That odd question from the back right of the “classroom” – the one that opens a very special can of tangental worms… requiring a half-hour deviation?  Just skip it – deal with it privately.  Right?

No – we can’t expect everyone to get everything, to know it all, to not have a bad week, a bad game.  We are called to be patient, and to let our desire that no one perish determination our actions and thoughts, rather than just our frustration  We – pastors, ministers, priests, vicars, deacons, elders, and every other leader in church, are called to lead by serving.   To lead sacrificially, to lead like Christ did… bearing our cross.  To love them, knowing what it will take to get them to grow in faith, and in their being set apart to walk with God.

Leadership in  the church, and among Christian leaders is more like the USMC – we don’t leave anyone behind…. even if that requires the impossible.

Why?  Because we got the win, its assured, Christ is victorious, and therefore those with Him are as well. so let’s take our time – and work with everyone whom God brings ( or sends us out to go get)  If it means things gets dirty and ugly and frustrating, there is a win at the end of the game.  So we do what we do, fixing our eyes on Christ – the one who generated and perfected our faith in God.

The announcers both expressed a confidence during the game that was longer reaching than just the game.  They said, that by the end of the season, Brady will have transformed these two young receivers into a weapon that couldn’t be stopped.   If a mere man, playing a game can do that…. what can God do with and through us?

Let’s find out!

They failed us, they sinned….now what?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

“You have to love your fellow men to the point where even their defects, as long as they do not constitute an offence against God, hardly seem to you to be defects at all. If you love only the good qualities you see in others—if you do not know how to be understanding, to make allowances for them and forgive them—you are an egoist.” (1)

Therefore, to avoid this vice (bearing false witness) we should note that no one is allowed publicly to judge and reprove his neighbor, although he may see him sin, unless he have a command to judge and to reprove. For there is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it, but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is greater than his.

There was once a saying that you must accept one major defect in each of your friends.  I am not sure of where it comes from, or to what extent I agree with it. But if we are to have friends, we have to accept that our friends will be sinners. Including of course, the fact that they will sin against us, and we will sin against them.  We will struggle with this, as we wonder if they will forgive, and whether we will.  Will we count their sins more important than their friendship?  WIll we value them enough to go and ask forgiveness.  And we ask, will they hurt us again?  Does forgiving render us defenseless against future pain, or can we remember – and keep up our guard up.

In Fr. Escriva’s comment, the shortcomings are specifically between you and another, and yes Martin Luther’s are more geared toward general sin against God.  But both have at the heart of them the idea goal of maintaining a relationship that is health and without the walls that come up, when we become egotists, when we place ourselves in Gods position, and decide that wrath and punishment are deserved, and withholding mercy is what is needed.

Except that is not the heart of God.

Remember – the offer of mercy was given to you, before you actually sinned – before you were even conceived in sin. The debt is already paid for, the mercy poured out on you, and the only option we have… is to refuse it, to ignore it, to turn and walk away from it.  As we understand the concept of Justification, as we understand the power of reconciliation, it is while we are yet sinners and enemies of God, that He was working, to draw us back, to make things right, to seperate that sin from us, as the Holy Spirit uses the word of God, the very gospel revealed to us, to cut out the hardness of heart and the egotism that would make us… not extend forgiveness.

Knowing that – can we look at our brothers and sisters with Christ’s attitude towards them?  Can we look at them knowing the mind of God – the attitude we see revealed in passages like John 17 and Philippians 2 and 1 Corinthians 13?   Can we point them to Jesus, always and encourage them to point us there, to the cross, where we are, together, untied in His love, in His grace, because of the great mercy He has for us?

We can… and when we struggle – my best suggestion – remember the sacraments, remember the water poured over you, cleansing you from sin, remember the altar where you go, that you may know and taste and see that the Lord is good?  Can you bring your brother there… and celebrate the goodness of God – who has blessed you with each other?

Such is our calling, such is our ministry.

Lord have the mercy on us, to enable us to do this very thing!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3365-3367). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther. the explanation of the 8th commandment

 

Stress Redux

A couple of hours ago, I wrote a post on Stress….

Interestingly, this came up in my devotions, not to long after: ( thinks got a bit off of schedule this morning)

“You suffer a lot because you realize that you don’t make the grade.  You would like to do more, and do it more effectively, but very often you do things in a complete daze, or you don’t dare to do them at all.
Contra spem, in spem, – live in certain hope, against all hope!  Rely on that firm rock which will save you and help you on!  It is a wonderful theological virtue, which will encourage you to press on, without being afraid of going to far, and will not let you stop.
Don’t look so troubled!  Yes cultivating hope means strengthening the will! ”  (Escriva †)

This pretty much says it – the reason we have hope – is the Rock, our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is there we start  – it is in Him we live… It is His work..that gives us hope – and as we see that hope – we find His strength – which allows us to serve… and live… and realize we walk in Him!

%d bloggers like this: