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The Battle for Spiritual Growth….is Not What it Seems…


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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:
12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.      Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.    Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)

223      Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.

For decades I think we’ve bought into an idea of spiritual growth that is both childish, and damaging. It begins with telling stories of the great people that precede us in the faith as if they were perfect, as if they had no faults, as if they weren’t broken.

King David was perfect, and not an adulterer and murderer.  St Paul was a theologian par excellence, without a doubt or any struggle with sin. ( I can even find commentaries that say the above quote from Romans was St. Paul talking about prior to his conversion! )  We will whitewash Luther’s bi-polar nature, or Mother Theresa’s dealing with both depression.  We do this all the time, even with the modern folks we believe will be the next generation’s heroes of the faith.

That idea seems to be revealed for what it is, immature at best and perhaps deliberately misleading.

Paul struggled with sin, he realized that he had to battle for what was his in Christ, not to achieve it, but to receive it, to believe in, to depend on it. Even when our heart is trying to get us to focus on our sin, on our failures, on our spiritual growth not being as great as it should be.

St. Josemaria describes in a way that resonates with me, that there are times where we are going backwards, rather than forwards, that things are getting worse rather than better.  I resemble this at times, more often that I want to admit.

Which makes it challenging, because my mind will then move to why be a pastor, if I can’t grow deeper in faith myself?

Evaluating our spiritual growth is good, if we understand what spiritual growth is, what it really looks like, how it is measured.

The struggle with our sinfulness is part of it, we should never become complacent with our sin.  It shouldn’t haunt us, for Christ has won the victory over it, but we shouldn’t become complacent either. Our sin still needs to irritate us, disgust us, make us uncomfortable.

Not so we hide from God, but that we depend upon Him to purge that sin from us, that He would transform us.  Growth that has as its goal that we would treasure His love and mercy more than we treasure the sin.

This is growth, this battle, this fight, a growth which seems unending, but it will end. He has promised and He is faithful.  As He hangs on to us, we learn to hang on to Him.

May we be transparent enough with the generations that follow us, that they clearly see our trusting in God, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when we think we don’t deserve His mercy and love.

For then they will know this growth as well.. and not be as dismayed when Satan assails them.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 959-964). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Proper Distinction/Tension of Knowledge & Experience


photoDevotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

4  “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! 5  Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6  Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. 7  Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. 8  Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. 9  Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.   Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NAB)

The experience of the beautiful love of God in a personal and communal encounter with Jesus Christ is the engine of Christian creativity for the announcement of the Good News.

Second, justifying faith apprehends all those things not as simple history, nor only insofar as they are in themselves true in general, but in such a way that it specifically includes the person of the believer in that promise of grace, so that each believer apprehends and receives Christ in the Word and the Sacraments with true confidence of the heart as given personally to him, and applies them to himself individually. And though this faith is often attacked by various temptations and of itself is weak and languid, yet it surely is faith by which each one specially or warmly21 believes and trusts that sins are forgiven him by God for the sake of Christ, that he is received into grace, [and] that he is adopted into the sonship of God. Jn 1:12; 3:15–16; Ro 1:16; 3:22; 4:16, 23–24; 5:1–2; 8:35, 38–39; 10:4, 9; 1 Ti 1:16; Mt 9:22; Lk 7:50.

In the last forty years, we have often heard people warn against trusting experience and emotion.  We can’t trust them, not our heart.  We need to have a logical approach to scripture, one clearly documentable, tried and true. 

On the other hand, our forefathers often talked about the frailty and insufficiency of human reason in regards to faith. Luther even mentioned this in his training of the youngest in the faith, explaining that it is not by our reason that leads us to faith, for it cannot.  It is spun around, confused by Satan and his minions, challenged by our self-interest and the sin that so easily ensnares us.

So, if we can’t trust our experiences/feelings or our intellect/knowledge, how can we be sure of our salvation?  How can we be sure this isn’t all some dream or some deviants scam?

Simple – we let Him work in both.  We let Him give us the mind of Christ, we let Him change our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh where the Holy Spirit dwells.

We keept them in tension, for it is using all of that and more that we love God, and receive and this message of salvation, this relationship God gives. Melancthon makes it clear, it simply isn’t about knowledge, yet knowledge confirms the message is true.  It does include the heart and soul, for that is where relationships are found, that is where love is noticed and that is where the joy of being loved begins. 

Moses refers to the same thing, as he talks about these words being committed in our hearts. ( the NAB using words instead of commands, for Moses is talking about the entire LOGOS – the entire covenant – not just the terms that bind us)   The entire thing, yet he also knows that is not enough, so he gives us ways to bring them to mind, talking about them, putting them in conspicuous places like the entrance to our homes, our hands, and right between our eyes. 

For we need to know God is our God, there is no other, we need not put our hope and trust in any other hands, including our own.  Rather, we need to let God minister to every part of us, and through every part of us. 

Seeing that, freed from guilt, from worry, we dwell in such peace that loving Him, treasuring His love and work in our lives becomes our life   Alife where our hearts and minds work together, loving Him, and through Him, loving those the world considers unlovable.

This is our blessed life, our entire life in Christ.

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Chemnitz, Martin, and Luther Poellot. Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

Limited Faith? Who Set its Boundaries?


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Devotional Thought of the Day:
11  And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. 12  I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. 13  I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. Philippians 4:11-13 (TEV)

117      “What do I have to do to maintain my love for God and make it increase?” you asked me, fired with enthusiasm. Leave the “old man” behind, my son, and cheerfully give up things which are good in themselves but hinder your detachment from your ego… You have to repeat constantly and with deeds, “Here I am, Lord, ready to do whatever you want.”  (1)

e need to stopIt is rare these days for pe]eople to ask how to grow stronger in their faith.  I am not sure whether that is good or bad. Some might not care to grow, some might be afraid to grow.  While others are growing, their faith being stretched like taffy, or a balloon expanding so fast that you wonder if it will burst.

There is a secret to this growth, a need for freedom from things that tether us down, box us in, that define the boundaries that we think define us, but in reality simply constrain us, and eventually choke out our faith.

Let me give you an example.  As a young man wanting to be a pastor, I set a boundary on where I would serve.  I asked God to send me anywhere, except for the desert. I narrowed the scope of my vision, and I would come to realize that the people in that desert needed the comfort and peace, the contentment that only comes from when you realize you live in the presence of God. (Yes, my first three churches I served were in the desert – and I needed to be there more than the people needed me)

I still occasionally do that, narrowing down where I will serve, or to whom I would “allow” God to send me.  God, you couldn’t have me in that kind of position, or ministering in that kind of church.  God you couldn’t use someone like me like that, etc.

And so do you.

We need to stop setting boundaries, we need to stop tying ourselves down, tethering ourselves to things that stop us from growing in our faith.  St Josemaria considers that might even include good things that hinder our detachment.  Things our ego depends upon to identify us as individuals, and therefore stop us from trusting that God knows what He is doing.

For growth, maturity in the faith is not confidence in ourselves, it is confidence in God, a deepening sense of contentment.  Whether it means we have to go without, or we have to learn to deal with having more than we need.  ( I know some of us find that harder to deal with! ) Spiritual growth is the abandonment of self, assured that God will develop what in us, and dependent on His promises.

Whatever He wants, where ever He wants, however long He wants; depending on the presence of Jesus, the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit

This is faith, a faith that grow and be stretched, a faith without boundaries, a faith that grows significantly, because God causes the increase.

AMEN!!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria.   The Forge (Kindle Locations 614-617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

There is Another Way: A Lenten Sermon on Romans 4


church at communion 2There is another Way

Romans 4:1-8, 13-17

 In Jesus Name

As we realize the sin we commit, may we also realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from the sin, even as we come to depend on His presence in our lives!

Parenthetical Statement

 In the midst of the passage from Romans this morning, our translation puts a few of the words inside of parenthesis.  They are no less part of scripture, and I would call your attention to them this morning…

They are these words, “The only way to avoid breaking the law, is to have no law to break!”

That seems simple.  No law, no breaking the law.

Even though they are scripture, they present a problem for us.  They are a literary device, not what we would call “pure gospel”.  A literary device, sort of like sarcasm or irony.

You see, as a literary device, the idea of getting rid of God’s law is predetermined to fail.

For one thing, it’s impossible.

For another… well you will see.

We can’t avoid it – because of Adam

Paul’s literary device fails, simply because we can’t avoid sin. Last week we saw why, sin entered the world through Adam, and it was passed on, as vicious as any virus or genetic anomaly to every person who was a product of human conception.

All we have to do is look at what our lives produce, and we know that the Apostle Paul was right when he said that, “the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.” 
That seems like a bit of a challenge, doesn’t it?  You try to obey God’s law, and you can’t!

Some will say the law is impossible, that we should just ignore God’s law, and do whatever we want. Others give up, and others pretend that they have never sinned, or that their sin isn’t as evil as the sins of those they complain about.

Sin, we’ve all done it, we’ve all earned the wrath of God that are the wages for that sin. Ignorance of the law doesn’t matter, and we can’t simply make God’s law disappear, or claim that it isn’t for us…

You can’t avoid the law, it exists, which is why we need what Abraham discovered….. the discovery that David says brings great joy.

Rejoice, we were cleared of breaking it.

 Hear David’s words again,

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord as cleared of sin.”

This promise is for all people, without care for their age, their ethnicity, where they lived or even the sin they committed.  This wondrous act of God, clearing us of sin, putting the sin out of sight is amazing!

Trusting God, depending on Him to keep a promise that goes back to the garden of Eden is what we are talking about, it is how we have a “right relationship” with God.

Since the beginning this is God’s plan, since God covered Adam and Eve’s sin with the skins of animals, since God saw Abraham’s trust, first in the promise of Isaac’s birth, and then as he went to sacrifice Isaac, knowing God’s promise was deeper than he could understand.  Hebrew’s tells us that he counted that through Isaac God would provide him more descendants than the sand on the shore, or stars in the sky.

That trust, that dependence on God saw Abraham counted as a friend, just as David, whose sins far outweighed his predecessor King Saul, God describes as a man after his own heart.  Paul gets this as well,

20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.   1 Cor. 5:20-21
This right relationship we share – another way of describing God’s work in creating it is what Paul told the church in Corinth – His way of changing us from enemies into His friends.

His friends.

Let that sink in.

Like Abraham, being counted as righteous means you are counted as a friend of God.
His friend.

That’s what a right relationship with God is, which explains why David uses this word joy to describe our sin being put away.

During Lent, this is what we focus upon, this work of God we need, this love of God that proclaims we are cleansed, healed, forgiven, loved, by the Creator of the universe, who created us to be His friend.

And though sin tried to break that relationship, our God had already prepared for that, even before creation, for His intent has always been the same as it was in the garden,

to walk with us… He as our God, we as His people, his children, His friends.

And the cross, it is our way to avoid the damage of sin.  And it works. So be at peace and trust in God who loves you more than anything.

AMEN!

Recovering from, “Lord, I WILL NEVER….”


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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

33 Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “I will never leave you, even though all the rest do!” 34 Jesus said to Peter, “I tell you that before the cock crows tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.” 35 Peter answered, “I will never say that, even if I have to die with you!” ……75  and Peter remembered what Jesus had told him: “Before the cock crows, you will say three times that you do not know me.” He went out and wept bitterly…  Matt 26:33-35 & 75d  TEV

Confound yourself: But, alas! my Creator, instead of uniting myself to Thee by love and service, I have become rebellious by my inordinate affections, wandering and straying from Thee, to unite myself to sin: valuing thy goodness no more than if Thou hadst not been my Creator.
4. Prostrate yourself before God: O my soul, know that the Lord is thy God: it is He that has made thee, and not thou thyself. O God, I am the work of thy hand.

I saw a meme this morning that said the best celebrations of Christmas are preceded by powerful tears of advent.

I think the thought is correct, if only needing to be unpacked a little, to help us explain, to help us grieve, to help us weep, to help us heal.

As we hear Peter’s strong words at the Last Supper, I hear them with my voice.  I hear me telling the Lord how I will not fail Him, how I will gladly even face death if that is what it takes.  Yet I find it harder to face life, to hear those crows as I fail, over and over again.

I won’t commit that sin again, I won’t fail to love, I won’t fail… and I do.

You do as well.

We do as de Sales indicates, we fail to see ourselves united to God, we fail to love Him with all we are, and we unite ourselves to sin.  We wander about, trying to satisfy our passionate desire, trying to convince ourselves that we are actually good enough, strong enough, holier than the next person, which should be enough.

We need to hear that rooster, we need to remember Jesus words, we need to remember we are the created, not the Creator.

For then, we prodigals can rush home, for we realize there is no other hope, and that all we desire, is found in the Lord who proved His faithfulness to us; even as we see the proof in the nail holes in His hands, and the gaping wide wound that reveals His heart.

So realize you will cry, you will fail, you will sin, and He will absolve, and forgive, and heal.

(and you might find such love will sustain you through the next temptation…)

Cry out, through those tears, and with confidence in His fidelity, “Lord, have mercy in me, a sinner…”  Then let Him draw you into His glory, where you will find healing and peace…

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Is the Return on Investment Enough? The question of discipleship…


Devotional Thought of the Day:
(Luke 9:57–62)

Church Christmas Eve 2015 outdoors

18 When Jesus noticed the crowd round him, he ordered his disciples to go to the other side of the lake. 19A teacher of the Law came to him. “Teacher,” he said, “I am ready to go with you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus answered him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lie down and rest.”
21 Another man, who was a disciple, said, “Sir, first let me go back and bury my father.”
22 “Follow me,” Jesus answered, “and let the dead bury their own dead  Matthew 8:18-20 TEV

479    Don’t let it bother you. The “prudent” have always called the works of God madness. Onward! Be daring!

If you lived back in the days of Jesus, would you have left everything behind and followed him? Would you have left your work, your friends and your family behind, and followed this man who had no home, no means of support?

Would you be afraid of people thinking you are mad?

What about today?

Or would you take account of your assets first?  Would you consider your obligations where you presently are at, and weigh them in the balance?  Would you have to know the cost, and weight it against the potential “return” on your investment?

I suppose I could give you the stories of that show great sacrifice, and how God honored such hard work and dedication.  That might inspire us to be daring, to set aside life as we know it, and spend years wondering why God didn’t honor our work and dedication.  It would focus our journey on the results, and we would put our investment into achieving the results.

Discipleship isn’t about the results, though we rejoice in them. Following Jesus isn’t about the number of responses and conversions, the size of the churches we establish and maintain. It isn’t the number of people we serve, or the cost of doing so in time, talent or treasure.

Following Jesus isn’t about the size of the sacrifice or the size of the return on our lives invested!

It is about walking with Him, knowing His faithfulness, His mercy, His love! It is about having confidence in Him, even when we don’t know what tomorrow or the next day brings, if it even will.

That’s why some count it madness!

But you know better.  Reconciliation in God’s minds is not simply accounting and balancing the books.  It is about His bringing together, about reuniting hearts, about finding the healing of brokenness. It is about the Holy Spirit bringing comfort, peace, and joy, as we realize the presence of God in our lives, as we explore the dimensions of His love.

There is no way to measure this, no manner in evaluating the measure of value of knowing and living in Christ.

Come, follow Jesus, and abandon yourself into the love which saves you! 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1173-1174). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Why I Am NOT Anxious About the Election:


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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31 “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 32(These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. 34So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.  Matt. 6:31-34 TEV

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

To speak about “heaven”, therefore, does not mean to lapse into rapturous fantasy but rather to learn to know more deeply that hidden presence that lets us truly live and that we continually allow to be masked and withdrawn from us by whatever is in the foreground of our awareness. Heaven, consequently, is above all Christological. It is not an extra-historical place “into which” we go. The very existence of “heaven” depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man and has given human existence a place in the existence of God himself (cf. Rahner, Schriften II, p. 221). One is in heaven when and to the degree that one is in Christ, where one finds the true location of one’s existence as a human being in the existence of God himself. Heaven is, then, primarily a personal reality. It remains forever stamped by its historical origin in the Easter mystery of death and Resurrection. (1)

110 hours from now, people will be shattered.  

The reason they will be shattered is that the media and the social media is making this election sound like the end of the world could occur if one of the two were elected.  I even see articles about no matter which are elected; the American life is over as we know it.

No matter who is triumphant, no matter who is crushed by defeat, no matter how depressing this election campaign season is, there is something far more important.  There is something that neither candidate can affect.  There is always an opportunity to know peace in the middle of the storm.

Jesus is clear about that in Matthew’s gospel.  Your anxiety, your fear, your angst about the candidates will not change anything, from the outcome of the election to the number of hairs on your head.

You’ve prayed for God to provide you the necessities of life, your daily bread, trust Him on that.  You’ve asked Him to have His will be done as well – again, this is something we can depend on, even when we don’t understand it!  So think first of His kingdom, that God is in charge, that He has made you incredible promises, that those can’t be affected by who is the president of our country, the governor of our state.

Focus on God, on His love, on HIs mercy.  This is why Pope Benedict XVI once wrote the passage in blue, and where I underlined it, we have to realize this.  Heaven isn’t some far off place, where we will go and play golf, or play a harp when we die.  Heaven is revealed as that place we are, when in doubt and pain we find ourselves surrounded with hope and peace.  When we realize God is in charge, when His presence becomes so real, we cannot deny it.  (Which is why the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is so critical in the life of the church!)  It is our presently reality, and it has been one since Peter walked into an empty tomb, and Jesus walked through locked doors. That is what Paul talks of as well – as he urges the Colossian believers to focus their lives on the reality of heaven.

He is risen!  ALLELUIA!

And therefore, we can pray and vote, and know God is with us, so everything will work out for good, because He loves us.

AMEN!

(1)  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.

 

 

 

Preparing for After the Election… “O Lord What Will We Do NOW?!?”



Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. 16  “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17  Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
2 Kings 6:15-17 (NLT)

482    What does it matter if the whole world with all its power is against you? Forward! Repeat the words of the psalm: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … Si consistant adversum me castra, non timebit cor meum—“If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear.”

If I were to believe everything said about each of the candidates, I would think that no matter who is the next President of the United States, we would be better off with a global flood, or perhaps that the full tribulation had come into effect.

The words of Elisha’s servant would certainly be mine, as fear and anxiety overtook me. “Lord, what are we going to do now?”  How will we survive this?  Every worst case scenario will flash before our eyes, as we expect America to sink in a moral crisis unheard of since.. well at least the 1960’s – and maybe all the way back to the 1890’s! (Or ancient Rome)

Some fear one winning, others fear the opponent dominating.  Some and anxious because they don’t want either to win! No matter who, there will be people displeased and distraught, worried about the world changing, even fearing it ending.

What we need is the same thing the servant needed, to have our eyes opened to the reality that this world is still part of God’s kingdom.  That the richness of His promise of eternity and His presence with us in this life is more than our fears.

Christ is with us.

Think about that….

No, I mean really think about it, let your heart and mind dwell in the presence of Christ here, in your presence right now.  Remember the moment you communed that you shared His Body and Blood and experienced for a moment, the wonder and awe that comes when He is revealed.

This experience, this knowledge, this awareness that God is for us, is what has sustained people of God for millennia.  That has enabled them to know peace in dictatorships and revolutions, in times of global war, and famine.  They have known that peace even as their brothers and sisters are martyred, even as they are martyred.

It is the one constant hope we have, in a broken, hurting, rebellious world.  Knowing this, we are confident not only that the world’s sin cannot separate us from God, but we are reminded that our own cannot either.  Including the anxiety and doubt, we have that God is still in charge, working everything our for good for those who love Him.

And it is more than enough to sustain us at this time.

Lord, have mercy on us and help us to see you, incarnate, present, benevolent and in control.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1179-1181). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Spiritual Formation, Gossip and Presidential Campaigns


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN!

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

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

 

Where Do We Invest Ourselves?



Devotional Thought of the Day:

4  But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, 5  not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, 6  whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, 7  so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. 8   This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others.    Titus 3:4-8 (NAB)

317    What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! Dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.

As we get closer to November, I am receiving more and more programs geared to what people call “stewardship,” each with a promise to increase the giving of my congregation.  Some might even market themselves as being “different.”  That is, they aren’t just about money, but also about encouraging people to use their time and talents to benefit the church.

Some even talk about coming out and doing the program for you or sending audio and video.  One recently indicated that since it was the focus of the worship services, you didn’t have to ask people to come to any other meetings. I usually don’t use “canned” studies or sermons, so these go pretty much unopened, unperused.  The other reason is that I don’t agree with the goal, of increasing giving.as a primary focus of worship.

As I read the quote from St. Josemaria, I thought about this a little more, that we invest our zeal in so many things.  It might be “our” football team. It might be a hobby, such as hiking or fishing or sewing and quilting. We relish the time we spend doing those things, and the people that do them with them are among those who we count as our closest friends. We might even zealously invest ourselves in those friends, apart from the things that bring us together – even church.

But what if we were as zealous about our relationship with God?   What if we had that kind of attitude about spending time with Him? What if we pursued the means of grace – the scriptures, the sacraments, including prayer, because we treasured the precious peace, that reminder of His ever present love?

What if we understood these things Paul told Titus to be insistent about teaching the people of God entrusted to Him?

Paul indicated that this would result in Titus’s people (and therefore our people) devoting themselves to good works as well, works that are excellent and beneficial for others!

I think this is exactly what St. Josemaria was talking about as well – be zealous about the affairs of our souls, about trusting and depending on God in our lives, and then everything else ends up taking care of itself.  And nothing will hinder apostolic/missional efforts, the needs of the ministry will be met, and more will follow.

This is, living by faith, by dependence on God.  It takes a while to get used to, and a determination to preachChristt crucified, whether on the pulpits or in the streets. As it seems like crisis hit, there will be a temptation to go back to hyper-focusing on giving, but there will come a time where you realize God is at work, that He will provide, as the idols we fashion fall to the side – and our focus becomes the kind and generous love of God.

Deliver to them the message of Christ, give them the hope of sharing in His glory, and the rest… will care for itself. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 820-823). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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