Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 As Jesus was leaving, he saw a tax collectorq named Matthew sitting at the place for paying taxes. Jesus said to him, “Come with me.” Matthew got up and went with him.
†10 Later, Jesus and his disciples were having dinner at Matthew’s house.r Many tax collectors and other sinners were also there. 11 Some Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other sinners?”
12 Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. †13 Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.” Matt. 9:9-13 CEV
Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too.
In the readings for the course I am in, I am finding great hope for the church, even the church in the United States and Europe. The times are similar to the times when great revivals broke out in our past, when people began to worship God, abandoning all else.
The statisticians and consultants will tell you different, but their projections of based on recent trends, and on philosophies that place the future of the church in the hands of the pastors, and those who train and equip them. If it is up to us, this indeed may be the post Christian and post church era. THinking about it more, no not maybe – it is.
But what is our downfall, can be turned into the very thing that will bring revival to our land. For when we fail, maybe some will call us back to what brings revival.
This is the time when our faith, that wonderful gift of depending on God for everything in life becomes reality. When in the despair of the storm, we reach out to the Lord who is with us, and He leaves us in awe, as the storm obeys His commands.
It is when we realize that Matthew, that we can join Jesus on His mission to heal the hearts and minds and souls of people, (and when we realize that includes our hearts and minds and souls) that movement in the church happens. When we grieve over our sins, and are comforted by the power of the Holy Spirit, who draws us into God’s presence.
This is what Matthew’s gospel is talking about, when it says that Christ came to invite sinners to be His followers. As the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus, the church will stop its slumbering, it will stop its decline.
Not because of great preaching, but simply revealing Christ. Not because of powerful praise bands or stunning choirs, but because we simply begin to experience the grace of God, poured out on us, and knowing the relief, the joy, the power of God’s work, we invite other sinners to join Him, depending on Him, and letting all else, including sin, drop to the side.
We are at a point in the church’s life in America where we will realize that our perfect liturgies, our dynamic programs, our logic and theology, our programs won’t grow the church, nor stop it from dying.. The only thing that can is the Holy Spirit, healing sinners by drawing them to Christ Jesus. And those sinners depending on Him. ANd that includes you and I.
Heavenly Father, stir us sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit, to respond to Your invitation follow Jesus, to walk with Him. Help us to welcome the Spirit’s healing our hearts, souls and minds, and not just ours, but those in our community. We pray this in Jesus name! AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
1 Why do the nations gather together? Why do their people devise useless plots? 2 Kings take their stands. Rulers make plans together against the LORD and against his Messiah by saying, 3 “Let’s break apart their chains and shake off their ropes.” 4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs. The Lord makes fun of them.
10 Now, you kings, act wisely. Be warned, you rulers of the earth! 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, or he will become angry and you will die on your way because his anger will burst into flames. Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 2:1-4, 10-12 (GW)
The delight which the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed about for many a day, he steps again upon the solid shore, is the satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth—“I am the Lord, I change not.”
I am getting tired of politics in the church. It kiterraky is sucking the life out of me.
I see a pastor, sharing memes that deride those who are younger than him, those who have little hope because of what they see going on in the world. I wonder if he considers the effects of the youth in his church, and the effect of such memes on them?
I see a parachurch organization, applauding those who blatantly disrespect our country’s president, disregarding scripture and our role as God’s people to be agents of reconciliation. When asked about it, I am mocked for believing what God desires, and what the Holy Spirit calls us to do is impossible.
It doesn’t matter, right or left, traditional or progressive, the hatred I am seeing manifest toward those who don’t agree on this issue, it sucks the life out of me. It brings me to despair, and wonder if the church has completely lost its way. Whether it has forgotten the God who could redeem and reconcile Paul, the God who could change and adulterous and murderous heart of a King, the God who could look out on those who were killing them, and ask the Father to forgive them..
Do we believe God still reigns? Or do we, like the people described in Psalm 2 simply want to toss God aside, and ignore the fact we are all part of His creation.
My mind tells me that the church no longer trusts God, and that is why such things happen
my heart lies broken.
My soul tries to wait, hoping beyond hope that God will keep His promise.
Weary just after breakfast, I come into my office, I see Spurgeon’s words first, and long to be the spiritual version of the sailor he describes, who tired form the storm, finds rest and relief as his feet land on solid ground.
I find that ground in the storm, in a God who can laugh at the wayward children who need to be reminded of His presence. Who need to be corrected, who need to be reminded that God is still God, that Jesus is still our Savior, and our Lord. That even now, in our brokenness in our frustration, in our anger at others and our lack of faith in God.
God is still desiring our embrace,
God is still wanting us to take refuge, to find our safe place within His love.
God is still here, willing to clean up the damage our lack of faith in Him, to heal the brokenness caused by of all the political crap we experience.
God hasn’t changed, He’s the same God who brought Matthew the Tax Collector and Simon the Zealot together.. and sent them with others to bring His people into the world. They were far more polar opposite than any extreme we see in American politics today… and in Jesus, the found unity and the ability to serve people together.
May we have the faith, the dependence on God to see such happen in our days as well.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this
fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable!
You don’t know where he comes from,
yet he opened my eyes.”John 9:29-30
The respectable side of religion can generate dangerous responses to hearing God…..
And I prayed earnestly to the Lord God, pleading with him, fasting, wearing sackcloth, and sitting in ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed the sins of my people.
I said, “Lord God, you are great, and we honor you. You are faithful to your covenant and show constant love to those who love you and do what you command.
5 “We have sinned, we have been evil, we have done wrong. We have rejected what you commanded us to do and have turned away from what you showed us was right. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our rulers, our ancestors, and our whole nation. Daniel 9:3-6 GNT
As I got to my devotional reading this morning, and read the section of Dallas Willard’s devotional book I thought, “AHA! a perfect passage to deal with in my devotional writings this morning. I know the kind of legalistic, self righteous condescending jackasses that would have treated the one Jesus healed this way!
And then I got to my second reading, and Daniel’s confession on behalf of God’s people, and it got me to look in the mirror, and realize that at times, the self-righteous, condescending, legalistic jerk is most clearly pictured there.
I am the one that needs to listen to God, as do those I shepherd. We need to seek to trust in God enough that He will lead us through the transformation that is repentance. It is not easy, it will take the kind of faith that David had, when he wrote,
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT2)
That is a prayer that requires trust in God, more than just mere belief. This is the way we experience the love of God in way that is astonishing, when we allow Him to see as we are, broken, sinful, hiding behind masks that point out the worst in others.
This is the trust, the dependance on the work of Christ at the cross that defines the Christian faith. To allow God in to allow Him to heal us, to allow Him to eradicate the sin and darkness that haunts us, that we try to hide deep within. And freed from the brokenness, the need to be condescending, the need to be self-righteous, the need to be legalistic disappears. WHat we want to do is share in the healing we have received.
Trust Him, let Him see you… let Him heal you as he did the blind man, as He has so many others… and pray I will allow Him to do the same for me.
Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson, Hearing God through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2015).
Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus means
Our faith grows!
May the grace, the mercy and love God the Father and the Lord Jesus Chris show you, enable your dependence on them to grow strong as the Holy Spirit sustains you!
The oddest question (and perhaps craziest? 😊 )
The question the disciples ask in the Gospel reading today must be one of two things. It must be ignorant, or if not, it is completely, without doubt, insane.
Let me explain the first. If by “increase our faith” they are asking Jesus to increase their knowledge of the faith as in the doctrines and understanding of religious ordinances, then they are ignorant.
Faith is not our doctrine, faith is not a belief statement, or even all the teachings found in, or taken from scripture. Though we use the word as a noun in these days to describe what people believe doctrinally, it wasn’t so then. So if they were asking God to increase their knowledge of doctrine, of theology, then their question was simply ignorant.
But faith means to trust and depend on something or someone. Let’s say I decided during the week that there was too much dust on the lights up there. So, I decided to clean them myself. I would need to have faith in the ladder’s ability to hold me up, I would depend on it, and that the warning that it can only support 225 pounds was somehow… wrong.
So for the disciples to ask Jesus to increase their faith, what they are really asking is, “Lord, give us the opportunities to depend on You and nothing else” Or to put it another way, “Lord, get rid of all the things that we can’t depend on in our life, so that we only depend on you!”
Any ideas of what you are asking God to take away there?
Any one ready to pray that?
The challenges of Faith – Sin in its various forms
If we look at why the disciples ask the question, you see there in the gospel the conversation that occurs before the question, and you see it deals with sin. Specifically, it talks about the sin we encourage in others, or passively encourage by not confronting it, by not rebuking it.
Talk about something that requires the greatest level of faith.
I mean, how easy would it be for Bob to pull me aside and talk to me about my sin? To confront it, to challenge it, to remind me that he can run with me to God, and it can be forgiven?
Or is it a lot easier for our deacon to simply say, “Well pastor is mostly a good guy, except for being a Pats fan, and he lets me have fun preaching and teaching, so I will just ignore the sins he committed, or the heresy he teaches, after all, he’s a good guy…”
How much faith would he need to depend on God to bring up the sin, and encourage me to seek God’s forgiveness?
And yet to not do so, to allow people to linger in sin, to give into temptation, to remained trap there, is sin for us.
So whether the sin is gossip or unrighteous anger, whether it is using God’s name in vain, or being jealous to the point where it dominates, we need to trust God enough to be the one God uses to start the redemption process, and the wisdom to listen to God as to what is necessary at this point in time.
You see, “rebuking” isn’t going up to people and wagging your finger in their face. It is working for the repentance and redemption that can only come by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is placing a value on the sin – realizing something has to be done for the person, because of the damage sin will do!
Rebuking them is going to them in love, and caring for them enough to address the issue
The answer – recognizing the Master
So back to the
question – how do we increase our faith?
Jesus answer is, uhm… really? If you had any…then…. everything is possible.
Not quite the answer I would expect from Him, really.
And then He goes into this parable about the servant and the master. The Master gives instructions and the servant simply does it. It’s about that nasty word “obedience”. To do what we are supposed to do, because our master is here.
Or as we say it around here, “The Lord is with you!”
This isn’t doing what we are told to do, as Jesus leaves us on our own, it is our responding to His wisdom, to the fact He has responsibility over us, to ensure we get to be with the Father in heaven. It is listening to Him here, and now, hearing His concern for those who get caught in sin, or who are convinced what they are doing is right, because people of God haven’t confronted them.
It’s about faith and trusting and depending on the God who is here. About talking to Him and hearing His voice. About realizing His love for us is so complete that He won’t lead us astray.
Depending on God is
easier, when you know He is here, when you know He is in charge, when you
realize that our Lord is the one who loves us.
When we realize He will make all things work for our good, even the
tough stuff, then we are able to craft what He has called us to do…
Faith is found, not in your will, not in your strength, but in the fact of God’s presence in your life. You can trust Him, He is here, with you… you can depend on Him, He loves you and is working for your best.
Faith isn’t something that is increased, it is simply something realized… I can trust God, because He loves me! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God. 4 So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. 5 Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Are you going to wash my feet, Lord?” 7 Jesus answered him, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later.” 8 Peter declared, “Never at any time will you wash my feet!” “If I do not wash your feet,” Jesus answered, “you will no longer be my disciple.” 9 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, do not wash only my feet, then! Wash my hands and head, too!” John 13:3-9 (TEV)
294 The plants were hidden under the snow. And the farmer, the owner of the land, remarked with satisfaction: “Now they’re growing on the inside.” I thought of you, of your forced inactivity … Tell me, are you also growing on the inside?
Most people hate Mondays. I understand, and commiserate.
Not because the weekend has ended, not just because being back at work is such a challenge. Primarily I hate them because I don’t get to do what I do on Sundays, when I hear the people respond, “and also with you!” (In response to my statement that the Lord is with them!)
But back to Mondays. The second day of the week, the day everyone loves to hate, the day no one wants to come.
Why did God make it?
What is up with that?
There are a lot of similar questions, like why did God make mosquitoes? Why do people have to go through the terrible twos, or the angst of teenage years, or why do we have to grow weaker (and endure more pain) as we age?
A lot of that stuff, to put it simply, “suck”.
But what we can’t see, is what exists beneath the surface. Like St. Josemaria’s farmer knew, something is growing there. Something wonderful, but our sight is obscured.
For Peter, this was the heart of a martyr, A man who would embrace the suffering that following Jesus brought. The man who writes those beautiful epistles could not have done so, unless he had allowed himself to learn the lesson given when Jesus washed his feet.
Jesus had to remind Peter that he didn’t have a clue as to what Jesus was doing. But he also assured him that there was a reason. THat this action that Jesus, this logos/word of the moment, was critical. “Just relax Peter, you know ME, this will make sense…but for now, it is hidden.”
This is what faith is, this trust in God and dependence on His, His character and the promises He gives us in scripture. It means trusting God has a plan for Mondays, or the times where we are laid up recovering. The Spirit is working deep within us, creating in our life a work of art. (see Ephesians 2:10)
even when bit by a mosquito, on a Monday, when we are waiting for one of “those” conversations.. and are twiddling our thumbs until it happens.
Lord Jesus, help us to experience your promise, that you will never leave or forsake us. Help us to be patient, depending on You to work as You have promised in our lives. Cleanse us and help us see the Holy Spirit at work giving us the desire and the power to do that which You would do. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 767-769). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 For this reason, ever since I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks to God for you. I remember you in my prayers 17 and ask the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, to give you the Spirit, who will make you wise and reveal God to you, so that you will know him. 18 I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, 19 and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20 which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. Ephesians 1:15-20 (TEV)
283 A little diversion! You’ve got to have a change! So you open your eyes wide to let in images of things, or you squint because you’re nearsighted! Close them altogether! Have interior life, and you’ll see the wonders of a better world, a new world with undreamed-of color and perspective … and you’ll draw close to God. You’ll feel your weaknesses; and you’ll become more God-like…with a godliness that will make you more of a brother to your fellow men by bringing you closer to your Father.
There is a vision problem in this country, and in the church.
The way people see the world, their communities, their churches and their own lives, well, lets put it honestly, sucks.
This includes me, perhaps mostly me.
That view point can lead to anger, to frustration, to putting hope in people, who are frankly, no better than the people who have let us down in the past. They are sinners, they are broken, they will at some time or another, let you down.
We look for change, but we look for it in the wrong place.
We might even look at the need to change in ourselves, and try to force it, trying to make ourselves into an image that is not necessarily what or whom we are supposed to be.
And so, maybe in desperation, we hear the voice of saints who knew enough self doubt. One whose words are simply his own reflections on the matter, and one whose words are divinely inspired.
We have to be careful to hear exactly what St Josemaria is saying, and not hear what we think we hear. When He talks of an interior life, He is talking about our walk with God. He is not talking about a brutal self examination where we focus on our own brokenness, our own sin, our own perception of who we are, god or bad.
He’s talking about seeing you as God knows you, (see Colossians 3:1) the real you. Theone loved enough that Christ died for them, and had planned to from before the foundation of the earth. He’s talking about the very thing St Paul writes to the church in Ephesus about – to know the glorious hope, the amazing promises that comes as God is revealed to you, and you realize who you are in relation to God.
It is then, knowing we are beloved, that the world changes in our sight. From being hopelessly broken to seeing the redemption and reconciliation going on, such that we become so confident of it, we patiently wait for the return of Jesus. We begin to see the beauty God created, both in nature and in others, and we see the potential of what it will be like, when it is renewed.
When we see the power of God, that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, at work in us, then everything changes, and our prayer, “Lord, have mercy!” goes from a begging plea of desperation to a cry of confidence…assured of His presence, His promises, His love.
And it can all start, by closing our eyes, picturing Jesus on the cross, and with a growing confidence praying, “our Father, who art in heaven…”
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 749-753). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
But you have followed my teaching, my conduct, and my purpose in life; you have observed my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, 11† my persecutions, and my sufferings. You know all that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, the terrible persecutions I endured! But the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 Everyone who wants to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted; 13 and evil persons and impostors will keep on going from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. 14 But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. 2 TImothy 3:10-14 GNT
228 “Have a good time,” they said as usual. And the comment of a soul very close to God was, “What a limited wish!”
Looking at the words of St. Josemaria this morning, I was a little… I don’t know the words. I had to sit and think about it for a moment.
What’s wrong with wishing that someone have a good time, that they enjoy whatever it is they do? Isn’t that what we would hope they would want for us?
How can it be considered “limited?”
It takes a moment or too to think it through, to consider some of those times that are not “good” in the sense of enjoyable, in the sense of time where everything brings a smile to your face, a time that is “fun”
But some of the most blessed times are not enjoyable, that are not easy, that start in the midst of strife, or at the side of someone dealing with trauma or tragedy. Times where division and discord are dominant, time where I would prefer not to go. Times where the brokenness that is being experienced is crushing, and I walk away feeling drained and exhausted.
Times that end I end up looking back on in awe of what God accomplishes. In spite of the exhaustion, in spite of the pain, in spit of the suffering, these times are the times I have come to learn to treasure.
Because it is in those times, I see the grace of God revealed, and the healing that only God can create brings peace where there is no peace. I have learned to seek and expect miraculous things in those times. That helps, stay focused on God in the midst of the struggle, and to remain hopeful and pray for the grace to be confident in God’s faithfulness.
The Apostle Paul indicates that tough times happen to those who follow Christ. It’s going to happen, you can’t address brokenness without being affected by it. Paul puts it clearly, those who deceive are deceived themselves. Ministering to such people often is like wrestling an alligator! But the battle is not against the one deceived, but the spiritual powers that have them in bondage.
At the end of the day, which would you rather have done? Enjoyed a pleasurable time, or rejoiced in God’s work? Which will you remember 20 years from now?
Desire something more… even though it seems to have a cost… remembering God is with you!
Lord Jesus, help us desire to see You at work, more than we desire our own comfort. Help us to enter those situations were things are broken, looking for the miracles You are doing. In Jesus name… AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 629-631). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
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. 10 . 18 Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace? Jeremiah 20:7-9, 18 (TEV)
13 And there is another reason why we always give thanks to God. When we brought you God’s message, you heard it and accepted it, not as a message from human beings but as God’s message, which indeed it is. For God is at work in you who believe 1 Thes. 2:13 GNT
261 I forbid you to think any more about it. Instead, bless God, who has given life back to your soul.
Two things showed up on my computer this morning.
The first was a copy of the picture above, reminding me that eleven years ago, I was installed as the Senior Pastor here at Concordia. The other, in my devotional reading, was Jeremiah’s words above. Ironically, these were the words I had to preach on the first Sunday after I received the call to Concordia.
It has to make you wonder, when one of the strongest prophets of God whines like that! What had he gone through, what had broken him so badly that he had to accuse God of deceiving him, and forcing him to do something that was,,, more than challenging.
This is month is also my twenty-first anniversary of being a full-time pastor and it is closing on 27 years since I started as a chaplain preaching and counseling in the detention centers of Los Angeles County. In that time, I have felt like Jeremiah more than a few times. Some call it clergy burnout, and if the numbers are still true, over 1000 pastors and priest leave the ministry every month, many because they can’t handle the feeling Jeremiah describes.
So many different things can cause it, to many traumas, such as deaths, or serious illness in the people you are entrusted to care for, and walk beside. Sometimes it is conflict, or maybe a power struggle, or just helping a church go through some significant change. (The number of guys who leave a church after a successful building program is staggering!) SOmetimes it simply builds up over the years, and all of a sudden, you find yourself weary and unwilling to go on.
You just want to shut up, move to someplace no one would expect, and leave the pain and struggle to someone else. Some guys don’t remember Jeremiah, and feel guilty about getting upset at God. Others just bottle it up, and find solace in video games, alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, or they just turn their vocation and calling into a “job” and punch the clock until they can retire.
Some of us are blessed, and have parishioners, friends and mentors that look out for us. (Hint, if you have a pastor, look out for him! Pray for him often!) Others feel like they are almost invisible, when it comes to their needs. Even so, the wear and tear has an impact.
The point Jeremiah ends up discovering and struggling with is the power of the message we are given to share. The message that must get out, even if it has to burn through us.
The message of God’s love, and His desire for us to let Him heal our broken hearts and tortured souls. The message that He will take us back, that He will rescue our people. When all else we are doing fails, when the brokenness is overwhelming, when despair seems to drive out life, He is there. In that moment we need to hear and treasure these words the most….
“and also with you…”
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 692-693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. 1 Peter 2:23 (TEV)
1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)
The reception of communion too requires faith in the grandiosity of what is about to happen—the Lord comes to me or rather coming to me, He embraces me and wishes to transform me into His very being. It is not just a mechanical act of reception of a piece of bread—something done in an instant. It is this invitation to be in communion with the Lord: invitation to love.
I remembering hearing a sermon about “imitating Jesus” when I was in Bible College. The thoughts that ran through my mind were about imitating Jesus as He taught, as He trained the disciples, as He did miracles, even as He “officiated” at the first communion service.
I didn’t think about the suffering, or even the insults he endured from those who should have been his closest followers. The pains caused by his family who didn’t understand. The loneliness when even his closest disciples didn’t understand His ministry. The times that were so challenging that He needed to go away and pray to the Father… alone.
Are we ready to imitate Paul as he endured, as He imitated Jesus who endured through all of this?
Can we forgive the insultm? Can we show mercy to the one who threatens us? Can we love the ones who cause us to suffer, either deliberately, or accidentally?
That too is part of the call to imitate Jesus.
Can we do it?
I believe it is possible, but only as God has a relationship that is, only one word works here, a relationship that is intimate.
A relationship where He is able to transform us, a relationship where He is able to cleanse us thoroughly. A relationship where He is able to descend to a darkest place, where fears and anxieties form and control more of our life than we can explain.
A relationship that is that intimate.
A relationship that is nurtured at the altar, when Jesus comes to us, where we come face to face with the Lord who died for us, even though we didn’t deserve it.
It is there, in the midst of His grace being poured out on us, that we realize what God is doing, and how complete the change is that He is crafting in our lives. We become more and more like Him, and we may not even realize it. His desire that people would come to know His love, that the Spirit would grant them repentance becomes far more important than our revenge.
Such a transformation is the result of, and only possible because we encounter Jesus. For then, we see the final judgment of God, and His work in all of us, making reconciliation possible. Our being reconciled, as well as those who offend us.
This is our hope, this is His work.
Ranjith, M. (2012). Addressing Objections to Adoration. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 162). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
35 Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life. Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. 36 Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were killed by the sword. They went around clothed in skins of sheep or goats—poor, persecuted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground. 39 What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, 40 because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:35-40 (TEV)
The Bible contains stories of salvation which are completely paradoxical. In the tales and the stories of the world, we learn that the heroes were young, beautiful, strong and that they set off on an adventure. In the Bible, they were old, sterile and powerless and God chose them (e.g., Abraham and his wife Sarah). For us it always starts on the wrong foot! What is important in the Bible is not so much to be healthy or ill, but to be with God. One is healthy and holy when one is with God Who comes to meet us in our weakness. The place of our wound, our vulnerability, is the place where God meets us
There is a picture that people post on the internet that annoys the heck out of me. Well, actually there are a lot of them, but one in particular drives me up a wall.
It is a drawing of Jesus, surrounded by “superheroes”, Spiderman, Hulk, Captain America, those kinds of guys. And it contains the quote, “and that is how I really saved the world.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I like the Marvel and DC ficitonal superheroes. They are a cool escape, and I understand their role in our society, giving people hope, and possibly giving them some moral lessons. But they are simply modern fables, they are nothing more than that.
Jesus on the other hand, and those who follow him, are more than that. Living in fellowship with God the Father and depending on people, they really save people’s souls, and oftne their lives.
They aren’t perfect either, as the quote in purple points out, their brokenness is declared clearly in scripture, which makes their work, done depending on God, all the more phenomenal. They don’t have a weakness – they have all of them.
They even doubt God at times.
But they depend on Him, and they dwell assured of his presence
For He has come to dwell with us, to heal us, to reasue us, to support us. To not just fly in and out, but to really care and help us in our lives, especially the dark and challenging parts.
Not just a symbol, but a God who inspires us all to depend on Him, even as we serve others.
And those who do depend on Him, whether old fogies like Abraham, or the ladies who teach preschoolers to sing, “Jesus loves me”, or the pastors in the inner city, caring for those too often left behind, or the missionaries in the Sudan and Cameroon and Nebraska – they are my real heroes. So are they who have gone through the darkness, those abused, those broken beyond imagination, those incarcerated, and those ill ( one lady who has battled cancer for 7 years – 5 years past the time doctors gave her and is going strong) These who found God waiting for them in their darkness and simply hang on.
They know God loves them, they know He is faithful and they go where He sends.
May the Lord help each of us to realize He has done the same with us!
Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 112). London; New York: Burns & Oates.