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No Man is an Island. Neither is the Church.

f68f6ad20bfbc6d47f4c6aab419b44e6e2044849510c043d7b02e848674b9064_1Devotional thought for the day:

5 Then the LORD said to me, 6“Haven’t I the right to do with you people of Israel what the potter did with the clay? You are in my hands just like clay in the potter’s hands. 7If at any time I say that I am going to uproot, break down, or destroy any nation or kingdom, 8but then that nation turns from its evil, I will not do what I said I would. 9On the other hand, if I say that I am going to plant or build up any nation or kingdom, 10but then that nation disobeys me and does evil, I will not do what I said I would. 11Now then, tell the people of Judah and of Jerusalem that I am making plans against them and getting ready to punish them. Tell them to stop living sinful lives—to change their ways and the things they are doing.  Jeremiah 18:5-11 TEV

9 I wrote you in my earlier letter not to associate with those who sin sexually. 10 But I did not mean you should not associate with those of this world who sin sexually, or with the greedy, or robbers, or those who worship idols. To get away from them you would have to leave this world. 11 I am writing to tell you that you must not associate with those who call themselves believers in Christ but who sin sexually, or are greedy, or worship idols, or abuse others with words, or get drunk, or cheat people. Do not even eat with people like that.
12–13 It is not my business to judge those who are not part of the church. God will judge them. But you must judge the people who are part of the church. The Scripture says, “You must get rid of the evil person among you.”  1 Corinthians 5:9-13  NCV

Our goal is not to form islands of peace in the midst of a disintegrated society but to educate people with the ability to transform this society. Therefore, “fruits and results.”

I often hear people misquoting the Book of the Revelation (often mispronounced revelations) advising people to withdraw from society, to come out of Babylon as if somehow they could live a life separate from their neighbors, their family, and friends who do not know that they can depend on God.

Some Christian schools started with that purpose, and there are Christian groups to offer an option to joining secular fraternal organizations like the Boy Scouts, Lions, or Elks.  There are now even coffee shops on church campuses, that some people use so they don’t have to go to that evil Starbucks and grab their venti triple cappuccino with fancy whipped cream and pumpkin froth.

It is as if we want to form special communities within communities, just for those who are good and pure and holy.  It is as we need to create safe islands for believers so that they are not tempted to sin the rest of the evil world.

Will we recognize the gospel there in the midst of Jeremiah’s prophecy, that God will welcome anyone back?  Not just any person, but any people group, any nation.  What a blessed hope!  What an incredible promise!

Will we recognize the wisdom that inspired Paul to make sure we understood that it was sin among the people of God that concerned him, not the sins of the world?  That we aren’t to avoid interaction with normal sinners, but rather to deal with those in the church that struggle with sin first.  Those others, yes they need to be saved, far more than they need us judging them.

Will we hear Pope Francis plea, not to segregate ourselves, withdraw to our own safe places? Rather, as the Holy Spirit works within us, to educate people to have the ability to transform society, to share the hope and peace found in Jesus which will do that very thing.

We have to have more trust in God than we fear the world’s sin.  We have to have more confidence in His love and care than anxiety about somehow being separated from the love of God ( AN impossibility Dontcha know!)

With our eyes focused on Jesus, we need to go to the same places he did.  To those broken by sin, to those blinded by greed, to those who do not understand that God loves them.  To those who are broken, just like we’ve been broken.  We’ve got to invite them into our homes, our churches, into the place of peace and healing we find as we dwell in GOd.

This is who we are in Christ. people’s who work and message is one of reconciling people to God, and therefore to another.   We can’t do that from pristine protected islands where we pretend all is perfect.

So go out there, live and help someone know that God loves them. AMEN!

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

The Priceless Blessing We Cannot Afford to Neglect…

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional thought of the Day:

23  After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Matthew 14:23 (NLT)

26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.  (1) 

The intercessor is a worshipper who has understood the deepest feelings of God and clings to them, despite contrary appearances.

In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit, and through the Son.
He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.

I am sitting in my office, as I do most Saturdays.  My primary task is finalizing my sermon, the two Bible studies I teach tomorrow.  As I do, there is another task I do… on that can be heartbreaking at times.

It is receiving the prayers that people drop into mention, that text or message me or email me about.  They want to make sure they are included in the bulletin for our people to pray about, or if more confidential, that I will include them in my private prayers. 

This morning has been no different, in fact, one could say “business” has been a bit brisker than normal.  A military person going to Korea, another beloved friend diagnosed with cancer, a friend dealing with diabetes and other health concerns, people with family problems, people looking for a new home, people with family struggles.  There are a lot of people we pray for, an act often called intercession, or petitioning God on their behalf.  Or more simply – we ask God to bless them and care for them in their situation.  That includes praying for healing, for strengthening their trust and dependence on Him, which will give them hope.  Mostly that they would see God acting in their lives. 

This is prayer, this is, in a very real way, communing with God.  Or as the Lutheran confessions (in green) call it, a sacramental time.  Pope Franci echoes this sentiment when he calls it the mystery that is unfolded and revealed, a time of intimate communion, a time where we understand the deepest feelings of God and cling to them.

As I prepare for tomorrow’s sermon, this hits home strong.  Jesus sends the disciples across the lake, he sends the crowds away, and he heads in to the hills to be alone, to pray.  Specifically, the word for prayer is the word for petition.  He has to talk wiht the Father about the people he encountered, He has to bring them into the relaitonship He has with the Father because they matter to both of them!

Add to this the action of the Holy Spirit, seen in the passage from Romans. This incredible thought that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us as well, praying when we are too overwhelmed when we cannot find the words when we can’t find the words or thoughts to pray.  It is then that the Spirit is definitely interceding with and for us, with words that are inaudible, because the Spirit’s groans,, the Spirit’s pleading is beyond expression. 

That is how much the Spirit cares, how much the Spirit is in touch with our needs, with the needs of those we love, and those they love.

Prayer isn’t some empty time of waiting for an appeal to be heard and decided.  It isn’t a time to do out of a sense of obligation, either to God or to those who ask.

It is the time we have been given to walk with God, to see His heart, to realize His love for them is even deeper than ours.  THat He cares more for those we intercede for than He does for flowers and birds, and if he cares for them and makes them beautiful bow much more for us is He active, then we can relax, we can be at peace.

Such is this priceless gift of prayer, our time with God. And like the other sacramental times, we need to slow it down hear his voice. To let Him comfort our tears, to let Him still our anxious hearts, to help us realize He is with us….even when we don’t know what to pray.

He is with us…

If that is all prayer did,, was make us aware of that, it would be worth it.

Yet to realize that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are advocating for us, pleading for us, praying with us….. how that helps us… how incredible, how much more does it help us understand the heart of our incredible God who loves us!

Be at peace, the Lord is with you!

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

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.

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.

Why Do We Play Hide, and Not Seek?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought fo the Day:

16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT)

323         Anyone who hides a temptation from his director shares a secret with the devil. He has become a friend of the enemy.

3 With regard to the time, it is certain that most people in our churches use the sacraments, absolution and the Lord’s Supper, many times a year. Our clergy instruct the people about the worth and fruits of the sacraments in such a way as to invite them to use the sacraments often. On this subject our theologians have written many things which our opponents, if they are but honest, will undoubtedly approve and praise.

There is no hope, no chance to correct the wrongs, no chance to fix that was broken, the person thought.  So they had one of two easy solutions,  Ignore the problem, or run and hide from it. either way, the damage increases, and the help needed to overcome the problem is ignored.

If this was a medical issue, (and yes people ignore and hide from them) most of us would come alongside the person and urge, even beg them to seek help.  If it was an addiction, we might risk their anger and do the same.   But how many of us are going to take such an action on something that is far more critical, the spiritual health of our friends and family?  How many of us would even think to suggest absolution, the ministry, and sacrament of reconciliation, if someone was sharing their battle with guilt and shame?

St. Josemaria’s words are harsh, that when we hide our sins, when we don’t confess them, when we don’t ask for help in dealing with them, we effectively align with Satan, and we accept the bondage of guilt and shame which will paralyze and haunt us. 

That’s pretty serious, and after 20 years of ministry, and seeing the problems that unresolved guilt and shame brought upon people, upon their family and friends, I concur. All we do when we ignore sin, or when we isolate ourselves from others because of it is fall, to trust in Satan’s deception. 

Confession and absolution, the hearing that God does forgive us because of Jesus’ work on the cross, that free us from that bondage, it starts the healing of brokenness that would otherwise crush us. It is liberating, it brings about both incredible joy and incredible peace. 

It’s time to stop ignoring our sin, or hiding from others as the sin and guilt tear our souls apart.  

God loves you and wants you to know, He desires to cleanse you of it all, to restore your soul, to mend the broken hearts.  He wants us to encourage each other to know this, to hear it from those entrusted to speak on His behalf.

Come, know the peace of God, and rejoice in the freedom Christ’s blood bought you!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1526-1527). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.  

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

Brother to Brother…..one glorious hope!

church at communion 2Discussion Thought of the Day:
3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.    Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)

Where man is no longer believed to be under God’s protection, to have God’s breath in him, then people begin to assess him from a utilitarian point of view. Then there appears the barbarity that tramples on human dignity.  (1)

Twenty-one years ago, an album containing the music of two masters was put together, one singing the lead of the other’s composition, both playing the instruments and blending their voices together.  They went on tour together, and while I would love to see many people in concert, to see Michael Card and John Michael Talbot together, would be one of my dreams.  

The album was called Brother to Brother, and it was playing in the background when I came across the words of Pope Ratzinger in my devotional reading this morning.  The lead song, One Faith,  comes from another favorite album, JMT’s The Regathering, which finds its inspiration in the words above from Ephesians 4.  It pictures the regathering of all the saints, into the perfect communion that is Christ Jesus.  As I look out on a broken world and the one holy, catholic (small c means all of us) apostolic and sadly fractured church, that day seems so precious, so wonderful and so far away.

It is the prayer and desire of Jesus fulfilled, that we truly be one, even as the Father and He are one.

And we see the glimpse of it in Pope Benedict’s (Cardinal Ratzinger when he wrote them) above in blue.  When we realize that every man is under God’s protection, every man has God’s breath in them, we can no longer view them as anything utilitarian.  We cannot hang generalizations, we cannot define them by affiliation or hang demographic labels on them.  Even the labels adversary and enemy fade away, along with fears and anxieties, as we see Christ in them, and therefore find someone who is loved, even as we are loved.  Someone Jesus is calling to, even as he calls to us.

Pope Benedict went on to say, We must always look upon other men as persons with whom we shall one day share God’s joy. We must see them as persons with whom we are called to be members of the body of Christ, with whom we shall one day sit at the table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the table of Jesus Christ, as persons called to be our brothers or sisters, and to be, with us, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, children of God.”

This isn’t easy.  It means we must trust and depend on God more than our fears, our anxieties, our resentments.  it requires seeing the individual as more than important than those things.  The only way to do that is to see the heart of God, the Lord who gave His body to be broken, and His blood to be shed for all on the cross, and then unify all He calls in a meal where He shares His body and blood again.

Including those that don’t understand yet, for we are called to love them, and invite them to this feast…..We won’t conquer our fears, we won’t willingly become martyrs if necessary if we don’t see them loved by God, even as He loves us.

Lord have mercy on us sinners, and help us to see that You died for each and every individual.  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.

May the Lord Lead Your Hearts

church at communion 2May the Lord Lead Your Hearts
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

†  I.H.S.

 May the grace, that incredible gift of God’s love, mercy and peace, lead you to share His message in a way that it spreads, and where it is heard and rejoiced in by all you share it with!

Rescue From Wicked People?

This week has been, to be honest, very trying.  My patience hasn’t been all that strong, neither has been my endurance.

It has been challenging, mostly because I wonder if we truly understand the love of God, and how He works in our lives.

I would love to say the election was the cause of it, but I think it only revealed what was hidden, as many of us identified those we thought we needed to be freed, or delivered from; the people Paul asked the Thessalonian people to pray he would be delivered from,

Those wicked, evil people who are not believers.

We think we know what that means; we probably have various people in mind.  Until I remind you that the word belief here is as often translated faith. So, the people we are talking about are those who do not have faith, who do not trust in God.  People who do not depend on Him.

Uhm – is this too close to home for you?  It is for me.

Because while I will easily say I believe in God, it is another thing to ask me whether I trust Him, or whether I truly depend on him.

Especially this week, as I have watched some of my closest friends call each other, and the people we are supposed to love and pray for, well, we haven’t done that this well in America.

Rather, we identified them as the enemy, because we don’t understand how they are different from us… until we realize they are “us.”

When it came to us

Paul is making a similar plea here in verse 1.

He wrote, “Pray that the Lord’s message will be spread and honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you!”

Which leads to a question – is the Lord’s message being spread and by us?

Or has that taken a back seat as our anxieties, and our fears about what other anxious people will do dominate us?

Is God’s message spread and glorified among us still?

Surely it can, yet there are moments where we gossip about our neighbors or fail to put things, as Luther explained, in the best construction. That’s not easy to do, it sometimes takes time, to sit with them and find out their fears, their concerns, their pains, and positions.

It takes communication, and we often damage the opportunity for it.

Can we return to the joy that we had when God’s message of grace we understood with our hearts, souls, minds and strength for the first time?

Can we see the message of God honored again, as it did when we first heard it?  And then can we dare spread it to those, who like us, find themselves broken in this world?

Can we do as Paul was confident the Saints then would, doing and continuing to do that which he taught us to do?

How we do and continue to do what God commissioned

The answer is, yes.

Yes, even though we sin, we can still be restored, the awe at the love of God can be found again.  It was why we remember our baptisms, where sin, all our sin, was washed away by God’s command, because of our connection to Jesus and His death and resurrection. To restore that joy of our salvation is why we gather here, to remember and reveal again the love of God through the words of scripture, and through sermons like this.

It is why we come to the rail, and receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ as we take and eat, as we remember the words of Jesus that established the covenant, as we are renewed by the gifts He gives us here.

We need this, all of us, from every demographic you can think of, from every political persuasion, we need to be refocused, revived, delivered and saved from the evil.  That happens one way,

Hear again the blessing of Paul,

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

There it Is, there is what we need, this incredible love of God, revealed to us.  Then trusting in Him, depending upon Him to save us, to strengthen us and guard us against evil becomes our nature.  Doing and continuing to do what we’ve been taught through scripture becomes not only our action; but our desire. This all happens because God leads us, leads our hearts into understanding and expressing His love for us.  That love, as it is revealed, causes us to trust in Him, to depend on Him, no matter what else happens.

For knowing how much he loves us, that is beyond anything.  What that loves is everything, it is glorious, and wonderful, joyful and enables us to endure anything.

We’ll even realize how many people that word “us” contains, and knowing that will cause this love, this message of God to spread rapidly, and be honored and glorified.

For it contains us all, for God so loved us all, and we all need to for Him to lead our hearts into a full understanding and expression of His love.

Here, he is doing that exact thing… may we realize it.  AMEN!

 

Isn’t God Listening?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Matt 26:44  NAB-RE

And, moreover, since Christ took it into his hands, work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man’s life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies.  (1)

2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the law is to be diligently applied not only to unbelievers and the impenitent but also to people who are genuinely believing, truly converted, regenerated, and justified through faith.
4 3. For although they are indeed reborn and have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, such regeneration and renewal is incomplete in this world. In fact, it has only begun, and in the spirit of their mind the believers are in a constant war against their flesh (that is, their corrupt nature and kind), which clings to them until death.  (2)

As I read this passage from St. Matthew’s gospel this morning, I was struck with an odd thought.

Why is Jesus praying again for the same thing, for the third time even?

I understand why I will pray often for the same thing, for the same people.  But why did Jesus, in the Garden, pray in agony that the cross would be rendered unnecessary?  The very moment the Father and He planned for, he prayed would be removed?

And why would the Holy Spirit determine that you and I needed to see this agony, to see this cry of desperation to our Father?  Three times he would cry out, and twice in His agony, He found us asleep.  (It is ironic that they could sleep while he is in agony, considering the lesson with the storm, when He was asleep in the back of the boat.  They only thought death was imminent. He knew it, felt it stalking Him!)

I don’t believe it was only to give us a lesson, or a model how to handle stress, anxiety, and despair.  It may serve that purpose, and serve it very very well. But ost of us aren’t facing death in a few hours, and our death won’t include the weight of the sins of all history.

It is also not because of unbelief. Far often we use this prayer as our “out”.  If it isn’t answered then we can dismiss our pain (yeah, sure!) by saying it wasn’t God’s will that He would address this situation, or provide that healing.  It surely cannot be that God isn’t listening either, for that means He isn’t God, and His promises are simply frauds.

I think the lesson is far deeper than that, for Jesus, and as we realize why He prayed, you and I.will find a desire to pray.

The obvious – prayer is commanded, or perhaps it is better described to be urged by God.  It is one of those “works” that flows because we take God at His word.  We believe His promises, we count upon His mercy and we depend upon His love.  There is no other option, even as there wasn’t as Jesus cried tears of blood in the garden.  Obi-wan isn’t our only hope, Jesus is.  It is not just law, but the law helps us see the necessity, as the Holy Spirit reminds us, we need God.  We can’t live life in a vacuum where He doesn’t exist.

And prayer, like the other sacraments (see Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII) reminds us that not only did Jesus command it, but there is a blessing attached to it, a promise.

He will listen.

He does listen.

He is listening, right now!

And this prayer, this action is on God uses in us to work out our salvation, to remind us we are being regenerated, we are being renewed.  This work, as the Vatican II pastors wrote, is a work that is a redeemed and redemptive reality.

As we pray, as we give up our burdens, our fears, our anxieties and our sins, there is a growth that occurs, a communion with God that leaves us in peace. That leaves us able to bear a cross, that leaves us assured of His presence, His support, His love. As Jesus prayed to the Father, as He knew the Father was listening, that comfort of the Father’s love sustained Him.  That moment of surrender, to say this is yours Father, I can’t deal with it, makes our being His children ever more real.

And we become sure His kingdom will happen right here, right now.  It becomes redeemed and redemptive, holy and right, it floods us with His presence, and even through the tears, we know His love.We know it in a way we can depend upon, no matter if what is next is the cross, or the resurrection… or both.

Pray, cast your cares, your burdens upon Him, and know His peace…and if you need to do so again and even a third time.. and depend upon Him, for He is listening..AMEN

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1453-1454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 480). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Hidden Story of Repentance….in the middle of St. Paul’s conversion

Devotion Thought of the Day:

11  The Lord said to him, “Get ready and go to Straight Street, and at the house of Judas ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying, 12  and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him so that he might see again.” 13  Ananias answered, “Lord, many people have told me about this man and about all the terrible things he has done to your people in Jerusalem. 14  And he has come to Damascus with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who worship you.” 15  The Lord said to him, “Go, because I have chosen him to serve me, to make my name known to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. 16  And I myself will show him all that he must suffer for my sake.” 17  So Ananias went, entered the house where Saul was, and placed his hands on him. “Brother Saul,” he said, “the Lord has sent me—Jesus himself, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here. He sent me so that you might see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18  At once something like fish scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he was able to see again. He stood up and was baptized; 19  and after he had eaten, his strength came back. Saul stayed for a few days with the believers in Damascus. Acts 9:11-19 (TEV)

Most believers know well the events on the road to Damascus, as Saul the persecutor of the church is confronted by Jesus, and is transformed into the Apostle Paul.  This scholar, missionary, apostle’s repentance is easy to see, and often held out as an example of the work God does, in giving someone a repentant spirit.

But in the midst of Paul’s conversion there is another story of repentance.  Notable because the man who repents is already a believer. Yet, even as Paul didn’t recognize God or God’s will, neither did Ananias.  Until they both repented.  Until they both responded to God’s intervention.

Perhaps it is because of Paul’s incredible story, that we miss the story of Ananias, and the transformation that occurs in his life.  For he repents, and goes, and shows to Saul/Paul the love of God, and brings healing to Saul/Paul’s eyes, and to his soul.

I think for those of us in the church, we often forget to repent, we often forget to hear God’s call to love Him with everything, and to love other humans as much as we love ourselves.  We hang onto resentment and fear, we allow rumors and generalizaitons to fire us up and fuel division, even leading to hatred.  We get defensive and hostile.

Worse of all, we lose our faith.  Ananias forgot the will of God, that desires that all come to repentance, to be transoformed.  He forgot the power of God that would transform Saul, and he being overwhelmed by fear, his faith in God disappeared.  He didn’t hear God, he didn’t trust Him.  In fact, in disobedience, he tries to correct God.

The blessing is how God dealt with Ananias, much the same as God dealt with Paul.  He revealed Himself, He revealed His love, and He welcomed Ananias to share in God’s plan.  This is what Jesus is talking about when He says, “15  I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16  You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17  This, then, is what I command you: love one another.”  John 15:15-17 (TEV)

Ananias repents, as does Paul.  Both then God continues to transform, conforming them to the image of Christ.  Both the believer and the unbeliever, brought deeper into relationship with God.

Two incredible stories of repentance.

Brought about by God, who desires we all experience this blessing.

AMEN.

 

If you don’t have anything good to say…. when you should say it!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
5  A false witness will not go unpunished, nor will a liar escape. Proverbs 19:5 (NLT)

8  If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. 1 John 1:8-10 (NLT)

330         I agree, you are saying nearly all the truth… Therefore you are not truthful.

We’ve heard the words all our lives, “if you have nothing good to say, then say nothing at all.” And so from our childhood we have been taught to quibble.  Or with more precision, we have been taught to lie.

Most of us are good at it, though we come up with various ways to spin the art of lying.  We might even twist Luther’s words about coming up with the best construction on the actions, words or thoughts that we know are not right before God.

We are professional “quibblerers”.  Especially when it comes to justifying our friends, or more importantly ourselves.  We have fragile egos after all, hidden behind .well constructed illusions of self-esteem.  Those egos may not survive well, if we handle the truth.

This training is why we are so uncomfortable with the idea of confession, the ministry of reconciliation.  The time where we sit before a priest or pastor and admit things that are either nice or fun.

In private confession, you don’t have to hide anything.  You cannot because God already knows.   You should not, because you need the assurance that sin is forgiven.  Tell the truth, no matter how horrid, no matter how you fear it will reflect on you.  Don’t quibble, don’t try to justify yourself, whether in your mind or to the one you are confessing to, or for that matter to God.  Who is listening for one purpose, to comfort you with His mercy and love.

It’s time to be free of all of that unnecessary work, that unnecessary burden of second-guessing ourselves.

Just be honest, the feeling of freedom will overwhelm you…. even to where the joy will pour out in tears.

Lord Have Mercy on us who are sinners, and help us to hear your forgiveness.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1548-1549). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Will Anxiety and Fear Stop You from Obeying God?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
17  Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18  There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:17-21 (TEV)

303         A son of God cannot entertain class prejudice, for he is interested in the problems of all men. And he tries to help solve them with the justice and charity of Our Redeemer. The Apostle already pointed it out when he wrote that the Lord is no respecter of persons. I have not hesitated to translate his words thus: there is only one race of men, the race of the children of God!

We dwell in an age of fear, of anxiety, almost to the point of paranoia.

We may fear an unknown enemy, or an unseen one, like ISIS/ISIL.  We may fear those who are seeking refuge, or those who immigrate here.  We may fear a political candidate, and it doesn’t matter, whether they are in our part or not.   We may be anxious about our finances, or our about our workplaces, or about a relationship with another person. Or maybe we simply are afraid of growing old, as our bodies begin to break down.

In fact, most stressful situations we find ourselves in can be dealt either fearfully, or peacefully.  While our reaction may tend towards the fear, we can overcome that fear…if we dare.

Today, in fact, we are faced with a stressful situation, as school districts

Fear isn’t good, neither is its partner anxiety. It destroys and devastates the relationships in which we engage in, and others we should engage in.  For example, welcoming those who flee war, and terror.  Or those who live in poverty, or have led a broken life and been caught for it. Or those who are dealing with cancer, and need someone just to hold their hand.

To state it differently, will you allow fear to stop you from loving the people God has brought into your life (or desires to bring into your life) to love?

Will you realize the person you are ignoring, dismissing, even saying cruel things about as you refuse to consider their need, is human?  A person God sent Jesus to die for, and rose from the dead to show that God will raise them as well?  Will you look in their eyes and see their need for God’s love and the need you have to have them see that love in yours?

Will you set aside that fear, and love them as Christ loves you, confident that God has called you to live like this?

Would you want to live free of the fear, live free of the anxiety, to live in the moment, assured of the peace of God?  Assured that even something horrid, were it to happen, would not separate you from God’s love?

That is how the church is described in Revelation, so confident of God’s mercy and love…

11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:11 (NLT)

This is what trusting and depending on Jesus does to us, it is what happens as we realize the depth of the love which fills us, as the Holy Spirit resides in us, the Spirit who joins us to Jesus.  That is the promise we have because God cleansed us in Baptism (see Ex 36:25ff)   As John points out, we can love God because He first showed that incredible love to us.

this is what it is to live a life that is full of peace, peace that cannot be surpassed, that surpasses all understanding.

The peace that Christmas exists to proclaim, the peace of God revealed to be living among His people, to be living in His people.

Lord, have mercy on us, and assure us of your peace… AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1446-1450). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Inconvenience of Mercy…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” 12  When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13  Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners. Matthew 9:11-13 (NLT)

36  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37  “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38  give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:36-38 (ESV)

277         Rather than commit a fault against charity, give in, offer no resistance, whenever you have the chance. Show the humility of the grass, which yields without needing to know whose foot is stepping on it.  (1)

Mercy is elusive, and it is inconvenient, and perhaps most challenging, it is necessary for those who claim to be believers, those who have faith in, trust in and depend upon Jesus Christ.

It’s really elusive when you are trying to encourage others to be merciful, but the irony is, it isn’t the merciful that need your mercy.  It is the merciless that desperately need it.   It is those that are spiteful, that place conditions on their love and acceptance of you in their midst.

I know this all too well, I’ve been challenged the last few days with showing mercy to those who are condemning others, living life contrary to the life they are called to, the life they look to me to encourage.

And I struggle to be merciful to them, part of me just wants to write them off as they write others off. But that would feed the monster that would deny mercy.

Complicated isn’t it!  🙂

Mercy doesn’t facilitate mercilessness.  Nor will it facilitate sin.  It does facilitate reconciliation, forgiveness, love.   In fact, in the Old Testament, love and mercy are both used to translate one word, “cHesed”.  I am not sure the are synonyms, but I do think you can’t have one without the other.  Mercilessness is not loving, and to love requires you to show mercy.

Even to those who don’t deserve it.

Even to those who aren’t merciful to you or others,

Even to those who you fear.

For those who are merciful themselves are, because they know God’s mercy.

Such is what it means to be Christlike, to imitate the Lord God who loves and is merciful to you.  For it is only in Christ that we would even begin to desire to show that kind of mercy, or as St Josemaria talks of, to be able to yield no matter who it is who presses us.

Something to ask God to help you struggle with…. today.

I know I have….and probably will a number of times.

Lord have mercy!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1356-1358). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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