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Their words hurt you? Here is how to survive it.

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:

18  A false accusation is as deadly as a sword, a club, or a sharp arrow. Proverbs 25:18 (TEV)
38  “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39  But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Matthew 5:38-39 (NLT2)
15
 See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled, Hebrews 12:15 (NAB)

63 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.

442    Never think badly of anyone, not even if the words or conduct of the person in question give you good grounds for doing so.

There will always be people we struggle with, people whose actions and words we don’t understand, and often, those words and actions seem to attach or denigrate or embarrass us.

Sometimes the original intent is harmless, like the joke that struck to close to home. 

It is hard not to react.  Some would say impossible. 

They’ve given reason to think badly about them, to gossip about them, to strike back with words that would hurt them, and perhaps those around them.

Scripture pleads with you, as does Luther and a Catholic saint, don’t say, it, don’t think it. Don’t let your words add to the catastrophe that is occurring. Don’t let the bitterness rise up within you, and spread out like poison.  DOn’t get involved in backbiting or slander. Don’t try to justify it, don’t try to 

Just don’t. 

Your words will simply cause more damage, they will tear more people up, as the Psalmist says, these words are weapons, they do an incredible amount of damage, even to the point of killing.

So someone’s words hurt, they stung, they damaged you.  How do you respond?

Prayer is the place to start, asking God to remind you of and reveal His grace to you.  The grace that will remind you of your forgiveness and the promise to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.  Prayer is the place where you can ask God to give you the strength not to respond. 

It is when we are secure in HIS peace that we can love past the pain, that we ae assured His cleansing of our lives includes the injustice, the unrighteous acts committed against us.  It is there then, with Christ bearing all the sin in our lives, that we find hope, and the possibility of grace. 

This isn’t easy, it takes the spiritual maturity of a saint. 

That’s okay, God made you to be a saint…

So think of His love, and rejoice, and share that blessing with those whose words hurt. 

The Lord is with you! 

Sources

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 400). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1087-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Power of Words…to Wreck our Mission/Apostolate

Altar with communionDevotional Thought for our days:

Dt 19:16-20 “If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime, 17 then both the accuser and accused must appear before the LORD by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. 18 The judges must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges against his fellow Israelite, 19 you must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you. 20 Then the rest of the people will hear about it and be afraid to do such an evil thing.

 

902  Acquire the habit of speaking about everyone and about everything they do in a friendly manner, especially when you are speaking of those who labour in God’s service. Whenever that is not possible, keep quiet. Sharp or irritated comment as well may border on gossip or slander.

THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
16 What does this mean?
Answer: We should fear and love God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander, or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well of him, and interpret charitably all that he does.

It is too easy to complain about other people.

Our neighbor, our co-workers, our family, our elected officials, even complaining about those who complain too much.  it is all too easy to complain, to bicker, to criticize and condemn.

We might even believe our words, or at least believe the people who passed them on to us.

Too often our words poison our lives, causing us to be blind to what God is doing, cutting off our souls from the peace God would have us live in, the peace Christ died for, in order to bless us. These words can steal from us the hope of reconciliation, both the reconciliation of God, wherein God draws us into His mercy, and the reconciliation that happens there, as we realize we are His family.  It is a serious thing – look at the warning God gives against the misuse of words.

Think of the damage that gossip, slander and the malicious words we utter do to the mission of Christ.  For if our hearts are turned against those God has sent us to reach with his love, how can we?  Why would we pray for those we speak evil above

We need to confess this and ask God for help, for the comfort of the Spirit, to remember the miraculous promise that happens in Christ.  We need to be forgiven and to revel in the joy of that forgiveness and what it restores to us.

We need to hear Him call to us, even as broken as we are, and hear of the value He places on our lives.

He is our hope, HIs word is what matters, the word of life….Hear them, let your mind dwell on them and what they promise.

Amen.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3672-3675). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

Is it too much to ask for a miracle, for peace, this day?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  Some Pharisees and Sadducees who came to Jesus wanted to trap him, so they asked him to perform a miracle for them, to show that God approved of him. 2But Jesus answered, “When the sun is setting, you say, ‘We are going to have fine weather, because the sky is red.’ 3And early in the morning you say, ‘It is going to rain, because the sky is red and dark.’ You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times!n 4How evil and godless are the people of this day! You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of Jonah.”
So he left them and went away.  Matt 16:1-4 TEV

535    Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.  (1)

I am struggling with my sermon manuscript this morning.

The struggle is not with the text, it is glorious, it can, and it will preach Christ.

My problem is with my friends acting like the Houses of the Capulets and Montagues. No, I must be honest, there is  a growing desire to call them out and curse them both as Shakespeare wrote, “a pox on both your houses!” There is my problem, the enormous weight that causes my writer’s block.

I am not sure I can get these friends, the fellow citizens to stop attacking each other, to lower the defenses enough to look each other in the eyes and see each other’s struggles and brokenness, and to limp together to an altar and pray for each other. And as I receive emails, tweets, and read posts, I am reaching that point where I question whether I want to anymore.

There is a temptation to wipe the dust off my feet, to walk away and leave people pointing at each other, yelling at the top of their lungs the very same insults, the very same attacks, crying as they are assaulted by the same fears and anxieties.

Though I am not trying to trap Jesus, (or am I? In truth, today, I do not know.) I want Jesus to stop this; I want the miracle that will create the peace that will enable people to stop attacking each other, to know the mercy that will allow them to lower their defenses, to remember that we have been given the role of servants, to facilitate reconciliation.  To allow people on both sides of the issue to be still, and know that God is still God.  That He is our refuge and strength.

But how do we get people to lay aside their sin, the idols they have manufactured to provide the answers they desire?  How do we get them to consider there are hopes greater than what they expect, that what they have counted on to be the norm?  Surely I can’t out yell the masses that are yelling at each other.

I sometimes joke that St Josemaria Escriva is my patron saint, simply because I resonate with what he writes at a level that is deeper than just my poor intellect.  The words in blue above were probably written during the Spanish Civil War, a time of unrest that puts the hatred espoused on Social Media in perspective.  I imagine he grieved for his nation as he saw them killing each other, as a house divided fell apart as the bodies that composed it fell to the ground.

His answer is my answer, the place I must run to find hope, and find the strength to offer hope.  A sacramental, incarnational, miraculous answer found in God’s presence. Fount at the cross, found as well in those things that unite us to the cross – the sacraments through which the word assures us of God’s grace, His mercy and peace.

As God unites us to Himself, as He invites us to feast, as He communicates with us, as the Word comes and dwells among us, as we see and declare His glory.

As we know, love.

As much as I want my friends, to love each other, the miracle happens in Christ, not by logic.  They are delivered from their fears and frustrations, their shattered idols and broken hopes as Christ is revealed.  As they see Him, crucified to bear it all, to bring them healing from it all.

Sometimes the answer isn’t found in engaging in the mess, or getting depressed and angry as I grieve over it.

Sometimes the answer, the hope is found in seeking Christ, in letting His presence assure and comfort me, reminding me that all things will work for good and that nothing can separate us from His love.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 1295). 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.

 

Sticks and Stones may… but the Words will crush us?

Devotional Thought for the Day:

22 But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know, 23 except that in one city after another the holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me. 24 Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace.  Acts. 20:22-40 NABRE

45    Why feel hurt by the unjust things people say of you? You would be even worse, if God ever left you. Keep on doing good, and shrug your shoulders.  (1)

Some years ago, I sat in a room full of other believers having dinner after a long, brutal day of meetings.  I was invited by a good friend, but neither of us was ready for what we would experience.

I would get up and leave, going back to my hotel room, dismayed and depressed. I can still hear the words echoing in my brain that were said.  The group didn’t recognize that there were some they were criticizing in the room of a couple of hundred people.  Or perhaps, they were so ecstatic, they didn’t bother with the thought, or even care.

The critique was vehement, the lies and comments betrayed a hatred and bitterness.  And while not part of the other party, I was probably closer to those criticized than I was to those who accused. The critiques would still probably be applied to me, the attempts to demonize other believers stung and hurt. The fact that believers, those considered leaders in churches would be so cruel… was devastating.(2)

The words, and the faces of those who said that which seemed evil to me still stick with me to this day, and it was the first thing I thought of as I saw the words of Saint Josemaria. 

People can be cruel, and it may be that it will be more than just words that they hurl at us.  Paul would experience that over and over, and scripture is clear in describing the fear and frustration, the despair and the pain. 

As I think back on pain of that night, I can rationalize that these people weren’t evil,  In many ways, they sincerely believed the other side threatened their way of life, their faith.  While they didn’t understand the others, their own pain and frustration released itself in the midst of victory.  My instinct is that now that the years have passed, they wouldn’t recognize their own words.

But even realizing that, if doesn’t change the level of pain.

So how do you move past it?  How can we simply shrug our shoulders and keep on doing what is good?

(Logically – do we have any choice?)

How could we choose to shrug our shoulders when it hurts?  Even more troublesome, if we are called to imitate Paul as he imitated Jesus, how do we willingly enter times where we face such opposition, such belittling, hearing such negativity tossed at us, and survive?

The answer is simple to hear, hard to execute.  We think of God’s presence, the fact that He doesn’t  abandon us.  We cling to Him, and being enveloped by His peace; we let the other things fade into dimness, compared to His glory.  As Paul says, to be a martyr, a witness to the incredible glory of God.

The glory that is ours, that He envelops us in, even as He envelops Himself.  This is grace, this is the place were brokenness heals, this is where we find the grace that enables us to endure all, simply to know, to witness and to bear witness to the love and mercy of God, revealed by the Holy Spirt, revealed in Christ.

It is there we need to head, where we need to live, there we find our haven, our rest.  Safe in Him, the Lord God Almighty who has promised that nothing can ever separate us from God. This is the answer to the cry, “Lord have mercy”, and it floods our lives.

And on our way shrug, or accept the challenges that await us.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 260-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  I am not so naive as to believe that the other side would not have been as cruel

 

A Tough Question….. Will We Answer it? Do We Hate Sin?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15  These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. James 1:14-15 (NLT)

20  But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21  Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22  throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:20-24 (NLT)

1002      To save mankind, Lord, you died on the Cross. And yet for one mortal sin you condemn a man to a hapless eternity of suffering. How much sin must offend you, and how much I ought to hate it!

For maybe 20 years, there has been a platitude circling around Christianity. It goes like this, “we should hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

It isn’t scriptural, in that it doesn’t come from the word of God.  We accept it because it seems logical, and it gets us out of sticky situations.  

I don’t think we hate sin anymore.  I think we tolerate it, welcome it, choose it, and count on God to take pity on us. 

If we’ve been brought up in the church, we know what the Bible says about sin.  We know that what it earns death and destruction.  Sin separates us from all that is good; it separates us from God and His love.

It deserves our hatred. It is something we should fear, as it seduces and enslaves people. It does such a thorough job, burying us deeper and deeper beneath its weight.   We excuse it, we claim that not sinning is an inconvenience, that living as God teaches isn’t possible anymore.  Theologians dismiss it with the very phrase that provides the title of my blog – that we are simply justified sinners, and that is all we will ever be in this life.

I think that we’ve come to a point where we don’t hate our sin anymore.   The sins of Isis, the sins of “those” people, the sins committed against us, yes, we still hate that sin.

Do we hate our sin?  Do we hate the sins of our friends?  Do we hate the sins of our children?  Do we fear the grip that sin can have over people, and the damage it can do to their lives?  Do we see it wrecking the relationships around us?

If we did, how glorious would the cross be?  How central to our lives would our baptism be?  what a celebration the Lord’s Supper would be, and the relief we would know as we heard the words, “you’re sins are forgiven!”

He broke the power of sin; he crushed it. He saved us from it.  He brings healing to our hearts and peace to weary souls.

During this Lent, we pause and take the time to not only love the sinner, but fear for them, and struggle to see them freed.  We look to Christ, setting that sin, that desire, that temptation aside… knowing He endured the cross so that we could be free.  Fr that to Him was His joy, to see us freed, cleansed and made holy.

Do we hate sin?  We need to…..


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3534-3535). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What if We Treated Those Who Gossip Like We Treat… (insert favorite sin to condemn)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 28  Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29  Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30  They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31  They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, tooRomans 1:28-32 (NLT)

 10  Whoever breaks one commandment is guilty of breaking them all. James 2:10 (TEV)

800 This is the prayer of a soul who wanted to belong wholly to God, and, for his sake, to all mankind: “Lord, I beg you to work on this sinner, to rectify and purify my intentions, to pass them through the crucible.”  (1)

In the church at large, there is a very unhealthy tension that I am noticing grows more and more each day.  On one side of it, there is a tendency to overlook sin, to justify it, to claim that it cannot be overcome, that it is even natural.  On the other side is the reaction to sin (espcially the sin of others) that wants to immediately condemn and execute the sinner, and purify our church and our communities of those who do “those” things.  The first are like those in the days of Noah, or the churches in The Revelation who need to be called to face their sin, not to hear words of condemnation, but to know mercy, and the transformation and healing that God would bring to them.  The second, well, like the men gathered around the adultress, with stones in their hands, our condemnaiton of others seems little more than hollow words.

In the former case, a treatment which would bring about healing is found in simply asking the question, where do we find the authority to overturn scripture here?  Some will fight it, but again our efforts need to be, not to condemn, but to provide the way yo be free from condemnaiton, to know grace, to say – yeah that’s sin, I own it is as mine, and Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.  Then having confessed it, to walk away rejoicing in its absolution.  No more hiding, no more justifying, no more denying what we know to be true, and try to deceive ourselves.  Quickly, let us confess our sins, confident that He will forgive them and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.

I often frin the other case, more frequent.  We would condemn others, for a sin, and for their lack of mercy towards our sin.  A rule I often use in the latter case, when one sin is being singled out, is to ask whether gossips deserve the same treatment, the same attitude as those who repeat other sins.  Most of us know gossips – some quite intimately, even perhaps caught a glimpse of them this morning, as we looked in a mirror to comb our hair.  Do we want to treat the gossip like the murderer, the abortionist, the adulterer, those who have sex outside of marriage between husband and wife, those who hate based on race and ethnicity, those who lie, those who disrespect authorities, those who schedme to take what is others, those who commit very public sins, those who commit them very privately, etc etc,

Do we?

Do we want the gossip to hear the same words as “those” people?  Do we want to treat them the exact same way, with the same words?

YES!

The more I see people, entrapped by sin, enslaved to it, no matter the sin, the more I want us to hear the same words…

Your sins ARE forgiven, Go in peace, and sin no more….

That’s the Father’s desire.  That is why Jesus came and lived and died, and was raised from the dead.  It is the mission that God has given us, the church, for it is saving them, delivering them from sin and the fear of death, into the presence of God, our Creator, the One-in-Three who calls us, the beloved….

Lord have mercy on us, the sinners.  AMEN.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2854-2856). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What you need to know about Spiritual Warfare…

      Mission Briefing #3:

What You Need to Know about Spiritual Warfare

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Revelation 12:7-12

 † In Jesus Name

 

As you encounter the temptations and trials of this life, may you know that God’s grace, the mercy, love and peace the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ covers you with, will sustain you to victory!

 

Our Mission has…

 

This fall, we’ve been focusing on the mission of this church, of the church as a whole.   To do the work that God has planned for our lives, to do the very work Christ commissioned us to do. The work He has started, that we have a part in, as we reveal His love to the world.

Our mission?  To make disciples of people of every ethnicity, as we go about our lives.  To do so by baptizing them, cleansing them of their sin, and teaching them to treasure everything Jesus has taught us.

It is why the church is here, it is why we have a pre-school, it is why we have pastors and teachers and elders.  To reach out to the hurting, to those living in guilt and shame, to those whose lives are locked into destructive ways of life.

That is our job – to reach out to them, with the hope that comes from knowing the love of Christ, and the fact that He is with His people. That He is with you!  The world needs to know that, they desperately need to know His love, His presence, His healing, and His love.

It is our mission; it is why He sends us out where ever we go.  It has been the mission since the day Adam and Eve left the garden.  God gave the mission to Israel as they left Egypt, as they were ruled by judges and kings, and called to repentance by prophets.  It was their mission as they entered captivity, as they were restored to their land, as they waited for the Messiah.

They were to point to the One who was the light for gentiles, the glory of the people Israel.

Today, the readings all deal with opposition to our church’s mission.

For be sure, as we share God’s love with the world – we will face opposition.  A very ticked off and upset opposition.  An opposition whose only mission seems to be to drive a wedge between God and His people…

An opposition that has lost…but even so, won’t give up. For our opposition is demonic.

The Nature of Satan’s Mission…
Satan has a number of names, or descriptions in this passage, each revealing his evil character and the mission that has become his over time.  Scripture calls the dragon, the primeval serpent, the devil, Satan, and the accuser.   SO let us deal with them.

Dragons in Hebrew thought were large serpents, known especially for their patience, and their keen eyesight.  The very root word for them comes from one of the words for sight.  Their tactics were to kill their opponents by finding and striking at their weakest point – and so it is with Satan, as he looks out at our weakness
The primeval serpent did that, finding the perfect way to deceive Eve and tempt Adam.  Working on their pride, and on curiosity, he was able to deceive them into knowing evil, for all they knew before that was good.  He got in and poisoned their relationship with God and with each other. That’s his strategy, to cause division.
He tried that with Job, and even thought Job struggled, Job’s God proved faithful. Which is the point we need so badly to learn!

Devil and devils simply mean those who throw against, basically they are spiritual gossips and mudslingers.  The devils best tool is to bring light on our failures, to show our sins and character weakness. God, don’t you know your favored people, the people you called your own are a bunch of silly sinners?  These people and their pastor, God, don’t you know what they did this week?

Lastly, Satan simply means our Adversary.  The one who opposes us and uses all of His cunning to hurt us, for if he can drive a wedge between us and God, then he is happy, for that is all he can try to do, and even that… is but an illusion.

His Weapon?  Our Failure, our Guilt

You see, Satan’s only weapon is try to deceive us, to literally lead us astray from the love and mercy of God.  He will greatly use temptation, guilt and shame to try and separate us from the love of God.

Which means Satan’s best weapons are our sins, and our weak points where He can tempt us. He wants to uses our failures.  He desires to cause us guilt, to cause us shame, to create an illusion that God does not want to forgive us, or that we do not deserve the love of God, and that we stand condemned.

Because he is no longer in heaven, accusing us before the throne of God, his only option is to work on us, to convince us that God will not fulfill the promise of Christ’s blood, to cover our sin.

This was part of our conversation this week in a college class on the Lord’s Supper.  That we feel guilty when we do not think we feel guilty enough!  When we think our attitude has to be perfect before we can come to church. We have to get our lives in line that we have to become saints prior to coming here, otherwise the roof might fall in, or the apocalypse might happen.

That is Satan’s only goal, to divide us from God, and if God will not listen to his accusations, maybe we will.  Either to his accusations about us, or the gossip that accuses others, both of which can cause division.

But if our prosecutor isn’t there?

 

What we have to remember is the victory is won.  The only judge who can condemn us has determined that Satan’s accusations are not worth listening to, and has tossed the one accusing us out of heaven.  The battle was not some heaven splitting war, it was simply that it was time to stop listening to the accuser.

Because Christ had come.

Because the blood of Christ has covered every sin.

That is the word that we bear witness! This love of God that sent the Son to bear the guilt of every sin! The word that we testify to is His promise to cleanse us of every sin, to unite us to His death, so that we will rise again.

 

Which is why we do not have to cling to life, for we know what death brings.

For our life in Christ means more than our physical life, for one is eternal, and one is passing. Think of it this way… in our baptism we meet Christ in His death, and at our death He meets us again, to bring us life.

Salvation and power and God’s empire have become known to us, for in Christ dieing on the cross, the bonds that hell had on us because of sin were shattered, for the gates of hell cannot ever stand against the revelation of God’s love for us, so clearly revealed in the cross of Christ.

It makes Satan’s role as our accuser meaningless, his accusations in heaven not even being heard.  For in Christ, our names are written in the record of life. If the prosecutor is not there, if the Judge will not listen to him, those who are guilty are freed, declared innocent.

We don’t have to listen to Satan’s charges, we don’t have to pay heed to the illusion of Guilt and shame, the agony of dealing with sin.  We have been declared free in Christ.

That’s why we come to this altar – to be reminded of the blood, to be reminded of that to which we confess, the truth we state when we say, I believe in God the Father…and in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, and in the Holy Spirit who calls us gathers us together.  Satan cannot do a thing about it, for He is powerless.

And knowing this, we live, forgiven in the unsurpassed, indescribable peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

AMEN…

I love to deal with sin!

Devotional/Discussion of the Day

 6 I am GOD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a house of slaves. 7 No other gods, only me. 8 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. 9 Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I’m a most jealous God. I hold parents responsible for any sins they pass on to their children to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation. 10 But I’m lovingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments. 11 No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name. 12 No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as GOD, your God, commanded you. 13 Work six days, doing everything you have to do, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day—no work: not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, your ox, your donkey (or any of your animals), and not even the foreigner visiting your town. That way your servants and maids will get the same rest as you. 15 Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and GOD, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength. That’s why GOD, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest. 16 Respect your father and mother—GOD, your God, commands it! You’ll have a long life; the land that God is giving you will treat you well. 17 No murder. 18 No adultery. 19 No stealing. 20 No lies about your neighbor. 21 No coveting your neighbor’s wife. And no lusting for his house, field, servant, maid, ox, or donkey either—nothing that belongs to your neighbor! Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (MSG)

We often talk of the above list as the Ten Commandments, (although I prefer to refer to them as how God has commissioned our lives – but that’s another blog entry)  Violating these guidelines, whether intentionally or without conscious desire or knowledge is what we theologically call sin.  Sin simply is living outside the way God would desire us to live, based on His wisdom, based on His love, His wisdom, His desire for our best.

I wrote as the title of this blog, that I love to deal  with sin.   I have had to deal with people who struggled with every one of the sins in the last two months, maybe even in the last few days… no definitely in the last 48 hours.   And I love to deal with sin.

And I don’t like to not deal with it.

Let me unpack that.  People like to deal with sin in the same ways they cope with trauma – or death.  We go through the same kinds of phases.

We deny it is sin – it doesn’t matter whether it is missing church or Bible study, or engaging in sin that is outside the bonds of marriage.
We bargain – I won’t commit that other sin, if you God overlook that other sin…
We get depressed – as we realize that on our own, we are weak and helpless to overcome temptation
We get angry – often very angry as we crucify ourselves- or worse- those who try to help us through it – even though that means they have to make the mistake of pointing out the sin.
Or we accept that we are sinners – and just keep on… well sinning.

And in everyone of those phases – we don’t deal with sin at all.  We smother it, we cover it, we celebrate it, but the very last thing we could possibly do – is deal with it. And if we fail to deal with it, we find ourselves in the place St. John talked about.

10 If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. 

There is a way to deal with it – a very simple, powerful, wonderful, mindblowing way to deal with the sin….  it comes from the very same place as the quote a moment ago. 

 8 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9 On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-10 (MSG)

That’s how we deal with it – a simple confession, a simple proclamation of forgiveness – and it’s done.

It could look something like this,

Individual Confession 
Pastor, please hear my confession and pronounce God’s forgiveness in order to fulfill God’s will.
Proceed.

I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. My Lord’s name I have not honored as I should; my worship and prayers have faltered. I have not let His love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed. There are those whom I have hurt, and those whom I have failed to help. My thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.

What troubles me particularly is that . . .

The penitent confesses whatever he has done against the commandments of God, according to his place in life. The he concludes by saying:

I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.

God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith.
Amen.

Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?
Yes.

Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive You all your sins in the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Dealt with.. Done.

Sin is simple to deal with, so let’s deal with it... knowing the Lord has had mercy on us.

Why are we so eager to “share” gossip and “memes” that make others look bad?

1 “Don’t pass on malicious gossip. “Don’t link up with a wicked person and give corrupt testimony. 2 Don’t go along with the crowd in doing evil and don’t fudge your testimony in a case just to please the crowd”.  Exodus 23:1-2 (MSG)

 8 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.”  Philippians 4:8 (TEV)

It is the most trying thing about FB and Google+ and other social media.  It is a sin that needs to be checked, and it is more rampant and as devastating as any thing the church normally publicly protests.

It is not just violating the 8th commandment, but is a complete disregard of it, and the two passages above.  The incessant number of rumors, most of them lies, that we are so willing to pass on, without checking the facts behind the story, something that can be done with a highlight and a click or two.  Of course, we also takes these “gems” of wisdom with us, and they end up in conversations over lunch, or preceding Bible Studies and Worship services, giving more fuel to the falsehood, because people we know and care about shared them with us.

These days, many of them are still about the President of the United States.  Even more about the Pope who is about to retire, or about the church he oversees.  But there are many targets out there, and the gossip and slander is…sickening.  

I will be the first one to admit that I have done this in the past. 

I will also admit that with both men, and their predecessors and positions I have some issues.  (Less with this particular pope, more with the theology he inherits from the Council of Trent) If we have issues – deal with the real issues.  Do not degrade someone, do not dismiss someone based on heresay and gossip that has nothing to do with the issues. engage in discourse with those who can affect them. They are not the enemy…nor is any target of gossip and slander.  (see Eph 6)

There are a number of logical positions that can be made about this topic – how such spreading such gossip affects your own credibility, how it is simply sin, how it hardens you, and affects your prayer life, and your relationship as you dismiss other sins just as easily.

But simply put – it is sin, and we are called to abstain from it, be reconciled to those damaged by it, and to confess it.  Grace will not abound because you share that picture, or that article, or that quip or slam… it just won’t.  

But when we sin, confess it, and know we are forgiven…and cleansed… and then go and sin no more..

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