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Communicating the Gospel: Don’t confuse the method for the purpose!

pexels-photo-279991Devotional Thought of the Day:
18  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20  So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT2)

24 We believe and confess that these two doctrines must be urged constantly and diligently in the church of God until the end of the world, but with the due distinction, so that in the ministry of the New Testament the proclamation of the law and its threats will terrify the hearts of the unrepentant and bring them to a knowledge of their sin and to repentance, but not in such a way that they become despondent and despair therein. Rather, since “the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24), and hence points and leads not away from but toward the Christ who is the end of the law (Rom. 10:4), 25 the proclamation of the Gospel of our Lord Christ will once more comfort and strengthen them with the assurance that if they believe the Gospel God forgives them all their sins through Christ, accepts them for his sake as God’s children, and out of pure grace, without any merit of their own, justifies and saves them. 

The method of preaching, no matter which tradition, can be simplified as telling people why they need Jesus, and how Jesus meets that need, and our lives change as we walk with Him.

In the Lutheran tradition, the method of communicating that is called preaching “Law and Gospel.  It has been a focus and method of our preaching since Martin Luther was still an Augustinian monk.  And the first president of the Lutheran Church gave a series of lectures which were turned into a book titled, “The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel”.  While this post will use the word “preaching” a lot, this rule is true for any conversation, whether from a pulpit or altar or over a pumpkin-laden coffee or a nice ale.  Preaching is not just a formal sermon or homily, it is any time we take a moment to help people realize their need for God and His response to their need.

Preaching law and gospel is a method, and it is far more than just preaching the law, checking off a box, then preaching the gospel and checking off the second box.  Unfortunately, we can often get in that mindset, settling for that simplistic understanding of the method.

Even worse, we often preach against sin with a bias.  Some sins may be more repugnant to a pastor, or to an individual, and they may try to eradicate that particular sin with more force.  We might even come across as trying to purify the church from sinners who have committed that particular sin, driving those who are guilty of it into despair, into hopelessness, further into the guilt and shame which already haunts them.  ANd some would applaud this, saying we really crucified that sin, that we nailed it to the cross. They might see the role of the preacher, or the evangelist as the drill instructor, yelling at his recruits, trying to help them save their lives.

But that denies the purpose of preaching and in fact is contrary to the concept of preaching law and gospel.  Reading the quote from the Formula of Concord above, preaching the law so that people fall become despondent and despair, is not appropriate.  For doing so drives them away from where they could find hope, and the goal of preaching the law is such that realizing their brokenness, we can bring them to Jesus, we can help them see the cross and its blessed meaning in their lives.

What a challenge, to help them see their brokenness, to help them see their need for Jesus, rather than just making them feel guilty and ashamed!  Helping them to seek a source for the transformation, a source that is provided by the Spirit, as He draws them to Jesus, and then in Christ to the Father.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he describes the purpose of preaching, the purpose of evangelism, which is far more than the method of preaching law and gospel.  The purpose is to reconcile people to God. To help them realize that Jesus was the offering for the sin they are haunted by, that causes them to feel so ashamed, so full of guilt.

Proper preaching acknowledges its mission, to reconcile people to Father, by drawing them back to Jesus.  The method can be the preaching of Law and Gospel, holding them in tension, but that tension is for the purpose of becoming the people of God, the people who know His mercy and feel compelled to explore the dimensions of His love for them.

And again, preaching is not just the formal presentation of a sermon, it is as we comfort those who are anxious, as we cry with those who weep, as we listen ot those burdened, helping them see God take care of their burdens.

This is our mission, it is our apostolate, why we are sent where we walk in this world, as we walk with the God who pours out His love and mercy on us, and through us. So remember this purpose as you are with family and friends, and even those who antagonize you.  Remember these words as you sit in your study, crafting your messages, listing to the Holy Spirit. And rejoice, for you know GOD is with you!

 

 

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 562–563). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  (Formula of Concordia: Solid Declaration: V. Law and Gospel

How Do We Become the One, Separated from the 99

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day….
3  “You must not have any other god but me. 4  “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6  But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. Exodus 20:3-6 (NLT2)

9         When they talked to him about committing himself personally, his reaction was to reason in the following manner: “If I did, I could do that…, I would have to do this other… “ The answer he got was: “Here, we don’t bargain with the Lord. The law of God, the invitation of the Lord, is something you either take or leave, just as it is. You need to make up your mind: go forward, fully decided and without holding back; otherwise, go away. Qui non est mecum…— whoever is not with Me, is against Me.”

Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s there was a huge battle over something called “lordship salvation”.   The question pit some of the mega-church, whose services were on television and radio against each other. The battle also sold a lot of books for them as well, as they countered each other with the dedication of boxers, each looking for the knock-out punch. 

They battled over justification, could a person become a Christian unless they sold out completely to God.  Was He going to become your Lord and Master, and would you follow him perfectly?  They would use the parables like the king going to war without considering how his army matched up to his enemy or the man who built his house on rock versus sand. 

Neither side accounted for the ongoing struggle with sin.  Neither side considered the work of the Holy Spirit.

And yet, we need to regularly ask the question,  Are we praying to God, or an idol of our own making?  Do we worship God, for the love He has for us, revealed in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, or do we create a God that will answer our own desires?

We need to think these things through, regularly.  Are we willing to go where God wants us to go?  To do what He asks us to do?  Or do we just do what we want, what we desire, what seemingly benefits us the most?

It is a hard question, but I like the way St. Josemaria phrases it.  Do we consider our relationship with God based on a plus and minus calculation of how it benefits or makes u uncomfortable?  

Do we struggle with the big decisions, trying to ascertain His will?  What if it means we lose? What if it requires us to suffer?

And what about the small everyday decisions, the challenges to bypass the temptations that leave us broken in sin?  For those too deal with the idea of hearing God, and relating to Him as he determines. 

So, where is the hope?  How do we deal with our own infidelity when it comes to God?  How do we admit we’ve turned from our relationship with God, and put in His place an idol?

We learn to do so, to go to God, so that He can deal with the guilt, the shame.  That He can remove us again.  For just as He called us originally, He will forgive us, and revive us and cleanse us.  That too is His promise, and what we need to cling to.  he will not reject us, indeed, He will continue to try and call us home, or bring us home, to unite us to the 99. 

It is worth the struggle, it is worth seeing what God has in store, it is worth it, for, in the end, our idols can’t answer us or help us, but God can…. and does. So let Him pick you up… and rejoice in resting in His care. 

What are the things you don’t like about what God wants in His relationship with Him?  Have you checked to see if they are actually Biblical?  How will you deal with them?

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 274-279). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who is this “we”?

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The Good Shepherd, carrying one of His own, while the rest rejoice!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

No foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD should say, “The LORD will exclude me from His people”; and the eunuch should not say, “Look, I am a dried-up tree.” 4 For the LORD says this: “For the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold firmly to My covenant, 5 I will give them, in My house and within My walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off. 
6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD minister to Him, love the name of •Yahweh and become His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold firmly to My covenant— 7 I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their •burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”  Is 56:3-7  HCSB

39 At this point all Christian hearts may well ponder God’s inexpressible kindness in that he does not immediately cast this corrupted, perverted, and sinful dough into hell-fire, but out of it he makes and fashions our present human nature, which is so miserably corrupted by sin, in order that through his beloved Son he might cleanse it from sin, sanctify it, and save it.

There is a part of me that rejoices when I read the words from the Prophet Isaiah in red above.  What a wonderful vision he casts for the people of God!  That the church,( and the temple back then) would be a house of prayer for all nations, for everyone.

I know that before the throne such a crowd will assemble, as the Book of Revelation teaches us.  I rejoice to see the beginnings of that, where all people are welcome into God’s house to pray, to have revealed to them His love and mercy.  To welcome those God brings into His presence, and therefore, our presence.

To realize the blessing of what out Lutheran forefathers described in blue above. To ponder God’s inexpressible kindness, His amazing indescribable love.  To know the joy that Isaiah described as the people are drawn to prayer. As we are drawn to prayer.

Drawn together, from every nation, tribe language. This is who we are, it is whom God has planned for us to be.

The Lord and His people. Our heavenly Father and His family.

God with us.

May you rejoice in all God provides to His people, and if you don’t know what that is, let me know! I will help you explore all His promises for you!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 515). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

Where Does the Strength to Praise God Come from?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional THought of the Day:
7  But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. 8  Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9  But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10  I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (TEV)

604    Humbly acknowledge your weakness. Then you can say with the Apostle: Cum enim infirmor, tunc potens sum—“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
605    “Father, how can you stand such filth?” you asked me after a contrite confession. I said nothing, thinking that if your humility makes you feel like that—like filth, a heap of filth!—then we may yet turn all your weakness into something really great.

There is a point of burn out in ministry, at least that is what I have often thought.  There is a point where a pastor simply can’t take anymore, where the grief and the problems simply overwhelm his strength. We aren’t superheroes, after all, and it doesn’t take kryptonite to drop us into times of depression, into times of great angst, into times where we just aren’t sure of anything, at least in our minds.

And yet out of such times, can come the most incredible moments of praise.

Out of brokenness, when we realize how our sin has caused devastation when like the person confessing their sins wonders how their priest can stand the filth, only to hear that once that is cleansed, then God strength resonates through us.  He renews us in a way that we cannot even completely understand, protecting us as we stand in awe at His strength.  As He watches over us, as He guards us, as His power cares and comforts us in our brokenness, and as we live in a world horrifically broken.

It is in such moments, humbled, broken, we stop trying to play God, and our prayers finally reach out to Him.

He’s been there, for He never abandons his children.

Even when we struggle to see Him, even when we struggle to entrust our brokenness to Him.

Waiting to pour His love into us… waiting to show us His glory, as He redeems and reconciles us, our very lives, and uses us to spread His love to this unjust and broken world.

Father, help us realize our weakness, our brokenness, and humbly walk with You.  Help us to stop playing God, and realize again that You are God, and that you love us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1438-1442). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Let Everyone know! A sermon for Trinity Sunday (Acts 2:22-26)

church at communion 2Let Everyone Know
Acts 2:22-26

I.H.S. †

 May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so visibly impact your life that you indeed let everyone know of His love, for you and for them!

 “whom you crucified”

In our reading from acts, we find the title for today’s message.

It is a command, an urgent command,

Let Everyone know!

Let Everyone know for certain!

Let everyone know this, and not just as data, but as the knowledge that sinks deep within you, and changes your life forever.

Let everyone know for certain… that God has made this Jesus to be both Lord and Messiah!

Because of this, Alleluia, He is Risen!  (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!  And therefore.. We are risen indeed!  Alleluia!)

O wait, I forgot a part of that verse.

God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!

Now, you may be thinking, at least it wasn’t me who crucified Jesus. That’s been an interesting discussion for centuries, who killed Jesus.  Was it the authorities?  Was it the Roman’s who weren’t in covenant with God?  What it the Jews who cried out. “Crucify Him?”

Or was it every one of us, with each of our sins pounding the nails into Jesus’s feet, into His hands? 

It was your sins, and mine, that caused him to be crucified, and we need to know this.  Just as much as the Jews and Romans of that day, with others help, we nailed Him to the cross and crucified him.  We need to realize that, we can’t just pretend that because we come to church we don’t sin, or that our sin didn’t really cause Jesus to suffer, not as much as other people’s sin. 

Our sins put Him there.

Our sins killed Him.

Our sin, our greased, our lust, our anger, our jealousy, our gossip, our desire to be in charge, our desire to be judge, jury and executioner, our desire to be God, that is what cost Jesus His life.  That is what crucified him.

Our sin.

Hear it again, from the other place in Acts.  Hear and face the truth,

23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him

Hear that…. God knew what would happen, and it did, just as God the Father had planned.

Jesus died for your sin, and for mine.

But He wouldn’t stay dead…. As planned!

Even as we realize it was for our sins that Jesus embraced the agony and pain of the cross, we need to realize as well that His death wasn’t the end of the plan.  God had something more in store, just as David said,

26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’

This is the faith of Jesus, these words are His words, His attitude, His faith in God our Father. Death could not keep him in its grip, Jesus wasn’t bound to death, He wouldn’t stay dead.

This too was planned, just as His dying for out sins was planned, so to was the resurrection.

Jesus was to say, “You ( Father) will fill me with the joy of your presence!”

Since we are united with Jesus in His death…

In Romans and Colossians, it talks of our being put to death with Christ, that we might rise with Him, so these words of David’s about Jesus, apply to us, that we can know these things because they are true about Christ Jesus.

Because you have been redeemed, because you have been cleansed, because you have been united with Christ, these words are your as well,

I see that the Lord is always with me, I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.  26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence!

That is the wonderful description of a life lived depending on Jesus, where we realize that the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of His holiness, that we rest in hope. That is where the joy comes from, and the incredible power of our praises, as we know He is here.  That is where we find rest, and the way of life, found

This is what happens when we are united to Christ, all of this!

Let’s repeat that thought together, knowing that these words, so used of Christ, also describe those who are in Him and trust in Him.

I see that the Lord is always with me, I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.  26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence!

AMEN!

So now, let everyone know, that He is our Lord and Our Messiah! AMEN

My ongoing lesson….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 16  but do it with gentleness and respect.  1 Peter 3:15-16 (TEV)

350    In addition to being a good Christian, it’s not enough to be a scholar. If you don’t correct your rudeness, if you make your zeal and your knowledge incompatible with good manners, I don’t see how you can ever become a saint. And, even if you are a scholar—in spite of being a scholar—you should be tied to a stall, like a mule.

Given how many times St Josemaria referred to himself as a donkey, I can’t but think this was one of the lessons he had to be taught over and over.

Which gives me hope, because it is one I need to learn over and over. 

A little knowledge and a heart full of zeal and wonder of God’s love can be a very dangerous thing.  And the more the knowledge, the more danger you can do, as you bring forth that knowledge with the force of projectile vomit.

It is hard to temper the zeal, it is hard to govern the rate that we explain these great things we have learned.  I get that, and sometimes it is the very zeal that leads to a charisma that attracts people, for it is special to see someone who really believes, fired up about the love of God.  

Unfortunately, the very fire that burns within us can rage and burn out of control, damaging the very people we try to help, and those around  It is not intended, it is not because we lack sincerity, but it is because we are not aware of the people we are trying to reach, we don’t hear them, we don’t’ bother to find out where they are at.

And we need to take that time.   We need to find out where they are so that our message shows them the love of Christ, not just describes it.  As Peter, one of the original models for saying things before his mind engaged warns us, we need to give the reason for our hope with gentleness, and with respect.  

Of course, it doesn’t help that as while I write this post, I am having to live its lessons out. But isn’t that the point of this?  That God’s words and those who went before can help me deal with those in life I would love to correct, and correct quickly and forcefully? 

They need to know the love and mercy of God, but I do as well.  I can never lose sight of that fact, and zeal can be tempered by love, and our knowledge by humility, acknowledging that all knowledge and wisdom comes from God, and should be used to glorify Him

Lord, give us hearts that care for those who stray from you but give us the peace, the wisdom and patience to go alongside them and show them you love and mercy, which is at work sanctifying us.  AMEN. 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 889-892). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection We see things differently! A sermon on Acts 4

church at communion 2

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection
We see things differently!
Acts 4:1-12

Jesus, Son, Savior

 May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help us to see all things from His perspective!

A Matter of Perspective

There are days my relationship to the world seems a lot like this picture.

I don’t quite understand what they see, and I am absolution sure they don’t see what I see.

And most of the time, that doesn’t bother me.

If we are talking about the gospel it does.  It bothers me tremendously.

The same concern exists when we talk about the church, have to offer people, it does.  Not just because my life is literally wrapped around the church, but because of what the church offers to us, as it reveals to us the very heart of God, His desire, His will… His love, for you and I.

His love for us..

A love that changes things, no, not really, it changes us.

This love transforms us so completely, it is as if everything was flipped over.

And while there are days I would willingly knock some people over, what we need is to build a desire that they would see what we see and treasure.  We need to understand how critical it is for them to see the Jesus who loves them, who died for them, who lives with them.

As we look at the Pharisees we will understand what they see, and why they can’t see it.

What they saw… something to reject

As hard as it seems, let’s try to walk in the priests and Sadducees sandals for a moment.  It’s now almost 2 months since the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene.  They thought they had gotten risen of the pesky troublemaker, and most of his followers had scattered like cockroaches when the light turns on, and know His followers are back

And the ministry, as interesting as it is, isn’t happening the way it should.  It wasn’t in conjunction with the appointed ministers of God in that place, And the ministry wasn’t happening to the best of people, it was to the rabble, like that lame guy who begged all his life.

They had lots of questions, and as we heard last week, they were ignorant.  They were looking for logic and reason.  They were looking for answers that could be put in a nice neat box.

That’s why they asked, “by what power, or on whose authority, have YOU done THIS?”

As if the answer would allow them to reject the miracle that was happening.  As if the answer would allow them to discount what the reality they are facing.

But humanity does that all the time.  We choose to be blinded to God, we choose to look at things upside down. We choose to call what is right wrong, and what is wrong right.

Even those of us who claim to follow Jesus do this, as we assume that our plans are God’s, that our beliefs about the world are equivalent to God’s plans.  ( I could mention that I had pastor friends in the last week, one tell me God is happy with the Republicans, and another the Democrats, and that’s why they feel free to bash the opposition!)

Matter of fact, I think we confuse those who don’t know God when we seek to speak for God on things not found in scripture, or when we make the sins that upset us the most the unforgivable sin,  or when we make the sins we personally struggle with not that big of a deal!  When we say, thus spake the Lord, and we don’t have the authority or responsibility to do so.
What we are doing in that case is not standing opposite the world looking at what was written, but opposite God.

And we find ourselves there too often.

What we see – the basis of our hope

Last week, I said the ignorance the people had was not that they were stupid, nor was it that they didn’t have the data.  They did, they just didn’t understand it.

This week the change is similar, they didn’t have the right perspective, even the apostles didn’t, and they heard Jesus prophecy about his death for three years.

The apostles didn’t understand the incredible message of salvation, until they put it together after the cross, until they saw the wounds in his hands and in His side, until He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit, just as we received it in our baptism.

it was then that they realized what it meant for Jesus to be the cornerstone. That sets the perspective in stone, and we can’t say what Jesus says is a 6 is a 9, or what is wrong is right.

There is more to being the cornerstone than setting what is right and wrong though.    The idea of the cornerstone is that every stone is connected to the cornerstone, everyone is linked, and the cornerstone or keystone keeps them connected.

Because Jesus is the cornerstone because He is our rock, we are connected to Him, and that changes everything.  Paul talked about it this way,

16  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)

Because of Jesus, it is not only Jesus we see differently but ourselves… and each other.

And we need to!  We need to see Jesus as our Savior, our Lord!  We need to understand that we are connected to Him, that we are united to Him, and our lives are lived out in that connection.

You, me, him, her, each person here.  Each person is a new creation, each is as new in their redeemed lives as the lame man who could not only walk- he could dance now! Everything in our lives is new, from our lives free of sin, to our lives lived in the presence and peace of God.

This is our hope, and peace, to know His peace… and love.  Let’s pray

 

 

There is only one way to deal with Mondays: with our eyes opened!

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

Devotional Thought of the day:

When the servant of the man of God got up early and went out, he discovered an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. So he asked Elisha, “Oh, my master, what are we to do?”
16 Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.” 
17 Then Elisha prayed, “LORD, please open his eyes and let him see.” So the LORD opened the servant’s eyes. He looked and saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  1 King 6:15-17  HCSB

 

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. 28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:26-29 (NLT)

404    You say you’ve failed! We never fail. You placed your confidence wholly in God. And you did not neglect any human means. Convince yourself of this truth: your success—this time— was to fail. Give thanks to our Lord, and try again!

There was a great desire to sleep in this morning, to pretend Monday didn’t exist. While Mondays are a study day, I have to admit Holy Week exhausted me.

And while I didn’t feel like a failure yesterday, today I am not so sure!  (This is called the Elijah syndrome – after major spiritual victories we want to hide!)  But I’ve often dealt with failure, especially on Mondays. Not just the feeling I’ve failed, but the knowledge I have failed, or I am actively experiencing failure.

In those moments, I feel like Elisha’s servant, all I see around me is pressing in on me, and there is no escape.  “Oh no, it’s Monday, what are we to do!!!”  And the sake of being alone, and without hope rises like the tide and we fear it will drown us.

At least that’s how my Mondays and several other days a month often feel.

It’s as if I’ve forgotten the promise in Romans 8:28, that all things work for good, including Mondays.  That I can’t picture God doing something in the present circumstances, so I can’t understand my success is found right in the midst of the failure.  Just as the time between the cross and the resurrection was not a failure in the true sense of the word, neither is this time or failure, or anxiety about it, a true failure.

We need to have our eyes opened to this, just as Elisha’s servant did.  We need our trust in God rekindled until we can go through the dark times, and trust that the good times are coming.

For God is with us, Jesus is risen indeed, and that means we are given life and a life where the plan all works together….

His plan, not mine.

This is why I adore Him (when I can remember this!) This is why I praise Him, for He is our God, and we are the people whom He loves.

Just need to remember that on Mondays…. and every other day that has a d in it.

Let me pray for you ( and please pray for me)
As our Lord opens your eyes to His presence today, may you rest, as you dwell in His peace!

Question of the day….. how does knowing you are loved help you through the hardest of days?

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1013-1015). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dealing with Loneliness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
20  I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. 21  The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. 22  The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— 23  I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me. John 17:20-23 (MSG)

But the opposite can also happen: men, who are made for love, can find in this presence that is everywhere around them the security for which their whole being cries out. They can see therein a victory over the loneliness that no human individual can ever banish even though it is in direct contradiction to our being, which cries out for a You, for someone to share our life. In this secret presence, men can find a reason for the confidence that makes life possible for them. At this point, their response to the question of God’s existence acquires critical proportions.

Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him266 and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him,267 some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding “clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is”;1* but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him

My name is Dustin, and I am an extrovert.  My vocation is that of being a pastor, where it seems I am constantly surrounded by people.

And I  get lonely.

Even with an awesome church that doesn’t acknowledge the formal line between my being their pastor and being their friend!  (this is a great blessing, an incredible one)  Even with a great wife and incredibly bright son. it still happens.

There is time to be alone, but loneliness is a different thing. Being alone is needed at times, and is both restful and restorative.  Loneliness is wearing, it is needing someone to relate to, of not wanting to be alone, of needing not to be alone.

Loneliness, Pope Benedict wrote, was something we can never banish.  He also noted how it is in direct contradiction to our very existence.   That creates a very ugly paradox, the one thing we can’t avoid is what robs us of who we are.  The emptiness, the inability to express love, and ot know we are loved wreaks havoc with our psyche, with our soul. We are designed to share this life we live with others, which is why sin is so devastating, as it shatters our ability to relate to others.  It devalues them, and without anyone to truly value us, the loneliness drives us further into despair, and into the bondage of sin and addiction.

I said I knew this struggle, as do many of those I know in ministry, as most people who are happily married.  There are still times where the darkness of loneliness forms and tries to crush the individual.

so where do I find hope?

Among other places, I find it in singing a hymn in our liturgy.  The words preceding it are “with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven, we praise and magnify your glorious name..even more praising you and singing”  In that moment, I realize that friends that have passed away, and others that are singing it with me, and millions across the globe (along with angels ) are praising God together. Our voices are crying out to save us,   (for this is what Hosanna means) to the One who can save us.  Save us from the sin which divides us, from that which makes breaks us and leaves us unable to love, and unable to perceive we are loved.

We are, the very people the Spirit draws to Jesus, and in united to Jesus, we find our unity in God our Father, we are in Him, even a Jesus is.

As I read these words of mine, they seem too theological, to philosophical, to other-worldly to communicate the truth, the reality that I know. The presence of God, that should I remember leaves me never alone, and brings draws me out of the darkness, of my loneliness, and fills me with peace and comfort and joy.

This is why the gathering of believers around God’s word, and the sacraments where God pours out Hiss

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.

Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

The Question of Repentance

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7 He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 9 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 
10 “What then should we do?” s the crowds were asking him.
11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts t must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.” 
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 
13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.”
14 Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?”
He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.”   Luke 3:7-14  HCSB

36  “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” 37  Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?Acts 2:36-37 (NLT)

A lot of things recently have brought about discussions about repentance, what it is, how it is gone about, what kinds of things are involved, and most importantly, who is active,  I’ve written about those things before, especially how repentance, like faith is something the Holy Spirit gives us. ALso how repentance is a transformation far more than it is feeling grief or a decision to follow God!

But as repentance is seen, there is always a question that comes up, the question seen in my first reading above. (and in the second as well)

John the Baptist tells them to live a life that produces fruit consistent with repentance,  

And hearts, just starting ot living in this transformation ask, “What should we do?”   It’s the same question the Jewish people asked when they learned they crucified the Messiah, the one God sent to establish a time of rest and peace for them. 

What should we do?  You could add, “now?” to the end of the question.

The reason that this is THE question of repentance is that when repetnance comes to us, the only questions that remains is – what do we do…. because repentance is happening already!

Repentance, as we are granted it, as our lives are starting to transform, leaves us a bit, befuddled. lost, and confused.  We are a new creation and this re-birth and renewal given as God cleanses us is about as confusing as a kid from Nebraska being dropped off in Hollywood on a Saturday night.  

And so the people, crowds, tax collectors, soldiers, were given some basic ideas.  Not all-encompassing ideas, bot a complete set of laws to follow.  But examples.  Examples that are consistent with a transformed heart, a heart that is capable of living for others, of loving and caring for them.

Think of John’s advice as the training wheels of the Christian life, the life of the repentant, the baptized.  There is much more to living a life transformed, but these bits of advice from John gets the wheels spinning and our moving with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power.

Do things that don’t serve your self-interest, don’t be pre-occupied with proving your own righteousness.  Do things that are loving.  And when you find you aren’t…. pray, and confess and know that God is with you!  He came to save you!  He is your messiah, your Lord, your life.

The answer to the question of repentance, of what we do is always going to be the same – in Christ, love those you encounter.

Lord have mercy on us, give us the strength and desire to see you transforming the lives we live!  AMEN!

 

 

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