Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Romans 12:16-18 (NLT2)
20 You clash with the character of one person or another…. It has to be that way—you are not a dollar bill to be liked by everyone. Besides, without those clashes which arise in dealing with your neighbors, how could you ever lose the sharp corners, the edges—imperfections and defects of your character—and acquire the order, the smoothness, and the firm mildness of charity, of perfection? If your character and that of those around you were soft and sweet like marshmallows, you would never become a saint.
I have never liked conflict.
Like many people, I would go to great lengths to avoid it, and I fear its approaching.
I think this is, in part, because we don’t know how to understand it, and we either fight for victory, or we settle for compromise. As a result we are not aware of the sweetness of harmony, the true peace of living in concord, and the hope that comes from finding the true peace that happens when we reconcile.
As a result, we dwell in a time where conflict is played out strategically, in back rooms and parking lot conversations, via text messages and other social media we gather our side, and are ready to go to war, or run away from our opponents.
And all suffers.
Living in peace with everyone is not about being liked, it is not about being popular, it is about working for true reconciliation, true unity that is not at the cost of diversity, or does it force conformity to anything else but Jesus. ANd since the Spirit is in charge of that transformation, the very clashes we, can lead to reconciliation.
Real peace is found there, not in the apparent absence of conflict.
It is a hard lesson, and to be honest, one I have refused to learn, even as I prayed for such a peace to grow in my life. Yet I have begun to see it, I have watched God at work bringing together those who trusted Him enough to be honest, and desire to see Him honored more than to be proven they are right. I have seen it in those who journy together. I have seen it at the communion rail, and in the passing of the peace.
So trust God, be willing to pay the price for true peace, knowing God will help, He will be there, and the person you are in conflict may come to realize, as you do, that you are on the same journey, being drawn by God into His presence.
Heavenly Father, help us to trust and depend on you more than we fear and avoid conflict. In those situations, help us to honor you, and seek the peace that is found in reconciliation, not settling for compromise or avoidance. Give us the patience to see this happen, in Jesus name. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 209-213). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Live in Harmony/Concordia
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May you realize the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enables and empowers you to live in harmony with each other, as God intended!
Live in Concord
When I originally put a title to this sermon, it was missing one of the words you see up on the screen right now.
Anyone want to guess?
The original title read this way, Live in Concordia.
But I was afraid that some people might start moving their bedroom furniture into the Multi-Purpose Room this week, and Hank and Loreen would sell the furniture at next week’s yard sale!
Seriously, Concordia was the Latin name of the goddess the ancient Greeks called Harmonia – the two words are interchangeable, one simply finds it roots in Latin, the other in Greek. So to live in harmony, as Paul tells us, is to live in Concordia.
We are to blend together, with one heart and mind. Not to be copies or clones of each other, but rather to have our lives be together working together as one, as beautiful as any symphony.
For that is who God is transforming us to be, a people who love other, who really love them, with genuine affection.
Even if it isn’t easy, even if we struggle to do so, for in that struggle we learn to depend on the God who changes us!
Love each other, challenging at times.
Love the stranger – that’s what the word hospitality means – literally to love the alien like a brother.
Ask God to bless those who try to crush you.
This isn’t exactly easy stuff!
It’s going to be very difficult at times, it is going to take effort that we don’t want to put into it, that we are not sure is worth it.
It is very different from who society has tried to make us become.
This is love without bounds, being ready to help them at all times, without any hypocrisy, as we serve God by loving others.
It’s a lot of work, we can’t be slackers about it, it takes dedication, and hearing God and obeying Him, even when we don’t want to love them.
Let’s be honest, though they may be different for each of us, there are people that it is hard to love. Maybe it’s a neighbor, or a family member, or a person on the road that cut you off, or maybe even a pastor or deacon.
If this was simple and natural, Paul wouldn’t be writing it, covering every loophole he does.
We have to love each other, we have to love others, even those who aren’t like us… we have to love our enemies enough that we plead with God to bless them. As Jeremiah says, we have to influence them on God’s behalf, rather than let them influence us by their persecution, by their hatred.
We have to love our enemy!
To do otherwise, to not do so is sin….
The righteous anger of God….
Paul gives us a way to deal with our tension, our frustration with those who are our enemies, those who persecute us, and try to crush us.
He says not to take revenge, to not personally seek our own brand of justice.
Let God handle it, let God’s righteous anger work itself out. For God will do what is ultimately righteous, what sees sin paid for fully, which wreaks havoc on the guilty.
God promises this!
Even if the one who pays the price is Jesus.
Actually, that is His glorious preference, that all sinners would be united to Jesus at the cross. All sinners. All those others, all those strangers all those aliens and even you and I.
So rest assured, what we plead for if we hear God, is fully within His will.
And that changes everything, as God saves you and me, uniting us to Jesus, demonstrating His grace and mercy to us in that cross where His blood was spilled where hopefully they will be united as well, for Jesus paid the price for all our sin.
Which is why I find the greatest place for reconciling people to be here, at this altar, at this place where God’s love is poured out on us
Our confident Hope.
I want to back track from God’s wrath being poured out on Jesus for a moment, to verse 12,
Let’s read it together,
12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Rejoice in our confident hope, the hope we find at the cross, the hope we find in the resurrection, reaffirmed every time we unite with Christ’ in communion, even as we did in baptism.
Be patient and longsuffering. Don’t think a life lived loving others will be easy, but suffer through it, depending on God not only for the strength and power but to help you stand firm.
Which is why you keep on praying, pleading with God for them, and to help you remember His love for you. Prayer is more than just asking God, it’s talking to Him, realizing His love, letting Him take the weight off your shoulders. It is keeping your eyes on Him, knowing that enemies can’t crush you.
You see, that’s the key, to keep your eyes on God, to keep in His presence, to find yourself loved and safe in His peace. AMEN!
Devotional:discussion thought of the Day…
28 And not to mention other things, every day I am under the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 When someone is weak, then I feel weak too; when someone is led into sin, I am filled with distress. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (TEV)
15 Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow. Romans 12:15 (NJB)
One of the biggest challenges I see in the church today, is our apathy towards interdependence. Whether it be within a congregation, or within a brotherhood of churches, we don’t function as one organism much any more, save in the political sphere. In my blog today, I want to address this – at the brotherhood/synod/denominational level.
I’ve heard little churches blast big churches, often for stealing their sheep, or doing things that seem condescending. I hear big churches complain about the return of investment that little churches have – and the only way some will offer help is if the little church turns the deed of their facility over to the big church. The idea of area churches meeting for a time of fellowship is almost unheard of now in our area, because we tend to be a bit paranoid. I will confess this as well, as I’ve the smiles I’ve seen when a pastor tells me about how some of my people are fitting into “his” church, I interpret as a smirk, or a subtle jab.
But if it is true that the way to revitalize a congregation is to actually bring the people together, and show them what they have in common – their needs, their brokenness, and Christ healing them, bringing them together, then this should be the way we get together as well. Not to iron out the differences, not to see who is willing to compromise or not, but rather, before the throne of God, the place where there is no division – we are all equally sinful, all equally needed, all equally blessed. W e won’t find unity just in a honest discussion of differences…
I love that Paul was willing to voice his concern – his care – his anxiety even, over those churches he knew. His comprehension of the interdependence, the sympathetic bind that caused what happens to one to affect all is incredible. The words sympathetic- not just as a …. emotional heart tug – but a simultaneous reaction to the pain, the sorrow, the grief over sin, the joy over new life. Like a body when the toe is stubbed, or we are bruised – the entire body reacts – so should it be with us. When we are praying with another, when we are at their side, or their at ours, as we beg Jesus for His mercy, His intercession – that is where harmony begins, that is where peace allows us to heal in ways our logic and strength cannot.
And as we are healing, as we are helping each other, praying with each other – then growth occurs, our defenses drop, our unity in Christ becomes manifest….
For we dwell in His peace…together.