Devotional Thoguht of the Day:
7 Go and preach, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8 Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid. Matthew 10:7-8 (TEV)
For if a work is not oriented toward serving others or toward suffering under another’s will (as long as one is not forced to act against God’s will), then it is not a good, Christian work
All good things flow into us from Christ, who accepted what we are into his
Every once in a while, we pick up on sayings and make them our own. They resonate with us, and eventually, we give them the exalted status of being scriptural. Or at least we assume they are scriptural.
One of those sayings comes across this way.
You need to forgive them for your sake, if you don’t the only person you affect negatively is you.
The saying comes across in many forms, but it teaches that we forgive, not for the sake of the person that is indebted to us, but for our own sake.
Nice sentiment, and surely reconciliation blesses us as well as them, but forgiveness must be an act of love, an
Luther nails this when he talks of works not directed to the best interest of others not being “good Christian works”. As Jesus is quoted by Matthew, the point is made, – freely receive? Freely give! And as he hung on the cross, there wasn’t thought of his burdens being lifted by forgiving us. There was love, and the desire to minister to us and heal us.
This certainly makes forgiveness harder, relegating it to what it is, an act of love, an act that is Christlike, taking on the burden of sin, and releasing the person who committed it. It’s not going to be easy, it is not going to be full of warm fuzzies. It is a work that takes a dedicated decision to love.
Even our enemies.
Which means that is is an act of faith as well. Not trusting the sinner, but trusting that God can heal us of the pain caused by the sin, by the betrayal. It is going to take realizing the healing and love that God pours out on us, even as He forgives us a million times in our life,
And knowing we are loved, knowing He is healing us, knowing He is the righteous judge, we learn to forgive as He did. Forgiveness which testifies to a love greater than sin. It doesn’t happen as quickly or easily as we would wish.
But it can still happen. As w dwell in the peace of God which passes all understanding, guarding your hearts and minds as we dwell secured by Christ.
Heavenly Father, help us to forgive as Jesus did. Send your Spirit to comfort and empower us, and build in us the desire to love people enough that
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 89). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought for our day:
22 Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this. “God bless you, Master! Nothing like this must happen to you!” Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter, “Out of my way, Satan! … you stand right in my path, Peter, when you look at things from man’s point of view and not from God’s”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul? What could a man offer to buy back his soul once he had lost it? Matthew 16:22-26(Phillips NT)
When you want to control your abandonment in the hands of God, the tenderness of your filial relationship is lost. Neither ideology nor psychoanalysis or sociological interpretation of the mystery knows of tenderness. Rather, they know the art of manipulation, not of caress.
You want the world to change.
You can’t understand why the problems in our society exist, why there is hatred, why people can’t work together. You want them to change (whoever “them” is) and you easily get frustrated by their actions.
I get that, I am tired of my own anger at people who are angry at people who are angry because they are reacting against what they perceived as unjust.
I’ve got some news for you (and it applies to me), the change and the peace we seek doesn’t begin with their change, it begins with the change that needs to happen in us, in you and me. It starts with your giving up all rights to yourself. It starts with your relationship to God. It starts with you letting God be God and trusting Him to do exactly what He promised to do in our lives. You need to let Him guide you in life, and listen and follow. Not partially, but totally.
As Pope Francis notes, you can’t really control your abandonment in the hands of God.
There is a reason for this, which he explains as “the tenderness of our filial relationship is lost”. What that means is that as we play God, as we determine we are in control of our lives, we forget and lose track of our relationship with God. We forget about the fact we are His beloved children (hence filial – that of a son), we forget that He desires we walk with Him. , we forget about the love our Father in heaven has for us.
All this happens as we try to take control of our destiny, for 10 minutes or for a lifetime. THat is what Jesus talks about in that trying to save our life, we lose, but if we abandon it to the care of the Father, to the guidance of the Spirit, to the work of Jesus on the cross, we gain it.
And we gain a sense of justice, a sense of righteousness that God fills our life with. We realize that righteousness means we love those we consider unlovable, and rather than just condemn those who acts are unjust and unrighteous, we put them in God’s hands, We pray that He would spare them by transforming them just as He is doing to us. We work to help them realize they are His beloved children and that He has saved them from their sin. That is how injustice is fixed, first as we remember that Jesus’ work has committed us into the Father’s hands, and then, abandoning our will, our destiny, our life into his hands, we see Him work miracles, reconciling others through our work, as He guides us to love them.
Easy? No, and yet yes. He does the work! We have to just stop fighting Him…..
The cost? Already paid for on the cross of Calvary. The blood of Christ that was spilled that sin would be covered, and separated from the sinner.
This is our hope, whether the injustice is minor, or national. That Christ came to redeem the ungodly, and we have seen it happen in our lives.
So go, in His name, and love.
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional Thought for Our Day:
5 Isaiah then told the king, “The LORD Almighty says that 6a time is coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have stored up to this day, will be carried off to Babylonia. Nothing will be left. 7Some of your own direct descendants will be taken away and made eunuchs to serve in the palace of the king of Babylonia.”
8 King Hezekiah understood this to mean that there would be peace and security during his lifetime, so he replied, “The message you have given me from the LORD is good.” Isiah 38:5-8 TEV
802 When someone has a very small heart, it seems as if he keeps his desires in a narrow, neglected drawer.
The king in the passage indicated he thought the message of God’s wrath was good, and that bugs me. Is he so self-centered that he doesn’t realize he is welcoming, even approving of God’s wrath to be poured out on others because of his own sin? Doesn’t he realize he is rejoicing in his people’s, his descendants suffering?
What kind of king is that?
What kind of father?
Which brings a hard question to ask, what kind of things will our children, our grandchildren, and those who follow us in Christ have to face because of our lives today?
I am not talking “our” in a corporate sense of America, or even of the entire Church, or my denomination or congregation. I am talking about you and me.
In my case, my cynicism, my own reactions toward those I don’t relate well too, that I don’t trust, that I struggle with, and consider my adversaries, my enemies. Those, if I am in a more condescending mood, that I consider a royal pain in the ass. How will I treat those who add fuel to my already raging sense of cynicism or those who provoke my fine sense of irony?
I have struggled a lot with this as I’ve seen people react to a reaction of other people. That it turn created a reaction, which more people are reacting to with more extremism, more hatred, more calls for violence and acting in anger.
I want to react, I want to call people out on their hypocrisy, I’ve written twenty or thirty replies, then caught myself before posting them. (and a couple of times, I didn’t)
My reaction has to be one of love, it has to be less about me, and more about helping people reconcile, but oh this is difficult, it is brutal, it cuts me to the heart…. and yet, that is exactly what I need. It is this process that St Paul wrote about when he wrote,
“11 In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14 he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:11-15 (TEV)
The only way I can love those who seem unlovable to me is to live in the reality of my baptism. To know that when I was (and still can be)unlovable, God did anyways. And because He loves me (and you) He is working on me (and you), as I must trust He is working on everyone! Even those who don’t know Him, yet He is calling them to this change of life. To this circumcision of the heart (see Ezekiel 36:25 and following) which cleanses us, changes us, transforms us. (this is what repentance is, and it is far more than saying, “i am sorry”_
It is in His work, that I must trust. Not must in the sense of my obligation to Him, but rather must because if I don’t, I will soon realize I am what I annoys me, I am what I rail against, I am what i hate.
My hope? In the one who loved me enough to die for me. Who loves me enough to transform me, even as I struggle against it. My hope is in Jesus… who is still my advocate, who is still my shepherd, who is my Lord.
May we all let Him change us, as He calls us to his side. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3314-3315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
Now please forgive us the wrong that we, the servants of your father’s God, have done.” Joseph cried when he received this message.
18 Then his brothers themselves came and bowed down before him. “Here we are before you as your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid; I can’t put myself in the place of God. 20You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened. 21You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them with kind words that touched their hearts. Gen. 50:17-21
Consider, in particular, the sin of ingratitude towards God, which is a general sin, and extends itself over all the rest, making them infinitely more enormous. Consider, then, how many benefits God has bestowed on you, and how you have abused them, turning them against Him, to dishonour Him. And, in particular, how many inspirations you have made unprofitable. But above all, how many times you have received the sacraments, and where are the fruits of them? What is become of all those precious jewels, with which your dear Spouse adorned you? They have all been buried under your iniquities. With what preparation have you received them? Think on your ingratitude; that God having run so far after you, you have fled from Him to lose yourself.
Joseph forgiving his brothers is a great story of grace. It is also, for one such as I am, very convicting.
I have to admit that I am a hold a very advanced certification in resentment, and am accomplished at being merciless.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate grace, or struggle to depend on the grace of God that is demonstrated in my being counted righteous and forgiven. I depend on that daily, and it provides hope for this sinner that I am.
I find myself likewise confronted by the parable of the debtor is forgiven millions and has a very definite style of collecting the $150 bucks owed him the very same day.
Do we have to grow into people that imitate Joseph? Can’t we just count on God’s mercy, even for our mercilessness? Does it not extend out that far? Surely Jesus understands the pain of being betrayed, the agony of being hurt, the horrible hurt that comes as someone sinning against us.
After all, I am just a broken sinner, one He is healing gradually, how can I be expected to be the Messiah or one of the great faithful people in scripture? How would I find the strength, the inner power to desire to be, and to become that merciful?
I think St Francis de Sales comes up with a reasonable explanation for our inability. It is because we don’t take the time to consider God’s actions in our lives that deserve gratitude, from our Creation, Redemption and Sanctification to His daily present that waits for our prayers, to His revealing His presence through His word and sacraments and those we encounter, as we think somehow we are ministering to them. When in reality, we are simply exploring the incredible dimensions of His love.
As we begin to appreciate the amazing love of God who comes to us, who picks us up and begins to heal our brokenness, as He invites us to dine with Him, and are welcome into His peace, that is when our resentment breaks, when the tears flow, when we look to Him and ask if these relationships, as dry as dry bones can live.
It is only in understanding that He has brought us back to life, that He is healing us, that He is making us whole, that we find ourselves allowing the resentment to slip away, our grip on the anger and pain to painful to keep up. Looking to Jesus – seeing His love, how His plan has blessed you, even the sin committed against you, leads resentment a burden to cold, too hard to bear into the light of His glory.
Devotion to God who loves you more than you can imagine, or hanging on to the pain?
As we come to Advent, as we find the need we have fro Christ’s presence, as we begin to desire more and more the peace and love He he has to share with us, may we desire to set aside those things that would drags us down, and with joy, may we hold out our hands for those who once betrayed us, to join us in the journey.
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
For He Will: For He Has….
† Jesus! Son! Savior! †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the hope of Glory, His gift to you!
What does this Mean?
As people are driving by the church this evening, as they see the cars in the parking lo now, and later, and tomorrow morning, I prayer that they ask a simple question.
Why are these cars here??
I pray that they also seek out the answer. That they would realize the reason we are here is more than just tradition, It is more than the lights and music. It is worth delaying the gifts, and the family and friends that didn’t accept our invitations to join us.
It is here in this place, Christmas takes on a real meaning.
For this night, we celebrate the greatest blessing the world has ever known. The greatest blessing that we will ever have, and nothing else is close.
We will realize this through the eyes of Joseph this evening….as we see him twice, both times somewhat unable to put his thoughts into words. Both times unable to really understand what is going on…
The first we see of Joseph, he is struggling, confused, hurt, broken. Feeling betrayed and overwhelmed
His fiancé tells him she is pregnant, and he knows he isn’t the father. In fact, he hasn’t been alone with her, so how could…. what is a man to think? The story Joseph was told? How could she be so malicious, to think Joseph such a fool?
Our translation tonight used the phrase, “as he considered this,” yet the word picture behind the original is one who is breathing hard, who is out of control. Hurt and broken, feeling betrayed, shocked, he is beyond words. Speechless, he struggles through the night.
Some of us know this kind of anger, this kind of stress, we’ve felt that betrayal.
Most of us have experienced this kind of stress, this anger, hurt, betrayal, and pain. Maybe like Joseph, we cannot conceive of how someone else’s actions could be anything but evil. We can’t find a way to explain the situation in any positive way.
It hurts, we can’t figure a way to get out of the relationship with more pain, yet…can we even stand the pain any longer? He had every right to demand she pay for her unfaithfulness, but the pain was so deep, he knew that wouldn’t help.
Or maybe, it wasn’t someone else who betrayed us.
We are the one who betrayed us. I betrayed myself, you betrayed you. We fell into that one sin, we gave into temptation, we chose to do something we know we would risk becoming broken. We can’t believe we did it. We can’t sleep, we are so angry with ourselves, so full of guilt and shame…..
And in either case, we need an angel, a messenger from God to come, and make everything right again.
We end up beside ourselves, or we bury the guilt and shame, or the anger and resentment deep, where it causes so many other problems when we can’t bury any more
The Second Joseph
When the angel comes to Joseph, it changes everything.
He hears the news from an angel,
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)
He will save, this baby that is growing in Mary’s womb. He will save Joseph, and Mary, and his family. He will save his clan and nation and all people will have the opportunity to be saved from that life of brokenness.
This message brought the news that would repair his relationship with Mary. No longer would he think her guilty of being unfaithful. No longer would he deal with the brokenness inside him.
The message of who this baby would be changed all of that. That is what He will save means.
It gave him hope it restored what was broken.
If we are to explain why we are here, in this place, if we are to ask what this ceremony means, it is the same message. For Joseph the message was He will save His people, for us it is He has saved us from our sin.
For Christ is the greatest message from God, as God comes to us, to tell us He loves us, and because of that, we are saved by Him.
Saved from our sin, our guilt, and shame, and delivered into God’s presence, saved and healed in this life, saved to see relationships restored and healed. Including our most important relationship, our relationship with God.
God coming, and making everything right, everything righteous, as Jesus goes from a wooden manger to a wooden cross. A new life which would bring life for the rest of us.
This is why this ceremony, and the one at 1115, and the one tomorrow are worth being at, this is what these ceremonies mean….for the gift is beyond all comprehension. It is a gift of everlasting peace, and joy, and the glory of God. It is knowing where we belong, and who we are, and freedom from all that is not good and holy.
Let us worship and praise Him with angels and archangels, shepherds and even wise men. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. 10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. 11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”1 Peter 3:8-12 (NLT)
738 Those who zealously keep a “list of grudges” show themselves to be very narrow-minded souls! Such poor wretches are impossible to live with. True charity neither keeps account of the necessary services it renders all the time, nor takes note of the effronteries it has to put up with. Omnia suffert—it endures all things.(1)
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” (2)
A few movies, the one that comes to mind first is Invictus, Morgan Freeman portraying Nelson Mandela using sports – something other than politics, to unite a people too long divided.
Assuming the movies and the books are correct, the most remarkable thing he did was not to survive nearly 3 decades brutally imprisoned, or becoming the first black president of South Africa. What is amazing to me is that he did it without (apparently) giving voice to the resentment that could have built up over those years. He didn’t take action and get revenge, something that he could have done, with the authority he wielded. What is amazing to me is that healing that happened to Mandela’s soul, healing that enabled him to lead in a way that din’t bring a pendulum swing to the nations politics, but rather seems to have ushered in a journey towards justice and making things right.
It would seem to me, that this freedom from the burden of resentment, of a thirst not for revenge but for justice, is what makes this man remarkable. It’s not something we do easily as humans, for our desire to hold onto our hurts and pain from being betrayed runs strong. Think of movies – how many conquer evil by force as opposed to by allowing themselves to be martyred? Think of the rush of… joy(?) we get when evil gets its due punishment, or our cries for justice for us, without thoguht of what it might cost others. Somehow, the power that Mandela received was not used for evil, for revenge and satisfying a demand for retrinution.
Personally, I think this is due to his faith, which seems to have grown during his imprisonment. The model of Christ who didn’t have to put up with the constant questioning of his work, the beatings, the crucifixion. The man who brutalized his followers would become a leader among those followers. His followers would face torture and death with the same kind of instinctive love, as they asked God not to hold sin against those who tormentented them.
This blog isn’t about praising those martyrs, or even Mandela.
It’s an invitation to know the freedom that they knew. To get rif of the resentment you’ve build up over the years, to rid yourself of the thirst for revenge. Realeased from that…evil, binding, crap, to find joy, to find joy even in serving those who previously treated us in an evil way. That is healing. That is what St. Josemaria, another man hated and treated evilly by both those who oppose Christ and those who claim to follow him, is talking.
I invite you to share in it… I invite you to an altar where it is made real. As Christ would feed you His Body and Blood, given as promised to you, in order to prove that sin, all sin, is forgiven.
SO drop it there… your sin, the sin committed against you… and rise to know a peace that goes beyond anything you could ever expect, that you could ever explain. Know Christ is with you, and all else… can be forgotten.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3072-3076). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Nelson Mandela – quote taken from: http://pastors.com/20-quotes-from-nelson-mandela-a-leader-who-truly-changed-the-world/
- On Mandela : Invictus (purelybooks.blogspot.com)
- Resentments & Forgiveness (pattypooh67.wordpress.com)
- Can a Christian Leader let his people fail? He must! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Will God hear even me today, in this mood I am in? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Purpose of Theology (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting… (justifiedandsinner.com)
11 They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. Revelation 12:11 (NJB)
43 ‘You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy. 44 But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; Matthew 5:43-44 (NJB)
23 Do you think I enjoy seeing evil people die?” asks the Sovereign LORD. “No, I would rather see them repent and live. Ezekiel 18:23 (TEV)
The news again has horrible stories of terrorism in the headlines. The situation in the Kenyan mall, and the two churches in Pakistan that were hit by suicide bombers.
This time, the targets weren’t just political – but they were specifically religious. They were after my brothers and sisters in Christ. And there are new entries to the list of martyrs that extends through the centuries, and is growing day by day.
I want to be mad, I want to think about how to get revenge, whether its the President or some other official pushing a button and the merciless terrorists being zapped like vermin.
Yet I hear the words of my sermon yesterday, the quote from St Paul to a young pastor echoing in my mind, “I urge you – pray for ALL men, ask God to help them, intercede for them, and give thanks for them….”
Uhm God, is there an exception clause for this? Can we strike out terrorists of body, and those who terrorize the soul?
My mind cries out that I can’t love them, that it is illogical and stupid and asking for more pain to forgive them.
Gosh I dislike that passage in Matthew 5.
This week I preach on that passage from Revelation 12, and iti s in my mind as well – how much do we cling to life? Why do we do anything and everything to avoid death? We don’t like to talk about it, we spend billions on hiding it and our aging (growing toward it) in our culture… and we hate anyone or anything that threatens it. The Blood of Christ? Sure – we know and talk of that, our testimony about the Logos – the Word of God – Jesus? yes definitely!
But… death? Especially the death caused because of our witness to Christ? You see that is what a martyr is – one who testifies in view of death. And will embrace it because of that truth.
That is where I find the grace to even thik about praying for terrrorists, to hear the words, “pray for all people” and to know it includes those who encourage suicide bombers, shooters and others who are so full of sin and hatred that this is the answer they look for in life.
And then I remember those words from Ezekiel, those words that point to Jesus on the cross so clearly… for there we saw the truth of it.
God wouldn’t take pleasure in the deaths of terrorists, or those who indoctrinate or teach them. Not for a second. Anymore than He takes pleasure in any death, for at one time, we were all enemies.. and still Jesus died… we’ve sinneds, murfering people in our hearts, just as surely as others have done it physically.
And He loves us and pursues us and calls us… and prayerfully we hear and realize He forgives us and marks us as His.
This is perhaps the hardest and most blessed truth…. God loves and died for the terrorists as much as He did for the martyrs…..and weeps over the deaths of all.
Now… in this day – you have had some who’ve irritated you, you’ve had those people and those moments were you were just pissed off, you may have been betrayed, even brutally so…
So read those verses again – think through them… and ask God to touch those who’ve done you wrong…even as you rejoice in His bringing you back to Him.
And when its hard…to do this… cry Lord Have Mercy!