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How God builds His Church/Kingdom

Devotional Thought of the Day:

2  The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:2-3 (ESV)

As I read this verse this morning, it resonated more than a little.

The PSalmist is describing, to borrow a phrase, how God will make His people great again.

He doesn’t do it by attracting the rich, or those who have it all together, or at least pretend to. He doesn’t gather the powerful, He doesn’t market His church with a mission statement that resonates to the successful,

He gathers the outcasts.

He finds those people that are so broken, so weary, so burned out by the world, and brings them together to share in the healing of their souls. They will find a home in the peace He provides, they will find joy in the glory of dwelling with God, they will find rest, even as God brings about their healing and comforts them.

This is how the church grows, as broken sinners are drawn to the love of God, so clearly demonstrated at the cross.

This is why we are here… this is the reason churches exist.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but then a lot of what God does is…. for His ways aren’t ours.

Lord jesus, help us welcome the outcast, the broken, those without hope. Lord help us learn to care for them well, encouraging them to explore Your love, and experience the healing of their souls. AMEN!

The Great Actions of God? Does this Lady really know what She is talking about?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

46  Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48  For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55  For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
Luke 1:46-55 (NLT2)

Thus Mary shows by using this word (Magnificat) what her canticle is about, namely, the great acts and works of God to strengthen our faith, to comfort the lowly, and to terrify those of high degree. To this threefold use and purpose of the canticle we should focus our attention and understanding, for she sang this not for herself but for all of us so that we would sing after her.1

Thining about Mary’s words and Luther’s commentary on this-this morning causes me to think a bit.

When most of us think about God’s incredible works, I doubt we create the same list as Mary and Luther. We probably would include the miracles, the Resurrection, the Splitting of the Red Sea, the feeding of thousands and the raising of dead people to life. (and no, not as Zombies!)

Rather than listing the miraculous and highly visible works of God, Mary lists things done in our lives, things we desperately need. These are the magnificent works of God! These are the things that make people sing aloud, and sing with all the power in their heart and soul.

So let’s look at them.

We start with God’s magnificent work of strengthening our faith. This is needed, for most of us struggle to trust those around us, never mind trusting God who we can’t see. This faith is nothing more (or less) than trusting God for what He has promised to do in our lives. But that isn’t easy, and so the Holy Spirit creates this dependence in our lives (not easy for either of us!) breaking through our jaded hearts and replacing them with souls that are alive, and resonate to the love of God.

Next is God’s magnificent work of comforting the lowly, the broken folk in our world. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit share in the title “the comforter,” something that should never go overlooked. God is found the midst of our brokenness, even the brokenness we cause by our sin and idolatry of self, there to bring healing, and comfort as we just can’t deal with the pain.

He is there, carefully cutting away the parts of our lives that are dead, circumcising our hearts as the Apostle Paul describes, with the care described as so tender, that a bruised piece of grass will not be broken. There He is, doing what is necessary to restore to us a life that is described with the word “abundant”.

The last concerns me the most. God will terrify those of us who are “of high degree.” We may not think we are, but how often do we play the Pharisee, saying “Thank God, I am not like that politician, or that illegal alien/refugee, or that I am so better of than those Catholics/baptists, evangelicals, or “those” types of sinners, etc.

We play at being of high degree a lot more than we would admit, and it takes the love of God to do what seems so… harsh. To terrify us, to scare us by revealing the depth of our sin. God has to humble us to the point where we are ready to see Jesus the Messiah and find relief in His presence. Where we will seek Him, knowing that only in Him will we find relief. You see, God doesn’t terrify those of high degree to punish us, but to help us let Him enter our lives, to help us encounter the works above. This is true in all of scripture, as He works to see us all come to repentance, to return to our relationship with Him.

These are the magnificent works of God…

It is when we see them happening, even when God is terrifying us (remember His purpose) and it is when we encounter Him, seeing Him at work in this – that we praise Him, that we rejoice in God our savior, along with that young lady, who gave birth to Jesus our Savior, who gave birth, to God.

May we praise Him as she did… not from obligation, but because we realize the work He is doing in our lives. AMEN!

1  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. 101). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Don’t say a little prayer before sharing your faith. Instead, try…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

They loved human approval rather than the approval of God. John 12:43 GNT

5 “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me. John 15:5 GNT

The dynamic ‘from Adoration to Evangelization’ represents, in fact, the only real and possible path for an authentic witness which is capable of knowing how to ‘overcome the world’.
An Evangelization which is not born from an authentic, prolonged, faithful and intimate relationship with God will bear fruit only with difficulty. Even more difficult still will be its ability to captivate the men of this age.

For years, before I go and make a call, whether, in the hospital or someone’s home, I say a quick prayer. This was a practice drilled into me decades ago when I was a young Bible College student and my pastor and I were part of Evangelism Explosion. (we didn’t get great results… but we tried to be faithful!)

I am starting to think that is not a good and proper practice.

We shouldn’t pray before engaging in outreach.

We need to do more. We need to bathe ourselves in worship, in adoration, in meditating on the incredible dimensions of God’s love. We need to be in awe of His glorious mercy. We need to have given Him all of the challenges we are facing, entrusting to Him everything that causes us to take our eyes off of Him.

The priest whose words are recorded above in purple, could not have explained why evangelism efforts, whether formal or informal are successful or not. Simply put, if you haven’t spent significant, intimate, authentic time with God, and seen Him addressing your brokenness, how can you dare think you can share His love with others?

If we can’t reflect God, we are reduced to our own logic and strength, we omit the blessing of the Spirit, and what we are craving is human approval. We want to win people on the strength of our logic, on our ability to manipulate them into the Kingdom, rather than let them be drawn into the healing, cleansing glorious light of Jesus.

We don’t just need that intimacy to power our evangelism efforts. In truth, that effective empowering our sharing our dependence on God is a secondary effect, it is what happens as the Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Jesus.

We need Him to change us, to reveal to us the work He is doing making us saints, making us the people of God. And the more we see that the more adoration becomes a reaction, and a necessity in our lives because of how amazing God is.

So take some time, be still, dwell in His peace, meditate on the cross, on the blessings of Baptism and the incredible gift of the body and blood of Christ Jesus, praising God with all your heart and soul, mind and strength; then go out and make disciples of all nations.

Lord, help us hear and rejoice in Your presence and love… and then let us shout it so loudly through our lives that the entire world knows! AMEN!

Piacenza, M. (2012). Homily for the Solemn Mass of St Aloysius Gonzaga. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 68). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

50,000+ reads, 578 subscribers, 1866 posts, and a thought

This underground church blessed m with great peace…
I pray my blog has helped you experience it over the years.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT

The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in it there was no light. The second was the holy place; here stood a lampstand with seven arms and seven lamps. The third was the outer court; it was open to the sky and to the sun’s light. This is a metaphor for the Christian person, whose spirit is the holy of holies, God’s dwelling in the darkness of faith without light. For the Christian believes what is neither seen, nor felt, nor comprehended. The soul is the holy place with its seven lamps, that is, every form of reason,18 discrimination, knowledge,19 and understanding20 of bodily and visible things. The body is the outer court that is open to everyone, so that everyone can see what one does and how one lives.

First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.

This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.

Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.

And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.

There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.

Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?

It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.

You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.

Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.

That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.

The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.

It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.

Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.

That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.

Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

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. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.


Living “in the moment” on Mondays!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT2)

Hurry is an unpleasant thing in itself, but also very unpleasant for whoever is around it. Some people came into my room and rushed in and rushed out and even when they were there they were not there – they were in the moment ahead or the moment behind. Some people who came in just for a moment were all there, completely in that moment.
Live from day to day, just from day to day. If you do so, you worry less and live more richly. If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

I don’t know about you, but there is a challenge to get focused on Monday.

Even after a good, productive Sunday! ( good day in worship, good Bible study, bills paid, taxes are done, errands taken care of..even got some rest!)

I usually leave one task for Mondays, to do the sermon study for the next Sunday. But some weeks, it is a challenge to get that focused on it. People have issues that weren’t dealt with last week. There was a crisis over the weekend, and of course today, I have to wonder who will try and play and April Fool’s joke on me.

How do I get focused? I also start to worry about the rest of the week, about the meetings Wednesday and Thursday, about the coverage on Wednesday night, about a million and one other things. So getting started on preparing for the sermon… doesn’t get the focus it needs.

I am like the person in purple, who is there but isn’t there. I am not “in the moment. And this isn’t just as I approach the “work” I do. The text alarm that goes off during my devotional, the phone call from that person I know is suffering… it is so hard to stay in the moment…

especially on Mondays!

Yet the need to be “in the moment” is so strong!. The need to hear God and not just rush through my reading. The time to let trickle into my soul the names I need to pray for, the ability to focus on the passage I am studying, not just academically, but with a heart focused on God and my people.

But this isn’t just a “pastor” thing. Matthew’s gospel makes that clear. Living in the moment is about letting worry and distractions go, and realizing that this moment is one where you dwell in the Kingdom of God. That you are in His presence, that you are loved by Him.

To live righteously means to live in His forgiveness. For no one can live a perfect life, but we can hand over our sin and the temptations we struggle with to God, asking His help to do better.

It is from such a place of peace that we truly live, that we are truly in the moment, attuned to the Lord for whom time is simply a creation. of His.

God is with you… make that the center of you Mondays, even as you might have yesterday between 9 and 10:30…..and rejoice!

Anne Lindberg from morninging devotion 4/1 https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/

Why Can’t They Learn From Our Mistakes? (The difference between instruction and discipling)

We must all come to the place like Peter, where we let Jesus wash our feet….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  So Moses wrote down God’s Law and gave it to the levitical priests, who were in charge of the LORD’S Covenant Box, and to the leaders of Israel. 10  He commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, when the year that debts are canceled comes around, read this aloud at the Festival of Shelters. 11  Read it to the people of Israel when they come to worship the LORD your God at the one place of worship. 12  Call together all the men, women, and children, and the foreigners who live in your towns, so that everyone may hear it and learn to honor the LORD your God and to obey his teachings faithfully. 13  In this way your descendants who have never heard the Law of the LORD your God will hear it. And so they will learn to obey him as long as they live in the land that you are about to occupy across the Jordan.”
Deuteronomy 31:9-13 (TEV)

The word of God is creative; and the Word he said, once and for all,
to human beings couldn’t be other but the Word made flesh, his Son, Jesus Christ. However only those who hear the Word made flesh from their experience of personal sinfulness and weakness will receive his saving power. This is the reason why the Lord says he has come for the sick, not the healthy.

Our lives are long enough to learn what we need to learn, but not long enough to change anything. That is our flaw. Each age must learn everything afresh. Such waste!
Such waste – making all the mistakes once and again, each generation making the same mistakes, fumbling in ignorance and darkness.
This oak was already old when I was born. Now I am old and soon to die, and this tree grows strong still.
We are small creatures. Our lives are not long, but long enough to learn.

There are times that preaching and teaching becomes tedious. It seems like we do the same thing, over and over, year in and year out. Sure, we use different words, but the story is the same.

But there is a time where you wish people would learn the lesson, internalizing it. making it part of who they are. There is also a time where those who teach wish that each succeeding generation would be able to hear and learn from those who went before them, not having to watch them make the same mistake generation after generation.

Or deal with the same issues.

Lawhead’s comments in green above brought me back to that thought. My generation struggled with extremes. Topics like the role of women in the church, or what is appropriate in worship (from music to dress), struggles theologically, it was so easy to become blown this way or that depending on who was teaching.

It seems vain, and without impact, as we didn’t see all that much change possible in the world. We could learn, or we could help, but neither left an impact on us, what hope do we have to pas this down to the next generation.

Which brings me to Pope Francis’s words, and the amazing insight in them. We give the same lesson over and over because the place where it is best learned is that place of brokenness we all inhabit. The valley of tears, where guilt and shame haunt us, and we need God to intervene in our lives.

Why does each generation have to deal with the same arguments, the same battles, the same sins over and over? BEcause it is in those paradoxical places, being blown about, struggling, we find out He is our rock, He is our anchor, He is our peace.

And that is the difference between a sermon that instructs your people and a message to those you are discipling. One promises hope, the other guides them into discovering it, and seeing God reveal it to them. The result is that their voices praise Him from the soul, and their hearing and the reaction of obedience is something natural, not something forced.

The people that we guide through life, each and every generation have to deal with the same issues, the same struggles, the same questions that plunge the paradoxes of our faith.

But we need to know the paradoxes are not the final issue and not the final battle. We need to discover the Lord who is deeper, the Lord who is greater, the Lord whose love goes beyond the dimensions we can explore. But exploring those dimension, that is where life is found.

And that is a trip you can only take from the point of brokenness… and each person, and each generation must deal with that brokenness…

Lord, help those on the journey be patient with those who are beginning it. Lord, help us see the struggles that we have, not as something to deny or hide, but help us look for those who will point to You, and remind us of that which is greater than our struggle. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 113). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Stephen Lawhead,
https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ (for this day March 30

The Church must live in the midst of controversy

In the midst of perscution and darkness, the church is still the place of mercy

Devotional thought of the Day

When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she answered.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”
John 8:9-11 GNT

The Church will be persecuted in the measure of her fidelity to the gospel.
The testimony to this fidelity bothers and enrages the world, making it kill and destroy, as it happened in the case of Stephen, the first among the disciples to shed his life for Christ.

Pope Francis’s words sound ominous, and they should.

But not because of the promise of persecution. That is something promised in scripture. We will be persecuted (see Mark 10:30, 2 Thes 1:4, 2 Titus 3:11-12, John 15:20) What is ominous to me is the idea that if we are not persecuted, than perhaps our fidelity, our faithfulness needs to be examined.

In other words, does the inverse of Pope Francis’s words hold true. Is the lack of persecution a testimony that we are not enraging the world, that something is missing in our lives given to Christ Jesus?

The story of the woman caught in adultery is a great example of the rage the Church, when She is the Church, can create in those who observe here.

Jesus causes controversy in forgiving the lady everyone knew was guilty. He did this by pointing out their sin, confronting them on the very evil that lurked within their hearts. Unable to face the confrontation, their wander off, leaving her with the God who loves her, who would restore her.

Rather than rejoice that someone is shown God’s mercy, rather than celebrate the love of God revealed to someone who thought they were too broken, the world walks away. (and yes, the church is often more like the world)

Such mercy could be shown to the terrorist (the apostle Simon the Zealot and the government lacky, Matthew the tax collector), it can be shown to the prostitute, the murderer, even to the one who kills the pastors and leaders of the church (St. Paul)

You don’t like Trump? Christ died for him. You don’t like those who are “pro-choice”? God is calling them into a relationship where He will forgive their sins. You don’t like the person who is Muslim, Jewish, White Supremacist, the gang-banger, the alien, the rapid right wing republican?

So what? Love them or realize this:

As you judge and condemn them, for the sins you think you’ve caught them in, remember this story of the woman caught in adultery. And wonder, who are you in the story. The ones crying our for murder, the lady, or are you to be like the Lord, who pronounces forgiveness.

Imitate Jesus… even if it means dying to reveal to them that God loves them, that He desires to show them mercy, to forgive their sins.

And if your friends, neighbors and fellow church members want to kill you, or just cut you off from them for being merciful, remember these words,

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom!Matthew 5:10 (MSG)

So go in peace, serve the Lord, bring mercy to those the world says don’t deserve it…because God says He desires them to come to repentance, even as He drew you to this blessed place! AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 112). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Place Where God Put His Name Became our Home: A sermon at the closing of a church

The Place Where God Put His Name
      Became our Home

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as It has during His work here at St Paul’s for decades.  AMEN

Our Home

I would like to read one verse from our gospel reading from a different translation.

14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT2)

The New Living Translation uses the word home instead of “dwelt”, and I think the difference is important.  The word in Greek refers to setting up a residence in a community, it talks of establishing more than a house, it speaks of a home. It was used in the Greek Old Testament for the tabernacle, the place where God dwelt in the midst of His people.

More importantly, I believe it is why we are here today, and it is why this day is so hard.

You see, we call places like St. Paul’s Lutheran church our “church home” for a reason.  This is the place were people have come home to God for decades, for generations. It was here we learned to feel at home in the presence of God, it is here where we came to be baptized, to celebrate Christmas and Easter and Pentecost, it is from this place we buried those who left this church home for their heavenly home.

For here God made us feel at home with Him.

You may not have realized why this place became your church home, we may have never reflected upon it.  But it was a church home, and therefore leaving it is a moment of sadness, a moment of sorrow, a moment where we question what happened, what went wrong, why did this happen.

And today, as we move on from this home, we need to realize why this place was our home, where God made His home among His people.

The Place where God Has Put His name

In our Old Testament reading, we see Solomon addressing God at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. In that prayer, even as they dedicate this building, Solomon’s prayer includes the concept that God can’t live on earth.  Yet the temple was the place where he put His name, and people could pray, and know they could be at home with God,

Hear the words again,

 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive. 

This place where God put His name served the same purpose.  This is the place where God has made you at home in His presence.  He cleansed you, he brought healing to your souls, He forgave your sin and fed you the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

and then, for others, this place was where they found him, even as aliens found God at the temple…again from the Old Testament reading,

41  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42  for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do.1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT2)

Over the years, the numbers of people baptized in this place is numerous, the number of people who discovered God because their prayers were answered has been significant.  That is why we are here today, to celebrate how God’s mercy has been poured out in this place.

To realize that it is a special place, that it has been a church home, a place where God has put His name.

It is in that name we find out the hope Paul worked diligently, with all he had to preach and teach.  The riches of the mystery of Christ in you! And in the end, Paul’s statement to another church will ring true about this church home, numerous people will be presented mature in Christ Jesus, because of the ministry that has happened here.

The Work Done Here, Has Honored His Name

The apostle Paul once said that the people he wrote to were the evidence of God’s work through Paul.  In the same way, those who came to faith here, and those people whose faith was sustained here throughout the years are proof that this place has been home to God and man, communing together. It is the place where He put His name,

In a couple of hours, after we commune together, after we share in the stories of God’s work in this place, the doors will close, the lights will be turn off, and we will move on.  It may take a while to get used to the new place where God draws you to Himself, these temporary homes on our pilgrimage to our eternal home with Him.

There will be some dissonance, just as when the red hymnal was changed out for the blue, and then the burgundy.  Or when the King James gave way to the RSV, then the NIV, then the ESV or NLT.  Yet the main thing does not change.  The main thing is this: God will continue to draw you to a place where His people can realize the gifts of grace, the forgiveness of sins that testifies that we are safe and at home in Christ.  And that others will pray there and find themselves at home as well.

And until we are all before the throne in heaven, we find ourselves drawn to where God has put His name, that we can come and pray and be forgiven, where unbelievers can pray and have God answer. In such places, we will know God’s peace, a peace beyond all understanding, For Christ will guard you there, keeping your hearts and minds safe in these earthly homes.
AMEN!

The Idol of “Pragmatic Ministry”

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had
seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them
. Acts 16:9-10

Why don’t we try to live and transmit the priority of non-quantifiable values: friendship, the ability to simply celebrate the good moments of life, sincerity that encourages peace, confidence and trust? It may be easy to say, as poetic as these values may sound, but extremely demanding to live them, since it requires that we stop worshiping the god of “efficiency-at-all-cost”, so deeply rooted in our post-modern mindset.

In the last 50 years, the church has struggled with becoming “missional”, to take up the “apostolate” and get back to the work the church has been placed in the world to do. The work Paul summarized in Colossians this way, “to present everyman perfect in Chrsit Jesus.”

In the process, we have gotten quite pragmatic. We have taken models of efficient business practices and adapated them to the church. We’ve developed experts and consultants to evaluate our churches based on models and metrics.

In the process we’ve made our goal the replication of what works, and idol of pragmatic, reproducable ministry. You see it in the early days of Evangelism Explosion, (aka the Kennedy model) which had similar models adapted to their own denominational doctrine.) We see it as pastors buy books and try to replicate the best practices of whatever is working, even if it being in a different culture or demographic.

Pope Francis has it right, we’ve become so enamored with pragmatism and efficiency that we will choose them over peace, confidence, and trust. We choose it over friendship and deep fellowship, Those things are less focused upon, because the investment to see them come to fruition is too high, to vague, to unable to be truly measured.

One would even wonder what would happen if we were given a vision of people from Macedonia begging us to come, to assst them. Would we respond to the vision? Would we allow the Spirit to drive us to a place where the gospel is needed? Or would we dismiss the vision, for it dosen’t fit into our vision plan, and it can’t be measured to see if it is a viable mission.

I am not saying we completely fly by the seat of our pants, that we set aside anything that is pragmatic, that we don’t evaluate our ministry’s efficiency. We doo need this, and yet, we need to balance it, spending time in meditation, lsitening to God, growing so intimate with Him that we recognize His voice, and know when we are to follow Him.

Even when it doesn’t make logical sense.

Even when it calls for great courage, great sacrifice, and in the end only changes one or two lives…

Remember, God’s ways are beyond ours.

So walk with Him, stay close, and be amazed at how He leads you.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 100). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.


Your search for meaning, for happiness, for contentment.

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day!

23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people. Colossians 3:23 (TEV)

This is the definition of a vocation! A vocation is an encounter with God’s love, which gives a new horizon and a decisive direction to one’s life. A vocation is a concrete path of loving, a concrete and fundamental response, a choice of love, of making the sincere gift of self. It is the way we are to beget—to generate life, to give abundant fruit—as Jesus calls us in the Gospel of St John, chapter 15.
Therefore, a vocation is always an orientation of the human heart to find the fullness of love and to dedicate oneself to the service of love. A vocation will always imply the free and total response to love, the total giving and surrender of self for the cause of the beloved and to find the full realization of self in this free and total donation of self. Love is a fundamental decision. Love is our vocation, our dignity, our gift, and our task. ‘Love is now no longer a mere command, it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us’ (Deus caritas est, 1).

Many people are not satisfied with their lot in life.

They might not like their job or their role in their family. They might fight their role at church unfulfilling, They may find the people they interact with tiresome, antagonistic, boring. They may tire of the repetitive nature of their work or the constant changes they endure.

We change jobs, or desire too, hoping the next job will bring about the happiness we think is our right. We do the same thing with marriages, with our friendships, with our churches and the other groups we play a part in, which cannot satisfy.

We look to these outside influences to provide us what we need, and we miss the inner life, the place where peace and joy find their origin, as we walk with God. It is there, where the breath of the Holy Spirit not only brings us to life but refreshes and sustains us, that we begin to realize that one can find contentment, peace, even joy in the midst of anything we are involved in, even in our own martyrdom.

That is why we are told by Paul to see God ss the final benefactor of our work, of our toil, Joy comes when we have poured out all we are before God, submitting it all to Him, allowing Him to guide each effort, to heal each brokenness.

That is how we respond to His love, which is beyond measure> We let Him love us, and transform us. He builds in us the ability to trust Him, to depend on Him, and as we do, everything we are is transformed. And in everything we do, we know His hand is there.

So we love in return, showing that love in our families, in our work, in our churches, and as we take Christ into our communities.

You want contentment, you want joy? You want a job that has meaning? You want to know this in situations you don’t like?

Find it all in your first vocation, your first calling,

For you are a child of God.

Galindo, A. (2012). Loving Jesus in the Eucharist with Mary: The Foundation of Religious Life. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 42). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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