Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to HIs cross.
They assembled before Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! All the members of the community belong to the LORD, and the LORD is with all of us. Why, then, Moses, do you set yourself above the LORD’s community?”
When Moses heard this, he threw himself on the ground and prayed. Then he said…… Numbers 16:3-5 NLT
Give yourself to the LORD; trust in him, and he will help you; he will make your righteousness shine like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:5-6 NLT
For no one desires to be lifted if he is unaware that he has fallen, just as one who does not feel the pain of a wound does not seek to have it healed. Therefore, these people must first be shown that the things they love are vain, and then carefully (and over time) they should be made aware of the usefulness of the things they ignore.
We must be careful to follow neither the customs of the world nor our own reason or plausible theories. We must constantly subdue our disposition and control our will, not obeying the dictates of reason and desire.
Faith in God is possible now. What we are blind to is not the law of God, but the glory of God—calling into being that which is from that which is not.
Most of us like to think we are reasonable. Yet we can often see that which is unreasonable in others. Indeed, a loto f the counseling I do will hear the complaint that the other party is “unreasonable” or is too “emotional”
It is too bad that we cannot see the frailty of our own reason, and our need to be suspicious of it. Otherwise, we could prevent our own rebellion, whether we are rebelling against God, or against those whom God has allowed to be in place.
What we need to do is follow Moses example. Whether we are the one’s questioning someone else’s reason, or those whose logic is being questioned, we need to throw ourselves down, and pray and seek God’s wisdom. We desperately need to follow the psalmist’s advice, and give ourselves to the LORD who has saved us already.
This is the only hope for those who know their reason is faulty, that their logic has significant holes and gaps. The challenge is realizing it, for we are blind and deaf to such problems. This is nothing new – Gregory the Great points it out quite clearly, as well as reminds us it takes time to first realize we are broken, to stop defending it, and then to hunger for the healing found in the logic, the logos of Jesus.
It is only then, as we grow and humbly cope with our broken reason, that we can see that our problem wasn’t God’s logic, His definition of right and wrong. Rather, the biggest hole in our reason was not accounting for the glory of God!
For God creates something out of that which is nothing. He does this for one reason – He loves us. Broken, injured, flawed, yet being reconciled and healed and conformed to the image of Jesus.
Heavenly Father, with grace and patience, correct our flawed logic and reason, our emotions and feelings as well. Help us to welcome the Holy Spirit’s work in conforming us to the image of Jesus, cutting away that which is not like Him. We pray this in Jesus’ name.. AMEN!.
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 194.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 25.
Gerhard O. Forde, “The Preacher,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 77.
Devotional Thought of the Day
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT2)
Whoever, therefore, gives himself up to obedience, must needs detach himself totally from his own opinion. “What though each one,” says St. Francis de Sales, “has his own opinions, virtue is not thereby violated; but virtue is violated by the attachment which we have to our own opinions.”1 But alas! this attachment is the hardest thing to part with; and hence there are so few persons wholly given to God, because few render a thorough submission to obedience.
True faith requires that we believe everything God has said about Himself, but also that we believe everything He has said about us. Until we believe that we are as bad as God says we are, we can never believe that He will do for us what He says He will do.
It is one of our modern idols.
It’s not made of gold or wood, or bronze, but it is as surely an idol for modern times.
We believe we have the right to our opinions, we believe we have the right to think and say whatever comes to mind.
Not only do we believe we are entitled to our opinions, but the world is entitled to them as well. And we will freely tell in them on our Instagram page, our Twitter, our Facebook page, and our blogs.. (err…hmmmm)
De Ligouri had it write when talking about the need to slay these idols, and this attachment is the hardest thing to part with in our lives. It cannot save us, it cannot bring healing to our lives, it cannot be trusted, swayed by our emotion, and our fallen logic.
Our opinion can create a false sense of pride, or it can abuse us. THat is why Tozer reminds us to believe what God has said about us, both that we are bad, and that He can take care of that…. and has. Only dwelling in Christ, believing in God’s opinion do owe find what we truly need, and then with that, we find His comfort and His peace. When we lay aside our opinion, and seek Christ, we see things far differently, for His opinion matters, and ours is revealed for what it is… and falls aside.
Lord, this day, take into captivity any thoughts, any opinions which are not from You. Renew our hearts, souls and minds by the power of Your Spirit, and help us to enjoy the peace and comfort there is, as our minds reflect the mind of Jesus. Amen!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gcill & Son, 1887), 410.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought of the Day
12 When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and earnestly humbled himselfe before the God of his ancestors. 13 He prayed to him, and the LORD was receptive to his prayer. He granted his requestf and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that the LORD is God. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 CSB
26 Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD: ‘This is what the LORD God of Israel says: As for the words that you heard, 27 becausen your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before me, and you tore your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard’—this is the LORD’s declaration. 28 ‘I will indeed gather you to your ancestors, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace 2 Chron 34:26-28 CSB
Someone wrote to the godly Macarius of Optino that his spiritual counsel had been helpful. “This cannot be,” Macarius wrote in reply. “Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God, His advice that I happened to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.”
Likewise, they teach that this faith is bound to yield good fruits and that it ought to do good works commanded by God on account of God’s will and not so that we may trust in these works to merit justification before God Article VI, Augsburg Confession
Naturalness and simplicity are two marvelous human virtues which enable men to take in the message of Christ. On the other hand, all that is tangled and complicated, the twisting and turning about one’s own problems—all this builds up a barrier which often prevents people from hearing our Lord’s voice.
Reading about the Kings of Judah can be depressing, it can even rob you of hope. For so many of them rejected the God we know, that their ancestor David knew so well. Mannasseh started out like so many of them, in fact, he may have been the one who strayed the furthest from God, leading people into all forms of idolatry.
Then God entered into the picture… and everything changed.
God brought him back to Jerusalem – completely reversing the captivity that has been prophesied to Hezekiah. His grandson would grasp on to that promise as well, and restore the Temple, the place where God would meet His people, care for them and cleanse them.
They both realized their need for God, and that humbled them. And God healed them, and healed the people,
That is the same kind of spirit that Macarius had, One that realized that anything good in him was because of God, and indeed tracable to Jesus. It is the same thing the Lutheran Confessions testify too – that the believer will do good and righteous thigns, as they dwell in Christ. That is the nature of the Bishop, who gave up the treasure of the church, his own treasures, because ValJean was one of God’s people. It would take a lifetime for ValJean to give up the game… but he did.
It is keeping it simple – because the more complicated we make it, the more plans and strategies we lay down, the more it is about our work, and the less it is about Jesus.
Which brings us to the idea of the church, the people the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and makes holy by the Blood of Jesus. That is who we are. a bunch of broken people desperately in need of God’s love, and His touch on our lives.
That is what being a normal Christian is about, our need for God, a God who is always there. A God who can redeem us, and what we’ve done, and even find a way to make that into a blessing. So we don’t have ot hide who we are, we dont’ have to make up stories, or play games that make us our to be more moral or virtuous than we are. We can stop wasting time on trying to convicne ourselves and others that we are worth some.
God alreayd provided for that, by letting us nail Jesus to the cross. Sending Him to be nailed there, so that we could be drawn into Him….die to self… and be resurrected to new life.
That is what it all boils down to…
We are in Jesus…..
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 41.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Walking in Christ’s Light:
We are concerned about others walk
1 Cor. 8:1-13
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you and those you encounter in life.
Anyone offer any food to idols recently?
I would like to start today’s message by asking an odd question.
When was the last time you ate a mean that was spiritually unclean because it was offered to an idol?
How many even know what that means?
So most of you couldn’t see arguing about that in a congregational meeting? You can’t see Tom and Dane or Jim and Manny, or Bob and Bob yelling and screaming at each other and threatening each other with physical harm over some bacon-wrapped shrimp?
However, other things that people contend are a big enough issue to divide a church or the Church.
Sometimes, the issue is big enough, like whether we are justified by grace alone. Or that Jesus was fully man and fully God. Another issue would be that the elements there on the altar are the body and blood of Christ un and under the bread and wine.
But with most things, even things we think are “religious”, we need to listen to that famous theologian, Captain Jack Sparrow:
“The problem is not the problem. Your attitude about the problem is the problem!”Law – Depending on what we know, rather than seeing people as people
We see this is in the words of St. Paul,
“Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. 2 Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.
Here is the problem – we all think we have all the knowledge on a subject. Whether it is about eating meat offered to idols, or how to properly be Lutheran, or about Politics, or Football or COVID. Our knowledge knows what is right, and that’s the end of the story, right?
No, if you think you know everything about a subject, then you know nothing. The knowledge you have, scripture says, makes you feel important, but it isn’t all there is on the subject.
And while that knowledge makes you feel important, there is a problem. Yo
Important compared to whom?
Who do you think you are better than? Who has to be brought down low so that you can be more important?
There is the first sin, the sin against your brother or sister who you demand bow to your superior knowledge…
The second reason such an idea is sin is that if we claim to know it, all and scripture doesn’t mention it directly, we merely are playing God.
And while the Corinthians were arguing about food offered to idols, they were making themselves the idol, the final judge who condemn people based on their own knowledge.
You and I do the same thing. Our pride in our knowledge judges and condemns people for things that our preferences, rather than what God clearly reveals.
Or just the opposite… we don’t address the sin we know needs to be addressed because we know better than those judging us…
And the way we act, our attitude about our knowledge shows how we use it, that our idol is more important than the people of God.
Paul begs us to not worship idols, these things that we make to be the gods we rely upon, whether in heaven or on earth. Because we have something more.
Gospel – seeing for whom we live in through whom we have a life!
Hear Paul again,
6 But for us, There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live! (exclamation point mine)
Instead of relying on our own knowledge, instead of turning the knowledge we have collected from man and making that data the basis for our lives, this matters
There is God the Father, who created you.
And there is God, our Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Father, through whom we have been recreated, and through whom we live.
In other words, everything we are, everything that defines us, everything that makes a difference in our lives is found in our relationship with Jesus…
The relationship defines everything about us, for God is our God.
I need to repeat that,
The relationship defines everything about us, for God is our God.
Through the scriptures, the knowledge He gives us – even that needs to be used in a way that draws people to Jesus.
For He died to do that! That is why our sins are forgiven so that we realize we live for God and that we live through God!
Looking at Him – people matter
The last point in this sermon comes from the first verse.
But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.
If knowledge causes us to feel important, love helps us realize that others are important.
That our freedom isn’t worth driving a wedge between them and God because they feel guilty for doing things they feel are wrong, but that we know is okay.
That is why Paul says he will go without meat or bacon. Too many didn’t know their freedom there, and rather than force them to approve of what they consider sin, he would go without…
For man doesn’t live by Woodranch alone. But man because of the very word of God… the word of God which declares our sin forgiven, that declares this bread and wine to be the Body and Blood of Christ, that declares us to be the family of God, and invites us to this feast…
Where we can pause, and find rest and peace in the presence of God…. AMEN!
Devotional Thought for Today:
1 First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. 2 Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God. 3 This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Savior. 4 God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth, which is, 5 There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us. 6 God showed us this at the right time.
1 Timothy 2:1-6 (CEV)
“I think more of the place where I was baptized than of Rheims Cathedral where I was crowned. It is a greater thing to be a child of God than to be the ruler of a Kingdom. This last I shall lose at death but the other will be my passport to an everlasting glory.” (St. Louis IX, King of France)
746 From there, where you are working, let your heart escape to the Lord, right close to the Tabernacle, to tell him, without doing anything odd, “My Jesus, I love You”. Don’t be afraid to call him so—my Jesus—and to say it to him often.
In the same spirit of humility he directed in his will that the following inscription and noting more should be vut on his gravestone:-
WILLIAM CAREY, BOTRN AUGUST 17th, 1761.: DIED-
“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm…on Thy kind arms I fall.”
The king and the missionary knew the same thing.
They understood what truly mattered in life. Both had amazing successes, and failures beyond imagination. They were known and loved by some of those they served, and hated by others. Neither was perfect, yet both knew what mattered in their life, to the extent that I would hold their words up to you, and ask you to come to similar conclusions.
The same conclusion that St. Josemaria urges us, even as we work diligently, to let our hearts escape into God’s presence, and declare boldly, “my Jesus…”
You see that is what the great missionary to India meant, as he fell into the arms of Christ. Nothing else in his life was worth recognizing, save that. The King, choosing more important the moment where the Father unites him to Jesus, in the death and resurrection of Christ, (see Romans 6, Colossians 2) says the same thing.
Everything that is critical in life boils down to to that point, where Jesus makes us His people.
This is what we need to pray, that as God is revealed to people, that they know His love, and His mercy, so shown to us at the cross.
It is the presence of God that we need in our lives. That is where everything changes. To realize that is what Jesus gave up to gain for us, to be welcome there in the presence of the Father, to be drawn into the glorious love in which the Trinity dances, this is everything.
That is the point of the religion we call Christianity. Not to just explore where we have come from as humanity. Not just to reign in behavior, teaching people how to be good to each other.
Our purpose is that everyone, from people in France and India, clergy and politicians and those they lead, know the miracle of being welcome into the presence of God!
This is why we pray for people, surely asking for God to help them in their times of being challenged, but that they might now Him as well.
So my friends pray for all… and pray they come to know the living Lord Jesus, and then together with Louis, and Josemaria, and William, find the peace that passes all understanding, as we experience the Love that goes beyond explanation.. and know I pray you know this too!.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Spurgeon, Charles. Morning and Evening – Morning, August 29, Logos Edition
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Matthew 5:20 (NLT2)
10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ Luke 18:10-13 (NLT2)
943 Be careful that in dealing with other people you don’t make them feel like someone who once exclaimed (and not without reason), “I’m fed up with these righteous characters!”
The problem of dealing with the hypocrisy of pharisaical people is that we often become as pharisaical as they are! We grow in disdain over their self-proclaimed righteousness, and we begin to compare ourselves to them. We might say, “Yes, I am better because I know what a sinner IAM, and God has saved me, while he is off thinking God should just honor him.”
It is too easy to become self-righteous in our own eyes. This results in the situation that St.Josemaria mentions. The horrible thought that our righteousness act would drive someone away from the love and mercy of Jesus. That we could rob them of the peace of Christ because we are simply a bunch of assholes, pretending to be holy. That we could become so pharisaical that we would not enter God’s presence…is beyond horror, beyond sadness…
And yet we do it, every time we compare our faithfulness, our doctrine, our actions to those around u.
he tax collector, desiring the Lord’s mercy, doesn’t compare himself to the pharisee. He seeks absolution, He seeks to be cleansed of his sin, he seeks to be healed of his brokenness. He prays there and walks away righteous, having encounter the God who promised to be merciful.
Having been shown mercy, we become merciful. Having been loved, we are able to love. Without even realizing it, we are revealed to be in the presence of God.
Where we belong.
Lord, have mercy on me…a sinner.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Faith in Action: Comes Close
† IHS †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ draw you closer to them, and overwhelm you with love and peace, as you help draws others in!
Have you ever been caught between two friends who are fighting? Both whom want you attention, who want you to be on their side?
What if one has been a longer friend, who you have had a lot of fun with over decades, and the other, while a close friend, is somewhat newer?
But what if this newer friend is the one who is right?
That is the picture we see in the apostle James’s letter this morning. Even as he urges us to draw close to God, he recognizes the draw of the world on us,
Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world
This divided loyalty is something that creates trauma, that causes us more problems, yet the hold of the world on us is so strong, even though we know how broken it is.
It so challenges the relationship we have with God, it so prevents our drawing close to God!
The Struggle with Zeal….
James talks about the world’s ways using primarily two thoughts in this passage. Bitter Jealousy and ambition.
Bitter Jealousy is described as sour, or poisoned zeal, a desire to chase after something for the pleasure it brings. The second problem is related to it, the ambition that drives us to get what we want because we want it. It is a word that is used to describe mercenaries, those who do what they do only for the rewards that they will receive.
Not for love, not out of honor. Just for what they get out of it.
No wonder James calls such things worldly, unspiritual and even demonic.
He even notes this self-centeredness can influence our prayers when we pray for what will give us pleasure, what we want and desire. As our desire grows, we find ourselves justifying what we do to get what we desire, eventually we don’t even consider the cost.
For what we desire demands our loyalty, and we find ourselves involved in a war….
And remember, James isn’t writing this to heathen unbelievers, he is writing it to believers, those struggling to live life in a broken world, torn between God and that world.
He is talking to us.
And we struggle with being caught between the world and God all the time if we admit it. It isn’t just about pleasure, it can be about seeking comfort, or security, or happiness, when those things are more important to us that God, or other humans.
We see this all the time in the lives of others, especially those who think different than us, as we oppose them, not interested in justice as much as being right.
So how do we break free of the grasp the world has on us? How do we break free of the sin that so easily ensnares us?
The Healing Humility found before God
I think most would suggest that James is teaching that the hope is found in the humility that he mentions a few times in this passage. Particularly these two places
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you.
Yet in both these statements, humility comes not from our work outside of God’s presence, in the first it comes from understanding God’s ways, and in the second place, it comes as you are before God, as you are drawn close to Him.
This is where our hope is found, this is where the power of sin, driven by our desire for what we want is broken.
For it is when we experience the love of God, that real humility comes into play, as we stand in His glorious, wonderful presence. When we realize He loves us, that is when all else falls away, and we simply and humbly find that with Him, we can dwell in His merciful, loving peace.
For what else is there, standing in front of God, but realizing His love and peace?
Prodigals Lifted up!
It is from there, simply in awe of His love, that God’s will makes sense. His desire that we would love each other, and even those who drive us crazy. It is there we can see the needs of those around us and find ourselves responding to them way before we respond to our own wants and desires.
It’s that kind of thing I saw in the eyes of one man this week, whom the church provided a stack of gift cards for, who was amazed that we would care for him, and his family.
That is what happens when our loyalties are less divided when we give up being prodigals and come to the altar, when we come home. As God sees us before Him, in awe of His love, humbled to be in His glory… and He lifts us up as He gathers His children to His side.
As we wait for that day, I pray you come closer and closer to God, as you realize that you dwell in His peace, the peace that is beyond explanation, as He guards our hearts and minds! AMEN!
What Really Matters
2 Cor. 12:1-10
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you realize what matters in this life., which allows you to depend on His faithfulness. AMEN!
The Fable of the Animals
As Vicar Timothy and I talked about this passage this week, he told me an ancient Chinese fable.
Once upon a time, there was a gathering of the animals. And as they gathered along the seashore, they wanted to know about each other, what strengths they could bring to the community. There was a gracious grand eagle, who told of his ability to soar high over the land and see how glorious the kingdom was. There was a huge elephant, who talked about his power and strength that was greater than all of them so he could take on all the heavy jobs. A Blue whale, resting comfortably offshore, talked of being the largest animal in the ocean, and an ability to explore deeper than any other animal. One after another they went, telling of what they could do best.
Finally, there was Mr. Frog, who looked around and considered all the incredible things others could do. He didn’t do all that much, just sat on his lily pad and watched and observed and occasionally… caught a passing fly for dinner. You know, sort of like this! He thought his life was boring, and if that’s all he said he was, the other animals would mock him, or laugh, or perhaps ignore him. And so he came up with an odd talent of his and said he could transform himself into a much larger being. So he swallowed more an more air, extending out his belly and making it larger. He looked around and realized he didn’t impress anyone, so he refused to swallow his pride, swallowed more air and puffed himself up even more, and again, puffing himself up even more, and finally, he puffed himself up so much, his gut exploded, and body parts went all over the room.
Too Great – or the Ultimate martyr
We do this all the time, no matter the culture. We want others to think we are great, or what we do is great. We want to be admired, we want to be someone, even if only in our grandparents, or grandkids eyes. So we exaggerate a little. We feed our ego.
Or if we can’t be the greatest, we make ourselves out to be martyrs, those who sacrifice everything for others. I suffer more than you do, see how great I am at giving things up so you can have what you want? That too feeds our ego, if we serve more and harder, and are willing to sacrifice everything.
It’s to people like us, the frogs of the world that Paul writes to when he writes to Corinthians. Average people, but people that struggle with their identity, with their reputation.
Paul, you know, the apostle who spread the gospel throughout the Mediterranean Basin, the guy, who like John, had a revelation of Jesus that we’ve never read about, save in these few words. Paul, who wrote to the Philippians that all his earthly credentials were as valuable as the remains of the human digestive system. Here is saying that even visions from heaven are not worth it, because maybe they take attention from what really matters.
And then he says something really strange, the problems he has, the thorns in the flesh, the stresses, the brokenness, these things are a blessing. A blessing simply because when we are in the midst of the trauma when we are in the midst of the thorns. There, we hear God say these simple words,
My grace is all you need, Those were words that enabled Paul to boast, not about his strengths, not about his suffering, but his inabilities, his weakness, his brokenness. Because when he was at his worst, the power of God was able to be seen in Him.
My grace is all you need…..
If we could only understand that.
The incomplete fable
Going back to Timothy’s fable, it ends with the frog, blown out of shape, his body exploding from trying to live up to the hype, trying to live up to the pressure from blowing his value all out of proportion.
I asked him what he thought most people would think God would say if he walked up on the scene. He thought most people in the world, even Christians, would expect God to lecture the frog, or even judge and condemn him for doing all that damage to himself. For breaking the commandments, for making himself the idol that needed to be worshipped, for bearing false witness about himself. Mr. Frog, people would think – you have done yourself in.
That is not the God that tells us, “My grace is all you need” He gently picks up each part of us, and puts us back together, healing us. That is what grace is, not just forgiveness as in, “you aren’t going to get punished for this” but the grace that brings healing to whatever we’ve done, that restores us and makes us hole.
What our sin destroyed, God calls back into being. What sin has killed, God resurrects.
If he does that with our sin, He also does it with those things that challenge us in each day. The insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that exist as we try and serve those who need it, as we care for those who can’t seem to care for themselves, as we love those who consider themselves unlovable.
Beyond our Sin
If this is true regarding Christ saving us, it extends into all our life and all our ministry to others. We don’t need to be the one people praise, we don’t need to be the one everyone notices.
What matters is that people know we know that God’s grace is sufficient for us, that it will get us through the trials and pains that serving God too often results in, even if those challenges are as brutal as Paul mentions. For that is Paul’s context, in this letter. He doesn’t care where he ranks among the apostles, even though he could claim it.
He would rather have God’s people know that in every part of life, the thing that matters is God is there. If that is seen in his weakness, praise God. For then they know in their weakness, in their days where anxiety sets in, in those days when nothing gets done, or it seems two steps forward result in 10 steps back…
In those days, He is there, and our ministry, our caring for others, he does in ways far beyond anything we can imagine. For what really matters is that you know God’s love, and His mercy, and His faithfulness. Understand that… and you will be at peace.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created 7 This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:7-10 (NJB)
592 Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?
There is a balance to everything in life, especially in how we are to view ourselves. The problem is we fail to judge ourselves accurately. And sometimes we believe we are superheroes, and sometimes just the opposite.
Pride may cause our self=examination to fail n that we think we are better than we are, smarter, more beautiful, more successful, more in tune with life. So too may a poor self-esteem, as we consider ourselves the ugliest, the most wretched, the failures that deserve nothing more than eating dirt.
Asking others doesn’t help, they may boost our pride, they may tear us down even more. And when these statements are coming from well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we keep them in balance?
Into this discussion comes the words of a simple, but a very effective priest. St Josemaria was fond of describing himself as a donkey, tied to one of those decides that lets him walk in a circle, faithfully plodding, though sometimes in need of some “encouragement” His words today, describing us as a garbage, re-purposed as a planter makes so much sense.
It establishes our value, who we are, not based on our natural talents, abilities, charisma, but rather on what the “divine gardener does with us”. Our value, our being is so integrated into God, that we take on both humility and yet a meaning deeper than anything we could have imagined.
This is God at work in you and I, God at work creating something in us not seen before, A value that finds fulfillment in the greatest work there is, the saving of souls. What an incredible joy it is to know that someone will be in heaven rather than hell because I took a moment to pray, a moment to offer comfort, a moment to help them know peace.
That somehow, God can use you and me to reveal His glorious love to others.
Even if how he uses us in the same way he used St. Paul
15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17 (NLT2)
God is at work… He is with us… all glory and honor to Him, who makes us His children, and invites us to the feast!
Conversation: Which do you think you are, the superhero or the slimeball Do you struggle more with being humble, or with seeing yourself having value?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1413-1416). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 I will take action against you. I will purify you the way metal is refined, and will remove all your impurity. 26 I will give you rulers and advisers like those you had long ago. Then Jerusalem will be called the righteous, faithful city.” 27 Because the LORD is righteous, he will save Jerusalem and everyone there who repents. Isaiah 1:25-27 (TEV)
The LORD says that his people reject him.7 Because of this the LORD Almighty says, “I will refine my people like metal and put them to the test. My people have done evil— what else can I do with them? Jeremiah 9:5-7 (TEV)
485 Well, so what? Unless your motive is hidden pride (you think you’re perfect), I don’t understand how you can give up that work for souls just because God’s fire which first attracted you, besides giving the light and warmth that aroused your enthusiasm, should also at times produce the smoke that results from the weakness of the instrument!
I don’t like confrontations, and even less do I like politics, of either the secular or church variety. They raise too much heat, they cause too much stress, they cause a reaction that is to fight or to flee, neither of which is good, right or beneficial.
Yet, as a pastor who is a sinner as much as the flock, he guides towards Jesus, I have realized two things about both confrontations and the politics that lead to them.
1. Heat caused by conflict is inevitable in the church.
2. Despite my dislike for it, despite how uncomfortable it makes people, there is always a blessing for those who neither fight nor flee, but depend upon God to resolve the conflict and reconcile those who struggle with each other.
Conflict can dull our enthusiasm for the church, and for the apostolate, the mission God has sent us all on, to bring the message of reconciliation to the people He would call His own. But the very idea that reconciliation is needed means there is heat somewhere, and that the mission will be uncomfortable.
One of the reasons it is uncomfortable is that part of what the heat will remove, our pride. This is the refining, the heat applied in such a way it gets rid of the imputiries, Even the pride that is buried deep within us, hidden even from our own conscious view.
If we can remember that even the person we are in conflict with can and will be used by God if we remember even if they are 90 percent wrong, there is ten percent of their statement that is a message from God, sent to purify us.
And it will, and the more pride that is hidden within us, the more the heat will rise. ANd we have to let it, w have to be patient, for to throw cold water on it will cause more of an explosion. We have to let it work itself out. It will, For God will perfect us, in His time, and this heat is part of the process!
That’s uncomfortable, but it is okay. You and I can survive the heat, we can stay in the kitchen. For I am confident that God will use this for good. He will refine us in it, the Holy Spirit will bring us comfort, even as we are transformed, purified. (and I still won’t like it!)
For what else can God do? He loves us, He can’t leave us broken, impure, spoilt. This heat can be part of our salvation, part of our sanctification.
So even as we struggle, even as we hate the challenges, the heat, we can stay, trusting God. He will work during the time when the heat is up, when we have to cry out,, Lord have mercy! And we can learn to cry it out confidently, and be patient for the resolution, for the reconciliation.
For He is with us! AMEN!
Lord Jesus, send forth your Spirit to all who are enduring times where the heat is rising when life is challenging because of conflicts, even those that we try and ignore, or hide. Lord during these times, help us depend on You, trusting You to keep your promises to us. Humble us when needed Lord, keep us pliable and patient, comfort us and sustain us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1186-1189). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.