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Why Is the Church Sterile?

Devotional Thought of the Day

28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowd was amazed at the way he taught. 29 He wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority. Matthew 7:28-29 (TEV)

I would have been glad to see my books remain altogether in obscurity and sink into oblivion, because, among other reasons, I shudder at the example I am setting. I can well see what use it has been for the church to collect numerous books and large libraries in addition to and besides the holy scripture and indiscriminately store all sorts of writings, especially of the church fathers, councils, and teachers. Through that practice not only is precious time for studying scripture wasted, but the pure knowledge of God’s word is forever lost as well, until (as happened in the Book of Deuteronomy in the time of the kings of Judah) the Bible is left forgotten in the dust under a bench (2 Kgs 22:8). …

What we also had in mind, when we began translating the Bible itself into German, was the hope that writing would decrease and the studying and reading of the scripture would increase. For all other writing should lead into and point toward the scripture, just as John [the Baptist] pointed to Christ, saying, “I must decrease, Christ must increase” (John 3:30), so that each one might drink for himself or herself from the fresh source, as all the fathers had to do if they wanted their work to be done well.

927         Be convinced of this: your apostolate consists in spreading goodness, light, enthusiasm, generosity, a spirit of sacrifice, constancy in work, deep study, complete self-surrender, being up-to-date, cheerful and complete obedience to the Church, and perfect charity. Nobody can give what he does not have.

I have a lot of books, nearly 3/4 of my office is lined with bookshelves, and some of those shelves are double stacked. I have another large collection and home, and my LOGOS, Wordsearch and Kindle libraries double again my collection.

Some of those books have been quite influential in my life and ministry. Writers like Luther, St Josemaria Escriva Walther, Willimon, John Stott, Martin Lloyd Jones, Tony Campolo, Bob Logan, Paul Borden, Robert Schuler, Michael Card and Fulton Sheen have left their mark (Along with novelists like Alexander Kent, Frank Perretti, and WEB Griffin)

I’ve quoted such people in sermons before, even though many people don’t know who they are.

As I read Luther’s words this morning, I suddenly felt guilty, convicted of the very thing that Luther warned about. Have I allowed these men, even as they are men who have guided and led people closer to Christ, to have more influence on me that scripture itself?

Do I read them more often than I read scripture, are they more impactful on my spiritual formation than the scripture is, itself? While I have my issues with each of them, it is certainly possible that I rely on, that I am dependent on their works more than the source from which we all (prayerfully) receive our revelation of God’s love.

It was said that Jesus taught differently from the rabbis of his day, That He taught with authority, as someone with first-hand experience, first-hand knowledge of what he spoke. It is my assertion that this is true because He spoke directly for God. This is different than those of his day, he spoke of someone else’s opinion, a 3rd or 4th hand account of what someone saw in the scriptures.

Am I saying these other works are of no use, of no benefit? No, but I do believe that they must be secondary in our lives, and scripture first. We need to be able to speak with God’s authority into the lives of people as broken as we are, pointing them to the hope we have.

But when we rely on these works primarily, we aren’t receiving the gospel directly, the seed isn’t being planted, and we turn into unfertile, sterile ground. We need to give our people more, which means we need to hear this hope that God gives us, we need to hear that God loves us.

Hope found directly in scriptures, revealed by the Holy Spirit in the words recorded to benefit us, to reveal to us the heart of God, and what He does for His people. I need to learn to revel in His revelation as the writer of Psalm 119 did and pass that along, helping people look to Jesus, the author and One who completes their faith.

Then the church will be more alive, feeding from the source, growing from the gospel planted in them.

Heavenly Father and dearest Lord Jesus, thank you for the men whose lives and writings have impacted our lives, even so, Lord, help us desire to spend more time in Your word, and point our people to that word, that they may be refreshed, that they may know of Your love, and grace. As we spend this time in your word, help us see the revival you bring in your church. 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. 120). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3768-3771). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Apostle Paul and “Marie Condo’ing You Spiritual Life:

Decluttering Your Life
Philippians 3:4-14

† In Jesus Name †
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May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so give you peace, that everything that at all the trash in your life would disappear.

Office Talk

When you work in the office, there is often interesting conversations going on.  One of them I heard about a month ago was about this lady named Marie Condo. She wrote a book and has a show focused on two things – “tidying up” and “the art of decluttering”

Her theory is that decluttering gets rid of all the things in life that bog you down, that consume time and space, and to be honest, make you life look like someone’s garage that doesn’t have enough room to park a bicycle in.

Not that I am thinking of anyone’s garage in particular!

I don’t know if the theory works in regards to our physical lives, but I know the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Philippians makes a case that our Spiritual lives need to be de-cluttered!

By the way, Marie Condo’s key phrase for decluttering, when you pick something up, is “Does this bring me joy”, and if it doesn’t, just place it in the back of Chuck’s truck!

Seriously, that is one of the considerations we will see Paul use, as He describes this to the church in Philippi, does this bring me joy?

Our Spiritual life is like our Garage.. it needs to be de-cluttered

How many of you have a garage that you can’t list the contents of in less than … three hours? How about that extra closet?  And if you have an attic? 

Oh my gosh, do we clutter up our lives.

We do that spiritually as well.

We need to declutter by getting rid of the common things that have brokenness us.  The sin, the resentments we build up, the judgments that crush us, the things that we have an inventory of, going all the way back to our youth!

Paul includes some other things, things we would normally count as positive! Our citizenship, our heritage, our lineage, even our religious practices and the holiness that people praise us as they witness our “goodness”.  Think about the stuff he is talking about tossing out!

Anything that demands we pledge our loyalty and depend on it, those things becomes our idols. those things we count on for security, to demonstrate that we are blessed, and that we are the people who are in the right,

Those are the things that clutter our lives…

Those are the things that Paul the Apostle called crap. 

Some translations clean it up, refuse, garbage, trash, but even the old King James called it dung.

They clutter our lives because they demand the attention we need to save, the attention we need to realize what God is doing in our lives.  They cause us to depend on them to prove we are good, and in the right, and even holy. 

Every time we said we are better than “they” are, that we are more blessed, that this is “God’s country” as if others aren’t, what we are doing is saying that being God’s child isn’t enough.

That our citizenship, that our heritage, that our culture is truly why God loves us, that we are blessed

And those things don’t matter.  They are crap

If it doesn’t bring us joy…

Marie Condo said it well, get rid of the clutter if it doesn’t bring us joy, ditch it.  Declutter your life, don’t count on those things.

Hear how Paul says it,

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

There it is, what you can use to compare to, the joy of becoming one with Christ, the joy of being declared holy, trusting in God’s declaration that we are righteous, depending upon it….and knowing that while we suffer with Him, we will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Paul goes on to talk about trying to learn how to possess this incredible place in life, the place Christ has possessed.  This place of the greatest security, the greatest peace, knowing we are loved more than anything.

It’s not easy to achieve, but it is worth all our effort.

It is worth throwing away everything else, even the stuff we count on as defining us in a good way.

to know Him as intimately as He knows you. To be in awe of His mercy, to rejoice in His love.  

Time to declutter… spiritually!

The way it happens is this… you have to do so little.  Just realize how broad and wide, how high and deep God’s love for you is, revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus… and all else will fade away…

(you can all come and declutter my garage later)

AMEN!

Keep Confident and Hope in Jesus Christ! A Transfiguration Day Sermon on Heb 3

Keep Confident and Hope in Christ!

Hebrews 3:1-6

I.H.S.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ not just give you hope, but confidence in God walking with you through your life.

How cool to have a Leader like Moses!

I can’t even imagine the feelings that would run through the hearts and minds of Peter, James and John as they stood on the mountain top, and realized who they were in the presence of!

I mean Elijah wow, and Moses was with them!

The leader of all of the leaders in Jewish History, and the man through whom the greatest miracles in history were performed!  Remember the water from the rock, and the bronze serpent on the pole who everyone could look to and be healed?  Remember the manna?

I can imagine Peter asking, “so what was that stuff anyway?”

And Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments?  (lucky is wasn’t me carrying them down the hill!  The might have been only five!)

And what about the Red Sea?  Man, can you imagine someone doing that today! 

I can imagine the apostles being so incredibly excited by the leadership of Moses and Elijah! Wow – now we are really getting somewhere!  Now things can really change around here! 

I could even here James telling John, “Hey, Moses is with you!” and hearing him echo back, “and also with you!”

I don’t think it is much of a stretch to think the apostles were more than impressed, more than in awe of this. That’s why Peter goes to Jesus, and asks, “Hey can I build some tents for you guys to dwell in?  We’ll even make one for you Jesus!

There is an obvious problem with this, something the apostles overlooked in the excitement!  Something the reading from Hebrews recognizes.

How good are we at following leaders?

We need a better leader than Moses.  I mean he was pretty good at handling what God wanted Mosses to be responsible for, with only an error here or there.  But Moses didn’t do a good enough job.  He was as faithful as any.

But he didn’t get all of God’s people to the Holy Land.  In fact, an entire generation was left all over the desert. 600,000 men (and their ladies) didn’t make it. 

Did some awesome stuff, but there is only so much you can do when you aren’t the owner of a place, but just one of the servants. 

The problem wasn’t completely with Moses, it was just as much with the people that didn’t follow his leadership. Don’t get me wrong, Moses sinned, but he had a lot of people who didn’t listen, and what could he do about them? 

We aren’t much different today when it comes to listening to leadership.  We tend to dismiss them, we tend to think of them as our servants, not as those who are out there to help us and lead us. 

I saw the meme yesterday, and it is exactly how people treated Moses,

We need someone better, someone, who can deal with our rebellious nature, someone who isn’t just a servant, someone who can really make a difference.  And it would help if they had our best interest at heart.

We need the owner to show up, someone really in charge!
 
We Need Something More than a Boss!

We look back at the transfiguration, and we get that Jesus was there.  But I’ve even heard that Elijah and Moses were there not just to talk to Jesus about his upcoming death, but to encourage and strengthen Him for the ordeal.

I don’t think so, to confirm it maybe, but Jesus’ strength was found in His love for us, and in His love for the Father. 

The Father with whom He planned all this, with the Father who created all this through Jesus.

The Jesus who is Lord of all. 

And we need to understand what it means for Jesus to be Lord.  It means He is the builder of the house, and the one who laid down the plan for it. (It would be more accurate to

You see Jesus being the LORD, the builder of the house means more than just ordering us around, more than just saying “do this, don’t do that” and “here is the punishment, here is the reward.” 

Jesus being Lord is all about His plans for the house, how He intends to build it and care for it. It means He has committed Himself to care for His house, for His people. It means He has committed Himself to dwell in the house He is building, building with us.

And because He is the builder and the designer of the church, there is something He can do, that Moses didn’t have the ability to do.

He can make our sin, our rebelliousness of no account. He can take our brokenness and make it part of the masterpiece of His dwelling.

And He does, because He paid the price, and that’s been part of the design from the beginning. It was the cost of building His home, a home we are part of, along with all those who depend on Him, and trust Him to do what He has said, what He has promised.

That is why we can keep our courage, that is why we remain confident.

Because we know His plan, even as we begin to realize we dwell in His presence, as we realize that He loves us so much, the cross and the death of Christ were planned, so we could be at home with God.

So, may you know you dwell in His peace, a peace you can’t be stolen from Him, for He has claimed you and made you, His!  AMEN!

Is God Serious about this? He can’t mean this, can He?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26† “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. Luke 14:26 GNT

676         Have you noticed how many of your companions know how to be very kind and considerate when dealing with the people they love, whether it is their girlfriend, their wife, their children or their family? Tell them—and ask it of yourself too— that the Lord does not deserve less. They must treat him that way! Advise them, besides, to continue practising that kindness and consideration, but do it with Him and for Him,and they will achieve, even here on earth, a happiness they had never dreamed of.

Is God really serious with this?

That I have to love Him, be more devoted to Him that to my wife, my son, my mother, my friends?

Other translations phrase it more bluntly, indicating that we have to “hate” those relations. The root word can extend from the hate that is actively working against the person to simple indifference, where the blessing we could be is neglected, to refrain from being in the person’s life.

I have to admit this, I don’t like these words of Jesus.

I struggle with them.

I can try to rationalize a million reasons why Jesus didn’t mean what he said. From talking about our responsibilities under the fourth commandment ( Honor thy father and mother) to talk ing about the witness we need to have with our lives, as we care for those God has put in our lives. And I know people that have done as the Pharisees and discounted their parents out of religious obligation. Jesus talks about them as well, calling that practice wicked.

Yet these words will not disappear from scripture.

And as much as we are shocked by them, we need to hear them. We desperately need to hear them. We need to admit how we too often turn these relationships into idolatry When we live through them or define ourselves first as a husband, dad, son, brother, cousin, friend. When the devotion we should have towards God is sacrificed on the altar of these relationships. When we tolerate sinful behaviors or brokenness because we are afraid of hurting the relationship. When we are more worried about losing this person’s favor than we are about losing the love of God.

And there is the problem, this idolatry of relationships, this giving of the place that God designed in your life, so that you can know His love, that you can know His care, that you can realize His presence.

Yeah, He means it. not out of some self-centered jealousy and need for self-affirmation, but because of what He can provide for us, that no one else can.

As we learn to live in that love, as that relationship defines us, we even find out our care for others becomes more like God’s, truly loving and not just caring for what we get out of it.

A hard lesson to hear, a harder one to live out. Yet so necessary…

Lord, help us to receive Your love for us, and help us to respond to it, living in it, letting it define who we are, and how we live… AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2824-2829). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Christianity doesn’t make sense… and it shouldn’t!

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

27  God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. 28  He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. 29  This means that no one can boast in God’s presence. 30  But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and God has made Christ to be our wisdom. By him we are put right with God; we become God’s holy people and are set free. 31  So then, as the scripture says, “Whoever wants to boast must boast of what the Lord has done.”   –1 Corinthians 1:27-31 (TEV)

Christ is not just a Head all pierced and wounded; he is the Ruler of the whole world. His dominion does not mean that the earth will be trampled under foot, but that that splendor will be restored to it that speaks of God’s beauty and power. Christ raised up the image of Adam. You are not just clay; you extend beyond all cosmic dimensions to the very Heart of God. It is not the one who is scourged who is degraded, but the one who scourges; not the one spat upon, but the one who spits; not the one put to scorn, but he who puts to scorn; it is not pride that raises man up, but humility; not self-glorification that makes him great, but that union with God of which he is capable.

Adoration places us in a ‘Paschal situation’. It is an encounter with the infinite love of God revealed in Jesus Christ and which is made present under the consecrated species. God reveals Himself without condition. He leaves man helpless in the face of the marvel of His manifestation: an all-powerful God Who makes Himself so small, so poor, under the appearance of bread.

You stand there or kneel there, and for a moment, all else falls away.

From the world’s view, it is a piece of stale bread and some really cheap wine. It is a moment the world would pass by, and pass by quickly.

It doesn’t make sense, but then so little of Christianity makes sense. At least from the world’s perspective. The King who serves, the Healer who is hurt, the Sinless one, bearing all sin…

As Benedict XVI noted, the humble end up being glorified, this little piece of wheat (?) and wine end up bieng a feast more meaningful than anything, That cup of water poured over one’s head, something that cleans away every sin, every bit of injustice.

This fact, that in the world’s logic Christianity, is not logical, is an incredible blessing. Here is why,

What has the world’s logic actually accomplished? When has its wisdom brought about peace? When could it heal a broken heart or a tortured soul?

When has it made a difference, in view of death?

And yet, giving someone who trusts in Christ, the bread and wine, the BOdy and BLood of Christ can overwhelm them with peace. Hearing a pastor lead mourners through Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer can bring peace in the midst of tears at a funeral. Hearing that your sin is forgiven, yes, THAT sin is forgiven, and that told by a man God put in place to tell you that, in that very moment.

Those things make a difference, no matter how the logic can’t explain it.

God is with you.. and that, someday, is the only thing that sustains us.

And oh, how is sustains us.!

Lord Jesus, help us realize that it is okay for Your logic to be beyond us.  Help us to accept that Your ways are not ours, not do we get to judge you based on our limitations.  Instead, help us to rely on Your promises, Your presence, Your love. AMEN!! 

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 52). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 6–7). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Does who I am, matter?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21 Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich. Mark 10:21-22 GNT

498         You are writing to me in the kitchen, by the stove. It is early afternoon. It is cold. By your side, your younger sister— the last one to discover the divine folly of living her Christian vocation to the full—is peeling potatoes. To all appearances—you think—her work is the same as before. And yet, what a difference there is! It is true: before she only peeled potatoes, now, she is sanctifying herself peeling potatoes.

The rich young man couldn’t see his goal of eternal life gained because he couldn’t change how he defined himself. And so he walked away, saddened, gloomy, dejected.

The younger sister, doing such a menial task as pealing potatoes, was able to do so, she didn’t see herself as peeling potatoes, she saw her work as being with God, nseeing the work He was doing in her, making her holy.

So is the difference between the young man and the young lady simply economics, that those who are poor find it easier to respond? Or is there something else at work here?

Could it be the same question that assaults so many people today, the question that betrays our hollow lives?

“does who I am matter?”

The young man had locked his identiry in, he was inable to define himself in relation to Jesus, even though where he was in that moment could have continued eternally. Many of us do that, whether we are rich or not. We lock our identity into our jobs, our relationships, our status in society. And then, evaluating that idenity, we find it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t make any lasting change.

We see this more and more, as people jump of the corporate ladder, as they run through career after career. We see it as we burn ourselves out in the helping professions, or in the large lines when lotteries approach 1/2 billion dollars. We see it in the changing of majors.

People want an identity that matters, they want to make a difference. They want to have a significant role in life.

And a girl found such peeling potatoes. Not because of the work, not because of the significance of any role she had, but because she found had meant something to God.

That makes all the difference.

You and I matter to God, He values us, and desires that we spend time with Him, time now, and time for eternity.

He loves us enough to make sure this is possible.

So sit back for a moment, and think about the fact that you actually matter to God.

And then, go about your day, letting this define you. AMEN!


Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2163-2167). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Meditation – the rest that isn’t an escape…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. You know who your teachers were, 15  and you remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17  so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (TEV)

We are witnessing today a kind of meditation in which religion becomes a drug. Its object is to find, not an answer to truth, but a liberation from the burden and misery of each individual existence.

Though Pope Benedict’s quote is nearly 20 years in the past, I see it coming true today as well.  There is a definite tendency in Spiritual Development to create a modern monasticism.  There is a tendency to want to turn out the world, not to contemplate the mysteries of God as much to escape the rat-race.

We want to be freed from the brokenness of the world, we want to be saved from the misery and anxiety of today.  We want respite, a rest that would refresh us.

We don’t want to leave our mountaintop experiences and return to our broken lives. I’ve seen this on too many retreats, and those who would easily volunteer to work on such retreats, experiencing the refreshing nature by observing others going through a process exploring what it means to depend on God.

But we need to meditate, we need to contemplate the mysteries of God.  Meditation is not to escape life, but to embrace life in Christ, To explore the how wide, how long, how deep, how high the love of God is, by experiencing it in the midst of life.  To treasure the guidance of God in His law, because we depend on His wisdom and mercy, to be amazed at the promises He has made us, and delivers in the sacraments.

That is why Paul urges Timothy to study the scriptures, to treasure them continually, for they give us the wisdom that comes from knowing we are saved, for we dwell in Jesus.

Meditation is not an escape from the world, it is the rest we need in the midst of the world, the chance to remember that the Lord is with us, the chance to take a rest and concentrate on His love, on His presence.  To remember the cross, to remember our baptism and what it means, to remember the Body broken and the Blood shed for us.  To see His place in our lives, revealed in the pages of the scriptures.

This is what we need, this gives us peace in the storm, a peace that can be far more powerful than the peace we find escaping the storm.

So take a moment, breathe deep, and remember you dwell in Him, and in His peace.


Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 328). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

God doesn’t throw tea parties…**

grayscale woman photography

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, 19 to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, 20 for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! 21 The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.) 22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, 23 to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, 24 to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel. Heb. 12:18-24

I have a dear friend, who owns an antique shop*, which specializes in China and glassware and all the fancy stuff.  When I drop in to visit her lovely shop, I tend to get a bit… anxious.

You see, at 6’2, 300+ pounds and with the grace that could only be compared to a drunk giraffe on ice skates, I am paranoid that I will trip and fall and set off her entire shoop like one of those domino exhibits.

Why am I telling you this?  I think we occasionally get the idea that God is fragile, that His holiness somehow makes Him brittle.  Or perhaps it is His patience with us that is brittle.

Either way, we become stand-offish,  trying to find the one safe place that is safe to stand, out of the way, out of the danger, unable to cause a major spiritual catastrophe.  We aren’t to stand and gaze on HIs beauty from afar, afraid to touch, afraid to approach, afraid to get personal with God. Worried that we will screw up something, or do something that will His anger, that we will deserve His wrath and punishment for breaking things, including our own lives.

That isn’t the God we have been drawn to, as the author of Hebrews tells us.

Holiness isn’t some kind of proper, reserved, dainty, perfect mannered attitude suitable for tea parties.  (though Jesus does care for those who go to such events!**)  It is an incredibly emotional overwhelming experience of relief or peace of love.  It is like the time when our Soldiers first returned after the post-9-11 invasion of Iraq, as people lined the road out to the Marine Corps base for nearly 20 miles, celebrating the return of their loved ones.

Except holiness is not seen in celebrating the return of heroes coming home, but prodigals, sinners.  Or holiness celebrates our being made holy, our being cleansed and set apart for this incredible relationship we have with God.  We are reunited with the God who offered Thomas the chance to put his hand in His lance-pierced side, to know Jesus was with Him.  We walk with the God who is willing to transform our heart and mind and share with s His in the process.

This is our God, a God who makes contact with us, who just doesn’t sit on a shelf, or look down on us from heaven.  He is a God who shows us How much He loves us… by coming and dwelling among us, carefully restoring that which we’ve broken…because…

He loves us!

Relax, and soak in that love, and as you see people afraid of God, share with them the God who knows you!  AMEN!

 

*If you are in Orange, Ca, you can visit my friend’s show at A&P collectibles in the Orange Circle   🙂

**  the ladies of our church have an incredible ladies advent tea each year… and I am sure Jesus is present at it… 🙂

How Many Opportunities Does the Church Miss?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

45  “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46  If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47  I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48  But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49  and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50  The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51  and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 24:45-51 (NLT2)

167         Make up the time you have lost resting on the laurels of your self-complacency, and thinking what a good person you are, as if it were enough just to keep going, without stealing or killing. Speed up the pace of your piety and your work: you still have such a long way to go: Live happily with everyone, even with those who annoy you, and make an effort to love —to serve!—those whom you despised before.

It is an overwhelming thought that God invests in His people His mission to make disciples from every nation on the earth.

Yet too often we overlook this, caught up in the hectic nature of the world.  Our people are in trauma, our buildings need to be maintained, there are committees to serve on in our community and in our church.

And too often, we let opportunities to serve people slip right by us.

We overlook seeing the broken person standing before us, seeing only someone who is offensive and a pain in the ass.  We overlook another opportunity because we have to get this done or get that done. The tyranny of the urgent causes us to overlook the very people God has brought into our lives so that we can share his love.

The problem is that we read passages like this, and words like mine and guilt sink in, or if it doesn’t, indifference does.

Those reactions cause us to miss the blessing that is inherent in the word of God. If there is a reason to serve and minister to others, to love them and reach out ot them, it is the incredible joy found in leaning on God for the words, in depending on him to calm our nervous hearts, and to see Him speak through us,

The reason we do this isn’t that we have to, but like little children working with their dad, we get to!  It means we spend time with God, we see His love for others,

Then we don’t have to fear our master coming back, for we know He is with us,  Right here, right now, pointing out to us those He would pour out His peace upon, healing their souls, even as He heals ours.

That is what we encounter as we minister to others, our Lord at work.  SO let Him deal with the complacent spirit, the anxiety that would limit your ministry, and rejoice as you encounter the Spirit at work!

AMEN

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 916-920). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Faith in Action: A sermon on James 2

church at communion 2Faith in Action
James 2:1-10, 14-18


In Jesus Name

May the Grace, that mercy and love that God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to respond, depending on them in everything you do!

Faith isn’t invisible

In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author makes a radical claim,

1  The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 2  The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)

The fundamental fact of existence is found in our relationship with God.

We trust in Him, know and depending on His faithfulness that we just praised will never be broken, that it will never fail. So we trust in Him, in His promises, in His presence in .with us.

That faith makes life worth living, As one pastor I read in my devotions yesterday.

And that faith, my dear friends, is seen in how we live.  It is visible, even in the midst our struggles, in the midst of challenges, in the midst of our pains, our faith, our trust in Him, and in His presence becomes clearly visible,

it is how we exist, it is what we do…in everyday life,

Our faith takes action, it underwrites what we do, and how we do it.

So it becomes so much part of who we are and what we do, that people realize it.

so let us look at how Faith in Action means something.

Believe in Something, even if it means sacrificing everything

Nike started an ad campaign this week.  Some think it is controversial because of the people in it, especially the narrator.  Yet the slogan, I think is one we need to re-teach In the church,

This is their new slogan,

Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,

I would phrase it slightly differently, but I really love the idea.

Have faith in Someone, for nothing else is worth it.  And act on that faith.

The example James uses in our epistle today is helping the poor or treating them as nicely as you would treat the famous or the wealthy person. Even if it means sacrificing, giving up what you need to help them.
That’s contrary to the nature this world has, to put number one first, to take care of yourself, That is where sin blocks our ability to trust in God, for if we trust in God, we can help anyone, we can sacrifice what is needed to help

In the ad, the narrator noted the problem isn’t that our dreams are desires are crazy, He said our problem is that our dreams aren’t crazy enough.

I’ve got some dreams for you, tell me if they are crazy:

How crazy is it that a broken church could realize that its strength is found in its brokenness, for there it encounters Jesus.

How crazy is it that a group of people praying that God’s kingdom would come in this world then would find itself making the stoles for pastors in a far off place, and building a bakery there, which underwrites all the cost of training pastors. knowing that God is faithful.

How crazy is it that a small church would help people in Sudan, and Turkey, and Papua New Guinea, and in Long Beach and Pico Rivera, and who knows where else next?

How crazy is it that a group of older people, who meet together, make sacrifices so kids can learn about God, then get to see a five-year-old that is so excited to get baptized in front of them he dunks his head in the baptismal font?

How crazy is it that an older smaller church that has become home to young gifted people who are encouraged (and feel safe enough) to share their gifts and grow in use of them?  A church that would be called “my church” by someone who mentors them, and our of all the churches he serves, finds himself home there

How crazy is it that a church, which has seen God at work, grows two and three times its size, not because they are focused on growth, but because they care for other people whom they encounter, who are poor in spirit, and desperately need to know the love of God.

O wait, you are thinking that the last one is crazy?  Well, if I described the other crazy dreams ten years ago, you would have thought them more than just crazy.

But these things aren’t crazy… they are simply what happens when we see Faith in Action.

Have faith in Him who sacrificed everything, our glorious Lord

When we trust and depend on God whose faithfulness is so great!.

These things and far more happen, things that are crazy, things that add to the praises we sing and speak of the God who is with us.

For ultimately, it is His faithfulness that matters, His belief in a dream that He was willing to sacrifice everything, His place in heaven, His comfort in this life, even His life that makes the difference,

Jesus died on the cross because He believed He could save us from our sin, and bring us home to the Father.  That our lives were worth His life, no matter how messed up, no matter how broken, no matter how much guilt and shame we bear.

It is Jesus we have faith in, not just His promises, not just His word, not just in the sacraments, but in the One whose love for us is we need to explore, its incredible width and breadth, height and depth!

A love that changes us, as we begin to trust in Him because of that love. As that trust, that faith leads us to walk with Him, not matter where He leads, no matter what we endure, a faith that acts, which makes itself visible, as it draws people to His side.

For there, in Christ, we find God’s peace… a peace that, like His love is beyond all understanding, as He is our rock, our cornerstone, our safety… AMEN!

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