Blog Archives

Christian, do you ever feel like your life is a waste?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the day:

16 Then He told him: “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. 17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his •slave to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’
18 “But without exception v they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’
20 “And another said, ‘I just got married, w x and therefore I’m unable to come.’
21 “So the slave came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his slave, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame!’ 
22 “ ‘Master,’ the slave said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’
23 “Then the master told the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will enjoy my banquet!’ ”   Luke 14:16-24 HCSB

The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.
For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them.

Vivification.  That incredible blessing as the Holy Spirit pierces our heart with the law, and then creates life in a person, creating in them the ability to believe in God, and the ability to depend upon Him.  We talked about Justification a lot, and Sanctification some, but Vivification?  Not so much!

To put it in less technical language, Jesus brings us to life, all of us, through the work of the Holy Spirit.  The older versions of the creeds talk of being quickened, and that is what we are talking about.  We were dead in sin, and in baptism intimately linked with Jesus death, and then so united, we rise to new life again. This is how the Holy Spirit makes us born again!

Too often though, we don’t encourage each other to live this new life.  We talk about being united with Jesus in life, but we too often forget we are united in His mission as well. To use the parable from Luke, we forget the importance of the party and choose instead to waste this new life away. 

We come up with so many good excuses though!  I can worship God on my own, I don’t have time for long prayers, or studying His word.  We don’t have to do these things -because we don’t earn our salvation!  We keep making the excuses, we keep telling ourselves we will get back to church later, that we will open that dust-covered Bible, that we will spend more time in prayer, and we will try to love our neighbor, and our enemy.

And with each excuse, we choose to not walk with Jesus, we choose to ignore His wonderful invitation, and we fail to see the Spirit work through us.

This isn’t “do this or you won’t be saved”, it is “this is what salvation is”, walking with God, knowing His love, ministering to others, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  It is having a life worth meaning, a life we can look back on and truly say, God was with us!”

Lord, have mercy on us, forgive us of making excuses, and help us live in everlasting life, with you!  AMEN!

Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

When Justification Isn’t Enough

Devotional/Discussion Thought fo the Day:

7  I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Romans 1:7 (NLT)

7  I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Romans 1:7 (NLT)

1  This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.
2 Corinthians 1:1 (NLT)

1  This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2  God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace.
1 Peter 1:1-2 (NLT)

356      The first Apostles, when Our Lord called them, were by the side of an old boat busy mending the torn nets. Our Lord told them to follow him and statim—immediately—relictis omnibus—they left everything—everything! And followed him… And it does happen sometimes that we, who wish to imitate them, don’t quite leave everything, and there remains some attachment in our heart, something wrong in our life which we’re not willing to break with and offer up to God. Won’t you examine your heart in depth? Nothing should remain there except what is his. If not, we aren’t really loving him, neither you nor I. (1)

In Lutheran Theology, the Article of Justification has a primary place. Indeed, some call it the chief article of the faith.  But that doesn’t mean that it is the only article of the faith

It is a genesis point, a point of beginning, and God’s declaration of our righteousness is something that continues in our life.  It is hearing this declaration that enabled the disciples to walk away from family and work, and follow Jesus.  His call to them, even as He calls us. But even in Luther’s explanation of the Creed we see that it is a beginning point, that God works something more in us.

But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  (2)

It is work, the enlightenment, the sanctification and preservation that brings Paul and Peter to describe the people of God as holy, as saints (the same thing in Greek)   Were they perfect from our perspective?  No, but God was sanctifying them, and creating in them a perfection that no one can deny.  

While we don’t make ourselves holy, there is the nature of self-examination that helps us realizing that the Holy Spirit is at work.  As the Spirit confronts us, illuminates those things which our heart could easily turn into our idols.  It might not be something that people would normally think of as an idol, but what do we trust in, what can we not live without.  Where does our hope balance upon, and if that is threatened, we react strongly, even vehemently, to protect it. Do we believe something may make a difference, that only it can make a difference?  Then we have made a god and idol and given it a place in our heart that need be reserved for God.

And it is as we examine our conscience, as we look for that which is not set apart from God, that we can cry out like the blind man, “Lord have mercy!”, “Lord, Son of David, Heal me!”

Faith is the confidence it takes to ask God to remove it, to remove that which mars the holiness He has declared to be true.  Faith means we depend on the Holy Spirit to create in us the repentant spirit that is part and parcel of our being declared righteous, being declared justified.  Faith realizes that we’ve been united, that we are in communion with Jesus.  That his incredible union, our baptismal gift from God, is strengthened as we spend sacred time,  participating in the sacrament of the Eucharist, hearing we are absolved of our sin, reading and hearing scriptures and meditating on all these things.

This is our life saints… to cry out for mercy, and to trust God as He purifies our lives, a work that is brought to completion in the day of Christ.

Justification is primary, yes, as in the beginning.  It is not all the work of God in our lives, just that which begins and makes the rest possible including the amazing fact that we can love God, and He would know that love.  For this purpose we have been created… to love our God, and to know His love for us, His people.

AMEN!

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1406-1412). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Has the Church Forgotten the only Fact it needs to focus on?

devotional thought fo the day
Featured image
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age Matthew 28:20b (NLT)

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”   Mt 1:23 

For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”  Mt 18:20 

“Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.”  (1)

2. In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14–15) and lives among them , so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.  (2)

584    Stir up the fire of your faith! Christ is not a figure of the past. He is not a memory lost in history. He lives! Iesus Christus heri et hodie: ipse et in saecula! As Saint Paul says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today—yes, and forever!”  (3)

We cannot probe more deeply into the roots of the world in order to change it than by resting on the Heart of God, thus making it possible to call upon the living Ground and Power that supports everything and is alone capable of restoring all things  (4)

When something keeps showing up in my morning devotions, I figure it must be something I need to share with those who read my blog.  Actually, I don’t want to admit the real reason, and writing the blog helps me, because I write what I need to hear/read.  It is God’s way of seeing if there is anything functioning in my brain, trying to get me to understand the most critical fact the church needs to remember.  The critical fact I need to remember.

To know that not only God is, not only does He love us, but that He is with us.  He has designed us to live with Him, describing us as being in Christ, abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit residing with us.  Over and over and over. That is why we can trust in Him because He is present because we have a relationship with Him, a relationship more intimate, more complete than any other relationship we have.

It all begins and ends with that relationship.

Every doctrine focuses on it, from Justification that makes it possible. Sanctification, the doctrine of being set apart, to that relationship.  The sacraments, by which the reality of the relationship is communicated. Scripture, the record of the promises God makes to us, and a record of how He faithfully keeps those promises. Faith, the trust that becomes the natural expression of the relationship.

This is where we need to focus; it is this fact that is the reason for evangelism.  It isn’t about transforming behavior (though that may happen), it isn’t worry about whether the world reflects what God teaches us is good and holy behavior. (We struggle with it, why do we expect them not to?)

This is what our religion is all about, walking with God.  Everything else in Christianity, in our religion brings us to know this.

It is what matters in the end, and it is what gets us through this day.

I need to be reminded of this daily, so I expect that you will hear of it often.

The Lord is with you!

1.   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

2. Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana

3.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1395-1397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

4.  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 211). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

“OH NO!” HE CRIED, “I SCREWED UP, AND GOD WILL GET ME FOR THIS!”

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
10  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11  “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more. John 8:10-11 (NLT)

168    “It made me laugh to hear you speak of the ‘account’ our Lord will demand of you. No, for you He will not be a judge—in the harsh sense of the word. He will simply be Jesus.” These words, written by a holy bishop, have consoled more than one troubled heart and could very well console yours.  (1)

A young man approached me today, concerned about a sin.  I won’t go into details, but the bottom line was that he was afraid of being judged for it. He felt that if he died tonight, God was going to use the law and crush him for this sin. 

We’ve all been there when some sin we’ve committed, whether this morning or 40 years ago is used to torment us, to single us out to face the wrath of God.  The young man isn’t alone, I’ve been there, you possibly have as well.  The number of people I have had in my office, or talking over lunch, or texting me at midnight to find out that they haven’t lost their salvation is beyond count.

Yes, there is the other side of the coin as well, those who think they sin isn’t big enough to merit the firing and pain of hell, and those people, who say they believe in Jesus, but dismiss the concept of hell, not because of scripture, but because of how they want to see God.

Both extremes, the idea that a sin won’t send you to hell, and that a sin is unforgivable, and will result in your eternal death, are misplaced.

God is just, and God is merciful. To the lady caught in adultery, His words are full of grace, so revealing the desire of God to restore us as His children, and forgiving our sin, all our sin is part of that restoration.  We need to be cleansed of it all; we need to be proclaimed forgiven, that we stand with the adultress, uncondemned.

Knowing this should cause us to run for absolution, to run to him counting on the promise that He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. To run to those whom He has entrusted to forgive and bind sins and go – this – I need this one forgiven!  I need them all forgiven. And to rejoice, to celebrate when you hear once again that He forgives your sins and cleanses you of all unrighteousness!

That is what people need to hear, so they never doubt the love of God, so they don’t have to try and justify or minimize their sin.

Sin is what it is, and there is hope for sinners.  Found in the death of Christ, for those sins, in His burial (see Romans 6) and in His glorious resurrection.  For the power of that resurrection will raise us as well.  Clean, holy, alive in Christ Jesus.

This is why we have hope… because of His love.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 520-522). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

We Pray (but not alone), Comfort Your People

We Pray,Featured image
Comfort your People

Isaiah 40:1-5

IHS

May you know the comfort of the grace poured out upon you by God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Can We Be Honest?

Advent is a time for honesty.  Brutal honesty.

Because without it, we can’t hear the Voice that cries out of Isaiah the words we heard tonight.

Comfort, comfort MY people….

The honesty requires us to realize, that if we are the people of God, we are the people that the Voice is talking about.  We are the ones who need comfort, who need peace.

But will we recognize it?

Do we realize we need Jesus to reveal Himself, just as the shepherds in the field did?  Just as the wise men from what is now Iraq did?  As much as the people Isaiah prophesied to, the people of God who were about were in slavery and bondage, far away from their home, yet living in view of a promise that would care for them.

They needed the comfort, the tender care, the chance to return to full health.

Advent is about realizing we need it as badly as they need it.  Mankind lives in the same desperation, we have the same need for God’s rescue from darkness…

We need to hear this cry, this prayer that God would bring comfort to all of His people.  Those who know they are His people, those who don’t know it… yet.

We aren’t lost…we aren’t broken

Even as we hear the prayer for comfort, we hear the why that comfort is needed.

Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord!

Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!

Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills!

Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places!

These cries of desperation will be repeated as Jesus begins His ministry, as Jesus begins this work.  We need to hear that – as He begins His work.

You see most of us spiritually are in the same place where the average man is, when he keeps refusing to stop for directions, when he denies he needs a GPS, when everyone else knows he is lost, and has no clue where or when to turn next.  We deny the need for help, we’ve never gotten lost before.  It’s funny when you get lost in Oaklahoma, it’s not so funny when you get lost in combat zones of the inner city.

We aren’t just lost though.  Sin isn’t satisfied with that, we are broken, battered, stuck in the wilderness on the side of the road, with no direction, no path, no spiritual yellow brick road.

We look at the world and see they are lost, that they cannot even tell the difference between darkness and light.  Is torture right?  Is violence? Is sex of any kind outside of marriage?  Is gossip and slander and disrespecting authority?  Too often we find ourselves justifying that we know is wrong.  We should know it simply because we have to justify our thoughts, or actions or words.

We need those roads straightened out, we need to see where we are heading clearly, we need to have a straight direction.  This is the focus in advent, to know that those cries will be heard, that God will act.  That we can hear His voice.

We’ve got to hear His Voice… We Got to Know His word.

Even as we hear that the path needs to be prepared, we have to hear the voice again that cries out for it.

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.

Tell her that her sad days are gone,

and her sins are pardoned.

This is the cry we hear, what will bring comfort to the people whom God the Father call His children.

The comfort is found in the mercy of God, shown in the work of Jesus.  For it is His work to straighten those roads, to fill in the valleys, to make straight the path for God.

That is the incredible view of Advent, seeing the work to make God’s way smooth, the way that will bring us comfort, for the way is the one which we travel with Jesus, as He brings us to the Father.

A way of mercy, a way of peace, a way of joy.

That road, smoothed out, is Jesus work, it is the glory of God revealed to us.  The glory that we dwell in, with Him.  The glory we see together, His children, with nothing in the way.

For He has spoken.

One more thing… who is praying to whomThe Father cried out to the Son, that Jesus would comfort us.

It is why He needed to come…. It is why He would lay in a manger, and die on the cross.  It is why we are united to Him in baptism, why He gives us His body and blood.

Hear it again, we aren’t the only people who pray and plead that all of God’s people would find comfort.

The Father cries, “Comfort, comfort my people!” The Son brings us comfort… and peace.  So it was at the incarnation, so it will be at His return.  AMEN!

Salvation is More Than Forgiveness of Sins

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

14  Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15  Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16  But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.” 17  Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 (TEV)

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 2:10 (NJB)

298      My Lord Jesus has a Heart more tender than the hearts of all good men put together. If a good man (of average goodness) knew that a certain person loved him, without seeking personal satisfaction or reward of any kind (he loves for love’s sake); and if he also knew that all this person wanted from him was that he should not object to being loved, even from afar… then it would not be long before he responded to such a disinterested love. If the Loved One is so powerful that he can do all things, I am sure that, as well as surrendering in the end to the faithful love of a creature (in spite of the wretchedness of that poor soul) he will give this lover the supernatural beauty, knowledge and power he needs so that the eyes of Jesus are not sullied when he gazes upon the poor heart that is adoring him. Love, my child; love and hope. (1)

As i came across the quote from St. Josemaria this evening (above in blue), I had to think through it several times. It’s not that I don’t know this, but it seemed so different from the conversations among Christians and pastors on-line recently.

So often are conversation is about justification, whether it is evangelicals trying to be missional and covert people, or whether it is Lutheran theologians attempting to focus on our ineptitude to obey Christ (and applying that to the redeemed as well as the unregenerate).  In either situation, salvation is reduced to the forgiveness of sins.  There might be a mention of eternity in heaven as opposed to hell. Even that seems to be diminished these days, in light of glory of being righteous in the eyes of God.

But we can’t describe heaven well, apart from what isn’t there, and a vague idea of God seated on the throne, and the activity around Him, like the praise songs being sung.

But what makes our lives the work of art that Paul tells the church in Ephesus about?

What did theologians talk about, when they mentioned the life of the baptized?

What is this transformation that the Corinthians hear is happening to them, this work of the Holy Spirit that happens as we reflect the glory of God.

That means something is going on now, this transformation in our lives, this work of art, this being created (re-created) in Christ Jesus to do that which God ordained us to do.  Not to sit and argue about, not to dismiss because it makes us uncomfortable.  The idea of being close enough to Christ to experience His glory, to reflect that glory to a world, broken and comfortable in darkness is a challenge.

I like how Pope Francis put it,

“”We feel safer in our sins, in our limitations, but feel at home; leaving our home to answer God’s invitation, go to God’s house, with others? No. I’m afraid. And all of us Christians have this fear hidden deep inside … but not too hidden.” (from a quote from “Divine Office” on facebook)

We want to hide in the comfort of our sins, as Israel did. We want a veil that keeps us at a distance….

God will remove that veil, enabling us to walk in a relationship trusting Him.  He will make our lives that masterpiece, He will transform us into the very image of Christ.  He will walk with us, and we will be so amazed by that, we may not even notice the rest of what He is doing…..

That is His love for us.

That is the baptised life….

That is salvation.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1211-1218). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Simul Iustus Et Peccator (simultaneously justified and sinner) Not a Justifiable reason for sinning

Devotional?Discussion THought of the Day:10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_n

30  And do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God’s mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free. Ephesians 4:30 (TEV)

1  What shall we say, then? Should we continue to live in sin so that God’s grace will increase? 2  Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it? 3  For surely you know that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptized into union with his death. Romans 6:1-3 (TEV)

12  So then, dear friends, as you always obeyed me when I was with you, it is even more important that you obey me now while I am away from you. Keep on working with fear and trembling to complete your salvation, 13  because God is always at work in you to make you willing and able to obey his own purpose. Philippians 2:12-13 (TEV)

 20  God has raised from death our Lord Jesus, who is the Great Shepherd of the sheep as the result of his blood, by which the eternal covenant is sealed. May the God of peace provide you with every good thing you need in order to do his will, and may he, through Jesus Christ, do in us what pleases him. And to Christ be the glory forever and ever! Amen. Hebrews 13:20 (TEV) 

59      If you respond to the call the Lord has made to you, your life—your poor life!—will leave a deep and wide furrow in the history of the human race, a clear and fertile furrow, eternal and godly.

In the last month I’ve seen an alarming trend.  It is what I call the “Romans 7 defense”

People defending their sin, and even their intent to sin, by quoting the passage about the things we don’t want to do we, do, the things we do want to do, we don’t.  They stop there, They don’t admit that being in that situation is a wretched, horrible, and wrong.

I’m a sinner, I can’t help it, so why should I? 

Ill just go on as if nothing ever happened, and being a wretch is our normal state.  Right?  “It’s just the way I am wired….”  (funny, that excuse doesn’t fly for the sins we aren’t as appreciative of…)  Or the new favorite (said by at least 3 people recently) “I just don’t have a filter”

While they would deny trying to justify themselves, they will try an excuse themselves from their sin.  After all, it isn’t  murder, or perversion, or gossip.  Or I will here, “well I know its wrong, but it is not as wrong as xxx”.   The basic line, is a claim that since we can’t save ourselves, we don’t have to struggle to live as saints, right?  Those considered theologians will argue that there is no “3rd use” of the law.  Why is it, we want to make not just the norm of the Christian life, but the goal, a life of wretchedness?

But Scripture teaches differently, it calls us to have a mind like Christ Jesus.  Scripture reminds us of being bound to Christ, by being transformed by the Spirit.  It instructs us that we are given the desire and the power to leave God pleasing lives.  The author of Hebrews even makes that his parting blessing.

Why would these passages, and so many more in the Epistles and the OT prophets, describe a life lived in love and peace, if God just was satisfied with sin-dominated lives?

Why not live life where we are not satisfied with the wretchedness.  Where like Paul we recognize the struggle, and then focus our attention on His work in our lives.  Cleansing, Healing Justifying, Indwelling, Empowering a life where we have that attitude of Christ.

He broke the bonds of sin, why do we settle for staying in the prison?

The way out of this isn’t disciplining ourselves to stop sinning.  The answer isn’t found in having an accountability partner, (those can help) or even knowing God’s mercy will cover those sins.  The way to hear the author of Hebrews prayer for you to be answered is simple, keep hearing of God’s love, His mercy, His faithfulness.  Strive to be aware of the Holy Spirit’s actie presence in your life, know Christ’s presence as well.

Grieve over your sin, and that of the world, and look to Christ, where there is no condemnation, but there is mercy and love.

Live in Christ Jesus.

And when sin, confess and be cleansed….. but look to Christ for the power not to sin anymore….

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 436-438). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

What is Salvation? It May Be More Than You Think!

Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:photo

32  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. John 12:32 (ASV)

24  But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. Acts 20:24 (NLT)

32      Coming closer to God means being ready to be converted anew, to change direction again, to listen attentively to his inspirations—those holy desires he places in our souls—and to put them into practice.   (1)
Too often in our messages, salvation is seen as one step, what theologians call justification.  God calling His people to Him, drawing them to the cross.  There He cleanses them from sin, frees them from bondage to Satan, and from the fear and anxiety that death causes.

There is nothing we can do, nothing we can say or think that makes this part happen.

Yet salvation is more than this, far more than this.

Salvation includes the life we have been given in Christ.  It is not just justification, but sanctification as well.  It is being made holy, being set apart to live a life God has designed. A life that gives us a hint of eternity, for in this life, we walk in Christ, and He lives and ministers to others through us.  It is a friendship, a partnership in achieving the will of God in this world, preparing people for eternity.

It is living a life that is amazing, and is costly.  We are called to bring the same message to the world that Paul did, as the Holy Spirit who drew us to Christ, draws others to Him by using us as their guides.  Bringing peace where there is no peace.  Watching people reconcile, to God, and then as that settles their souls, to each other.

As they join us in celebrating the wonderful mystery of God’s love and mercy for us, this incredible grace.  That He has placed in us holy desires which He empowers us to find satisfied, as we minister in the stead, by the command, and with Christ.

This is salvation, this is finding ourselves in the presence of God, of finding that He has come to us and transformed us.

AMEN.

 

  • Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 350-352). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Changing a Facade Doesn’t Change Anything… but….

Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

9  Jesus also told this parable to people who were sure of their own goodness and despised everybody else. 10  “Once there were two men who went up to the Temple to pray: one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. 11  The Pharisee stood apart by himself and prayed, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or an adulterer, like everybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there. 12  I fast two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all my income.’ 13  But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, ‘God, have pity on me, a sinner!’ 14  I tell you,” said Jesus, “the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, was in the right with God when he went home. For those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.” Luke 18:9-14 (TEV)

440         Your character is so uneven! Your keyboard is out of order. You play very well on the high notes and on the low notes… but no sound comes from the ones in the middle, the ones used in ordinary life, the ones people normally hear.  (1)

As I was driving to breakfast this morning, I notice the shopping center’s construction was well underway. They weren’t building new stores, or making major renovations to the facility.  Just updating the frontal facades of all the stores. Trying to make it look less like the 1980’s-1990’s and more modern.  The stores themselves won’t change, still a supermarket, a good mexican restaurant, a couple of banks, yogurt shop, coffee shop, etc.  The substance will stay the same, only the packaging is changing, and probably at a significant cost to someone.  Eventually it will cost the tax-payers and customers of those businesses.

At breakfast, I read an article about the restaurants that get a “make-over” by Gordon Ramsey, the chef and entrepreneur.  Over 60 percent of them still fail, even as he invests money in them, making over the restaurant, the menu, the staffs.  Even so, there are things he cannot address in one week, the heart and soul of the owners and employees.  The substance still stays the same.

Then I read St Josemaria this morning, and the passage from Luke popped into my mind…..

You see, we all put up facades, even those of us who trust in Jesus, and the work He did when He saved us.  We put them up, trying to make people think (or even worse – make ourselves think) that everything will be all right, that everything is fine, that all is well in our world.  That business as usual is good and prosperous and everything will be all right.

The problem is that facades don’t change the substance, and they don’t really change the image we have of what lies behind it. What was there is still there.  If it is poor business practices, it still will be.  If it is lousy customer service, well then, that will still be the case. If it is sin, it is sin. Or if it is the missing strings that betray a weak faith in the basic areas of life, then those two will be missing.  The pharisee will still be the pharisee, the hypocrite will still be the hypocrite.

Don’t bother changing the facade….it won’t change you!  To cause true change, the building has to be leveled, Death must come, and re-birth has to happen.  Faith is trusting God to kill us off, and to raise us to life in Christ.  Faith is trusting that this is what the cross is all about, that are being unified to that cross in baptism is what this is all about.  To know the new creation we have become, is because God has done this.  To walk away, knowing that because of His love, God has declared us innocent, clean, His.

He removes not just the facade, He changes more the menu, He takes those who are pharisees and tax-collectors, cuts our their heart of stone… and replaces it with one of flesh.  He puts in us His Holy Spirit, who transforms us…..He declares us justified, and holy, cleansed and set apart to walk with Him….

Lord, have mercy on us, poor sinners… and thank you for making us saints!   AMEN!

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1957-1959). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Are We Satisfied With GIGO? (garbage in – garbage out)

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

7  But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. 8  Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ 9  and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. 10  All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11  so that somehow I also may be raised to life. Philippians 3:7-11 (CEV)

8  In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.Philippians 4:8 (TEV)

65         Once again you had gone back to your old follies!… And afterwards, when you returned, you didn’t feel very cheerful, because you lacked humility. It seems as if you obstinately refuse to learn from the second part of the parable of the prodigal son, and you still feel attached to the wretched happiness of the pig-swill. With your pride wounded by your weakness, you have not made up your mind to ask for pardon, and you have not realised that, if you humble yourself, the joyful welcome of your Father God awaits you, with a feast to mark your return and your new beginning. (1)

In the movie “Footloose”, there is a characterization of Christianity, or at least Christianity that used to be.

A Pharisaical legislative, in your face, take names Christianity where those that danced, or drank, or went to movies rated “PG” or worse were held up and scorned.  Where the rules of behavior were set in stone, and by golly, if you weren’t going to obey those rules, you were going to be tossed out.  If you questioned the rules, you were considered a rebel and someone to be watched.

A generation later, and perhaps we’ve gone the other way, yet are still “legislating” what is right and wrong.  Or more accurately, we are simply legislating everything as right, and banishing any thought of the idea of something being “wrong”.

The Pendulum has reached the other side of the swing,  This time, it has done what it rarely does – it has taken the church with it, gotten the church’s okay for what is vulgar, profane, sinful.  I look at my fb page and what I and others post, and am shocked.  Even if permissible, the things we post aren’t beneficial, (didn’t Paul say something about that?)

As one whose vocation, whose career deals with helping people in their brokenness, I see both these extremes as wrong. I have dealt, and continue to deal, with those damaged by these forms of legalism. The damage is horrendous, the pains are real, the broken families, broken marriages, broken friendships, broken people just mount up,

The ways that would excuse and/or justify any behavior, and the kind that would force behavior modification.

That’s not how it works in scripture, for like the old computer rule, these tactics focus on negative behavior – and even taking them in leads to sin.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Both ways do this – one by approving it, the other by making it tempting and looking good, in the very way we forbid it.

Holiness is something else though.  It is abandoning all of these behaviors, not because we are forced too, but because we realize their value compared to the value of knowing Jesus, to knowing the love of God, to knowing His comfort and peace.

Paul’s idea of Phil. 4 – about concentrating on the “good stuff” isn’t law – it is 100% gospel, when you hear it with chapter 3 still fresh in your mind.   Because those things he says to focus on are found in the presence of God. They are God’s nature. They lead us to adore Him, to want to be like Him, and in Him finding the strength to that which is positive. The more we see this, the less desirous the life of the prodigal will be, the more we realize the grip of sin was broken at the cross.  There is something about that cross, about the crucifixes and crosses we have, that remind us of His love, of His devotion, of that which is unlike anything else we can now.

Will we see God’s glory for what it is? Will we walk with the Lord?  Will we realize the garbage that we feed on daily for what it is, and leave it behind to know the love of God?

Lord have mercy on us, and help us to desire you in our lives, and therefore find the holiness that is found in your peace.

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 490-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

%d bloggers like this: