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do your job….. people of God!

nativityDevotional Thought of the Day:

9  For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10  Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11  May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-11 (TEV)

189         The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.” Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them! Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.

It was the mantra of my favorite football team two seasons ago.  Each person, from the owner and head coach to the Cheerleaders, field goal kicker and waterboys had a job to do, and they did it.

I think we need that in the church today, for each person to focus on their vocation, and do it and live as God wants, and please Him.

Too often we get distracted.  Sometimes it is by sin and temptation, and sometimes it is more subtle, by comfort and preference, which leads us to abandon our vocation, our call. Sometimes it is even by the illusion we are doing ministry when all we are ministering too is our own ego.

But it is critically important to realize that the wisdom, the understanding, and knowledge of God’s will comes from, along with the ability and strength to do this work, enduring in it, and finding joy in it.

That only comes from the relationship we have with God.  For none of us is greater than the apostles, yet in many ways, we look at them in a far more common role. Fisherman, tax collectors, rebels without a cause, highly competitive brothers.

They learned to do their job at the side of Jesus, with His coaching, yet they still needed the upper room, where Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and Pentecost, where the Spirit testified to their ministry, with signs and wonders, with tongues of fire, which resulted in people hearing God’s love revealed through them.

We need the Spirit to fall upon us in the same way, helping us to see the mission, the apostolate, the role God has given us.  Simply put, the will of God that none should perish, but all enter into a relationship with Him that transcends time.

But to do that, we need to depend on Him, growing in the confidence that comes from realizing God is with us. We need to know His presence and peace, the comfort the Holy Spirit brings, even in the midst of the greatest storms.

FOr we don’t do the work without Him active in our lives.

It all comes back to that relationship, which really is our first vocation, our first job. That comes first, and then, the ministry to the world flows from there.

May we be blessed as we spend all our time in His presence!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Have We Set Aside?

Jesus_knocks_on_door_heartDevotional Thought for the day:
3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4  And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. Hebrews 2:3-4 (NLT2)

4  “So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ 5  But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. 6  Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them. 7  “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. Matthew 22:4-7 (NLT2)

4         You often ask yourself why souls who have had the great fortune of knowing the true Jesus ever since their childhood, hesitate so much in responding with the best they have: their life, their family, their ideals. Look: you are bound to show yourself very grateful to the Lord, precisely because you have received ‘everything’ in one go. Just as it would strike a blind man if he suddenly recovered his sight, while it does not even occur to others to give thanks because they see. But that is not enough. You have to help those around you, daily, to behave with gratitude for their being sons of God. If you don’t, don’t tell me you are grateful.

When some Christians think of neglecting salvation, they think of the people they know who once attended church, yet now only show up for “special events.”  The people that may go to a Christian Concert, or listen to Christian music, but aren’t involved in a community of believers.

Like the ones in the story, invited by the King to share in His son’s wedding feast, who dismiss or are violent to the King’s servants.   Some who do neglect God’s delivering us from the power of sin do so by finding other priorities over church, other priorities over studying the scriptures and praying with others.

But we also neglect such a great blessing as salvation is when we do nothing with it.  When we go through the motions at church, when we soak in all the Bible Studies when we reduce our life to “attendance”. It may be because we’ve simply got comfortable in our routine, that we’ve reduced walking thru life with God to just showing up once in a while.  We can become the people that always have been able to see, that don’t appreciate it. Or who have received God’s mercy for so long we take it for granted and think every one we know also is going to be saved.

Neglecting salvation begins not with passivity, but in not realizing the profound difference it makes in our lives, and the difference it could make in the lives of those around us. And knowing that difference, helping them to see it. (Not forcing it one them, but revealing and encouraging them to believe in the promises.

We need to be grateful for this greatest gift in our lives.

A gift that all can receive.

The problem is that many of will read this and respond (or at least commit to respond out of guilt and obligation.  Instead, we should respond naturally, in awe and joy, in gratitude for the life that has been given to us.

This amazing gift of freedom from sin, of knowing we have life eternal, of knowing that we walk with God, because He wants to walk with us,,, He wants to be with us,.  He wants us to know that He, God our Creator and Redeemer loves us.

Think about that love… dwell in it.. and live in it.

May God’s richest blessings that He gives you, be recognized and hold the greatest attention in our lives!

The question of the Day:  What distracts you from God’s love, what causes you to neglect it? 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 253-260). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Secret to Longevity in Ministry

Mike's installation gangDevotional Thought of the day:
11  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12  always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13  For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14  who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Colossians 1:11-14 (NLT2)

998    O blessed perseverance of the donkey that turns the waterwheel! Always the same pace. Always around the same circle. One day after another, every day the same. Without that, there would be no ripeness in the fruit, nor blossom in the orchard, nor scent of flowers in the garden. Carry this thought to your interior life.
999    And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave him.

This weekend was extremely busy, a funeral on Saturday added to an already long day. Sunday included church, Sunday School, a meeting, and then another service, where we installed the new president of our district.

As I was there, I ran into a bunch of friends, including pastors that served for twice as long as my two decades in ministry, Even one who has served 55 years as a pastor. Another who has served in the mountain jungles of Papua New Guinea since 1972, translating the New Testament into three different languages.

As i shared some time with these brothers, I thought about the stories we hear, about 1500 pastors and priests a moth leaving the ministry, about clergy burnout and how often pastors flee or are fired from congregations.

And then today, in my readings, I come across these words in Colossians about patience and endurance.  As I read the words of St Josemaria about perseverance as well, about how ministry is really being available for people day after day, meeting them in trauma, helping them remember that God is with them, or revealing His presence, which brings to them peace and healing.

The situations change, but the basic motion is the same.  Encounter trauma after trauma, work with the break to see healing happen, even as Jesus heals us. Day in and day out, counting on God’s faithfulness to see us through.

Yet, even after all of our plodding, we see the effects.  The beauty in a child that wants to be baptized, the joy in a child who wants to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and learns the things that make her desire even more.  The smile on a man’s face when he receives communion after having to miss church for 4 weeks because of work.  The work of pastors who gather together to pray for and with each other.

All these things happen because we keep our eyes on Jesus as we plod through our daily ministry.  Because what happens is, our eyes on Jesus, we reflect His love to those as broken as we are.  We reflect the power of mercy, as we live knowing Jesus has forgiven us, in order to unite us to God. These things happen, as we experience the love of God, and learn to adore Him, as He invites us to share in His glory.

For those who are shepherded by such men, pray for them, and encourage them to spend time contemplating God’s love for them.

For those who plod through ministry, Keeping looking to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will use your plodding in ways you won’t believe!

And to all, find peace and rest in this fact: THE LORD IS WITH YOU!!!!!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2316-2321). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Chew on This! A sermon on John 6:51-59

church at communion 2Chew on This

John 6:51-59

†  IHS  †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to contemplate the love you experience, as you eat Christ’s body and drink His blood, and remain in Him!

Bothered by an Attitude

The disciples of Jesus today had an attitude and said something I just can’t believe.  It bothers me a ton, as a pastor and as a fellow disciple.

This is what they said, This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”

And a moment later, they did something that shouldn’t just bother us, it should bring us to tears.

But there is Jesus, who has fed them, healed them, taught them in such a manner that they are in awe, and they don’t want to listen to Him.  It is too hard to understand, it doesn’t make sense to them.

Even though it promises life, and life eternal.  The life lived in joy in the promise of God. Rather than simply giving up trying to understand, rather than refusing to accept Jesus teaching that He was the Bread of Life, they needed to do something…

They needed to chew on what He told them about Himself.

just like we do.

They left the Building… would we?

They didn’t. And not only did they not accept it, in verse 66 they did something even worse.

They walked away.

They abandoned the man they thought was at least a prophet, and very probably, the long-awaited Messiah, the hope, and savior of God’s people.

They couldn’t accept what He said, so they gave up.

They walked away from the free food, from the healings, from seeing miracles happen.

They walked away because they didn’t understand, they couldn’t accept it.  Despite the evidence, despite the miracles, the teaching, the food

They walked away.

But many of us do as well.

We don’t like what God reveals to us in scripture.

The simple lessons about what is right and wrong, the lessons about loving your neighbors, and your enemies, the lessons about the fact that we all have sinned, or how the church and the family should be arranged around mutual submission as we will hear in next week’s lessons.

We don’t understand, we think we can never accept it.  Some leave. Others just ignore the parts that make them uncomfortable or say that it may have been that way in Jesus’ day, but its changed now….

And we walk away, ignoring the blessing.

In the case of Jesus talking about eating His body and drinking His blood, we walk away from the promise of eternal life.

We need to stop ignoring what we don’t understand, we need to stop giving up on what is hard to accept and just chew on what God gives us, what He reveals to us for a while.

Chewing on the Words that give life…eternal life.

I’ve used the word “chew” intentionally during this sermon, even as I titled the sermon “chew on this for a reason.

I am not talking just about thinking about and deeply meditating on the Lord’s Supper and what it means.  Though doing that is a very healthy exercise, especially when you are struggling life.  For the Lord’s Body and Blood, what he calls true food and true drink, reveal a lot about His love for you.  But that is not what is talked about here.

Where I got the word “chew” is from the Greek.  Up until verse 53, when Jesus talked about eating the Bread of life, eating His Body, he used a generic term for eat.  (Phage) But in verse 53, he changes the word to another Greek word, the to chew or chomp down on what is in your mouth.  (trogon)

Jesus isn’t just talking about understanding the imagery of the Lord’s supper, he is talking about participating in the act of remembering Him, eating His body and drinking His blood, in and under the bread and wine.  Communion is not just an intellectual or heartfelt thought, it is receiving these gifts, and trusting what Jesus says they are.

His body, His blood, given and shed for you, given to help you know your sins are forgiven. Given to help you know you are in a relationship, a relationship defined by the covenant.

it is like our benediction for the service, turn a couple of pages over to it. These last words of the service,

May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is for you! May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

Here, as we receive the bread, as we drink the wine, we experience the love of God, the love of God that is far beyond anything we can understand.  Chewing on this is not about in-depth thought, it is about the awe of communing with God, experiencing His love. You can’t comprehend it all.

And that’s okay… for knowing you are loved, knowing the width and length, the height and depth of His love for you are more than our brains can process.  This time at the altar, this time of communion with God is beyond words, for we know His love, and accept it.

We know it in our heart and in our soul, as Christ makes us one with Him.  Not in a magical way, but in a holy sacramental way. In a way, we experience that unity, as we trust Him at His word, and come and share in His feast.  As we eat His body, as we drink His blood, and find that we remain in Him, that we have a place with God. A place made secure for our heart and mind, by Jesus himself.  AMEN!

 

 

 

If you don’t see it at first…. that’s okay?

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking o that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.  Colossians 1:9-12 HCSB

890    You are distracted in prayer. Try to avoid distractions, but don’t worry if in spite of everything you’re still distracted. Don’t you see how in ordinary life even the most considerate children play with everything around them, and often pay no attention to what their father says? This does not imply a lack of love, or respect: it’s the weakness and littleness proper to a child. Look then: you are a child before God.

As I go through my devotional reading each day, I often highlight what I am reading. As I try to bring everything together, sometimes they click, and I see the instant connection, and sometimes they seem as alike as… I can’t think of anything diverse enough!

Today’s two quotes above fall into that latter group.  They both resonated with me.  The first from the perspective of this is a great goal for anyone who ministers to anyone.  From pastors and priests to Sunday School teachers, to those who work behind the scenes, to the little old ladies who can hardly do anything in the world’s eyes, but are great assets – because they pray! Oh, how we need them to model their persistent prayer so that we can follow their example!

We need to pray, as St Paul did, for the people we pray for, even as we pray that their bodies be healed, that their problems at home and work are resolved, we need to pray that they are filled with the knowledge of God’s desire, that they would have the wisdom and spiritual understanding that leads to the strength to work in this world in a way that pleases God.

And I guess that is where the second reading comes into the picture.  For even if someone is praying for me, that I would become all this, that I would realize what St Josemaria said.

I am still a child. I will still get distracted in my prayer time,  I can try to avoid the distractions (as you can as well) and we should!  But there are times where we are still His kids, we still are weak, though in Him strong.   The distractions don’t mean we are not his, no longer blessed, no longer His holy people.

We are His children.

Sometimes I get ticked at myself when something distracts me for a moment in prayer, or in church.  When I remember I have to write to someone or call someone when I realize I forgot to do this or that.  I’ve learned to turn off the phone (most of the time I don’t remember) or try to ignore the messages that come.  But I don’t always… and it annoys me and I deal with guilt about it.  Shouldn’t I have the ability to endure like the saints of old?  Shouldn’t I have the disposition to do what is right?  Shouldn’t I, by force of will, be able to free myself from all, so that I may concentrate on God?

Yes, and no. (even now I was distracted! Sigh! )

St Josemaria’s words help me realize that the patience that Paul prays for can include patience with myself.  They help remember I am a still a kid, and God will cause the growth.  Do what I can to eliminate the distractions, but also realize that the name or face that comes to mind, may have been put there by the Spirit.  And that God will be patient as well, as I grow in my appreciation for His presence and love.

Of course, if we were all mature, would there be a need to pray for each other as Paul prayed for the church?  No…

So call yourself back, remember you are in His presence…and rejoice in His love!

 

P.S>  if you don’t have people praying for you – let me know… and I will make sure you are!  (

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2059-2063). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Burning out between God and Mankind

Future and a HopeDevotional Thought of the Day:
7  You have seduced me, Yahweh, and I have let myself be seduced; you have overpowered me: you were the stronger. I am a laughing-stock all day long, they all make fun of me. 8  For whenever I speak, I have to howl and proclaim, ‘Violence and ruin!’ For me, Yahweh’s word has been the cause of insult and derision all day long. 9  I would say to myself, ‘I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more,’ but then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not do it. Jeremiah 20:7-9 (NJB)

The prayerful persons are doubly seduced, by God and by people.
On the one hand, they cannot do without God because they need to constantly look for Him as they know that they are beloved and wanted by Him, nor can they do without the people because they feel the need to serve them as they see in them the face of God.
The prophet Jeremiah felt this experience to the core.

I started writing this blog when I came across both readings in my devotions last week.

The first is a verse I’ve come to know all too well.  The complaint of Jeremiah, that somehow God tricked him into ministry, that He seduces us, that He deceives us into this work where we get caught between God and mankind.

By the way, this is not just a pastoral issue, but an issue for everyone who ministers to other people. Elders, Sunday School teachers, parents, those who teach Bible Studies, we all find this challenge as we seek to point people to God, as we walk alongside them on their journey, as we see them struggle with sin, and with the narcissism that affects us all.

I love how Pope Francis describes it, we feel the need to serve them as we see in them the face of God.  Despite their brokenness, despite their sin (and ours!), we see in them the image of Christ Jesus, and we know we have to help them see Jesus.

Sometimes that is a burden that is tiring and seems unending. Sometimes it seems like they will never listen, or at least keep the memory of what they heard for even a day.

There are days the weariness gets to be such a burden that you want to quit, you don’t want to speak about God again.  Not even think about Him, Jeremiah determines.

It is impossible, and I think Pope Francis tells us why.

Not only are we burdened to do something about the sin and brokenness we see, we are likewise burdened to encounter God ourselves. We need to know we are wanted in this relationship we have with Him, we are loved!  Despite the effort, it takes to clean us up, He still wants us with Him, He still loves us.

That love burns within us, it changes everything, in our lives. It is the fire that burns within, the love of God who created us in HIs image, He restores that image as the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Jesus.

And if he can do that to you and I, surely he can do that to those we minister to, those we serve, those whose lives we weep over.

And so like Jeremiah, we enter another week, looking God, serving those He is calling to His side, helping them to see God at work in their lives, too.  And know this, count on this promise, revealed to us by the apostle Paul.

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you j will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.   Phil. 1:6-7 HCSB

 

 
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 257). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Struggle of Being Holy….and How it Accomplished!

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day
15  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16  For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17  And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:15-17 (NLT2)

6. We also believe, teach, and confess that, although the genuinely believing and truly regenerated persons retain much weakness and many shortcomings down to their graves, they still have no reason to doubt either the righteousness which is reckoned to them through faith or the salvation of their souls, but they must regard it as certain that for Christ’s sake, on the basis of the promises and the Word of the holy Gospel, they have a gracious God.

Men expect redemption from themselves, and they seem quite prepared to provide it. Thus there is linked to the primacy of the future the primacy of practice, the primacy of human activity above all other activities. Theology, too, shows itself more and more open to this concept—orthopraxis replaces orthodoxy. “Eschatopraxis” seems more important than eschatology. If in earlier days it was left to popular enlightenment to tell the lower class that artificial fertilizer was more effective than prayer, now, after a suitable interval, we can read similar commentaries in the kind of “religious” literature that strives to reflect the contemporary Zeitgeist; we can even find voiced there the argument that under certain circumstances prayer itself will have to be “refunctioned”: it can hardly be considered any longer an appeal for divine assistance; on the contrary, it must be regarded as a period of quiet composure in preparation for the practice of human self-help.

Benedict XVI’s words about orthopraxy replacing orthodoxy (right practice replacing right praise) seem eerily prophetic.  Written in 1971, these words I believe talk of the church today.  For the focus on doing things correctly, doing things in a way that seems holy to man dominate both traditional and contemporary Christianity, It can be seen in both conservative and liberal voices.

As he notes, even prayer becomes the preparation for doing things correctly, 

As I look at this, I think I see a tie into the quote from the Lutheran Confessions in green.  I think that we struggle with the fact that while we believe, the weakness and shortcoming we have (which is simply a fancy way of saying we still sin).  We don’t know how to deal with our own frailty, our own brokenness.  We are impatient with the healing we are experiencing in Christ, and so we seek to fast track our own sanctification.

If only we can do everything right, if only our performance reveals how much faith we have, then maybe others will see us as holy, and then, based on our testimony, we can believe we are holy.   So we look for the masters, the life coaches, the pastors who will show us the way to worship, how to live, how to raise our kids, and be a bastion or moral and religious perfection.

And instead of being an imitator of Christ, we try to become a clone of those who we follow.  Driven by the fear of being revealed to be something less than faithful, we take on the mannerisms, while leaving a soul behind that is empty, broken, and struggling with the sin that so easily ensnares us.

Prior to the passage from Romans above, we see Paul going from the joys of rising with Christ in baptism, to the absolute low of discovering he still can’t get things right.  Orthopraxis is impossible,  He can’t do what is right, he can’t help but do what is wrong.  In this moment of shame and self-pity, he finds in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That despite his struggle with sin, God sees Paul as righteous, holy, a son of God.

This discovery changes things, it changes our fear of our sin being discovered into a cry for help,  Daddy! Daddy! HELP!  We realize that our hope is not found in our attempts to be holy, but in hearing His voice tell us we are His children.  In hearing His promise to complete everything in the day of Jesus. We find our transformation not by our work in ministry, not in our perfection of word and sacrament, but from being there, broken, and finding healing.

Nothing I can do will bring you the level of holiness you will be satisfied with, in this age. For satisfaction means you want to judge if you have made it, or rely on the judgment of others. That desire for satisfaction will drain you, ripping out from you the core of your heart and soul.

But allowing God to minister to us, allowing His grace, His mercy and love to pour into us, living life being drawn to Him, sometimes in tears, this is our hope.  Not starting with prayer, but a life lived in Him, allowing Him to recreate us.

This is our hope of wholeness, of holiness.  Letting God be God, as we realize we are His.

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 474). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 242–243). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

What Really Matters; A sermon on life based from 2 Corinthians 12

church at communion 2What 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.

AMEN!

How Important is Our Belief In Jesus?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day

25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.  Job 19:25-27 HCSB

22 “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in my spirit, j not knowing what I will encounter there, 23 except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. 24 But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.  Acts 20:22-24 HCSB

15 These are the most necessary parts of Christian instruction. We should learn to repeat them word for word.
16 Our children should be taught the habit of reciting them daily when they rise in the morning, when they go to their meals, and they go to bed at night; until they repeat them they should not be given anything to eat or drink.
17 Every father has the same duty to his household; he should dismiss man-servants and maid-servants if they do not know these things and are unwilling to learn them.
18 Under no circumstances should a person be tolerated if he is so rude and unruly that he refuses to learn these three parts in which everything contained in Scripture is comprehended in short, plain, and simple terms,
19 for the dear fathers or apostles, whoever they were,7 have thus summed up the doctrine, life, wisdom, and learning which constitute the Christian’s conversation, conduct and concern.

579    Faith. It’s a pity to see how frequently many Christians have it on their lips and yet how sparingly they put it into their actions. You would think it a virtue to be preached only, and not one to be practiced.

If you read the words from Luther in blue above, they might seem a bit extreme.  Over the top.  Harsh.  One might even accuse him of child neglect or abuse for insisting that children don’t eat until they can repeat them. (please notice it says repeat them)  And employees be terminated for not knowing them?  Isn’t that a bit much?

Then look at St. Josemaria’s words, decrying the life-less faith of those who can say they believe, but that belief doesn’t impact their lives.  They can preach it, they can state the arguments, but there is something missing.  One might even ask if they truly have faith if they depend on the Jesus they confess to with their words.

We need to have the kind of dependence on God that we see in Job, or in Paul.  One was encountering great trauma (and then it was greatly compounded by his wife and wise counselors) and the other, went where everyone told him not to go because the Spirit revealed to them the pain and trauma he would endure.

Job said no matter how bad it gets, he knew God would be faithful and would raise him from the dead just so he could be with God.  Paul corrected them, noting that the chains and afflictions were easily worth it, knowing that people’s salvation was at stake, knowing that without knowing God, there would be no comfort, no solace, no serenity found in the midst of life.

So how does our faith, our ability to depend on the God whom we can’t see, grow?  Is it possible to have the faith of Job, Paul, Luther, or Escriva?  Or are they just heroes of the faith that we cannot hope to be like?

For myself, my faith, my dependence on God grows or deepens, the more I encounter God’s love.  Whether that encounter is at the Altar, sharing in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper with others who are struggling, whether it is in studying the word and teaching it.  Whether it is in times of prayer.

Perhaps the greatest times of growth occur when I hit rock bottom.  When I have no other option, no other hope, and I cry out to God.  I may cry out for a day, or even a week, but in the end, I find out He was always there.  In the end, I realize where He was working in my life, especially in the words of those who pointed me to God’s mercy and peace. It is then what I was taught in the basic tenets of our faith, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the promises attached to the sacraments also cause me to be still, to catch my breath, to know that He is God.  Our God.

This is why those that went before us are so insistent that we learn these basic things. It is critical, for people were right in the 80’s.  Life can be a bitch, and in the end, we die.  But for those who know God, even then, in our flesh we will see God, our Redeemer.  And until then, depending on Him, we can live in a peace that doesn’t make sense, kept there by Jesus himself.

Depend on it.  He who promised this is faithful.  AMEN!

Lord, have mercy upon us, and grant us the ability to depend on you!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 363). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1383-1386). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Let Everyone know! A sermon for Trinity Sunday (Acts 2:22-26)

church at communion 2Let Everyone Know
Acts 2:22-26

I.H.S. †

 May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so visibly impact your life that you indeed let everyone know of His love, for you and for them!

 “whom you crucified”

In our reading from acts, we find the title for today’s message.

It is a command, an urgent command,

Let Everyone know!

Let Everyone know for certain!

Let everyone know this, and not just as data, but as the knowledge that sinks deep within you, and changes your life forever.

Let everyone know for certain… that God has made this Jesus to be both Lord and Messiah!

Because of this, Alleluia, He is Risen!  (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!  And therefore.. We are risen indeed!  Alleluia!)

O wait, I forgot a part of that verse.

God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!

Now, you may be thinking, at least it wasn’t me who crucified Jesus. That’s been an interesting discussion for centuries, who killed Jesus.  Was it the authorities?  Was it the Roman’s who weren’t in covenant with God?  What it the Jews who cried out. “Crucify Him?”

Or was it every one of us, with each of our sins pounding the nails into Jesus’s feet, into His hands? 

It was your sins, and mine, that caused him to be crucified, and we need to know this.  Just as much as the Jews and Romans of that day, with others help, we nailed Him to the cross and crucified him.  We need to realize that, we can’t just pretend that because we come to church we don’t sin, or that our sin didn’t really cause Jesus to suffer, not as much as other people’s sin. 

Our sins put Him there.

Our sins killed Him.

Our sin, our greased, our lust, our anger, our jealousy, our gossip, our desire to be in charge, our desire to be judge, jury and executioner, our desire to be God, that is what cost Jesus His life.  That is what crucified him.

Our sin.

Hear it again, from the other place in Acts.  Hear and face the truth,

23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him

Hear that…. God knew what would happen, and it did, just as God the Father had planned.

Jesus died for your sin, and for mine.

But He wouldn’t stay dead…. As planned!

Even as we realize it was for our sins that Jesus embraced the agony and pain of the cross, we need to realize as well that His death wasn’t the end of the plan.  God had something more in store, just as David said,

26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’

This is the faith of Jesus, these words are His words, His attitude, His faith in God our Father. Death could not keep him in its grip, Jesus wasn’t bound to death, He wouldn’t stay dead.

This too was planned, just as His dying for out sins was planned, so to was the resurrection.

Jesus was to say, “You ( Father) will fill me with the joy of your presence!”

Since we are united with Jesus in His death…

In Romans and Colossians, it talks of our being put to death with Christ, that we might rise with Him, so these words of David’s about Jesus, apply to us, that we can know these things because they are true about Christ Jesus.

Because you have been redeemed, because you have been cleansed, because you have been united with Christ, these words are your as well,

I see that the Lord is always with me, I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.  26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence!

That is the wonderful description of a life lived depending on Jesus, where we realize that the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of His holiness, that we rest in hope. That is where the joy comes from, and the incredible power of our praises, as we know He is here.  That is where we find rest, and the way of life, found

This is what happens when we are united to Christ, all of this!

Let’s repeat that thought together, knowing that these words, so used of Christ, also describe those who are in Him and trust in Him.

I see that the Lord is always with me, I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.  26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. 27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence!

AMEN!

So now, let everyone know, that He is our Lord and Our Messiah! AMEN

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