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In Ministry, whom do we please? A different perspective!

Devotional Thought off the day:

28  “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!” 29  But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30  The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31  Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven.
Acts 5:28-31 (NLT2)

383         In governing, after considering the common good, one must realise that both in spiritual and in civil affairs it will be very rare for a law to displease nobody. There is a popular saying: The rain never pleases everybody! Yet you can be sure, that is not a defect of the law, but an unjustified rebelliousness of pride and selfishness by a few.

I have often heard those in ministry talk about the pressure to please others. It is one of the things that contribute to clergy and lay ministry burnout.

Sometimes, we get so tired of being there for others, of trying to meet their expectations, that we decide to only please and look after our own needs. with a similar attitude, I have heard pastors and others justify their own attitudes that precede and accompany such burnout.  I am going to please no-one – just be faithful to the scriptures, using a passage like the one above from Acts.  In reality, the attitude is not one of a shepherd, but one of a scribe, using the law to condemn, rather than an agent of reconciliation

Let me be blunt, most of the times I have heard, or even said such a thing, the idea of pleasing God was not on the mind of the one spewing it forth.  They might have been in burnout, they may have been overwhelmed, or tired of feeling attacked. But we weren’t trying to please God…

We were trying to find some respite, perhaps a little peace, and in a perverse way, the pleasure of telling someone off.  We want karma (…err… God’s wrath) to bite them in the … well you get the picture

If we were trying to please God, we would hear the rest of the passage and realize what pleases God. 

People being transformed, people having their minds renewed, for this is what repentance is. His goal and greatest desire is to see people forgiven and to be drawn into a relationship with Him.  A relationship based in love, not fear. That is God’s end-game, it is His desire, it is what pleases Him.

One more thought, if we are patient and strong enough in our faith to strive for their reconciliation, if we depend on God for the words, the wisdom, the heart to see their redemption through, then we will have provided them with what will please them more than anything else we could ever do.  

So work to please everyone, working not for the false pleasure of the world, but the real pleasure that is the result of God and His people, rejoicing together!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1747-1750). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Being “Not Ashamed” of the gospel, is harder than we think

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.   1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)

16  I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17  For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”   Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)

Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross! She will become only a “polite social” institution in her sterility. This is, ultimately, the price paid, and indeed it is, by the people of God for being ashamed of the gospel and giving in to the fear of giving witness. If we do not confess Christ, what then would we be?

Jesus’ Last Supper was not one of those meals he held with “publicans and sinners”. He made it subject to the basic form of the Passover, which implies that this meal was held in a family setting. Thus he kept it with his new family, with the Twelve; with those whose feet he washed, whom he had prepared, by his Word and by this cleansing of absolution (Jn 13:10), to receive a blood relationship with him, to become one body with him.3 The Eucharist is not itself the sacrament of reconciliation, but in fact it presupposes that sacrament. It is the sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family. That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment. We have just heard this, in very dramatic form, from Paul: Whoever eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgment on himself, because he does not distinguish the Body of the Lord

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.


For decades, the two gospel passages above have been burnt into my mind.

This is what we do, or what we try to do.

Preach Christ crucified, and we do it in a way that proves we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

Being not ashamed of the gospel is harder than we think.  It is not being a hire-powered, no holes barred evangelist.  It is about letting our souls be laid bare so that we can be healed!

And yet, to preach Christ crucified we have to deal with our guilt and shame. And it may be that we are afraid of, no terrified of, our shame.

To preach the cross of Christ, means we have to realize something else is there, something God has to deal with, for we cannot.

6  Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call!
Romans 6:5-6a (MSG)

There we are. preaching the cross of Christ, knowing that on that cross our sins are nailed there, with Him.  All of our dirty, shameful, secrets lifted up on that cross for Him to bear.  Our sin was nailed to the cross with Him, and such a way that we are not ashamed of admitting it. 

Our confession is not that we trust in Him, but that we confess our sins, we give Him permission to deal with them, to heal us of our brokenness. 

That is what faith in Christ, depending upon Him boils down to, our recognition that He will help us deal with our brokennes, that he will take and remove our sin. 

And the power of that salvation is such that we are not ashamed to depend upon Him for that. 

Pope Benedict’s words have an incredible meaning here. For in clarifying that the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) is not the sacrament of reconciliation, He reminds us of the intimacy of this feast, and the celebration of His Body being broken, His Blood being poured out, the action which brings us, a holy and healing people into the presence of God.  We need to go to the cross, face our sin, and see it nailed there, that is what discerning the Body and Blood means. 

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is my hope, to deal with my brokenness, and to help me help you with yours. (and at times, vice versa)

It is this that is most ironic, that my shame, that yours, can be dealt with in a way of which we are not ashamed, but that brings joy and peace. 

Lord Jesus, draw us to the cross, draw us close to Your side. Help us to not be ashamed of being there, help us as we not be ashamed of handing over all our sin, all our brokenness, letting You remove their hold on our souls. Lord, help us to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit so that we realize Your presence.
Help us as well, to be willing to help others deal with their guilt and shame… knowing how You deal with ours. And then, lead us all into the Father’s presence.  AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (pp. 59–60). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

*this helps us to understand the difference between a pastoral form of close communion, and the denominational practice of closed communion.  The latter simply says you aren’t like me, you can’t be part of the feast, the latter looks at the common dependence on Christ’s mercy, the discernment of that need, and the desire to see God continue to heal us. 

A Lesson We Need to Learn. Church is not “Respectable”

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

The devotional thought of the day:

12 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. 13† Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”  Matt 9:12-13 Good News Translation (TEV)

Neither illumination nor contemplation but rather spiritual attack (tentatio) concluded Luther’s engagement with scripture. For him, when the Holy Spirit breaks our reason and reveals to us the true intention of God’s word, we are not drawn into some sort of heavenly realm or closer contact to the divine by our effort. Instead, all hell breaks loose. The flesh, the world, the devil and any other anti-spiritual power attempt to wrest from the believer the comfort of God’s unconditional grace and mercy. No wonder the psalmist cried out for deliverance from his enemies in Psalm 119!

One of the most serious temptations that lead us to break our contact with the Lord is the feeling of defeat. Facing a combative faith by definition, the enemy under the disguise of an angel of light will sow the seeds of pessimism. No one can take up any fight if, from the outset, one does not fully trust in winning. Those who begin without trust have already lost half the battle.

People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to by him. God’s visits to Adam and Eve in the garden, Enoch’s walks with God, and the face-to-face conversations between Moses and Jehovah are all commonly regarded as highly exceptional moments in the religious history of humankind.
Aside from their obviously unique historical role, however, these moments are not meant to be exceptional at all. Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us: God’s indwelling his people through personal presence and fellowship.

When 3 of my devotional readings go in a certain direction, it is not unusual.  When four do, when I see how they resonate,  the lesson just is about to burst forth, not from the readings, but through experience. So it is today;

I guess I will start with Luther’s thoughts, about this idea that the way we learn about God, is found in its last step in a fight, in the tension and battle that comes as all hell breaks loose, and Satan tries to wrest from us the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the comfort that is found in His cHesed, that incredible combination of love and mercy and peace that comprise what we call grace.

The fight is echoed in the words of Pope Francis, as we deal with an unnatural pessimism, a moment of despair and depression that is not like normal depression but is contrary to it.  As Satan tries to convince us that God wouldn’t care about us, that God sees us as riff-raff, as not worth His time or interest.  We know this is not true, yet, it is so hard to shut out the voice of the ones who are masquerading as messengers of God.

It is hard because we struggle to see ourselves as God does, as the beautiful, pure, bride, set apart as the bride of Christ, as one who deserves the respect and admiration of God.  Instead, we see ourselves as those who are broken, not worthy of a glance, nothing close to deserving respect.

Yet we often treat the church as if it is the place we have to demonstrate how respectable we are.  We might pretend, dressing us, smiling and saying we are okay when people ask, smiling and greeting each other as if every day was a party.  When what we really feel like is staying home, hiding under the blankets and ignoring the world.

I think this is enhanced by how we see what some call the heroes of faith, the incredible men and women we see described in the Bible. Except we forget that Moses was running from Egypt, a prince hiding out with sheep in the wilderness.  That Abraham was an exile looking for his home and future as well, that David wasn’t the hero, but the man broken by his sin, and then by the sins of his children.

As shattered as we are, yet…

Willard reminds us that they are examples of a normal human life and that God was present, and lived with them.   That God walked with them in their brokenness, even as He walks with us.   They are not exceptional, their walking with God, finding hope there, is our example, for we can as well.

After all, Jesus didn’t come to snob around with the perfect and respectful.  He came to draw outcasts, broken folk, exiles and those who struggle to get out of bed every morning.  Because He loves us…..

And Satan will unleash all of hell to stop us from experiencing this, and in that tension, we find God’s comfort, that He is our refuge, our sanctuary, and our hope.

We are His people, He is our God… and He is calling us to His side, so He can comfort and heal us, the children He loves.

Let us pray,  Heavenly Father, in the midst of trials, in the midst of brokenness, and when it seems all hell is breaking loose.  Help us to see Your glory, revealed in Your love and your comfort.  AMEN!

Wengert, T. J. (2007). Preface. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xiv). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 352). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Is Jesus your Lord? Is that all? That’s a problem!

Jesus_knocks_on_door_heartDevotional Thought of the Day:

In that day— this is the LORD’s declaration— you will call Me, “My husband,” and no longer call Me, “My Baal. (my master)”   Hosea 2:16 HCSB

Faith needs intellect if it is to be understood and practiced. But it needs, above all, an intellect that will not only be productive but will also be able to understand what is proper to it. It needs an intellect that hears.

There is a big difference in the relationship between a husband and wife, and a master and his servant. Even in the days of Jesus, or in the days of Hosea, there was a huge difference.

And yet, for many today, the idea of a relationship with God is one where we are the slaves and God is the Master. While Jesus is indeed Lord of Lords and King of Kings, for the people of God there is a relationship that is more important,

Far more important.

Far more meaningful, far more amazing, far more, dare I say it?

Far more intimate. (not in a sexual way, but a spiritual/emotional manner)

Hosea talks of God as our spouse, noting the incredible change from our identifying His as Lord, to identifying Him as our spouse, our beloved. That is the nature of faith, of a relationship in which we learn to depend completely on God, on His presence, His mercy, His incredible deep love for us all.  We need to learn that God desires to spend time with us, desires that we know the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love!  That He wants us to experience it, even if we can’t explain it.  (Modern forensic apologists and theologians take note!)  This is the God who calls us His own, who makes us His own, no matter the cost, and shows the greatest love, in dying that we might live.

That’s not the love of a master, a lord, a Ba’al.

That’s the love of a husband,  who adores His precious bride. (see Eph. 5!)

We know from scripture that even demons can see Jesus as Lord. (Mark 5. Matt 8, James 2:19) and that many will identify Him as Lord, whom he doesn’t know.

But He knows the ones He loves, and who love Him. He knows those who hear His voice and walks with Him. (this is why Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger talks about the need of the theologian to hear God to properly understand Theology.)  We need to hear him, to hear of his love, to hear of His care, to know He is with us.

So rejoice in the love of God!  Talk with Him, listen to Him, and rejoice in His presence!

And if you don’t know how to do that, let’s talk and listen and see what His word, His self-revelation to us says.  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. 329). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

I Have A Dream…or is it my prayer?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: y God sent z His •One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation e for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 1 John 4:9-11 HCSB

197         Don’t tell me that you care for your interior life, if you are not carrying out an intense and ceaseless apostolate. The Lord— whom you assure me you are close to— wishes all men to be saved.

A few decades ago, a preacher stood up and had a dream, a very valid dream where racism didn’t exist, where quotas and systems didn’t have a place, because diversity was natural, and celebrated.  A great dream.

My dream is somewhat different, somewhat more specific. Yet with the same thought, a reconciliation so pure that we don’t remember the damage. It has been a growing desire, this dream of mine, you might even call it a prayer. (though my mind would consider winning the lottery more likely….I would rather this dream come true over winning the lottery.)

it takes place in a small quiet sanctuary, without the reporters, without the news commentators, and without FB and Twitter going crazy. Only three people would know the meeting ever took place.  A pastor/priest, Judge Kavanaugh, and Dr. Ford.  And of course, the only One who could make this happen.

God.

As they gather together, the love of God would cause the positioning to drop away, the perceptions and the individual realities would be swept away, and the sin, whatever sin there is, would be covered.  Not covered up, but covered by the blood of Christ.

Healing would happen, as they are absolved by the Authority who can wash away sin. And with the sin, the anger, the hurt, the resentment begins to find healing

Because God loves them both, He ministers through the pastor/priests words to them both.  And the love of God transforms them both. So much so that they both realize all the sin in the room is so washed away, it doesn’t even come to mind anymore.

All there is is love. The love of God poured out on them, reflected from them to each other.

The world doesn’t have to know about it, just the two, and the priest/pastor sworn to secrecy.

Yet, the love that can unify those broken has its effect, and the world, ignorant of the scene, begins to change, as the most powerful thing in the world takes a hold of people, and reconciles them, even as it will draw others to reconcile.

This is my dream, and more it is my prayer. That the ministry of reconciliation become the dominant ministry once again, as we realize that love is not a human emotion, but the power of God at work in us.

Lord, this day, help us to see the power of your love at work in us, as we find ourselves being reconciled to those we were once divided from…  AMEN!

The question of the day.
If you knew reconciliation and healing was possible for the most broken relationship you have, what would stop you from seeking it?

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1031-1033). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Walk this way…

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow o in His steps. 22 He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth;  23 when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.  24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.  1 Peter 2:21-25  HCSB

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.

I remember a couple of decades ago when everyone started wearing “WWJD” merchandise.  Not many knew that the question was part of a fairly popular novel of the previous century.  In His Steps is a fascinating book, the story of a pastor and a church that tried to dedicate itself to asking what Jesus would do, if He made the decisions that they were faced with, every day in life.

It’s a good book, one in which the struggles of living a Christian life are seen in how we use our time, our talents, our influence, even the pains in our lives.

I might not agree with every decision, but the exercise is not a bad one.

The passage the story wraps around is the one above, from 1 Peter, urging us to walk in His steps, urging us to be as holy as Jesus was holy, as focused on doing what is right as Jesus is.

Or at least that is how following in His steps is portrayed.

The passage goes on to describe how Jesus lived, how He calls us to follow Him in that lifestyle.  An example that is pertinent today, He did not revile in return when He was reviled.  That is a pretty hard standard to live up against, as we so blatantly see in our world today.

If this is just giving us a list of standards we are to meet, if we expect our lives to simply be clones of Jesus, we will fail.  Just as the apostles, who were invited to follow Jesus also fell, often.

Following in HIs steps is more than just putting one foot in front of the other, It requires our focus be on Him, and How He lives.  It is about hearing His voice, about heeding the encouragement He gives to us. It is about letting the Spirit form us into His image. This isn’t tracking steps outlined in the sand 2000 years ago, or even last week.  It is about letting Him lead us, here and now.

Look to Jesus, the author and one who brings about maturity as you depend on Him.  Look to Jesus, and let the Spirit transform you as you reflect His glory.  He moves, move with Him, for He is the guardian and shepherd/guide of your souls.

The Lord is with you!

 

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

Communicating the Beauty of the Gospel

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day:
9  However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)

A good communicator is sensitive to beauty, perceives it and does not confuse what is beautiful with what is fashionable or only “nice” or simply “neat.”
Because it is human, sometimes beauty is tragic, amazing, touching; it sometimes pushes us to think what we do not want or unmasks our errors.

One of the challenges we face, whether we are with friends and family at a meal, or if we are before the church preaching the gospel, is communicating the beauty that is our relationship with God.

We can’t describe heaven, and I think that is intentional, for heaven is not about the location as much as it is the presence.  The presence of the people of God in the presence of God. No sorrow, no tears, no pain, rather we will know the purest of joy, the most incredible peace.  These are things that cant be described in words, we just will never find ones that significantly portray this beauty.

Not that we understand beauty all that much.

A pretty girl in a bathing suit may be considered beautiful by most, year, does that compare to a picture of a wounded soldier, being greeted and welcomed home by his family?  Or a picture of Mother Theresa embracing a poor victim of leprosy in the streets of India? What about a rainbow, coming out on the edge of a storm,

I think the most vivid thing we can communicate, the most beautiful thing we can describe is the scene of redemption, the prodigal being embraced by a father, whose tears of joy wash the young sinner.  The face of Peter, as Jesus reminds him, despite the betrayal, to feed the sheep.  The face of Moses, a stubborn pessimistic, man hiding from his destiny, in awe at the bush on fire that doesn’t burn.  The sinner at the communion rail, who finally understands the words, “for you…” and doesn’t want to leave the only place they have found peace.  The old man, who with severe memory problems, looks for meaning in the church, decides to study for the diaconate and preaches an incredible sermon of our need for God, and the fact God was with us.  (the amazing tears that flowed from his wife’s face, as she was convinced that he actually could do this… I cry just thinking of them. )  The little six-year-old, who begs and pleads for the body and blood of Christ, and lights up at her first communion

These things are beautiful, and though not perfectly described, give us a hint of the beauty that awaits us, as the redemption, as what is broken in our lives is healed. THere is beauty, a beauty that is found in the incredible transformation as we go from being alone to being in a relationship with God. As we realize that is our existence, our meaning in life.

God with us… nothing more beautiful in this life, or the next…

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 302). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Offended! Renewal or Revenge: I beg you…choose wisely

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day

9 I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, 10 appeal to you for my son, Onesimus. I fathered him while I was in chains. 11 Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back to you as a part of myself. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will. 15 For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, 16 no longer as a •slave, but more than a slave—as a dearly loved brother. He is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 
17 So if you consider me a partner, accept him as you would me. 18 And if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self. Philemon 9-19 HCSB

187         Listen to me carefully and echo my words: Christianity is Love; getting to know God is a most positive experience; concern for others—the apostolate—is not an extra luxury, the task of a few. Now that you know this, fill yourself with joy, because your life has acquired a completely different meaning, and act in consequence.

Christianity is Love, or better said Jesus Christ is love.

In recent weeks, there have been some issues where people have been gravely hurt, situations in which they feel they have been offended, gravely offended.  Some of these things are sinful, even including some that are considered abominations,

Yet Christianity is love, St Josemaria reminds us.

Our mission, the mission of the church and everyone who is a part of her is found in loving others, to have the positive experience of being concerned for them.  This isn’t easy, this mission of ours.  It calls us to love the unlovable, to be concerned for the very people who hurt us, whom we pin the blame for our brokenness on, looking for someone to take the fall

Yet Christ is love.

This morning, my reading plan hit the book of Philemon, one of the greatest encouragements to love a neighbor found in scripture. Paul is encouraging Philemon to love more than the betrayal, to love more than he was sinned against, to love more than justice, in fact, this love flies in the face of civil justice.

Christ is love.  Imitate Him!

Paul so desires Philemon to love the escaped slave, he is willing to risk having Philemon disobey him, willing to risk a betrayal.  He so desires to teach Philemon about love, he is willing to sacrifice the one he wants Philemon to love.

The one who betrayed Philemon, the one who hurt him, stole his property, made him the object of ridicule.

Paul wants Philemon to love the most unlovable person in Philemon’s life.

And he is willing to risk everything to teach this important lesson, even as he encourages Philemon with just as much energy, reminding Philemon how much he is loved.  Even reminding Philemon how much mercy has blessed him.

Christ is Love!

This is our calling, this is our way of life, this is a level of joy when we find that in Christ we can love the unlovable when we can love the one who has betrayed us when we can show mercy even as we show mercy.

What a joy to do that which we cannot do on our own. To so depend on the power of the Holy Spirit who comforts us, who gives us the ability to do what we cannot.

Christ in us!  LOVE!

Take a moment, think of those who you would struggle to love, whether a famous person, or a family member or a neighbor.  Hear those who have loved you when you were unlovable, pointing you to Jesus, and pray that someone would do the same for those whose actions and words hurt you, bring them to the Lord who will renew their lives.
Lord have mercy on us…..all!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 997-1000). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dare I pray this? Dare I not?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. 24  Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity. Psalm 139:23-24 (NJB)

Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. 2 For the person who speaks in another •language is not speaking to men but to God, since no one understands him; however, he speaks •mysteries in the Spirit. l 3 But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation. 4 The person who speaks in another language builds himself up, but he who prophesies builds up the church.  1 Cor 14:1-4 HCSB

771    God exalts those who carry out his will in the very same things in which he humbled them.

There is a joke about being cautious as you pray for things like patience and faith, because surely God will hear those prayers, and give you the opportunity to see your growth.  Of course, the only way to see growth in those things is when you have to demonstrate them.

Even though the idea of having to be patient is scary, the idea of praying the psalmist pray this morning is even scarier.  To give God permission, to beg God to investigate every nook and cranny of our heart, our soul, our very being, and to make sure I am not doing anything offensive, anything evil, anything that would lead me to ruin.

God knows our right and our wrong, our acts of rebellion, our sin, but to invite Him in to purge them from us?  That is a hard prayer, that is one that scares me, for somehow I think that what I hide from him, what I deny to myself, somehow doesn’t count, it doesn’t affect me and others, it just was a passing moment, something I barely remember.

And yet, it is only after I pray that, only after letting Jesus carefully circumcise my heart, that I can begin to understand how great His love his and be in awe of His mercy. It is only then that I can begin to realize what it means to be the one He loves, and adore God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is only then that life begins.

A focus on such love, pursuing such love is essential for those of us who preach, who prophesy, who teach.  Whether it is to a parish of thousands, or to two or three in a elementary sunday school class.  I believe there is a distinct impact on preaching and teaching that comes from knowing we are loved.  Not just knowing it as a fact, but living in the midst of that love, knowing that love so well that we easily trust Him, even with the darkest parts of our lives.

It is as we are rescued from that darkness we can speak of it in a way that edifies the church, that lifts them up, that convinces them of the love of God.  THat allow them to realize that God loves them as well, that they can trust Him to transform them.

That when God humbles us, it is so that, cleansed of all that has damaged us, we can be lifted up, healed, and in awe, knowing He loves us.

Such is our calling, such is our relationship with HIm… and though this prayer still scares me, can we pray it together?

Heavenly Father, we count on our love, we acknowledge the need of the Spirit to come through our lives, cleansing us from our sin, our brokenness, our pursuit of things we know distress you. Lord, help us to pursue the love you told us you have, and counting on that love, search our hearts our souls and minds, Find the things that displease You and take them away, so that you may guide us on this way of everlasting life.

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1785-1786). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Independence or Isolation? We need ot be careful which we choose.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 I lift my eyes to You,  the One enthroned in heaven. 2 Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the LORD our God until He shows us favor.    Ps. 123:1-2 HCSB

Many men and women are experiencing more and more today serious lowliness and neglect as a result of their excessive zeal for autonomy which they inherited from modernity. But mostly they have lost the support of something that transcends them.

For the last day or two, pictures from last summer remind me of my favorite place on earth.  It is a quiet place, and even in the midst of the summer Deer Cove on Lake Ossipee was quiet, tranquil, a great place to walk, enjoy God’s creation and peace.

I miss it, this idyllic, beautiful peaceful place. 

When life is stressful and overwhelming, when I am dealing with people in great trauma, I long to find the autonomy, the independence of such a place. 

Yet I hear Pope Francis’s words this morning and I know my desire to be introverted, independent, emotionally off-the-grid is a trap.  What I would be choosing is isolation, not freedom.  What I think is an escape is a sentence, a form of suffering I could not bear.

We choose, far too often the very thing prison wardens do to those who will not live by the rules.  We dwell in that place that makes memory stealing diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia so frightening. 

Complete Isolation. 

Complete Autonomy

Complete Loneliness. 

While a good deal of our stress comes from others, so should the support that comes from the people of God.  So does the reminder from others that I need to hear, that the Lord is with me. (and also with them!)  We were made to live in community. 

But that community starts in the presence of God,  Where love and mercy are the greatest of gifts, the purest grace.  (this is a necessity, otherwise, our sin and brokenness can make the community a nightmare.)  As a community, as the Body of Christ, we look to God to provide that which we need, and the confidence of that provision grows.  

Even as we learn to be merciful to each other, it grows. For that is the power of the Lord demonstrated in our midst.  

Our desire for freedom, for independence, for autonomy is really a desire for freedom from sin and the brokenness, guilt, shame, and division it causes.  As the sin is forgiven, as the mercy is realized, as our hearts re-discover peace and joy, the desire for independence disappears. 

For we realize God is with Us, we realize His provision unites us, brings us together as a family. Brings us together in His peace. 

Which is what we need, more than anything. 

Heavenly Father, as we try to run away from all that oppresses us, help us look to you, open our eyes to Your mercy and love, Help us to rejoice in Your presence, together with all your saints. Help us to be confident in Your work in our lives.  AMEN!

 

 

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 227). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

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