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Can You Leave Your Friend there… in danger?

Devotional Thought for our days…

20 “If a truly good person starts doing evil and I put him in a dangerous situation, he will die if you do not warn him. He will die because of his sins—I will not remember the good he did—and I will hold you responsible for his death.  Ezekiel 3:20  GNT

13  The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. John 15:13 (GNT)

993         In our meditation, the Passion of Christ comes out of its cold historical frame and stops being a pious consideration, presenting itself before our eyes, as terrible, brutal, savage, bloody… yet full of Love. And we feel that sin cannot be regarded as just a trivial error: to sin is to crucify the Son of God, to tear his hands and feet with hammer blows, and to make his heart break.

I read an article the other day, that made the argument that a pastor cannot be friends with his congregation.  That he has to stay aloof, separated so that he can call them to repentance when needed, and that they will hear him when he does.

One of my questions in the conversation that followed was, “shouldn’t your friend also care enough, love you enough to call you to repentance”  I had several questions about the concept, but this question is one I think we need to address today.

Should a friend help a person see the error of their way?

Or should we simply ignore the path they were on, letting them move on to perdition?

This job isn’t just a pastors.  It belongs to anyone that cares about anyone else. A parent, a teacher, a co-worker, a son or daughter, a friend.

There are a couple of challenges to this.  

The first is taking sin seriously enough.  St Josemaria helps here, helping us realize that sin can only be reconciled at the cost of life, the life of Jesus.   His brutal death, the shedding of His blood.  We get that about murder, or grand theft, or adultery.  I am not sure we realize that about that little white lie, or lust, or envy or gossip, And what about not treasuring the restful time we call the Sabbath when we gather with other believers and weep and laugh and rejoice together? Do we see this as sin?  

The second is more akin to comfort.  We are afraid to broach the subject, we are afraid our desire to care for our friend will be misunderstood as condemning them (We are trying to stop that!)  We are afraid of that awkward moment when they have to look in the mirror when they have to see their sin and error.

But their salvation, is that not worth the discomfort we might experience in calling them back? 

These are hard questions, and yet, evangelism is not a matter of “Law”, but one of Gospel, one of Love.  One of Joy.  We want people to experience this because we know the difference being forgiven makes.   We know the difference being clean creates in our lives, and knowing the hope of eternal life.

Our friends need this to know about this love of God that can take a sinner and make them a friend, that revive a broken soul, that can restore to its strength.  We can’t-do this because we have to, because it is a duty because it is what good Christians do.  We do this because we love them, and we love the God who is merciful.  For then, our thoughts aren’t about preserving our life or being comfortable.  It is about knowing them.

SO that we all can have the same heart and mind – that of Jesus.

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 4014-4017). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Apologetics is Never, Ever, Defending the Faith!

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought for our Days:

18 All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself, and God gave us the work of telling everyone about the peace we can have with him. 19 God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold the world guilty of its sins. And he gave us this message of peace. 20 So we have been sent to speak for Christ. It is as if God is calling to you through us. We speak for Christ when we beg you to be at peace with God. 21 Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NCV

15 But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, 16 but answer in a gentle way and with respect.  1 Peter 3:15b-16

870         Matters can rarely be resolved by aggressive polemics which humiliate people. And things are certainly never cleared up when among those arguing the case there is a fanatic.

In my high school freshman or sophomore yearbook, there is a note from an acquaintance with I used to argue with a lot.  We were both interested in history and debate.  She was a disciple of Engels and Marx, me, not so much.  Her note was full of admiration, a salute to our ability to debate and still respect each other.  (despite frustrating the hell out of each other – because we couldn’t understand the position of the other! )

As I read the words from St. Josemaria this morning, my heart brought back the memory of those words.  And of many presentations, I have seen about “apologetics”.  Usually, these include th idea that we are on a “crusade”, that we have to defeat our enemy, crushing their logic, unveiling their inconsistencies, doing battle and claiming the victory in Jesus name.

There was no call for respecting them as those Jesus died for, whom God created.  No sense of love, or peace that would envelop the conversation, and rarely, any hope that was explained and explored.  I encountered this as well when teaching world religions once, where several of my seminary level students wanted to know how to crush people who depended on false Gods.  They chose the path of the fanatic and the aggressive polemics that leaves people broken and crushed. 

Compare that to the verses above, the idea of being ready to explain the reason (this is where we get the word apologetic from btw) for the hope we have!  Peter goes on to say, but do so with gentleness and respect.  Look at how many times Paul mentions peace that God makes with us.  Look at the idea that God is calling to those whom He would reconcile to Himself, to those He would give His peace to, through us. Reading that, does it seem that the tactic best suited to doing so is walking with them, exploring this hope we have, this incredible idea that God wants to live with us in peace.  Helping them see that Jesus would walk with them, in all the ways described in the beautiful words of Psalm 23.

Some might say this doesn’t allow us to properly deal with their sin, but I don’t agree.  Sin is brokenness, and whether we will admit that everything we do is sin ( and Christians play this game too!) we do recognize the brokenness it causes in our lives. Sin is not just our deliberate rebellion in this action or that, but those sins are the symptoms of the brokenness of sin, something every religion deals with, mostly through threats and punishment, of being cut off and sent away.

Christianity meets that brokenness offering hope, offering peace with God, because of the cross and the empty grave.  A completely novel way not just to scare people away from future sin, but to bring comfort to the shame, the guilt, and despair that we all live with because of our pasts.  

This is the apologia, the hope, the peace, knowing the love of God who comes to us.It’s not something we have to defend or hit people over the head with.  It is something offered with great love, with mercy consistent to God. 

It is what we depend upon, what we hope for… it is Jesus….with us. 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3559-3560). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Live in Harmony/Concordia: A sermon on Romans 12:9-21

church at communion 2Live in Harmony/Concordia
Romans 12:9-21

 Jesus, Son, Savior

May you realize the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enables and empowers you to live in harmony with each other, as God intended!

Live in Concord

When I originally put a title to this sermon, it was missing one of the words you see up on the screen right now.

Anyone want to guess?

The original title read this way, Live in Concordia.

But I was afraid that some people might start moving their bedroom furniture into the Multi-Purpose Room this week, and Hank and Loreen would sell the furniture at next week’s yard sale!

Seriously, Concordia was the Latin name of the goddess the ancient Greeks called Harmonia – the two words are interchangeable, one simply finds it roots in Latin, the other in Greek.   So to live in harmony, as Paul tells us, is to live in Concordia.

We are to blend together, with one heart and mind.  Not to be copies or clones of each other, but rather to have our lives be together working together as one, as beautiful as any symphony.

For that is who God is transforming us to be, a people who love other, who really love them, with genuine affection.

Even if it isn’t easy, even if we struggle to do so, for in that struggle we learn to depend on the God who changes us!

The challenges

Love each other, challenging at times.

Love the stranger – that’s what the word hospitality means – literally to love the alien like a brother.

Ask God to bless those who try to crush you.

This isn’t exactly easy stuff!

It’s going to be very difficult at times, it is going to take effort that we don’t want to put into it, that we are not sure is worth it.

It is very different from who society has tried to make us become.

This is love without bounds, being ready to help them at all times, without any hypocrisy, as we serve God by loving others.

It’s a lot of work, we can’t be slackers about it, it takes dedication, and hearing God and obeying Him, even when we don’t want to love them.

Let’s be honest, though they may be different for each of us, there are people that it is hard to love.  Maybe it’s a neighbor, or a family member, or a person on the road that cut you off, or maybe even a pastor or deacon.

If this was simple and natural, Paul wouldn’t be writing it, covering every loophole he does.

We have to love each other, we have to love others, even those who aren’t like us… we have to love our enemies enough that we plead with God to bless them.  As Jeremiah says, we have to influence them on God’s behalf, rather than let them influence us by their persecution, by their hatred.

We have to love our enemy!

To do otherwise, to not do so is sin….

The righteous anger of God….

Paul gives us a way to deal with our tension, our frustration with those who are our enemies, those who persecute us, and try to crush us.

He says not to take revenge, to not personally seek our own brand of justice.

Let God handle it, let God’s righteous anger work itself out.    For God will do what is ultimately righteous, what sees sin paid for fully, which wreaks havoc on the guilty.

God promises this!

Even if the one who pays the price is Jesus.

Actually, that is His glorious preference, that all sinners would be united to Jesus at the cross.  All sinners.  All those others, all those strangers all those aliens and even you and I.

So rest assured, what we plead for if we hear God, is fully within His will.

And that changes everything, as God saves you and me, uniting us to Jesus, demonstrating His grace and mercy to us in that cross where His blood was spilled where hopefully they will be united as well, for Jesus paid the price for all our sin.

Which is why I find the greatest place for reconciling people to be here, at this altar, at this place where God’s love is poured out on us

Our confident Hope.

I want to back track from God’s wrath being poured out on Jesus for a moment, to verse 12,

Let’s read it together,

12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Rejoice in our confident hope, the hope we find at the cross, the hope we find in the resurrection, reaffirmed every time we unite with Christ’ in communion, even as we did in baptism.

Be patient and longsuffering.  Don’t think a life lived loving others will be easy, but suffer through it, depending on God not only for the strength and power but to help you stand firm.

Which is why you keep on praying, pleading with God for them, and to help you remember His love for you.  Prayer is more than just asking God, it’s talking to Him, realizing His love, letting Him take the weight off your shoulders.  It is keeping your eyes on Him, knowing that enemies can’t crush you.
You see, that’s the key, to keep your eyes on God, to keep in His presence, to find yourself loved and safe in His peace.  AMEN!

Doing What is Right…. there is only one way.

Devotional Thought for our Day:

1  People of Jerusalem, run through your streets! Look around! See for yourselves! Search the marketplaces! Can you find one person who does what is right and tries to be faithful to God? If you can, the LORD will forgive Jerusalem. Jeremiah 5:1 (TEV)

804         That friend of ours with no false humility used to say: “I haven’t needed to learn how to forgive, because the Lord has taught me how to love.”

Unrighteousness is a contagious disease.

It spreads like wildfire, often consuming those who are trying to fight it the hardest.

We find ourselves caught hating those who hate, gossiping about those who gossip, seeking to be unjust to those who presume are unjust.  Not forgiving those who do something unforgivable.

We seriously need to send out search parties to find one righteous, just person.  Just one!

At least God lowered the standard from the days of Sodom and Gomorrah! Then Abraham got him down to 10 righteous people.  Now we have to find only One! If only there was some way to find that person, if only there was some way He could rise above the crowd, so that God could easily see Him!

The man has been found!  He’s been lifted up on the cross!  God forgave Jerusalem and all who look to Him for forgiveness!

God’s looked beyond our unrighteousness, beyond our betraying Him, beyond our brokeness and forgave us, not because He had to, but because He loves us.   He proved what St. Josemaria states, that one who loves doesn’t have to learn to forgive, the love they are compels them to do so.  Love will seek the course of reconciliation, it has to, and that means forgiving.

That is what the righteous and just do…

And that is contagious as well.

Lord, help us ot know we are loved, help us to be so overwhelmed by our experience the incredible height and breadth, depth and width of that love that we begin to love as well, and as we do, forgive as we’ve been forgiven!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3319-3320). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


 

What We Pass On…. Is it Truly Good?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for Our Day:

5 Isaiah then told the king, “The LORD Almighty says that 6a time is coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have stored up to this day, will be carried off to Babylonia. Nothing will be left. 7Some of your own direct descendants will be taken away and made eunuchs to serve in the palace of the king of Babylonia.”
8 King Hezekiah understood this to mean that there would be peace and security during his lifetime, so he replied, “The message you have given me from the LORD is good.”  Isiah 38:5-8  TEV

802         When someone has a very small heart, it seems as if he keeps his desires in a narrow, neglected drawer.

The king in the passage indicated he thought the message of God’s wrath was good, and that bugs me.  Is he so self-centered that he doesn’t realize he is welcoming, even approving of God’s wrath to be poured out on others because of his own sin?  Doesn’t he realize he is rejoicing in his people’s, his descendants suffering? 

What kind of king is that? 

What kind of father?

Which brings a hard question to ask, what kind of things will our children, our grandchildren, and those who follow us in Christ have to face because of our lives today?

I am not talking “our” in a corporate sense of America, or even of the entire Church, or my denomination or congregation.  I am talking about you and me. 

In my case, my cynicism, my own reactions toward those I don’t relate well too, that I don’t trust, that I struggle with, and consider my adversaries, my enemies.  Those, if I am in a more condescending mood, that I consider a royal pain in the ass.  How will I treat those who add fuel to my already raging sense of cynicism or those who provoke my fine sense of irony? 

I have struggled a lot with this as I’ve seen people react to a reaction of other people.  That it turn created a reaction, which more people are reacting to with more extremism, more hatred, more calls for violence and acting in anger.  

I want to react, I want to call people out on their hypocrisy, I’ve written twenty or thirty replies, then caught myself before posting them.  (and a couple of times, I didn’t) 

My reaction has to be one of love, it has to be less about me, and more about helping people reconcile, but oh this is difficult, it is brutal, it cuts me to the heart…. and yet, that is exactly what I need.   It is this process that St Paul wrote about when he wrote,

11  In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12  For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13  You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14  he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:11-15 (TEV)

The only way I can love those who seem unlovable to me is to live in the reality of my baptism.  To know that when I was (and still can be)unlovable, God did anyways.  And because He loves me (and you) He is working on me (and you), as I must trust He is working on everyone!  Even those who don’t know Him, yet He is calling them to this change of life. To this circumcision of the heart (see Ezekiel 36:25 and following) which cleanses us, changes us, transforms us.  (this is what repentance is, and it is far more than saying, “i am sorry”_

It is in His work, that I must trust.  Not must in the sense of my obligation to Him, but rather must because if I don’t, I will soon realize I am what I annoys me, I am what I rail against, I am what i hate.

My hope?  In the one who loved me enough to die for me.  Who loves me enough to transform me, even as I struggle against it.  My hope is in Jesus… who is still my advocate, who is still my shepherd, who is my Lord.

May we all let Him change us, as He calls us to his side.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3314-3315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Civil Rights and/or Following Jesus…

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:
29  Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30  For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 (TEV)

7  Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8  He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross. Philippians 2:7-8 (TEV)

413         Aspire to have no more than one right: that of fulfilling your duty.

I often hear fellow believers and even those who are ministers of the gospel talking about our civil rights being infringed upon, and even warning us that they are being taken away.   Our freedom of speech, our freedom to assemble, our freedom of religion, our freedom to own guns.

They are being stripped away we are warned, we have to rise up and defend these rights.
I have to wonder what would happen if the church instead rose up to love, to serve, to sacrifice for others, to follow the path that Jesus walked, living life as a servant.  A servant who has no rights, whose focus is on pleasing His master, fully assured that His master will care for him.

Ask yourself this morning, which are you more attached to, your civil rights, or the yoke of Jesus?  Which are you more likely to fight for, your ability to have free speech or the eternal life of the one who would hinder your free speech?   Which will matter at the end of the day, having your voice heard in Washington D.C., or having your voice heard as His by those crying in grief, or those struggling with sin?

It’s a hard question, and like me, you are probably lining up a list of “buts”.  Thoughts like, “if we don’t defend our freedom of speech and freedom of religion then we won’t be able to share Christ’s love…”  Here’s the harder question, with all these rights, and with our focus on them, are we sharing His love, is our money and time going to that, or to fighting for the rights, funding and working for those we think will defend them?

A hard question indeed.

Will we ask it?

Will we take up the right we have as Jesus’s co-workers in the ministry of reconciliation? Will we see the wonder of shattered relationships healed,  of the guilt and shame being washed away?  Will we see our burdens lifted, our anxieties fade away as we see the glory of Christ revealed?  These are the things Jesus fought for, our access to the Father, our knowing His love and mercy, our being transformed into His likeness as the power of the Holy Spirit is at work.

Will we trust in God, depend on Him, walk with Him,

The Lord is with you!  May He be revealed in your life, and may His glory and love bring you joy, as it shatters the darkness!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1856-1857). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Do You Love God?

DSCF1421Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day
15  After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
John 21:15 (NLT)

499      We men don’t know how to show Jesus the gentle refinements of love that some poor, rough fellows—Christians all the same—show daily to some pitiful little creature (their wife, their child, their friend) who is as poor as they are. This truth should serve as a salutary shock to make us react.  (1)

If we know this scene well, we know what preceded it was Simon diving out of a boat to go see Jesus.  He’s seen him several times since the cross, in groups and at least one on one.  Even so, in excitement, in a desire to be close to his Friend, his master, he dives out of the boat and swims to shore.  Once again he leaves everything behind to be with Jesus.

The question will be repeated, without the tag phrase “more than these”.  But that is what we need to think about this morning.

Do we love Jesus more than those in our life that we care for deeply?

Escriva mentions we know how to show that love to others around us, sinners just like us.  We know how to show that love to our wives, our children, our parents, other family members, and friends.

But do you love Jesus more than them? And if you claim to love Him more, are you able to demonstrate it?

(just as a side note – you aren’t doing so to save yourself, or to prove you are saved..)

Or do we need to be shocked by this truth, that we can show our love for people, but struggle to show how deep our love is for Jesus.

Peter didn’t think he could. He struggled with this question, He struggled to move on from it.  Jesus kept asking him, and he kept answering,  Each time Peter uses a different word for love than Jesus.  One that still is love, but not as intimate, not a love that abandons all.  Peter is careful, perhaps because of his failure, his denial of Jesus.

Just like we deny Him, just like we struggle to show Him, love, just like we fail, and find ourselves broken by sin.  We love God, but we know we should love Him more, deeper, with more commitment, fully abandoning ourselves into His care.

We need to hear Jesus’ reply, each time to Peter – as Jesus accepts Peter, as Jesus loves Peter, as Jesus shares His ministry, His reason for being here.

Care for my sheep.  DO what matters to me most!

You see, Jesus could see Peter’s heart, we can as well.  Peter three times in his life left the boats behind.

The first time, when Jesus told him he would make him a fisher of men

The second time,, to walk on water to Jesus, when all others were afraid.  Peter asked to come, was told to, and did…

This time, when he realized it was Jesus on the shore…

He knew in his soul how to love Jesus.  You do as well.

Run to Him as you need, allow Him to guide your walk through life, and care for the sheep He shares with you…..

You love Him because He loves you… and gives you life.   AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1907-1910). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Key to Making Mondays Enjoyable!

Sunrise at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:
3  He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one who has called us to him, through his own glorious goodness. It is through him that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature. 5  For this very reason you must do your utmost from your side, and see that your faith carries with it real goodness of life. Your goodness must be accompanied by knowledge, your knowledge by self-control, your self-control by the ability to endure. Your endurance too must always be accompanied by devotion to God; that in turn must have in it the quality of brotherliness, and your brotherliness must lead on to Christian love.
2 Peter 1:3-5 (Phillips NT)

Since then, O my soul! thou art capable of knowing and loving God, why wilt thou amuse thyself with anything less than God? Since thou mayest put in thy claim to eternity, why shouldst thou amuse thyself with transitory moments? It was one of the most grievous reflections of the prodigal son, that he might have fared deliciously at his father’s table, whilst he was feeding amongst filthy swine. Since thou art, O my soul, capable of possessing God, woe be to thee if thou contentest thyself with anything less than God.

This morning, as I arrived at church, two little girls who go to our preschool were greeting each other with great joy.  Laughter and giggles were loud, as they danced around their moms who were obviously more aware that it was Monday, and that we shouldn’t be excited or enthusiastic about a new day.

My ten year old observed that it was because they were anxious to see each other, to share the week together, that explained the joy we observed. As I read St Francis de Sales words (in blue above) I thought it echoed my son’s words of wisdom.  Why should we have the Monday drama?

Isn’t there something good about this day?  Isn’t it one of the days the Lord has made?

de Sales talks about the woes that accompany those who are capable of possessing God (realizing they are in His presence, that they have His attention and His heart)  and find contentment ( or at least settle for) something less than God.   That we accept the doldrums, the burdens of our lives as being the reality.

We are capable of knowing and loving God!  This is what the cross means, this incredible encounter with God who lives and reigns.  We are invited to walk with Him through life, to behold the masterpiece He would make of it!

That’s why Peter talks so…. so gloriously about a life with Christ.  A life where we know the Father, where we endure and find the ability to endure because of our devotion to Him, a devotion that is a response to His giving us everything that is needed to live what Peter calls ( in the midst of a dungeon that could make the worst Monday appealing)) the “good life.”

It’s not what we endure that makes it good, but that we live in the presence of God while experiencing it that makes the difference.   Like the two little girls, greeting each other with great joy, we can greet our Lord, and see His smile, and rejoice in His presence!

So stop amusing yourself with anything but God… and find in Him the joy that overwhelms even a Monday you return from vacation!

Alleluia!  He is Risen!  He is risen indeed! And therefore – We are Risen indeed!

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Do We Choose our Crusades/Battles Wisely?

20170124_1037031  When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2  For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (NLT)

14  As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.
Galatians 6:14 (NLT)

One word should suffice, that is, the cross itself. The cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the cross of Christ: a word that is love, mercy, and forgiveness. It also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us.

A thousand years ago, there were crusades. Men fought for land, urged on by those who would use religion as the promise of reward.

Now we have crusades to correct what we think are injustices.  And like those who fought a thousand years ago, we often do so without completely understanding what we are getting into, without having the whole picture, without understanding the cost to those we crusade against, or to ourselves.

I’ve been there, getting all excited, getting all ready to do battle, working strategically on the arguments and planning the step by step approach to annihilate the opponent.  The energy that ramps up is amazing, as our hearts feed on the competition which can quickly turn to hatred.

And then, whther victorious or shot down in defeat, we realize the emptiness, the quickly fading glory, as we see the cost in the bodies and relationships that are broken.  Including our own.

I would suggest that in the quotes from the apostle Paul above (in red) is a great guideline to help us choose wisely what we invest our heart and soul in, a way to measure whether a crusade is good, moral, beneficial. Simply put, does it lead to the cross of Christ?

There we find the answer, God’s answer, to injustice.  There we find an answer to the brokenness of the world which we experience.  There we find the hope that sustains us, and the glory of God which brings us peace.  For He was broken so that we didn’t have to remain broken.  He died, so we could live.

Does what we do help people know about Jesus, does what we speak, tweet, post, do these things show His love?

People need an answer, we have one that will bring peace.

There is a crusade worth involving ourselves in… one that will cause our own peace to grow.. and will never leave us empty.

 

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

There is Another Way: A Lenten Sermon on Romans 4

church at communion 2There is another Way

Romans 4:1-8, 13-17

 In Jesus Name

As we realize the sin we commit, may we also realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from the sin, even as we come to depend on His presence in our lives!

Parenthetical Statement

 In the midst of the passage from Romans this morning, our translation puts a few of the words inside of parenthesis.  They are no less part of scripture, and I would call your attention to them this morning…

They are these words, “The only way to avoid breaking the law, is to have no law to break!”

That seems simple.  No law, no breaking the law.

Even though they are scripture, they present a problem for us.  They are a literary device, not what we would call “pure gospel”.  A literary device, sort of like sarcasm or irony.

You see, as a literary device, the idea of getting rid of God’s law is predetermined to fail.

For one thing, it’s impossible.

For another… well you will see.

We can’t avoid it – because of Adam

Paul’s literary device fails, simply because we can’t avoid sin. Last week we saw why, sin entered the world through Adam, and it was passed on, as vicious as any virus or genetic anomaly to every person who was a product of human conception.

All we have to do is look at what our lives produce, and we know that the Apostle Paul was right when he said that, “the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.” 
That seems like a bit of a challenge, doesn’t it?  You try to obey God’s law, and you can’t!

Some will say the law is impossible, that we should just ignore God’s law, and do whatever we want. Others give up, and others pretend that they have never sinned, or that their sin isn’t as evil as the sins of those they complain about.

Sin, we’ve all done it, we’ve all earned the wrath of God that are the wages for that sin. Ignorance of the law doesn’t matter, and we can’t simply make God’s law disappear, or claim that it isn’t for us…

You can’t avoid the law, it exists, which is why we need what Abraham discovered….. the discovery that David says brings great joy.

Rejoice, we were cleared of breaking it.

 Hear David’s words again,

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord as cleared of sin.”

This promise is for all people, without care for their age, their ethnicity, where they lived or even the sin they committed.  This wondrous act of God, clearing us of sin, putting the sin out of sight is amazing!

Trusting God, depending on Him to keep a promise that goes back to the garden of Eden is what we are talking about, it is how we have a “right relationship” with God.

Since the beginning this is God’s plan, since God covered Adam and Eve’s sin with the skins of animals, since God saw Abraham’s trust, first in the promise of Isaac’s birth, and then as he went to sacrifice Isaac, knowing God’s promise was deeper than he could understand.  Hebrew’s tells us that he counted that through Isaac God would provide him more descendants than the sand on the shore, or stars in the sky.

That trust, that dependence on God saw Abraham counted as a friend, just as David, whose sins far outweighed his predecessor King Saul, God describes as a man after his own heart.  Paul gets this as well,

20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.   1 Cor. 5:20-21
This right relationship we share – another way of describing God’s work in creating it is what Paul told the church in Corinth – His way of changing us from enemies into His friends.

His friends.

Let that sink in.

Like Abraham, being counted as righteous means you are counted as a friend of God.
His friend.

That’s what a right relationship with God is, which explains why David uses this word joy to describe our sin being put away.

During Lent, this is what we focus upon, this work of God we need, this love of God that proclaims we are cleansed, healed, forgiven, loved, by the Creator of the universe, who created us to be His friend.

And though sin tried to break that relationship, our God had already prepared for that, even before creation, for His intent has always been the same as it was in the garden,

to walk with us… He as our God, we as His people, his children, His friends.

And the cross, it is our way to avoid the damage of sin.  And it works. So be at peace and trust in God who loves you more than anything.

AMEN!

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