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Dealing with Alligators and Wounded Lions in the Church, and in our lives

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, 2  Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. 3   A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, Isaiah 42:1-3 (NAB)

959         When they take their little children in their arms, mothers—good mothers— make sure they do not have any pins in their clothes which could hurt them. When we deal with souls, we should have the same gentleness, together with all the determination required.

There was a children’s story about the lion who had a thorn in his paw. In great pain, he roared and snarled and moved to attack anyone who came near. (Perhaps some of this was out of fear they would attack him in his weakened state…but most of it was because of the pain) Until one day, a courageous youth dared to draw near, and removed the thorn.

There are also stories about alligators with a bad tooth, and the youngster, a wannabe dentist comes near and removes it, making a friend for life.

In most churches, we have people like these. Books have been written about neutralizing them or removing them. And while some, who are teaching false doctrine need to be dealt with differently, I believe that reconciliation is possible for many of them.

It is just a matter of identifying their source of pain, approaching them with care, and helpng them find the healing that God gracefully provides in Christ Jesus.

You see, they are broken and bruised, and while they may seem to be fiery, they are simply smoldering, and needing tender care to see them restored. They require a servant’s heart to minister to them, a heart that resonates with Christ’s, a heart more concerned about their welfare and lack of peace than about defending one’s self.

This isn’t easy, and it isn’t quick.

And yet it needs to be done. For they will simply isolate themselves, and in their pain hurt others, driving them away., or fighting for control of something, because of the lack of control somewhere else in their lives. The damage they can do is huge, it can kill a congregation or parish, driving people away from the church.

And yet, the stories of such reconciliation, of people beginning to heal of such brokenness, reminds us of what God can do in our lives.

Lord, help us to see the pain others are experience, the hearts that are broken, the souls that are tormented, and help us to serve them with Christ’s love. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3889-3891). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Because of What He is Done: A Sermon on Romans 11:33-12:8

church at communion 2Because of what God has done,
I plead with you…

Romans 11:33-12:8

I.H.S.

May you experience the incredible gift of the love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as that love changes your very life!

Because of What He’s Done

Normally, I unveil the bread and wine during the Lord’s prayer.

As I say the words, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, for in that moment we recognize that God’s will, I uncover and reveals the chalice and the tray.  That Jesus would die, giving up His body and blood, that our sin would be forgiven, that our lives would be renewed.

I am not going to wait to do that but will do that now, and as I do, I would ask that we all take a moment of silence, and think about the suffering, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(pause)

Now, thinking of all God has done for you, I plead with you, as Paul pleaded with the church in Rome, give your body to Jesus, a sacrifice that lives and breathes and IS holy.

For God has done so much!

As Paul wrote, everything comes from Him, exists by His power and is for Him! All Glory to Him for ever and ever!  AMEN!

So let’s find out what it means for us to be living and holy sacrifices…if we can!

How Impossible
I say if there for a reason.  We are talking about dealing with, and interacting with God, the Creator of all there is, the one whom Paul started this passage describing when He said,

How great are God’s riches and knowledge, How impossible it is for us to understand His decision and His ways!

We know it is impossible to know what God knows, and I think we get that it is impossible to understand His decisions and the ways He arranges our lives.

Even so, how often do we try to advise God, or throw a tantrum when things do not go our way?  How many times do we choose to go our way rather than His?  How many times do we struggle with life, and choose to sin because we can’t see how God’s way makes more sense than ours?

Maybe we don’t understand why it’s so important to be faithful to our spouse, (not just sexually faithful – but in all ways) Or maybe we struggle with respecting an authority figure because we can’t figure out why God put them there.  Maybe the temptation is to covet what someone else has, not being content with what God has blessed us with in our lives. Or maybe the problem we have is with judging people and sharing that judgment in a way that is called gossip.  Or maybe we don’t understand why God would have us set an entire day apart, we don’t get why we should waste it and be still, and know that He is our God, that He is our refuge and strength.

It doesn’t matter which sin it is, for they all find their origination in our not recognizing that God is greater in riches and knowledge, as we determine that since we cannot understand His decisions and ways, that ours is better.

It isn’t, and we don’t realize it until we hit rock bottom.  And most of the time not even then.

It takes the grace of God to run us over before we ever can realize that God’s decisions, His ways, His knowledge is best, even if we cannot understand it.

It takes the mercy of God, it takes a transformation, the one Paul describes that happens to us as we realize God’s ways are not just bigger, but far better.  Hear Paul again,

You Will learn

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Notice it doesn’t say let Pastor Dt change you, or change yourself, or let the latest self help guru change the way you think about yourself.

What Paul wants us to do is to let the Holy Spirit transform us, by changing the way we think.  What it says in Greek isn’t just to change a though or two, but to change your mind.

This is an absolute key, and it is what causes our lives to be lived in a way that is discussed in the rest of the chapter, to embrace depending on God, to work as God calls us to live, doing what He has chosen, but doing it in in accord with the faith he gives.

That is part of the result of the transformation.

You are a transformer!

Paul describes this transformation to the Corinthians this way,

18All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.

 

What a transformation God does to us!  (Much better than going from a car to a militant robot!)

A transformation that affects every part of us, every bit of our lives.

For God creates life in us, and shows us that we can have faith, we can depend on Him, and we can know, not all the mysteries of our faith, but what God’s will is for us, His pleasing and perfect will.

What is that will?  To do what God has called and equipped you to do.. whether it is to speak publicly about God, to serve others who are in need, to teach, to encourage others, to give beyond normal, to lead others, or simply show kindness to others…

just do it, depending on Jesus – as much as you can, as humbly as you can, as God has called you to do.

just do it, because of God’s love for you – and the work He does, revealing His love to you, serving you, teaching you, encouraging you, giving to you without any boundary, leading you, and simply showing you His mercy and kindness….

live life, moving with Him, for He is your God, and you are His people…..

For that is His good and pleasing will….for you – to know you are His, and He is with you always…  AMEN!

 

Why a Crucifix can be so incredibly important… not just during Holy Week

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 1 Corinthians 1:23 (NLT)

20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)

70  You asked me if I had a cross to bear. And I answered, “Yes, we always have to bear the Cross.” But it is a glorious Cross, a divine seal, the authentic guarantee of our being children of God. That is why we always walk along happily with the Cross.

For some it is a piece of jewelry, or an art piece, and artifact.

For others, it is something they do not want to face, so they remove them from homes and sanctuaries.  They may say it’s divisive, or that they are afraid of it becoming and idol. Even a barren cross is seen as too close, and so they are removed, taken away, hid in a closet or irreverently thrown in a dumpster.

But there is something about a crucifix, about looking at a portrayal of a body wracked with pain, the crown of thorns, the nails through the wrists and ankles, the eyes that through the pain look out upon us.

The reason for the cross.

To make us the people of God,

This is what God the Father gave the son to endure, because He loves us……

This is what Jesus endured, hating its shame, but for the joy set before Him…. the joy of seeing us rise with Him.

This is what the Holy Spirit testifies to, the very power of the gospel that can save us all…..

Christ dying for us… and His crucifixion – the place where we died to sin…. the place where the promise comes home, we have risen with Him as well.

As i go through this life, as I see the effect of sin devastating marriages, crushing families, as I see the challenges of this broken world strike us with disease, as I see us choose, again and again, to tear down, to let resentment build, to seek after something that will quench our pain for the moment, whether it be sex or drugs or the latest television binge.  Escapes that mean little but a moment away.  We need something more substantial, something more enduring.

We need to remember when God came into our lives, dwelt among us, and the glory of God, displayed on a cross.  The love of God so incredible, so unbelievable, so needed. I need to stop and meditate on the wondrous love that would drive him there, to deliver us from all that assails us.  Crosses, crucifixes serve to call us to that point, to remember the love of God…. to remember His work – even now at work in us.

It is “the” game changer, that brings light to darkness, that dispells evil, that brings peace into chaos.

I don’t think we need less reminders… but perhaps far more.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 514-517). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Love your neighbor and your enemy, actively

Discussion/Devotional thought of the day:

5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:43-45 (ESV)

It is challenging enough to love one’s friends, one’s neighbors.  Yet Jesus calls us to love as He does – to love even our enemies – as we love ourselves.   Some may hear this as law – noting the impossibility of such love, and use that as an excuse for not fulfilling this law – or even trying to fulfill it, citing Christ’s fulfillment of the law.  They dismiss the command, and seek a cheaper form of grace – one that is reactive, not proactive.

St Paul in Romans 6 would highly disagree – noting that we shouldn’t continue in our sin, that grace would abound more.  Instead we should strive to obey and love our enemies – asking God to turn their hearts toward Him.  A challenge indeed.  I love how one of my favorite authors put it.

440    When you have finished your work, do your brother’s, helping him, for the sake of Christ, with such finesse and naturalness that no one—not even he—will realize that you are doing more than in justice you ought. This, indeed, is virtue befitting a son of God!  Escriva, Josemaria,  The Way (Kindle Locations 1083-1085). Scepter Publishers.

Love results in action, it’s not just “being nice” or feeling good about someone else.  It brings a cup of cold water to someone working, then takes their place while they work.  It goes two miles with the person who demanded (fairly or not) that you go one with them one.

Love your enemies – this will not only take the mercy of God, a true level of realizing how much you are in Christ and depend on His strength, but it will give you a new appreciation of His love for you!

Lord have mercy!  And as you do, help us show your love and mercy to our enemies and our neighbors,

( by the way – this includes those politicians you’ve been complaining about recently!)

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