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The Question We Should Have Been Asked! (and all should still ask!)

Devotional Thought for the Day:

12 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.
3 And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.
Romans 12:1-3 GNT

The last question summarizes, in essence, all the others: “Are you prepared to unite yourself daily more closely with Christ, our High Priest, and to become with him a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?”

for those of you who aren’t ordained, please read this anyways, it will and does deal with you as well!)

Over 20 years ago, I was ordained.

Since then, I have been installed as the pastor at three more churches. Each time a series of questions are asked, pertaining to what I believe, and how I will care for the people entrusted to my spiritual care. One of the more challenging questions is whether I will ever talk about what is confessed to me, revealing the sins people needed to know God would forgive. (the answer to that is never, even if threatened with jail or death)

But the question above, which my Roman Catholic brothers are asked, is one I wish would have been asked. It is one I need to ask myself each and every day, as well.

Am I prepared and willing to unite myself with Christ, this day? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?

It is what Paul urges us to do, to be living sacrifices, and as He explains it, as chapter 8 goes on, doing what you are gifted and called to do, setting aside all semblance of pride, so that others may be served, and thereby saved.

Am I prepared to unite myself to C\hrist? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?

Are you?

I think we fear this, for fear of confusing our salvation, which we can do nothing to merit, nothing to earn, with living a life that is free form sin, from being set apart, from being holy. This is the life united to Christ.

We know the theolgoical answer to this – that we were united to Christ in our baptism, that we are joined to Him, in His death, and in His Resurrection. (Romans 6 and Colossians 2 teach so) But this is far more than an academic theological question.

Much more.

It is about the stuff of life.

It is about embracing hardship, suffering, not getting the things we desire, about seeing every person we talk to as a divine appointment, as we are put there to help them encounter God (as we do encountering them!) It is about setting aside our frustration, our anger, our joy, even our sorrow for their sake.

It is what the “Missional life” and the “aspostolate” are really about.

It is what being a pastor and priest is about.

It is, as well, about what being the church, the rpiesthood of all believers is about.

So ask yourself the question, “Am I prepared…”

And know that God is with you.. preparing you to say yes, as the Spirit transforms you into the image of Christ. (2 Cor 3)

Father, in Jesus precious name, help us answer “yes” to Your call on our lives. 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. 186). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Blessing We All To Often Overlook… The Forgiveness of our Sin

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thoughts for the Day:

Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21 Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us. 2 Chronicles 6:20-21 GNT

because they have sinned against you and then when they turn to you and come to this Temple, humbly praying to you for forgiveness, 25 listen to them in heaven. Forgive the sins of your people 2 Chron 6:24-25 GNT

O LORD, listen to them in heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, the people of Israel, and teach them to do what is right. 2 Chron. 6:27 GNT

…listen to their prayers. If any of your people Israel, out of heartfelt sorrow, stretch out their hands in prayer toward this Temple, 30 hear their prayer. Listen to them in your home in heaven and forgive them. You alone know the thoughts of the human heart. Deal with each of us as we deserve, 31 so that your people may honor you and obey you, 2 Chron 6:29-31a

If there in that land they repent and pray to you, confessing how sinful and wicked they have been, hear their prayers, O LORD. 38 If in that land they truly and sincerely repent and pray to you as they face toward this land which you gave to our ancestors, this city which you have chosen, and this Temple which I have built for you, 39 then listen to their prayers. In your home in heaven hear them and be merciful to them and forgive all the sins of your people. 37b-39 GNT

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 GNT

So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect James 5:16 GNT

Thus Luther never thought of abolishing private confession. He knew and used its benefits in his own spiritual struggles, and he could not conceive of a Christian who could get along without it. He never designed an order of public confession, but in the Small Catechism he offered two forms of private confession.

Nevertheless I will allow no man to take private confession away from me, and I would not give it up for all the treasures in the world, since I know what comfort and strength it has given me. No one knows what it can do for him except one who has struggled often and long with the devil. Yea, the devil would have slain me long ago, if the confession had not sustained me. For there are many doubtful matters which a man cannot resolve or find the answer to by himself, and so he takes his brother aside and tells him his trouble. What harm is there if he humbles himself a little before his neighbor, puts himself to shame, looks for a word of comfort from him, accepts it, and believes it, as if he were hearing it from God himself, as we read in Matt. 18 [:19], “If two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done for them.”

A lot of reading accompany this morning’s thoughts. Most of them from one chapter of 2 Chronicles 6. I broke the reading into segments for a reason, to highlight a concept over and over, to help us understand what a priority it holds in scripture, at the very dedication of the Temple, and the place it should hold in our lives.

I have yet to see a Christian church, whether Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran that doesn’t talk about confession at some point in the life of its people. But far too often, once mentioned, it disappears, and with it, the incredible gift of forgiveness, of being forgiven.

At the dedicaiton of the temple, time after time this pattern is seen, we pray, God hears, and forgives.

Not just once at conversion, not just as a rote practice and prayer as part of a worship service. But to confess in a way where we don’t just hear we are forgiven, we depend on it and base our lives on it..

But what if we struggle to believe? What if we hear these words and just can’t get our minds to accept that God forgave this sin that haunts me, that I cannot escape the feelings of guilt and shame about? That no matter how many times I pray in a church service, or on my own, or at the altar, I wonder if I am forgiven of it?

That is where what is called “private confession” or in other churches , “the ministry of reconciliation” comes into play. Confessing those sins to another believer, a pastor or priest who has been tasked by GOd and the church with comforting you, with providing to you the words of forgiveness, on the behalf of God himself. This is what James 5 speaks of, and promises (you can also check out JOhn 20 and Matthew 16 for other places where the church is given authority to forgive sins on God’s behalf)

Over the years as people have spoken of their sin, the most remarkable catharis takes place, as they see God break the hold that sin has on them. As they hear and experience that God has forgivenes them of the darkest sins, as God heals them and makes them whole, as He reminds them that they are His holy people. James doesn’t used “healed” for lack of a better word, it is truly what happens.

It is an incredible blessing, it is a most amazing thing to observe, this transformation that occurs.

Please my friends, don’t let the darkness of sin consume you, rather confess your sins, and find the Prodigal’s Father embracing you, and restoring your life with Him.

AMEN!

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 53: Liturgy and Hymns. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 53, p. 117). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 51: Sermons I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 51, p. 98). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

How are you investing your pastor’s time?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances. 3  So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4  We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching.” 5  The whole group was pleased with the apostles’ proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6  The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
Acts 6:1-6 (TEV)

The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.

From the earliest days of the church, there was a priority set upon the time of those who shepherd God’s people.

A priority on prayer, and being in the word of God, of preaching and teaching about the Christ who has come to make His home among us. (John 1:14 NLT) To train up people to serve each other, (Eph 4:12)

Those were the priorities of the early church –

A question I have today is that our priority still? Is this were we want them spending their time. Or have we turned them into visionaries and managers, men who are skilled in managing all the work of the church as an organization?

Yes, logistics and planning are necessary, being good stewards of what the church has been entrusted with temporally is important. But only as it sets the church up to do its actual ministry – and to walk with God.

The members of a church and its leadership need to take this seriously. Out of the fifty to sixty hours a week he works, how many are spent in prayer? How many are spent in teaching and preaching and preparing for it?

How many are spent in meetings covering the administration of the church, and/or its school? Is it possible to free him up of some of that, so whe can dedicate himself as the apostles do? Is it possible to have him train others to do the work of service? Is it possible to create an environment where the talents of people can be harnassed? How many of our pastors have to be property managers, business officers, plumbers, and a thousand other roles.

Give him time to pray and spend time meditating on God’s word. – serious amounts of time. Give him time to prepare to teach and preach as well. for this work is necessary. Invest his time in training people to know the word so well that they can serve others, and while doing it, share Christ’s love. And give him time to get used to this freedom!

Be a good steward of his life… and time.

The blessing will be yours!



Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 104). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Idol of “Pragmatic Ministry”

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had
seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them
. Acts 16:9-10

Why don’t we try to live and transmit the priority of non-quantifiable values: friendship, the ability to simply celebrate the good moments of life, sincerity that encourages peace, confidence and trust? It may be easy to say, as poetic as these values may sound, but extremely demanding to live them, since it requires that we stop worshiping the god of “efficiency-at-all-cost”, so deeply rooted in our post-modern mindset.

In the last 50 years, the church has struggled with becoming “missional”, to take up the “apostolate” and get back to the work the church has been placed in the world to do. The work Paul summarized in Colossians this way, “to present everyman perfect in Chrsit Jesus.”

In the process, we have gotten quite pragmatic. We have taken models of efficient business practices and adapated them to the church. We’ve developed experts and consultants to evaluate our churches based on models and metrics.

In the process we’ve made our goal the replication of what works, and idol of pragmatic, reproducable ministry. You see it in the early days of Evangelism Explosion, (aka the Kennedy model) which had similar models adapted to their own denominational doctrine.) We see it as pastors buy books and try to replicate the best practices of whatever is working, even if it being in a different culture or demographic.

Pope Francis has it right, we’ve become so enamored with pragmatism and efficiency that we will choose them over peace, confidence, and trust. We choose it over friendship and deep fellowship, Those things are less focused upon, because the investment to see them come to fruition is too high, to vague, to unable to be truly measured.

One would even wonder what would happen if we were given a vision of people from Macedonia begging us to come, to assst them. Would we respond to the vision? Would we allow the Spirit to drive us to a place where the gospel is needed? Or would we dismiss the vision, for it dosen’t fit into our vision plan, and it can’t be measured to see if it is a viable mission.

I am not saying we completely fly by the seat of our pants, that we set aside anything that is pragmatic, that we don’t evaluate our ministry’s efficiency. We doo need this, and yet, we need to balance it, spending time in meditation, lsitening to God, growing so intimate with Him that we recognize His voice, and know when we are to follow Him.

Even when it doesn’t make logical sense.

Even when it calls for great courage, great sacrifice, and in the end only changes one or two lives…

Remember, God’s ways are beyond ours.

So walk with Him, stay close, and be amazed at how He leads you.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 100). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.


Is Life/Work/Ministry Boring and Bland? What an Opportunity!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

10  “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.
Luke 16:10 (NLT2)

507         You tried to belittle somebody else’s work by mumbling: “He has only done his duty.” And I said, “Does that seem so little to you?” The Lord gives us the happiness of Heaven for doing our duty: Euge serve bone et fidelis… intra in gaudium Domini tui— Well done good and faithful servant, enter into eternal joy! (1)

The things that challenge me the most in life are the most mundane. The times in life where I am supposed to go through the motions, the moments were the tasks are simply boring, where the actvity is bland..

How do i trudge through those days, eager for the oppostunity to do something new! And I am not the only one, and it is not just about taking out the trash, or cleaing the gutters, or more data entry, or mopping the bathroom floors after a toilet was clogged int he preschool restroom.

It happens in the church as well. For it takes persistence and patience to see a church impact its community, to become a community of faith that the community knows it is alive.

Maybe that is why the focus is on planting new, and the experts claim the best growth happens in new churches, and why we take our most dynamic and driven guys and send them for church planting training before we see that they can shepherd people?

And so in the church, we simply mimic the culture again. And give up on the hard work of doing that which is the fun, the flashy, and the presumed high rate of return!

But how do we do our job, how do we do our duty with zeal and a strong focus when it seems like we can do it, with the same effort it takes to snore? How do we stay with it, day in and day out? How do we stop ourselves from doing things in a simply rote manner?

Can we learn ot put all our effort, all our focus into the mundane?

The only way it is possible is to realize Who entrusts us with the work and spends the time with us, as we work. One who would wash our feet, the One who listens to our complains, to our whining, the One who patiently comforts and cleanses and heals us.

he is with us in the mundane, the boring and the bland, He is with us strengthening us, empowering us, helping us realize what we do is not done alone, and that it actually matters, because we do it ast His side.

Lord help us to see the normal everyday life as a gift we share with You.  Help us to do it well, so well that others will give glory to You.  AMEN!


Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2209-2213). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Are We Really Listening to God?

We are on a mission from God! Really!

Devotional Thought of the day:

5  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and with hope I wait for his word. 6  My soul waits for the LORD more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6 (GW)

When God speaks to us it does not prove that we are right or even that we are good. In fact we may have misunderstood what God said. The infallibility of God the speaker does not guarantee our infallible reception. However, phrases such as “God told me” or “the Lord led me” are commonly used to prove that “I am right,” “My ideas are right” or “you should follow me.” No such claim is automatically justified.
So if a conversational walk with God does not guarantee my always being right, what is the use of it? Why should we attempt to hear God if it won’t ensure that we’re on the right track?

34† But they would not answer him, because on the road they had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. 35† Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all.” Mark 9:34-35 GNT

As i look over social media this morning, I again find myself distraught over what I see. People trying to justify their views, much as Dallas Willard indicates they do in the green quote above.

It is tempting to reply to each, to show them how their claim to the higher moral position is failing, and actually doing harm to their position.

Everyone claims that they speak for God, whether they believe or not. They do so when they appeal to logic, or what is just (in their eyes) or what a right. Their claim to an absolute is a claim to speak for God, their judgment that something is good, or evil, again is a claim to speak absolutely, and therefore is a claim to speak as God.

Please, stop nodding your head, thinking of people you know I am speaking about – for I am speaking about you, and me.

We try to speak for God all the time, speaking at people, speaking about their sin, judging and condemning that which we don’t approve. Surely, there sins we need to confront, brokeness and even things attitudes so warped that good becomes evil, and evil becomes good.

But the purpose of speaking out about them must be reconcilliation to God, not condemnation to hell. Our attitude should be that of a servant, helping his Master’s children grow and develop.

That requires that we listen to God, more than we speak for Him. It takes knowing and sharing His heart, His attitude for them, rather than just drawing a line in the sand.

So how do we know when we are hearing God accurately? When what is being said aligns with what He desires, when our heart is filled with both love and the pain that comes from seeing those we love, captured in bondange, unable to free themselves.

When we are willing to go them, and share in their pain, waiting patiently for that moment when we can reveal to them the grace of God, the mercy He will show them. When we can take them to the cross, embracing the struggle for the joy set before us.. the joy of welcoming our fellow prodicgal home.

So listen, and run to those He would have you stand by.

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


Faith in Action: Know! Psalm 46

Faith in Action:  Knows
Psalm 46

† Jesus, Son and Savior †

May the gifts of mercy, of love and of peace from God our Father, which Jesus pours into your life, help you know Him, and may that knowledge allow your soul to find rest!  AMEN!

People who have faith need to pray

I came across an interesting quote this week from a guy from Boston, a professor of philosophy named Peter Kreeft,

How long should we pray? At least as long as it takes to relax in His presence, to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)

Professor Kreeft has a pretty good answer there, that prayer isn’t just a few words, uttered when we are in need, it’s not something we do out of obligation either.

It is a time to relax, to know God intimately, so deeply that everything else in life falls away as we find we trust and depend on Him, and then, as that happens, we are able to relax in His presence… as we realize what it means to be still and dwell in the peace of God.

As we look at our reading in Psalm 46 this morning, we see David’s urging us to find ourselves in that moment of peace. Safe where God dwells, for He is our refuge, our sanctuary.  He is our peace.

The challenge to know God… for faith that is active has to know God

Not just about knowing about Him, but being still enough to realize that He is God… and calm enough to think through what it means.

Obstacles to knowing God

I don’t know about you, but I tend to struggle with fear, or the word that comes closest to it this day, anxiety.

It doesn’t take the earthquakes and oceans going crazy that David describes in the Psalm.  It’s more like this lack week, where for a couple of days I was on a committee with the 1st and 2nd Vice President of Synod, guys I don’t always agree with, trying to help deacons and churches who are served by only those deacons.

Anxious because I might say the wrong thing…

Or anxious over a doctor’s appointment.

Or anxious about any of million things that could go wrong in life, or the complications of when things go right!  (Sometimes I am more worried and scared by things going right. )

And then as I am dealing with the anxieties, I realize that I had forgotten all about God’s presence, and I get anxious about my lack of focus on God, and my obvious lack of faith. Causing more anxiety and fear to build.

Is such anxiety sin?  If I even start down that thought process, it’s only going to get worse, causing more guilt, more shame, and our normal reaction will be to run away from God.

You see, we often buy into the fact that we have control over whether we sin or not.  And therefore, when we do take our eyes off of God, we find ourselves alone as the earthquakes, or we feel like we are drowning, or all alone in the middle of a battlefield.

The answer to this is not to flee God, or fight him, but to run to Him, to speak and listen to him, to know He is God, and as we know what that means, find the ability to remain still.

So how does this happen?

Come and see the glorious works

There is an invitation to the world in the middle of the passage.

Come and see the glorious works of the Lord!  See how he brings destruction upon the world!

The first part seems like a great invitation.  Observing God’s glorious works!  How awesome!  How incredible!  Hearing that my mind goes to the idea of miracles and healings, of baptizing people by the hundreds, and Concordia becoming a major influence in our community, even in all of Los Angeles.

And then I get the second half and go “wait…

BRINGS DESTRUCTION ON THE WORLD?  WHAT?

Uhm, how is that going to end up giving me the ability to be still?

I mean, the DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD?

I mean our world may be broken, evil might seem to be apparent, but destruction? Total destruction of the world?

Well, in the physical sense of the word, everything on the day of judgment will be destroyed because it will be renewed.

But that happens in our lives at baptism, as we are united with the death of Christ in the water of baptism, God promises and makes sure our brokenness is destroyed, it dies with Him there on the cross.

That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote,

4  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
Romans 6:4-7 (NLT2)

It takes a while to work through this, that the anxiety caused by sin’s guilt and shame, the anxiety that is caused by not knowing the presence of God, and not knowing God is removed….

Even so, our old nature dies hard, as does the anxiety it can produce in us.  In fact, you and I can only find peace when we God’s presence draws us into His glory, into His love, and causes you to be still, and just know He is God…

And know..

That happens as we know His presence, in places like this, a place we are drawn together, to know He is God. As we pray together, leaving every burden before Him, every anxiety, every moment becomes one of peace. A place where we see life end and begin, as people are baptized into Christ.

As we share in the body and blood of Jesus, as we realize we are united to Him, as we share in His death… and even now, in His resurrection.

And we find ourselves still and rest…knowing the God who loves us.

And our dependence on God, our faith becomes active, because we know Him!  AMEN!

The Secret to the Revitalization of the Church, or a church

IMAG0406

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests.   Zeph 1:7

Unfortunately, although Christianity is not a department store that must anxiously gear its advertising to the tastes and desires of its clientele because it has merchandise to sell off that it neither wants nor needs, it is all too often compelled to act as though it were. But if this were its nature, we could confidently predict its imminent bankruptcy. Actually, however, the Christian Faith is rather (to use an admittedly one-sided and weak image) the divine medicine that should never adapt itself to the wishes of its clientele and to what pleases them, for that would be to destroy them utterly. Its role must be to require them to turn away from their imaginary need, which is in reality their sickness, and to entrust themselves to the guidance of faith.

I just spent a few days with guys who are called to be pastors. In many ways, they feel like they’ve been drawn ot the ministry, they seen the people’s needs and the call of the people for them for shepherds. I was on a team that had as its goal the task of assuring that these men were ready to take on this burden, and/or what steps would prepare them for it.

They, with one or two exceptions, are called to serve smaller churches, in most cases groups of 20 or 30 people that gather around God’s word, that receive the promises of God delivered through them, as they speak God’s word, and as they feed them the Body and Blood of Jesus.  These churches would possibly close without these men or someone like them.  But these men need to revitalize these churches, they need to see life breathed into them.  Their churches, like mine and every other church I know of, need to have the vitality and life of the bride of Christ.

And of course, in my readings this morning, I come across two passages that deal with revitalizing our lives.

The second one is more obvious than the first.  While there is a necessity to understand a church’s context and ensure the church is speaking to the people instead of at the people, all too often that takes the nature of a marketing plan.  It requires compromise in the nature of the mission.  Marketing cannot compromise the mission, and methodologies cannot change the message, the messenger, or change what the means of change.  That is it cannot change the grace, God’s love and mercy delivered to sinners to heal them and give them life, shared in the peace with God.  If you do that, you have changed the mission.

Pope Benedict is, in this Lutheran Pastor’s opinion, absolutely correct. We have the medicine, delivered through word and sacrament, that treats what really has broken people.  God’s love binds them to Him, having cleaned them of sin, and of its shame and guilt.  It also heals us of the anger and resentment that has broken us, as we’ve been the victims of sin.

We can’t change that. To do so would be to fail to deliver what people need the most, Jesus.  Nor can we hide it, causing people to need to discover it, and then decode our language and actions we tried to protect and hide it within.

All this brings us to the first, and far more important quote.  It brings us to the point of this devotion.  And while it is what you and I need to do, right now, and often each day, It is what these pastors (de jure and soon de facto) need to do to revitalize their church.

Realize you are, right now, in the presence of God.

God who is drawing all things together through the blood of Jesus.  For that is what the Day of the Lord is, for Christ has become our sacrifice, prepared to deliver us from the power and oppression of sin.

ANd to consecrate us, His guests, to make us holy as we have been drawn into His presence. To be set apart for this relationship with our Heavenly Father, our Almighty God. To be re-vitalized, freed of all that weighs us down. Healed of all the damage a life of sin can cause, restored to be who we were created to be.

This is who we are, in congregations and parishes that make up the Church, His Church, His beautiful bride.

And be in awe… incredibly aware of the glory and power and love of God, which makes this all possible.   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.) (pp. 340–341). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Faith in Action: Makes Sure! A Sermon on Hebrews 3 (with video of the service!)

Faith in Action…
Makes Sure

Hebrews 3:12-29

I.H.S.

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so fill your lives, that you without thinking look and support those who are struggling with sin.  And when they come to support you, that you will let them.

Be Careful

I love the old movies, where the hero has to survive a gauntlet, avoiding the traps, the deadfalls, and make the decisions that mean life or death.  They avoid death,  if they, in the words of one of those who guided one such hero, choose wisely.  (btw – that movie was released 29 years ago – so I guess it can be classified as an “oldie”!)

The hero had to be careful, he had to take his time, evaluate his situation, realize the words that had been spoken, and choose to act wisely.

In the case of the letter to the Hebrews, the idea of being careful include  a deep discerning look at our situation, at the challenge we face with that sin, and the evil and unbelief it can cause in our lives.

Yeah – this passage is a call to us, this call to take a deep, hard look into our lives, and make sure about our hearts, warning and supporting each other….

For being deceived by sin is all to easy, and happens all too often.

Who Was it?

We see how easy it was, in the example provided by the writer of Hebrews.

The people of Israel, led by Moses from Egypt, who heard God’s voice and trembled.  Who saw his power, both judging the sins of the Pharaoh in Egypt and in the incredible miracles at the Red Sea, and in the provision of water, and manna and quail.

And yet, as direct as their contact was, they still fell into temptation, they still sinned, and when things got hard, they didn’t trust God.

They didn’t believe.

For that is what faith and belief in God is, the ability to trust in God despite the entire world, and even your own life telling you that He isn’t there. Despite them telling you that he doesn’t care.

They struggled, oh how they struggled! They heard the very voice of God, yet still rebelled.  They saw the signs of His presence, the miracles, the cloud of smoke by day, the pillar of fire by night, and still hardened their hearts

And so they did what was evil, what was in rebellion from God.

Too often, you and I join them. You might even have already asked, like the apostles, “Is it I Lord?” when He talked of the one who would betray Him.

We’ve heard His voice calling us, we’ve seen His power at work, We know both His wrath and mercy, Yet, we struggle to trust God in situations we encounter, or we all too easily forget about Him.  Especially when we are tempted by sin, even what we might call the smallest of sins, or perhaps the biggest.

For the biggest of sins, the violation of the first commandment happens to us all the time.  We create our own gods, something we want to trust in, something we can find hope in. and set aside the God who has revealed Himself to us, through word and sacrament, through the people that are the church.

We aren’t any better than the people of God in the days of Moses.  We have all these blessings pointing to God in our lives, and yet sometimes we still turn away, we still get deceived, we still fall to scold others, rather than warn and counsel them as scripture teaches.

And so, we need to take time, to be careful, and discern what we are doing. Looking carefully at what we do, what we think, what we say!

Make Sure your (plural) own hearts (Parakleso)

It took me a while in studying this passage, to see an incredible blessing that God has given us, His people, His church.

It’s seen in words like “your” and “each other” and “you”, and “we” in this passage.

I think we hear the words, “Be careful” and “war” and “if faithful to the end, but we miss these pronouns and fail to see the blessing God gives us, when He takes us into Himself and makes us the body of Christ.

You see, when one of us baptized, when Christ’s promises are given them, they join us in His body.  And the body looks after itself, each part caring for the rest. To be careful then is not just talking about individual introspection and confession, but being careful and in love, approaching those who are struggling with faith and sin, and lifting them up, helping them see God’s love and mercy revealed to them again.

We are one people, saved in Christ together, forgiven together, sent into this world together.

So we choose wisely, and care for each other, warning each other in a way that is loving and yet firm, which calls back the sinner, and assures them of the grace of God.

You see that word for warning, it’s not the kind of warning that warns you from the shore that your drifting to toward the waterfall.  It dives in with a rope, catches you and helps you get back to short…

Or in Jones case, sweeps away all the other false gods, and leaves the one Chalice, the one filled with the love and mercy of Christ Jesus, that’s what a friend, a fellow member of the body of Christ would do, bringing you back to the word and sacraments, to remember and revive the word and sacraments

We are each a blessing God gives to us, when we care more for each other than the discomfort of helping someone being deceived, moving to the point of their hearts becoming evil and not trusting in God’s presence, in His mercy and Love.

As James wrote in His epistle,

19  My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20  remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)

So choose wisely, make sure that all our hearts are not evil and unbelieving turning us away from God, and warn each other, so none are deceived by sin, and hardened against God.  Serve one another, loving each other enough to share in God’s glorious grace, helping each other to dwell in the peace of God which is beyond our comprehension, yet in which we dwell together, in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

 

 

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.

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