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A Reason for Your Monday…

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for our days
1  As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3  Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4  For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. Hebrews 12:1-4 (TEV)

50      Feel the responsibility of your mission: the whole of Heaven is looking down on you.

Most of the time, when I read this passage, I get hooked on the idea of leaving my sin which has such a grip on me, and so many others I care about.   To be free of that insidious evil that tries to sink its talons into us, what an incredible thought!  To be rid of those things that get in the way of the life we live, whether it be resentments, or hurts or anxieties, what an incredible invaluable blessing!

A blessing that comes as we look to Jesus, keeping our eyes fixed on Him, as the Holy Spirit transforms us!  What an incredible thing!  It is amazing, awe-inspiring s we focus our adoration on the Lord who loves us.  us!

Yet this passage isn’t primarily about this blessing, but in what this blessing allows us to do, to run the race, to complete the mission, as Paul will say in Colossians, to present every man perfect IN Christ, who is the goal of our mission as well. 

That is the same mission as those who went before us and trusted in God. All of the great men and women of faith, who struggled with God and were used by God, who came to trust Him with their lives. And in the process, even when being martyred, killed for their testimony, they were able to embrace the hate and pain, knowing that in some cases, their dependence on God would bring the ones torturing them to know God’s peace.

The author here encourages us not to give up, reminding us of how much Christ endured for us, and how much those people of faith endured.  Don’t give up – keep focused on Jesus love for you – plunge its depths, ascend its height, explore its unending breadth and width, walk with Him through life…

Even on Mondays, even when it is not torture, but the boring return to our monotonous weekly grind beginning again.

He is with us, remember that, the day will be different.  Full of joy and peace, no matter what our bosses or the world throw at us. 

God is with us!  Let’s get back to work in His harvest, with Him!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 406-408). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s Plan for Your Life, and Your Hesitation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought fo the Day:
16  Meanwhile, the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. 17  When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. 18  Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19  Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time. Matthew 28:16-20 (NJB)

198         That way is very hard, he told you. And, on hearing it, you heartily agreed, remembering that bit about the Cross being a sure sign of the true way… But your friend noticed only the rough part of the road, without bringing to mind Jesus’ promise: “My yoke is sweet.” Remind him about it, because—perhaps when he realizes it—he will give himself.

Even as each of us is called into a relationship with God and all of His people, each of us has been given vocations, a great diversity of roles, and the gifts needed to fulfill them.

Yet, there is a common vocation, that of making disciples, for that vocation doesn’t belong to just a person, it is the vocation of the Body of Christ, the people of God.  If we are part of His one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, we are a people who have been sent into the world.  We have an apostolate, we are to be a mission-focused people.  Wherever we are, whatever other vocations we have, we are called to make disciples of those we encounter.

This way is hard, as St. Josemaria tells us, it can be brutal, and lonely.  It may have long stretches of doubt, of not seeing the fruit of our work.  It is all too easy to notice the rough parts of the road, the problems, and trials that exist on the road. For the work is hard, our Lord even had to die to make our discipleship a possibility, and so we shouldn’t expect this to be easy.

Fearing this hardship we hesitate, (some translations say doubt) We have trouble committing to God’s work, knowing it will take us on a rough road, knowing it will cost.  We hesitate, we wonder if we can do this if we are truly called to it if God would actually ask us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  And Jesus tells us, in the midst of the hesitation, even as we doubt ourselves, “Let’s go, we’ve got people to disciple, even as I disciple you!”

But how can we embrace the roughness?

Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him, the joy of knowing His mission, the reason the Father sent Him was for our salvation, for bringing us back into the family.  He suffered in order to welcome us home.  Expecting that joy allowed Him to endure the pain, the insults, the betrayals,  the loneliness.  He saw us, cleansed, holy, redeemed, and was able to see it through.

For us to learn to have that attitude is beneficial, but we have something that even makes it sweeter.  We have His authority backing us, and His presence sustaining us, that the Holy Spirit causes (and therefore is responsible) the changes in the lives we of the people we are sent to serve.   We have the incredibly sweet joy of knowing God is with us, sharing in our ministry, even as we share in His.

So, in the midst of the bitter road, we anticipate hearing the angels rejoicing, as another sinner is transformed by the power of God.  We hear the joy as one is baptized, or bows their knees at the altar, amazed that they are welcome, that their presence is desired. What joy they know, and how joyous is it for us to see!

This is our vocation, for all the members of the Body of Christ, we share in it, in the joy, in the tears, led by or Lord who shares in it all with us.

And that is truly sweet….

So when tired, worn out, struggling, look to the Lord who is with you, and know the joy set before us all.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1034-1038). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Contact Management Software and the Missio Dei

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day:

When it was late in the day, his followers came to him and said, “No one lives in this place, and it is already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the countryside and towns around here to buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But Jesus answered, “You give them something to eat.”  Mark 5:35-37  NCV  

191         When I speak to you about “apostolate of friendship”, I mean a personal friendship, self-sacrificing and sincere: face to face, heart to heart.

On any given morning my email box is filled with thirty to a hundred emails, and about 80 percent I simply delete.  What really irritates me are the ones that are form letters sent out by a contact management software, that try to make it look like they are personal messages.

One recently even mentioned that if I had already responded to the previous email, they apologize for the software not being updated to recognize this and that they would stop sending the email eventually!  I get the feeling that if I called the person, they would not know that they “contacted” me.  I know some of the programs are set up to send letters, pre-written, on a schedule.

They didn’t.  Their software program did.

I don’t mind bulk mail, I understand that missionaries and other churches are busy, and I appreciate copying me along with many others for support and prayer.  I don’t even mind advertisements that are automated.  It’s the idea that someone thinks that they will gain by making the advertisement look like a personal contact.

In the gospel reading this morning, the disciples were amazed by the people wanting to hear Jesus.  I imagine they loved the accolades, the great joy (and a little frustration) that comes with being a superstar, or at least part of His crew.   They were learning about the kingdom of heaven, and they would learn a lesson today.

” the show’s over, they need to go eat!” they tell Jesus. We are done with them, you taught, they listened, some were healed.  Good day, let’s pack it up and get the rest, relaxation, and prayer you mentioned.

Jesus’ reply, “you feed them”

Don’t care from a distance, actually care   Don’t just see their need, make sure the need is met.  You can do it, (Jesus knowing he would supply the food) just do it.

That’s how the Missio Dei works, the apostolate of friendship as St Josemaria describes it. Laughing with them, crying with them, being involved.  Not just monitoring responses to a contact system, but actually getting involved in their lives.   Not just keeping in contact, but being in communion with them.  And as St. Josemaria said, this means there is a sacrifice, there is something personal, face to face, heart to heart.  There is cost, but there is also immeasurable grace, mercy, and love.  For God is there.

As I was writing this, I think back to several conversations recently.  The basic idea of each was that the pastor seemed to be writing the sermons directly to the person that heard it.  Pastors who hear this often reply, “that was one I was preaching mostly to myself.”  They are astonished when they realize how that sermon also touched their people’s hearts as deeply as they struggled with it.

I believe this is evidence of the relationship of people and pastor in communion with each other.  It is the evidence of the apostolate of friendship, the communion of saints that we confess in our Creed.  It is about learning what sacramental and incarnational ministry mean, and it is imitating Jesus.

Get to know those people around you, be their friends, share their struggles, rejoice with them in their celebrations.  Whether pastor or layperson, you need to understand you were sent into their lives, and you get to help them explore the love of God. And as you do, with them you will find His love ever more true, every more bright, ever more glorious!  AMEN!

j

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1012-1014). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

If You Are Part of the Church, It’s Time to Get to Work: A Call to Love and Service

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:
11  It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14  Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15  Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16  Under his control, all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)

1         There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity, if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.

The first office, that of the ministry of the Word, therefore, is common to all Christians. This is clear, from what I have already said, and from 1 Pet. 2[:9], “You are a royal priesthood that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I ask, who are these who are called out of darkness into marvelous light? Is it only the shorn and anointed masks? Is it not all Christians? And Peter not only gives them the right, but the command, to declare the wonderful deeds of God, which certainly is nothing else than to preach the Word of God. But some11 imagine a twofold priesthood, one spiritual and common to all, the other external and limited, and say that Peter here speaks of the spiritual one. But what is the function of this limited and external office? Is it not to declare the wonderful deeds of God? But this Peter enjoins on the spiritual and universal priesthood. In truth these blasphemers have another, external, ministry in which they declare, not the wonderful deeds of God, but their own and the pope’s impious deeds. So, as there is no other proclamation in the ministry of the Word than that which is common to all, that of the wonderful deed of God, so there is no other priesthood[i]

In the ancient creeds, the church is described as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”   But how often do we look at what those words mean?

One, the church is a unit, a body, whose mind must be Christ’s mind.  Whose work, whether it is hands or feet, mouth or ears, eyes, whatever part, works based from HIs lead. (As we heard yesterday – He is the cornerstone of this body, to which all are joined and measured)

Holy, the church is to be holy, which means to be set apart for a special purpose, one that is sacred.  To be holy means to be embraced by God, and to embrace Him. To cry out for a deeper taste of which we see a small portion of in our salvation.  We are to walk (together) with God.

Catholic,  the church is to be the church of all people, in all places, throughout history.  When this was written there wasn’t the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and the myriad of Protestant bodies out there, there was simply the people of God, united by Christ’s blood across georgraphy, across time.  We have a tendency in our fractured body to turn on ourselves, to devour those we think threaten us, rather than love and pray for each other.  We tend to cast those out who, like us, struggle in our faith.

Apostolic, the church seems to forget this, despite the words of Escriva and Luther.  Some want the pastors and priests to do all the work (and then only those on the front line on the mission field)  Others think that only the pastors and priests can do this work. Some don’t even bother with this, thinking that somehow, magically, the kingdom of God will grow into its fullness, without our growing into our fullness as those sent by God to change the world.

Not to make it heaven on earth, but to bring about the change that occurs as people know the love of God for them.  As they start to explore that love as the Holy Spirit transforms them.  This is the life of the church, not matter the label, no matter the location, no matter whether it is 20 people or 20,000. meeting together.

We have been sent by God, we have been given work to do, work that requires us to love people, not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. To love those who are friends and family, neighbors and co-workers,  enemies, adversaries and even those who are a pain in the ass.

No one retires from this, no exceptions, we are a holy priesthood.  This is our identiy as the people of God.

Time to wake up and serve those in need of God’s love.

But remember – God goes with you through it all!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

11 For example, Jerome Emser. WA 8, 247.

[i] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 40: Church and Ministry II. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 40. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999. Print.

Hope Generated in His Promised Plans: A sermon on Psalm 138…

The Simple Christian Life – Love, HOPE, FAITH

Hope Generated in His Promised Plans

Psalm 138

  † I.H.S.

May this message about the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ increase your hope and expectation of God’s role in your life!

 Abraham:  Blinded

Even though the sermon is based on the Psalm – I want to start with the Old Testament reading about Abraham.  God is talking about hiding His plans from Abraham, and there are days I wonder if the Trinity hasn’t had the same conversations about us.

Not that God is going to do something like he did through Abraham with us. I mean, having a kid at 100, or when Kay is 90?  Maybe that is Al and Shirley’s task?  Carol and Chuck’s?

But what about this idea that we don’t know the plans God has for us.  TO be honest, I am personally struggling with that one right now.  God, I don’t understand what You are doing, it doesn’t make sense!

You see that in the psalm as well – when at the end of praising God, when at that end of realizing that God has saved us while realizing that God will work out His plans for our life because His love is faithful.  The psalmist then pleads…

“Don’t abandon me. (remember) you made me.”

I get that… and yet.. the entire Psalm speaks to the fact He will not.

There, we can find the truth that helps us, when we don’t have a clue about what God has planned for our lives.

The answer is profound, and it will give a profound hope, an incredible expectation of what God can and will do in our lives.

Even after the praise – Even after the climb

I am going to shift for the moment, to the end of the Gospel of Matthew, to a seen that didn’t make sense to me when I first realized what it says:

16  Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18  Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Matthew 28:16-18 (NLT)

They had seen him crucified, they spent significant time with him after the resurrection, and it said that some of them still doubted.

Just like the Psalmist.

Just like me when I am at a convention, or when I am struggling with not knowing which way life will twist next. When I don’t know the plans He has for me, and to be honest; I wonder if the plans are truly good and right.

Because of the sin of the world, because of my sin, because of the brokenness of everything, trusting, expecting, depending on everything to turn out right is a challenge at times. Sometimes it isn’t even about sin; it may be that we are simply tired.

Like the 11, some of us doubt,

It’s not new; it’s not something that will result in your condemnation, or in God abandoning you, even though it seems at times like He has, or He might or He should.

Just because you don’t know his plans, doesn’t mean that what He has planned for us is horrid or evil.

So how do we cope when we don’t know his plans, and this leads to doubt?

Back to the basics – He rescued us -why would he waste us?

We go back to what we do know, what we count on.

God.

Who He is.

Seven times his name, His personal name is used in this passage.  Eight more times David uses pronouns directly talking to or about Him.  2 more times he references the name of God.

We have to hear these things for ourselves.  Let’s read them together

  • You answer me
  • Your unfailing love and faithfulness
  • Your praises (backed by your name – who you are!)
  • You answer me
  • You encourage by giving strength
  • You will protect me
  • You reach out your hands
  • Your right-hand saves me
  • Your faithful love endures forever.
    and,
  • You made me.

 

The very reason we praise Him, along with Kings from all over the earth is that we Hear His words, we understand His care for all – especially those of us who are broken and humbled by life. They need to hear Him, and they shall, for this is His desire.

This is the reason we have hope in life, why we expect that at the end of our days there is life everlasting.  This is why we know that as we walk through this life – we hear Him.  For we are people who are people who are His priests and kings.

Behind the plans, God has made His nature, the very same nature we see backing up the promises He made and kept in the life and death, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

Like Abraham, and even more closely, we walk with God, His Spirit dwells within us, His voice resonates in us because He is with you.

Which is why we do what he did,

Hear the words again,

I have singled you out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord, by doing what is right and just.

Does that sound like this?

19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.

We, those who God has made plans for, who are blind to them, and sometimes doubt, have the same call – to help all of Abraham’s children of faith, not matter Jew or Gentile, to hear His voice, including the answer to the last cry of the Psalmist

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)


He won’t abandon us; He is with us… This is most certainly true.  AMEN

Careers: A Sermon by Vicar Mark Jennings

JANUARY 25th, 2015

Mark 1: 14-20

 

YAHWEH’s most perfect grace and peace to you, in the name of Jesus Christ who calls and chooses you and keeps you forever.

Alleluia, amen!

 

One of the things I have noticed that is changing or has changed in this great country we live in is careers.

What I mean by this is that it seems that people change careers these day faster than you can shake a stick at.

I remember back in the day that people seemed to find a career or job and they stuck with it, it seemed for their whole careers until they retired, even if they didn’t like it! My grandfather was a gardener for 45 years and my father in law was a teacher his whole career.

You got a job and stayed with it.

But now? That doesn’t seem to happen as much anymore. With corporations downsizing and the economy so fluid, these days you may have to choose another career whether you want to or not. It may be out of your control as outside influences seek to change what you think you want to do.

I speak from experience. If you would have said that I was going to be the pastor at OSLC to me 25 or 15 or 5 years ago I would have looked at you like a bull at a new gate! I didn’t want to work Sundays!

I was trying to climb the ladder as a professional artist and designer with the goal of my name up on the screen with a credit on the next Star Wars or Star Trek movie!

But God had other ideas and it’s just not me. There are guys in the SMP program who came from other backgrounds and careers also. One guy worked in the fashion industry and another owned his own beverage company. Another was a children’s book editor while another ran a very lucrative upholstery business.

My brother was a teacher before a pastor.

All these men giving up their careers to start a second career serving God in a new and unique capacity.

An outside influence affected these men just as an outside influence affected those men in our Gospel reading from Mark today.

These fishermen are doing what they do for a living, they are fishing and they are repairing their nets and probably the boats and whatever else it takes to be successful in their careers.

This is the career they have chosen and they had planned to do this til they retire.

Did they retire back then? Maybe move to Arizona or Miami? Did they have a 401k?

So here comes this rabbi who is proclaiming a message of repentance and a belief in some good news that the promises of God are happening right now!

They probably heard the rumblings and talk of this rabbi but then He sees them and makes like a laser beam to them where He says to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”

This is the outside influence that changes their career path.

What was their response? Did they look at him and say ohh kayyy and dismiss Him? No, They left their nets at once and followed Him. They repented of their sins and believed the Good News.

This all sounds like they had a choice and chose to accept Jesus.

But listen to what Jesus says in John 15:16 says,” You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Of course, they could choose like Jonah tried to do in our OT reading and you saw how that worked out for him!

He became fish bait!

You could say that we have a choice to reject but really we have no choice as that is our standard human default mode. On our own we can’t accept Christ nor do we want to.

So an outside source made these fishers of….fish now start a second career and become fishers of …men!

This was Jesus calling them and choosing them just as He does to us. This was and is Jesus saying,” Consider a new career!”

“Come to me and I’ll do all the heavy lifting. I will make you a trade and a promise, my blood for yours!”

In this promise or covenant is repentance of sins that calls us and changes us and gives all of God’s people a second career, a new start.

Before this we were slaves to our jobs and if we are honest with ourselves, our jobs were sin and we were and are extremely proficient at it even making it our career.

Job and career are the same but different. You work at a job but a career is something usually planned and prepared for. It might include some kind of schooling and training.

Jesus calls these fishermen to leave their jobs and begin a new career with Him just as He does with you and i.

Leave your jobs of sin and begin a new career with our Savior.

Before this new career offer that you can’t refuse, we had settled in to retire in this life. We had no purpose and the products we made was the results of sin. We worked in the dark and on our own trying to control and run our lives and ways..

But the outside interference of Christ changes that.

You’ve been let go of your position and your services are no longer needed or wanted because you now are employed by the Sovereign King of the Universe who sends His Son to bleed and die for you.

The benefits are perfect and the retirement is top notch!

This repentance of sins is yours and it’s freeee!

This repentance of sins though is more than just saying your sorry for your actions, that is a result and response to what God has done and continues to do.  If you look at the Law you realize that you can’t keep the Commandments in thought, word and deed. It really appears hopeless and that is when we hear the good news about the promises of Christ as the Law drives us to the cross.

It is a holistic change and what I mean is that it affects all of you not just a part or section of you but all of you. It is who you become through Christ calling you in baptism. You repent because the Holy Spirit comes to you and you, through the waters of baptism are cleansed and transformed. You have Breen changed and are able to start your second career in service to God through Christ. You are made new.

Remember how it feels when you start a new job? There may be a little apprehension but there is also the fact that you are starting over and starting fresh and new. You have that new car smell not the old fishing trawler smell.

I began the sermon talking about God calling men into a second career as pastors but this calling applies to the entire priesthood of all believers. You all have been called into second careers as you have been repented and transformed by divine love and you now through His work believe the good news.

The good news of Jesus Christ. The very Son of God who came to us and became one of us and died and rose for each one of us and everyone else so that all may live and begin anew!

So consider a new career or better yet, don’t consider or contemplate it, know it through the promises of Christ that you have been called to it and into it.

You have a new career, a second career and what does that mean?

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and there are lots and lots of fish to catch.

In your new career you get to fish! My kind of career!

But God has called us to fish for something different and work the harvest for something rather than corn or wheat or grapes.

Our work fishing and harvesting is the sharing of the Word.

Through Christ calling and choosing us which brings the repentance of sins, we can go out and proclaim this same repentance given to us to each other, to family, to friends and co-workers, to our neighborhoods, this neighborhood, to our cities and country.

As we follow Christ in our new and second career, people can see that by our acts of service in response, the repentance and transformation that can be theirs as our Lord calls to us, “Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men!”

Consider a new career? Instead know that you have one through Christ choosing you like He chose those fishermen!

Alleluia, amen!

Mission, Vocation, and our Neighbor

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

25  A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?” 26  Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?” 27  The man answered, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ” 28  “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.” 29  But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29 (TEV)

20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:20-21 (TEV)

 16  No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 17  Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18  All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19  Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19 (TEV)

Does a believer have a responsibility to be missional?  To go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teach them to treasure all God has commissioned?

To speak theologically, is this one of our vocations, along with being spouses, parents, employees, employers and good church members?  Are we all missionaries?  Do I have a responsibility as a believer in Jesus to those around me, who still are lost in darkness?

In a recent discussion, I put forth the first passage – the story behind the story of the Good Samaritan for a reason.  Notice that that our relationship with our neighbor (whether they are our spouse, kids, actual neighbor, co-worker, or whomever) comes right after our relationship with God.  Being a loving neighbor is our vocation.

Our relationship with God and our relationship with our neighbors is inseparably intertwined.  The quote from 1 John makes this clear – our love for Him is seen in that love we have for our neighbor.  That’s why the teacher of the law combines the two.  We can’t love God if we fail to love those He calls us to love.

Loving them isn’t easy, it requires that we know.. no, that we dwell in the love and peace of God.  That His mercy so resonates with our life, that we don’t have to think about the ministry of reconciliation being given to us, we simply work in that ministry.  We seek to free people from the darkness of sin, the oppression of satan, and break the grip that death has on them.

Loving them means inviting them into the relationship where God reconciles them, where He makes us His friends, where we understand what He is about is bringing us home to the Father.  That is what being missional is about, or what some others call our apostolate. It is in loving our neighbors as God does, not because we have to fulfill some quota, but that’s what we do as we walk with Him.  (He describes it clearly for us, but we hear it…. like a duty, not as an invitation to spend time with Him)

We are missionaries, for our Lord is, and we walk with Him. It is His mission – and we live and breathe in Him!  Therefore we work with Him in seeing His desire come to being.

We love our neighbors, we desire to see them reconciled, to become friends with God, because He has done this with us.

May we rejoice in every baptism, and may we teach them to rejoice and treasure this life He has given us!

Imitating Christ… in dying to self.

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

 23  Jesus answered them, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to receive great glory. 24  I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains. 25  Those who love their own life will lose it; those who hate their own life in this world will keep it for life eternal. 26  Whoever wants to serve me must follow me, so that my servant will be with me where I am. And my Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12:23-26 (TEV)

 17  In the Lord’s name, then, I warn you: do not continue to live like the heathen, whose thoughts are worthless 18  and whose minds are in the dark. They have no part in the life that God gives, for they are completely ignorant and stubborn. 19  They have lost all feeling of shame; they give themselves over to vice and do all sorts of indecent things without restraint. 20  That was not what you learned about Christ! 21  You certainly heard about him, and as his followers you were taught the truth that is in Jesus. 22  So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. 23  Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, 24  and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy.   Ephesians 4:17-24 (TEV)

If the grain of wheat does not die, it remains unfruitful. Don’t you want to be a grain of wheat, to die through mortification, and to yield stalks rich in grain? May Jesus bless your wheat field! (1)

Yesterday I asked on Facebook a question about whether we would follow Jesus if he showed up today and asked us too.  Actually, more specifically, I asked what our excuses would be when we told him we wouldn’t follow Him.

Most people said they would, and I believe in their hearts they sincerely believe it.

Even as I know most of us do not, even now, as Christ is present in our lives,  as He is calling us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and walk with Him, through that dying to self, into the presence of the Father.

Will we walk with Christ in loving those who would kill us, that we could win their souls to God?

Will we forgive others who have sinned against us?

Will we depend on God when life is rough, the answers unknown, when we need to forsake joy and embrace suffering – that a person would come to know God’s love?

Will we give up taking care of what we are responsible for – to care for others.  (think of John, James, Peter and Andrew leaving their fathers and boats behind, or Matthew leaving the tax table and the taxes he collected behind.._

Reading Les Miserable in my spare time is really causing me to ask these questions, not of you, but of myself.   Wondering how I serve as an example, as Paul did, as Peter did, for those whom I have been entrusted with shepherding.  It’s a hard question… and it seems like the law is condemning me…even brutally.

Until I realize that such things I cling to, are actually snares… snares that would stop me from following Christ, or at least blind me to His Spirit’s presence.  I have to come to my senses and realize in whose presence I dwell.  The Lord and Master who shatters those holds, who brings me healing, who brings me life.

This dying to self thing – its not so I can just die.  It is so I can live.

We too need to experience what that seed did… actually we just need to realize we have… He has done this to us, even as He subjected Himself to it.

This imitating Christ – is the living that we were created for…

It is what began at our baptism, it is what is strengthened as we are absolved and commune…

It is the abundant life.

Lord have mercy on us, by crucifying our sin and sinful desires… leaving us nothing else, but You, and the glory in which you share with us. AMEN

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 574-575). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Don’t Rush the Journey!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4 Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.”   Psalm 23:4 (TLB)

“From the hidden life of Jesus you must draw this further consequence: not to be in a hurry… even when you are! That is to say, first and foremost comes the interior life. Everything else, the apostolate (the mission), any apostolate, is a corollary”. (1)

I spent the last three weeks, first in Asia, working with churches and missionaries, and then the first few days back visiting some of my people with huge health challenges, a couple on hospice, a man after major surgery, another with a heart attack.  Then  the last two with a small group of pastors, being mentored and taught ways to  help focus our churches in, well – being the church.  A lot of it is simple – to consider the mission of the church, given to it by God, and help people see that being the church is not about Sunday mornings, but in how we all live our lives, every day, in every situation, realizing we are placed here by God.

As I look back over these three weeks, as I prepare to talk about that journey on Sunday morning, this morning these two comments burn themselves into my mind.  I look back on the mission trip, realizing my “best” work may not have been the preaching and teaching times.  At least the most meaningful to me were the times walking with those who guided me around the cities, and shared with me the joys and frustrations of serving God in far off places.  In encouraging them and in praying with the pastors and people I met. Especially when we took time to discuss and share…. over meals, while walking.

King David knew this wasn’t just how we operate best, it was the way God operates – yes – when He gathers us together, pours out His love and mercy and forgiveness, that seems to be the “big thing” of His interaction with us, but that is simply part of the same journey He takes with us – each and every moment of every day.  As He walks with us through that day, sharing with us the things we experience, helping us to see it, not just with our eyes, but with His, as He redeems the time.   As we read with out children at home, or do prepare  a meal with our spouse.  As we are at work, caring for a co-worker who is going through a bad time, as we visit those in the hospital, waiting to hear news.

Each time we minister and serve those around us. Each time we make sacrifices to be there…

It is, as t Josemaria says, a corollary, a parallel action, caused by the interior journey we are on, with the God who walks close to us, with us through life, guarding and guiding us, ensuring that evil cannot harm us, allowing us to dwell in His peace.

Don’t rush, enjoy the journey, even if our short term destination is critical – even if it is terminal – for the hourney itself, it is far more than we think it is.

For we walk with God.

For the Lord is with you!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2584-2586). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

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