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Is This What We Should Pray for?

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought of the Day:

and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: 6 Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. 7 He gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. 8 Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Phil. 2:5-8 CEV

Do you believe that your sins are forgiven, and that Christ has made a full atonement for them? Then what a joyful Christian you ought to be! How you should live above the common trials and troubles of the world! Since sin is forgiven, can it matter what happens to you now? Luther said, “Smite, Lord, smite, for my sin is forgiven; if thou hast but forgiven me, smite as hard as thou wilt”; and in a similar spirit you may say, “Send sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, persecution, what thou wilt, thou hast forgiven me, and my soul is glad.”

When people talk about Philippians 2, they usually mention the incredible description of Jesus found in verses 6 through 11.  It is an ancient hymn, sometimes called the Carem Christi.

But we forget that it is an invitation.

An invitation to suffering. An invitation to love like Jesus loves.

An invitation to know the love of Christ, to know it so intimately that you don’t reject pain and suffering for the cross, but embrace it, s Jesus did, for the joy that it will bring.

That is the point of that hymn being shared, to help us learn how to embrace the hard things in life. To see them as the opportunity to imitate Jesus!

This is possible for the very reason Spurgeon notes. We realize what it means that we are forgiven, that our relationship with God is perfect and new.  Everything that was broken has been healed, everything that was corrupted was restored.  How amazing this is! How incredible! It can and should overwhelm us as it becomes more clearly revealed.

Even to the point where we “ask for it!”  We ask for the pain, the suffering, whatever it costs to help others come ot know God’s love. For it is worth it, all the suffering, even martyrdom, if through it one person comes ot know the Lord’s love for them.

As we suffer, as life hauls off and wallops us, we begin to understand the cost to Jesus of living us, and that love, not our own strength, sustains us. Not only sustains us, but empowers us as we realize what it all leads to, the vision Paul used in the next chapter,

10  All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11  so that somehow I also may be raised to life. Philippians 3:10-11 (CEV)

I pray that you and I will come to want to suffer and know the power that raised Christ to life. AMEN!

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

 

The Need and Challenge of Social Ministry

Devotional Thought of the Day:

27  What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world. James 1:27 (TEV)

19  If our hope in Christ is good for this life only and no more, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in all the world.
1 Corinthians 15:19 (TEV)

But it would be a sad turn of events if anyone were to take advantage of the energies latent in the piety of the people in order to use them in a project of purely worldly liberation that would very soon reveal itself as an illusion and as the source of new enslavements.

There is a part of the church’s role in the community it finds itself, and in the world at large to do what is called “social ministry.” Things like feeding the hungry, visiting the hospitalized, home bound, and those in jail. It dgoes onto other things, helping those who marginalized by society for what every reason, including the immigrant, the single mother, the elderly. Defending the right to live of those elderly (and have affordable healthcare) and those awaiting birth, and those who are poor. Helping provide care and education for children. Helping those in trauma of all types, holding the hands of those who mourn. The list goes on.

There is no option for the church in this at all. And we don’t just get to help the peoeple we choose to help. We are called to help whomever God brings to us, or sends us into the midst of, to show them the love and providence of God, even as we’ve been shown it. If the passage from James isn’t enough, let me know – there are many, many more, in both the Old and New Testaments.

There is an obvious need for the church to see Jesus in their faces, and care for them.

But there is a challenge to social ministry, no matter who it is we are caring for, we need ot make the ministry complete. We need to realize it doesn’t end when we make sure they are fed and clothed, when they have a roof over the heads, when they feel safe and are cared for.

Our ministry to them cannot end there.

For if all the church gives them is another day of comfort, another day wihout the feeling of being abandoned, another day or week or decade without hunger and thirst, we haven’t completely ministered to them.

They need to know Christ has saved them, delivering them into a life that is eternal, a life that goes far beyond anything we could ever imagine. A life that is risen with Christ.

That is too hard to see when need and trauma shatter our peace, and therefore we help them there, but also we help them understand that it is not just us that is caring and providing and weeping with them, but God is doing something.

They need to know God’s love.

When they see our “social ministry” our care, they need to know why. They need ot know God’s love and care. Spoken about with as much love and care. Revealed to them so they can know the depth of peace and joy that comes from being loved by God.

Lord Jesus, help us to see and minister to all the needs of those around us. Help us to look at them with Your eyes, and Your heart, and enable us to minister to them, so that they can respond to Your love. 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. 171). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Don’t Shake the Dust off Your Feet….yet

Good News BibleDevotional Thought for the Day:
14  And so, my friends, as you wait for that Day, do your best to be pure and faultless in God’s sight and to be at peace with him. 15  Look on our Lord’s patience as the opportunity he is giving you to be saved, just as our dear friend Paul wrote to you, using the wisdom that God gave him.
2 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)

206         I understand your holy impatience, but at the same time you must realise that there are some who need to think things over for a long time and others who will respond all in good time… Wait for them with open arms. Add the spice of abundant prayer and mortification to your holy impatience. They will be more youthful and generous when they come. They will have got rid of their bourgeois approach, and they will be all the more courageous. Think how God is waiting for them!

In Matthew 10:14, Jesus gives the following direction to the Twelve Apostles as they embark on their first teaching journey,

14  And if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet. 15  I assure you that on the Judgment Day God will show more mercy to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than to the people of that town! Matthew 10:13-15 (TEV)

I’ve heard this used a lot over the course of my ministry, in a way that is simply, sinful.  The pastor who is burnt out on ministry, and can’t seem to get his people to appreciate his vision.  The leader who, though sincere, is causing division in the church.  The family member, who has given up on a parent, or a child, or a cousin, because they are too stubborn, too obstinate, too argumentative to see their need for Christ.  Or the horrible sinners, proven by their lifestyle, or political choices, (or in their favorite sports team) who will not heed our call to repentance of the speck in their eye, while they see the petrified forest in ours.

We are tired of the pain, the anxiety, the stress, so we write off someone we care called to love, rather than embrace the call to minister to them patiently.   We use the passage from Matthew to justify our cutting off the person or people that cause us such trauma.  (often without thinking about the trauma we cause them!)

In shaking the dust off our feet, we feel vindicated, somehow more righteous or holy, and we think that God is on our side.

And we couldn’t be more wrong.

We, who have benefitted from the Lord’s patience, need to imitate that patience.  We who have come to know His love, need to love that sacrificially/  Sacrificing our pride, our self-righteousness, even the sleep we may give up, as we spend the night in prayer for these people we are called to love, and that God would sustain and heal our hearts in the process.

For being patient with them, is about realizing this isn’t a win or lose based on getting them to church tomorrow, but spending eternity with them in the presence of God. That is why St Josemaria urges us to be patient, giving those we are sent to minister to enough time to realize the love being revealed to them.  Wait for them with open arms, continually pray for them, knowing that our mission is different than the apostles, in that it wasn’t preceding Jesus to the cross.

Be patient, God is.  Be loving, for He loves you!  Be willing to sacrifice, and even suffer, for that too will prove to them the love of God who doesn’t give up on them, or on you and I.

Be patient, with the unbeliever, and the believer.

And keep on putting them in the hands of God…. for this will help, as you contemplate on how much God loves us all.

Lord, give us the heart to see people healed of their sin, to be freed from their brokenness, and the patience that only the Holy Spirit can give us, You patience, to wait and see them come to the Lord!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1068-1072). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Church Has No Excuse for Aging…

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  The people say, “Let’s return to the LORD! He has hurt us, but he will be sure to heal us; he has wounded us, but he will bandage our wounds, won’t he? 2  In two or three days he will revive us, and we will live in his presence. 3  Let us try to know the LORD. He will come to us as surely as the day dawns, as surely as the spring rains fall upon the earth.” Hosea 6:1-3 (TEV)

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation n to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, o and also to the Greek. 17 For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. 
18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, 19 since what can be known about God is evident among them because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.  Romans 1:16-20  HCSB

If the Church stays “indoors,” she certainly will age.
The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the “existential peripheries,” where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, religious indifference and of all human miseries are found.

In fulfilling its educational role, the Church, eager to employ all suitable aids, is concerned especially about those which are her very own. Foremost among these is catechetical instruction,16 which enlightens and strengthens the faith, nourishes life according to the spirit of Christ, leads to intelligent and active participation in the liturgical mystery17 and gives motivation for apostolic activity.

Romans 1:16 is, for Bible College and Seminary students, repeated often.

I am not ashamed!  

But this isn’t a badge of honor, it is not considering the context. It is a call to go out, and help those who have been caught up by sin, those who are in bondage to it, those who are broken by it.

We are to be there for the people without excuse, but therefore, without hope.  The word for excuse there is the negative form of the word of the apostle Peter uses when he declares, 

15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)

This world, so full of misery and strife, so full of pain that they have become indifferent to religion cannot realize that they can return to the Lord,  That they can return to the Lord who allowed them to deal with the consequences of the sin of the world, including their sin. 

They don’t know that God will come to heal them, that they can know Him, not just academically, but in a deep rich way, more deeply that can e described by words, but is celebrated as we take the Body Broken for us, as we share in the blood shed for our sins. 

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because it presents hope to these people who are unaware of that hope even exists, that broken relationships, can be healed, THAT GOD CARES FOR THEM.  

This has to be the message of the church. It is not that we are better than them, holier than them that we go out to encounter the world.  It is because we found hope for our brokenness, hope that we are being healed, being transformed, a work that isn’t always easily visible, but one that God has promised to do.

If we are not ashamed of this hope, of this ability we are all given to interact and depend on God, then there is no excuse for the church to get old. The is no excuse for us hiding within the doors of our churches, waiting for the pastor to grow our church.  We have a world that doesn’t need us to complain about them, but that needs us to give them the hope we have, to help them return to the Lord, to know that anyone can die with Christ and the cross, and be raised to a new life with Him, in Him.

This is the gospel, that God loves us… 

Let us not hide that hope within our walls, but let it burst out as fast as the kids run for donuts after service gets out!

Lord have mercy on us all!  And help us to spread the news you have!

 

 

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 192). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Catholic Church. (2011). Declaration on Christian Education: Gravissimum Educationis. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

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