15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. John 17:15-16 (NLT2)
Without worship we go about miserable; that’s why we have all the troubles we have. You wonder why young people act like such idiots. Some young people have a lot of energy and don’t know what to do with it, so they go out and act like idiots; and that’s why gangsters and communists and sinners of all kinds do what they do. They are endowed by God Almighty with brilliant intelligence and an amazing store of energy, and because they don’t know what to do with it they do the wrong thing. That’s why I’m not angry with people when I see them go off the deep end, because I know that they have fallen from their first estate along with Adam’s brood and all of us together. They haven’t been redeemed and so they have energy they don’t know what to do with; they have capacity they don’t know how to use. They have skills and don’t know where to put them, and so they go wild and police have to arrest sixteen-year-olds and put them in jail. If they had been taught that they came into the world in the first place to worship God and to enjoy Him forever and that when they fell Jesus Christ came to redeem them, to make worshipers out of them, they could by the Holy Ghost and the washing of the blood be made into worshiping saints and things would be so different
He always wants to remind us to recall the First Commandment, that he is our God; that is, that he wishes to help, comfort, and protect us, so that he may restrain our desire for revenge.
 If we could thoroughly impress this on people’s minds, we would have our hands full of good works to do.  But this would not be a preaching for the monks. It would too greatly undermine the “spiritual walk of life” and infringe upon the holiness of the Carthusians. It would be practically the same as forbidding their good works and emptying the monasteries. For in such a teaching the ordinary Christian life would be worth just as much, indeed much more.
They saw that the work of the cure of souls (Seelsorge) brought joy (Freudigkeit) despite the burdens of office. When God’s love is in motion, there is joy even in the midst of sorrow. And never forget it: Your ministry is God’s love in motion.
We live in an age of monasticism. Perhaps not in dark, gloomy, castle-like buildings centered around, and protecting the sanctuary, but the church has grown more and more isolated in the decades I have been alive. Some form this isolation by trying to protect the church they treasure, the beliefs and practices that have given them great peace at one time, which they remember, if not experience daily. Others see themseles as missional crusaders, those that venture forth from the walls of the church, in order to draw people into their lifestyle. Truly this group has grown as isolated as those who try and protect their traditions, as they rely on their visions and mission principles and para-church agencies. We even invest in politics, aligning ourselves with those we feel are the most willing to protect our way of life.
It is as if they both believe that because we are not of this world, we have to create a lifestyle that is apart from the world. And so churches add to their facility their own restaurants and coffee shops. Our own bookstores, our own universities that are becoming less and less open to the spiritually unwashed masses.
And then we complain about the world that we send to hell in a nice wrapped up gift basket.
Tozer’s wrote the words in purple at a point when I was young—maybe even before I was born. He wants to complain about the idiotic things people do, but he realizes they do those things, using the gifts God’s given them, because they don’t know God. That means if there is someone to be “mad” at, it is the Christians in their lives who have remained silent about the love of God.
That’s right, if anyone can be blamed for the state of America today, (and most of Europe) it is the church who has retreated into its sanctuaries and tried to defend them from evil! Do we not get the truth of the first commandment? That God, Who has already delivered and saved us, who is protecting us, has sent us into the broken world, just as He sent Jesus into the world to save it? Just as God the Father and God the Son sent the Holy Spirit into our lives, that we might help save others?
We are to live right in the middle of the world, that souls may be cured of the illness of sin, and the ignorance of God. I love the last sentence in the quotes, our “ministry is God’s love in motion.
Stop avoiding the broken, stop complaining about them and condemning them, go walk besides them, helping where you can. Stop being a modern monastic, and instead find the joy of seeing God heal others….and then you will experience peace and joy in ways beyond anything you could think or imagine.
Lord, help us to live as we do in church, in our lives with others. AMEN!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 413.
Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 279–280
Thoughts to deepen our devotion to Jesus
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up! Go to the great cityc of Nineveh and preach against ite because their evilf has come up before me.” 3 Jonah got up to flee to Tarshishh from the LORD’s presence. John 1:1-3 CSB
“Erasmus, Oecolampadius, Zwingli, and Karlstadt want to measure everything by their wisdom and so they become confused. I thank God that I know and believe that God knows more than I do. He can do what is above my ability to comprehend. From invisible things he can make visible, for everything that is now happening through the light of the gospel is making visible things out of invisible.
Oh, how many spiritual persons there are who do not become saints, because they will not do themselves the violence to break away from certain little attachments!
All the evil arises from the little love they have for Jesus Christ.
Anyone can do the possible; add a bit of courage and zeal and some may do the phenomenal; only Christians are obliged to do the impossible.
I never like reading Jonah.
We always talk about his running from preaching to “those” people, but the message wasn’t easy to preach either.
Luther talked about preaching the real law- preaching where the people you are talking to fail, where they sin, where their pride leads them to fall. In the passage above, Luther nails four contemporaries – guys that were all polar opposites from each other – but who all thought they knew more than the next guy, indeed, more than God. He went after them, and the people sitting before him, for their sin.
DeLigouri notes a similar thing – that there are people so addicted to certain sins that they won’t break away from them, because they love their sins more than they love God.
Neither the monk-turned-reformer or the priest held back much! They went after people – not to condemn them – but to save them!
I am going to be honest, the reason most of us don’t go after the specks in other’s eyes is that we know there is a log in our own. Or perhaps a redwood forest. To deal with others sin means we have to let Jesus deal with ours.
It is a hard thing to try and rescue people form sin, in fact it is impossible. We can’t do it, but Tozer says we need to, we are obliged to do the impossible. THe reason is simple – it is what Jesus did – for us. Whatever it took – calling us on our sin – and providing a way for it to be covered.
Whatever it takes to save them from sin, means that we have to be willing to identiy the sin – ours and theirs, and bring it to God so that, as promised, they can be cleansed of it. And in the process of their being cleansed, we find our sin dealt with as well, just as Jonah had his sin and rebellion dealt with, as God drew Jonah closer.
You and I, as believers, need that ministry that occurs while we minister to others.
So stop running, stop being afraid of God deling with the log… and as He does,,, look on with wonder as God heals those who you were sent among.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 147.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 333.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. 2 People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. 3 The LORD will mediate between peoples and will settle disputes between strong nations far away. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Micah 4:1-3 (NLT2)
After getting the heart filled with the Holy Ghost, it is well to get the head filled with the very facts and truth that should be there. The Bible speaks of grace and knowledge. They go well together.
In particular I should like to concentrate on the phrase “he went on his travels.” I come immediately to the conclusion that we Christians must not abandon the vineyard where God has placed us. We must direct our energies to the work before us, within these walls, toiling in the winepress. And then taking our rest in the tower when our day’s work is over. If we were to give in to comfort, it would be like telling Jesus, “Look, my time is mine, not yours. I don’t want to tie myself down to looking after your vineyard.”
500 years ago, the Church was torn apart because it wouldn’t take the time
to discuss the relationship between faith and works. Each side demonized the other, and rather than working it out, they polarized, and the Church was torn in two, and then into a thousand pieces.
These days, I am not sure the Church is being torn asunder, as much as the
arguments are paralyzing it. False dichotomies appear or are accidentally
generated. The discussion over the dichotomy distracts the Church from being who She was created to be.
I experienced that this morning, as a friend put up a meme talking about
mission and method. One was to be loved more than another, or else the Church would die. I heard it as an exclusion, and I know there are those in our brotherhood who would say the inverse is true, that exclude the
“other” and mission is worthless – because the Church is already
And for 20 years as a Lutheran and 16 with another denomination ( technically a non=denominational movement), I have watched people make this argument.
Mission versus method. We gotta being doing stuff, or the Church dies. If we do stuff the wrong way, the Church is dead. We have to be preaching the gospel, not doctrine. If we don’t teach our people, our gospel may be false.
All the time, we are discussing this, writing books about this, fighting for
power in our denomination so we can make sure everyone else gets it right… we are not being the Church.
And we end up without a mission or a method.
Look at the passage of Micah – it ignores the dichotomy. People will be drawn to God (mission) and walk in HIS paths (method). The Lord settles their disputes. The blogs, youtube videos, and other weapons become tools to use in the harvest, for the Lord has ended the disputes.
It is not one or the other; it is them working together in Christ. Mission and
Method, Grace, and Knowledge.
Our role, our vocation is not to be found in arguing this, but in working the
vineyard, in sharing the reason we have hope.
Immanuel – Christ with us. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Guiding us in
Because of His promise, hell cannot withstand the onslaught of a church guided by the Spirit has His mission and His method.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought fo the Day:
I don’t know what will happen to me in Jerusalem, but I must obey God’s Spirit and go there. 23 In every city I visit, I am told by the Holy Spirit that I will be put in jail and will be in trouble in Jerusalem. †24 But I don’t care what happens to me, as long as I finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do. And that work is to tell the good news about God’s great kindness. Acts 20:22-24 CEV
Thinking of the love of God as something nice is forgetting that the love of God is the love of God. The awesomeness of God makes the love of God equally awesome. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a great Jewish theologian of the twentieth century, said, “God is not nice. God is not an uncle. God is an earthquake.” If you do not like that (one of my students responded to that quotation, “I prefer a God I can handle”; indeed!), then you do not like the love of God, for the love of God is also an earthquake, not an uncle’s love, but a Father’s.
“To die is a good thing. How can anyone with faith, at the same time, be afraid to die? But as long as the Lord wants to keep you here on earth, it would be cowardice for you to want to die. You must live, live and suffer, and work for Love: that is your task” (1037).
I wish I had Paul’s attitude.
I think I am far more like Jonah, who faced a difficult task and chose ot be cast overboard rather than do what God had called him to do.
The is a temptation to run and hid, even if that means embracing death for the wrong reason. For while we know, we are bound to heaven, even though we know God desires us there; eventually, it is not a place to escape the pain and suffering life brings.
We can’t be cowards, abandon our lot in life, and run away. No matter how tempting it may seem.
We have been called to share in the ministry of reconciling people to God. Every single one of us has a role in this. That means we have to be so sure of God’s presence, that we can enter their darkness, that we can break through the gates of hell and endure it, in order to be there and witness God’s love shattering their darkness.
God isn’t the kindly uncle, He is the Father who expects us to take on the family work, to embrace the suffering and pain it will require. To trust Him enough to hand over to Him the things we cannot understand or handle, freeing us to love those we minister too. We need to trust Him enough to let the Holy Spirit comfort us in our distress, as is promised.
That is the key, depending on His promises.
To know that even if we are heading toward imprisonment, or martyrdom, or simply the struggle of our lives, He is with us.
He will see us through. He will be with us through it all…
Lord Jesus, help us to know You, to experience Your love so deeply, that our trust in You overrides our ignorance, our doubt, our fears. Help us embrace the life You have created in us, and called us to live. AMEN!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 201.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge. Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Listen when anyone in Israel truly feels sorry and sincerely prays with arms lifted toward your temple. 39 You know what is in everyone’s heart. So from your home in heaven answer their prayers, according to the way they live and what is in their hearts. 40 Then your people will worship and obey you for as long as they live in the land you gave their ancestors.
41-42 Foreigners will hear about you and your mighty power, and some of them will come to live among your people Israel. If any of them pray toward this temple, 43 listen from your home in heaven and answer their prayers. Then everyone on earth will worship you, just like your people Israel, and they will know that I have built this temple to honor you. 1 Kings 8:38-43 CEV
884 You are full of weaknesses. Every day you see them more clearly. But don’t let them frighten you. He well knows you can’t yield more fruit. Your involuntary falls—those of a child—show your Father God that he must take more care,…. Each day, as our Lord picks you up from the ground, take advantage of it, embrace him with all your strength and lay your wearied head on his open breast so that you’ll be carried away by the beating of his most loving heart.
One of the names often used for the church building is a sanctuary, a safe place. Usually, that is interpreted to mean that we have found a place to hide from the world. Indeed, there was once a time in Europe when those in authority could not remove someone from a church, even if they were wanted for a crime.
But if we think that is is a sanctuary from the world, as in others arent welcome into it, as if it is the place of protection from those who are sinful, who are broken, who are oppressed and even possessed by evil, think again.
It is not.
Solomon made that clear, at the dedication of the temple – all are welcome in the presence of God, all are invited to pray in those places where God puts His name, where He makes it clear that this is where He will meet with all of us.
Age doesn’t matter, color doesn’t matter, ethnicity doesn’t, even the sins you have committed ( and don’t ever doubt they are sins!) do not matter.
For church is the place to come and discover that God loves you enough to erase those sins, to wipe them out wIth the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, cleansing you of that sin. And that isn’t just for the little white lies, or the gossip that is listed along with sexual sins and murder.
It is about all sins, your deepest, darkest sins that your thought you buried and concealed, along with the sin of your neighbor which you said is so bad that it makes you want to throw-up.
You see, that sanctuary is first a place to come and be restored from your own brokenness, it is the place to come to be healed when you are broken. Look at the prayers in the scripture. It is our own sins that we need to know are forgiven, it is our own brokenness that we need to know will be healed. That is the prayer that we need to know will be heard.
These places aren’t a sanctuary from others, They are where we find healing in communion with each other, as Christ heals us all.
That is something the church needs to remember, especially when the time of brokenness is upon us, as it is now. We need to help others see that God will pick them up, even as He has picked us up! We need to help them be comforted by Him and carried by Him.
Even as we are!
Heavenly Father, help us to know your presence in our lives. Lord lift us up, and help us to bring others into Your Holy Place, that wherever You are, they will know Your mercy, and Your Love, and Lord, help us rejoice in the sanctuary You provide for all of us, in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.” 4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’” Luke 4:3-4 (NLT2)
In India following a big earthquake some years ago, relief teams came from all over the world. They asked that a few of our sisters be in each relief camp to organize the work. To their surprise the sisters insisted on beginning each day with prayer and Holy Mass and that there be times to withdraw for meals and prayers. Some did not agree but those who remained saw the wisdom of it. Because there was reliance on God, the teams could continue. Another proof that our strength comes from Him Who said it clearly: ‘Without Me you can do nothing’.
I speak in the name of our sisters everywhere and from my own personal experience: without the strength provided by the Eucharist, it would not be possible to live our vocation.
And now that they no longer have to chatter the troublesome [breviary’s] seven hours, it would be much better if morning, noon, and night they would replace it by reading a page or two of the catechism, prayer book,4 New Testament, or something else from the Bible and pray the Lord’s Prayer for themselves and their parishioners! In this way they would again show some gratitude and respect for the gospel, which has relieved them of so many burdens and difficulties, and they might feel a little shame that, like pigs and dogs, they do not get more out of the gospel than this lazy, harmful, scandalous, fleshly freedom. Sad to admit, the rabble has too low a regard for the gospel, and, even when we have tried as hard as we can, we do not make much of a difference. What can we expect if we want to be as idle and lazy as we were under the papacy?
The battle in my denomination is no different than the battle in so many others today. Ultimately, it doesn’t boil down to worship style, or missional strategy. It isn’t about being traditional, or seeker-sensitive (though there are new terms to describe such, they are still the same battles). It isn’t even about long divisions that are more about personalities and generations of disciples who held grudges. It is even, as I have long thought, about power and control.
Well – not about us controlling versus them controlling.
Simply put, it is about letting God be God, and sitting at His feet, as Mary did. It is about living a life in a deep and intimate relationship with God, realizing that He is as incarnate in our lives as in Mary’s, and that the sacramental life is one which makes all the difference in the world. For a life, spent in communion with God, in prayer and meditation is what makes the difference in us, in our personal lives, in the lives of our parish/congregations. and in the life of our Church.
The temptation is no different than when Jesus was tempted. “Go do this, use your power to provide for yourself, do what is right in your own eyes, in your estimation, according to your studies and theories based on studying what others have done” and assuming that what we see as success, actually is successful. And yet the “missional” types, and the “confessional” types do this, and even do it somewhat triumphantly.
And yet, the passage Jesus is quoting is so contrary to that kind of idea.
2 Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NLT2)
That is the life described in the quote from the Roman Catholic nun in the first article. One of the leaders from the order of Mother Theresa, whose work among the poor is legendary. They needed the mass, they needed the sacramental time with God in order to find the peace that would enable them to serve others. This is the life that Luther had hoped would develop as he preached the gospel. Yet, whether from laziness or temptation the freedom to actually pray in a non-mechanical way didn’t develop, and sermons that were more quotes of scholars that actually matching the word of God to the needs of people, revealing the grace and love of God that they needed to hear.
We must, as the people of God, spend time with Him. We have to spend time in silence, enough that the world drifts away, and we can hear the word of God. We need to struggle to understand what we receive in communion, to realize that this IS the Body and Blood of our Lord, given for us, given to us. Learning to desire this time, which is uncomfortable at first (see Isaiah 6 or Ex. 3:2 ) but grows on us, and becomes the most precious time we have.
And in that time, as we gaze on Christ, we do not realize the transformation that happens. We don’t notice our ability to show mercy grow, and to care for those around us. Yet it idoes…
This isn’t about a methodology about saving the church. It is about learning to let God provide as He has promised. It is about walking with Him, trusting and depending on Him. Hearing His voice.
My dear readers, I beg you, invest the time, push through the distractions, they will fade, and spend time, individually and in groups, learning to adore the Lord in whose presence you dwell. Listen to Him, through the word, through considering your baptism, the our communion together, through the words your pastors and priests share, declaring your are forgiven! And hearing Him guide you in your day….
The Lord is with you (all)!
Lord Jesus, help us to seek Your presence, even as Your Spirit dwells with us. For no other reason that to spend time with You, and to realize what You are doing in our lives. Help us to pray, and to meditate on Your word, and on Your love. AMEN!
Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 179). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 185–186). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Get Off Your “But” and Follow Jesus!
Luke 9:57-62, 1 Kings 19:19-21
† I. H. S. †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you as you walk “in His steps”
Are you listening? Are you understanding?
you ever asked someone if they were listening, and 30 seconds after they
replied yes, they ask you “what are you talking about?”
I think that happened to Jesus, far more than it happens to us.
It does today, as one man offers to follow Jesus, and two others responded to His invitation to follow him, but they then realized they had a problem. They all had a big “but!” Uhm – that’s but with only one T.
As we look at the call to follow, as we begin to really
hear Jesus, I pray we come to understand what it means to follow Him, or as the
apostle Peter wrote,
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT2)
The Big BUTS
So the first guy tells Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go! Jesus tells him, “okay, here is the challenge, we have no support, no place to stay, no place to sleep.” Oddly we don’t’ hear from the guy again.
Following Jesus isn’t easy or comfortable.
The second and third guys clearly describe their “buts”.
One wants to go home and take care of his dying Father. The second wants to go home and make significant arrangements for his family’s care, cutting off their need for his involvement in their life.
How many of us would have similar issues to deal with? I mean, before Jesus asks us to go with Him to China, or Jordan, or Papua, New Guinea? And how many of us have relationship issues that would make leaving with Jesus complicated?
Those “buts” aren’t easy to deal with, and to turn down an invitation to go with Jesus is heartbreaking, or it should be. I mean if you knew Jesus was going to be at the ordination I am officiating at this afternoon, would you drop everything and come with me? What about if you could meet him on Pastor Bernie’s next trip to the Sudan, but you had to leave today?
What if it required moving to Turkey and working alongside Christina for the rest of your life? Never ever returning to the U.S.A. but you knew for sure you would encounter Jesus every day?
Could you show Jesus your “but”?
This isn’t theoretical for the people in the gospel! They had BIG BUTS, major life concerns, as they truly desire to travel with Jesus.
It’s what some would call a First commandment issue, a problem with prioritizing who is our God, who is most important in our life. Who is most involved in it. For if we can’t listen to God and respond obediently to Him, are we really in a relationship where we realize He is the God who rescues us, and we are the people He listens to, cares and provides for, and loves?
The problem is simple to fix, we just have to get off our “but” and follow Jesus. Follow Him, not travel with Him. If the people had listened to what Jesus said, they would have understood the difference.
What’s the difference? Glad you asked!
The Elisha Example!
In the Old Testament passage, we see Elisha also responding to a call to follow, as Elijah makes him his successor. That’s why he threw his cloak over him, that is what you symbolically did back in those days.
But Elisha goes back to his people. He takes care of business, and isn’t rejected by Elijah, the way it seems Jesus rejected those who had big “buts”.
But look at what Elisha did carefully, and you will see he was already following Elijah as he goes back. He takes his old stuff, the plow, the oxen and uses those things to minister to people.
What the invitation really is
You see, the word for follow doesn’t mean travel with, it means begin to imitate Him. To become like, to gain the attitudes and heart and desire of the person you “follow”. There is a word to walk with, but this is far more, it is another word like disciple, or apprentice.
It is to know Jesus is on the journey with us, shaping us, forming us, sending us out to where He would have us minister. Like the man he delivered from the clutches of demons, often the place is where we call home, sharing the news of God’s mercy with those we love and care about, with those whose lives are broken, and spiritually dead.
Following Jesus is not just physical, it is more, it is transformative, it is incarnational, it is beholding His glory and knowing He dwells among us.
This is what His invitation to believers is about, it is life lived in His presence, hearing His voice, learning to care for and love people as He does. That is what it means to walk in His steps, to live life the way He does, and we do that by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, help us see the “buts” not as challenges to following You, but as places where You bring us to minister and care for other, with you at our side.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21† For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. ! Cor. 1:21 GNT
54 Conform? It is a word found only in the vocabulary of those (“You might as well conform,” they say) who have no will to fight—the lazy, the cunning, the cowardly—because they know they are defeated before they start.
In the last couple of months I have had to consider the unusual way I have done things in life, and especially in ministry. If I look at my MBTI score, I should not be a pastor If I hear the words of my internship supervisor (and T’s words often ring in my head), I shouldn’t have been a pastor. I didn’t graduate with my intended minor in Bible and Preaching, I went back years later and got a degree in business. I became a non-denom pastor, and then moved into a more organized and formal denomination, confusing those I left behind and those I joined! Both my roles as a circuit counselor and as a Regional Vice- President (the first working with 8 churches, the second over 80 and being on the district Board of Directors) I backed into, as the one elected ended up moving shortly thereafter.
So I don’t fit in, and sometimes, I confess, I feel proud that I don’t. There is a little fun being the non-formist, and more than a little freedom.
More often though I wish I did. I wish I understood the logic of the majority more, and those in power. When I don’t, i can begin to feel left out of the discussion, and alone, even in the midst of 500 people, I can feel alone. Sometimes very alone. Eerily so, as if I am not in the same moment of time, slightly out of phaze with everyone.
Yet there, it is easier to see God at work, I believe. Because the focus is not on our appearance, iIt is easier to see the brokenness around us, and the need for healing that only comes through the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and paid for by the suffering and death of Jesus.
If we don’t focus on conforming to the world, and even to those in the church, there is a freedom to minister to others, a freedom to worship God based on His revelation of His love. You don’t try to become a clone of this preacher, or that theologian. This makes spiritual development a challenge, a time where you have to depend on God more. It gets us out of MEME Theology and the cute quips of populist theology. Which means it applies to this life, this context, these people we interact with in a way conformity,
Conformity doesn’t guaranty knowledge of a God who did the unthinkable, who came to us, Who loves us, who provides and cares for us, healing us of our brokenness. The God who comes to us simply, who uses simple things, a cross, a tomb, water, bread, wine, and a few people who don’t fit in. He confounds the world, and its rules that it demands us to conform to, just as His gifts require unity, and yet an incredible diversity. Our identity is our, yet found only in our relationship to Jesus.
Lord, help us to desire to conform only to Christ Jesus, and help us be patient, with, others and ourselves, as the Holy Spirit causes and makes this transformation a reality. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 286-288). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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?
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.
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.
Who is Asking,
“Come, Stand by Me”
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to hear those who cry out for someone to stand by them, even as the Holy Spirit stands with you!
The Vision – Mission Impossible!
A long.. long time ago there was a television show that every week started with a line like this.
“You mission Jim, should you choose to accept it….and then after describing int, ended with, “As always, should you and any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will…. (self-destruct in 5 seconds.)
In the reading from Acts this morning, the Apostle Paul gets a similar message. Not on tape that self-destructs, but in a dream, a vision from God that is so clear, that Paul and his team of missionaries knew it was God calling them to tell the people about God’s love and mercy.
The vision of a man crying out for help, pleading with them, “Come over to us and help us!”
In Greek, that is two simple words, Paraclete – to call alongside to help someone stay standing– and boetheo – a word used to describe a doctor’s rushing to come to the aid of someone mortally wounded.
I hope we realize that St. Paul isn’t the only one given that mission, to go over and stand by people, to lift them up and help them find healing.
It is our mission, too!
Like the crew on Mission Impossible, which for 49 missions included Captain Spock by the way, Paul and his band of merry missionaries get to their destination. They look for people who are searching for God, who are searching for hope.
They find someone who deals with the most expensive cloth, who cuts it and sews it. This is Armani of her day, or Michael Kors, and she dealt with the kind of folk who she dressed up for the ancient Grammy’s or Academy Awards.
Not the kind of person that you would encounter at most small churches, but there she was, praying and hoping for an answer. Like many people, she tried to worship God, but wasn’t clear who that God was.
As Paul started to share about Jesus, the Holy Spirit opened her heart, and she accepted it, the Greek says she held for dear like to what Paul was saying.
It’s like the story I read of a priest yesterday. He encountered a young man who was struggling with heroin addiction. They spent the night in the sanctuary, all night long, thinking about the Lord’s Supper, about the Body broken for this young man. The priest described him holding onto the altar so tightly he thought he left his nail marks in it.
And that is the way Lydia received the revelation of God love for her.
Except she wasn’t someone we would normally think of being that “needy”, that desperate, that amazed at finding out something we probably take for granted all too often.
That God loves us.
Oddly enough, Lydia, after Paul baptizes her and all her household (which includes her employees by the way, uses the word Parakaleo when she asks Him to come and stay at her home.
She’s not being hospitable, she realizes she and her household needs continual help to start growing in the faith. There is a sense of desperation in it, as her begging forces them to agree to stay there.
The Church and Apathy about its Mission
How do I know we take our mission for granted?
How many people do we hear calling for help, whether they are the foreigner trying to adjust to living here, or the homeless guy, or the rich people we don’t think would bother with the likes of us?
How many of them do we hear cry for help and then take the time to respond to their cries for help?
I think we need to realize that not hearing them, not seeing their need is to sin, breaking the second commandment. For we need to use the Name of God in those situations, sharing with these people in need the love of God, revealing to them His mercy, and His abiding presence.
The need Him, and we need to remember this mission became our in our baptism, and we take it on every time we greet each other with God’s peace, and when we leave this sanctuary.
You know, I always wondered why they called it Mission:
Do you ever remember them failing one of their missions? Ever?
They just kept solving mission after mission, week after week.
Our real life mission, while a little more difficult, is even more possible.
God doesn’t threaten us by saying He will disavow any knowledge of us, should we fail.
His call to us to go alongside and reveal to people His love and mercy includes His power, as the Holy Spirit empowers our work, and ensures it all works out for good for those who love God, for those He calls according to His purpose, His will.
Sure it may take a while to help some people see His love – but the days and years and decades are worth it.
For while we are on this mission, Jesus promises He will never abandon us, that He walks with us, that we are united with Him, even as the Holy Spirit comforts us in our failings, as we are cleansed of our sins.
This is our mission. To share with people.
The Lord is with you!
And that because He is risen,….. (We are risen indeed – and they are part of the “we”)
And therefore, invite all whose lives cry out for someone to Come, stand by them, to enter into the peace of God, the peace you experience, even though it more that you could ever describe, the peace in which you are guarded, heart and mind, by Christ Jesus.