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Forging the faithful… and standing the heat…. Words of Encouragement for those who serve God’s treasured people


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the day:

28  So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me. Colossians 1:28 (Phillips NT)

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.
Ephesians 4:12-13 (TEV)

There was a mother who, like all mothers, was passionately fond of her little child, whom she called her prince, her king, her treasure, her very sun. I thought of you. And I understood —for what father does not carry deep inside some maternal feelings?— that it was no exaggeration for that good mother to say: you are more than a treasure, you are worth more than the sun itself: you are worth all Christ’s Blood! How can I fail to take up your soul —pure gold— and place it in the forge, and fashion it with fire and hammer, until that gold nugget is turned into a splendid jewel to be offered to my God, to your God?

I was talking to another person in ministry this week, and we were talking about how to encourage young people to make the sacrifices of entering the ministry.  Within the context was also the discussion of the sacrifices we make to serve others. One of the sacrifices you might realize as you read the words in blue above.

If we are to be the instruments that which the Holy Spirit uses to “forge” people, to shape and mold them as we teach them and administer the sacraments, that weans we have to deal with the heat as well. Using more Lutheran terminology, you can’t preach Law and Gospel without hearing it yourself.  For that is how St Josemaria’s forge works, as we are purified and fashioned for the life God has planned for us – to be there for them.

Yet if we spend time at the forge, we have to be there in the heat, we have to hold on, and care for those God gives us to care for, to be there with the fire and the hammer, to work despite the heat, despite how it zaps our strength, despite their sweat and tears (and even the stubborn refusal to bend to God’s will)

Over 20 years of preaching in jails and churches, spending time at bedside and with those who are ill and dying, this is what ministry has taught me.  It is those moments where the heat is the hottest that I remember – not for the pain, but for incredible beauty that appears as the Holy Spirit transforms them, as the Spirit revitalizes them and reveals in them the image of God in which they were created, which was marred and broken by sin.

And being in the heat – you get to witness this, you get to see it. You get to look to God and say – I see what you did there, Oh my, how holy!  How they shine because of Your care, your mercy and love!  How they reflect your glory!  As we see this, the heat is forgotten, the Lord and His beloved children are all our mind can focus upon. It is an incredible blessing to see, more than any discomfort, far worth the sweat and the tears…

Miraculously something else happens, those of us who serve as tools, who endure the heat for others, realize the same heat that transformed them, is why we are able to bear the heat, because we too have been transformed and tempered as well.  While sometimes we think we are not made for this work, God turns our lives into masterpieces as well.

Praise God for the heat of His forge, and the work He gives us…. for it is an incredible thing to have a small part in, as He uses us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 226-231). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Am I Appreciated? Are You? Does it Matter if We Aren’t?


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

1  “Make certain you do not perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do. If you do these things publicly, you will not have any reward from your Father in heaven. 2  “So when you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it, as the hypocrites do in the houses of worship and on the streets. They do it so that people will praise them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. 3  But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. 4  Then it will be a private matter. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.   Matthew 6:1-4 (TEV)

693    It hurt you not to have been thanked for that favor. Answer me these two questions: Are you so grateful toward Christ Jesus? Did you really do that favor in the hope of being thanked for it on earth?

There is a part of us that cries out to be appreciated.

To hear someone say “thank you” seems only right, and when the thank you isn’t given, we are disappointed, even hurt.  We may wonder about their manners, question how they were raised, even harbor a bit of resentment that our hard work and sacrifice was taken for granted, even ignored.

Examining our own expectation of that “thank you” never enters our mind, does it? Do we question our desire to hear that thank you?  Or wonder if that announcement of appreciation was our motivation?   Or why its lack would cause us to be bitter and resentful?

Or as the eminent theologian Jack Sparrow was noted to say, “The problem isn’t the problem.  Your attitude about the problem is the problem.”

I think St Josemaria has an interesting point here.  Are we as appreciative for what God has done for us, as we expect others to be for what we do for them?   I am not asking this to create a guilt trip, precisely the opposite.

You see, our acts we want noticed and appreciated are actually how we show our appreciation for the work God has done for us.  This life we live, is the fulfillment of Ephesians 2:10.  What we want to be appreciated is the very life God planned out for us, as we’ve been recreated in Christ Jesus….a life lived in appreciation of His love.

I think as we realize this, then the appreciation of man becomes something that is nice, but not a need.  The “thank you’s” are nice, but their lack becomes less noticed, as our actions become more something we are in awe of, as we realize they are done because of the Holy Spirit….. something that is holy and not our norm.

God is working in us!  God is using us to bless others!  What an amazing thing!

He has given us a place in life, and it is making a difference in others lives!  And so our attitude changes a bit, and we begin to understand what Jesus said in Luke,

10  It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say, ‘We are ordinary servants; we have only done our duty.’ “
Luke 17:10 (TEV)

What happens then, is we desire that He be praised, that He be appreciated, that He be loved… and when that happens… we are content… and thankful for the opportunity.

Praise be to our Lord!…. and thanks for reading this!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1616-1617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Reason the Church is Here….


Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  When they saw him, they fell at his feet in worship, even though some of them struggled to trust Him. 18  Jesus went to them and said, “I have been given all responsibility in heaven and on earth. 19  You area going disciple people of all cultures: by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20  and instructing them to treasure this covenant relationship I committed to with you! And I am with you ever day, for forever.”   Matthew 28:17-20 (parker’s paraphrase)

To be a disciple of Jesus means that we can and must follow a way that is directly opposed to our own natural gravity, to the gravity of egoism, to the search for what is merely material and for the maximum pleasure that we confuse with happiness. Discipleship is a way through agitated, stormy waters that we can follow only if we are in the gravitational field of the love of Jesus Christ, if our gaze is fixed on him and therefore supported by the new gravity of grace that makes possible for us the way to truth and to God that we would have been unable to follow by our own efforts. That is why being a disciple of Jesus is more than concurrence with a definite program, more than sympathy and solidarity with a person whom we regard as a model. It is not just Jesus, a human being, that we follow; we follow the Son of the living God. We follow a divine way. Where does Jesus’ way lead us? It leads us to the Resurrection, to the right hand of the Father. It is this whole way that we mean when we speak of following Christ as his disciple. Only thus do we journey the whole way of our vocation; only thus do we really reach the goal of undivided and imperishable happiness. And only from this perspective do we understand why the Cross is also a part of our discipleship as followers of Christ (cf. Mk 8:24). There is no other way for us to come to the Resurrection, to the community of God. We must follow the whole way if we want to be servants and witnesses of Jesus Christ. And every single step is different depending on whether we intend to go the whole way or merely to carve out for ourselves a kind of human party program. We can come to Christ only if we have the courage to walk on the water and to entrust ourselves to his gravity, the gravity of grace.

I have to start with a disclaimer.  I want to write nothing about this post, save what you see above.  The charge for us to disciple the world, by helping people enter into a relationship as part of the people of God, and then to teach them to treasure this covenant relationship, this relationship based on God’s plan, on His terms, for Hs is God.  That is the work of the church that is how we are to love our neighbor; that is the work of God, or as my favorite pastor/author noted, the Opus Dei.

These words of Cardinal Ratzinger in blue (later Pope Benedict XVI)  are an incredible description of that relationship, this discipling process.  Go back and read them again.  Go ahead, go do it.  And again, savor the words describing your relationship with God, as you are pulled into this incredible.

But is this what we are about in the church?

Is this what we value in our own lives personally? Do we understand this incredible, blessed fellowship we have been brought into with the Father, Sona nd Holy Spirit?

We need to, and we need to get that this is far more than obeying laws and commandments (though that is part of it).  It is, to use the Old Testament prophecies, the very “being” that is knowing that we God has made us HIs people, and He is our God.

This is what is revealed, from the very beginning to creation to each time someone is baptized or is revived as their sins are forgiven, or are renewed as they take and eat the Body broken for them, the bloodshed to bring them into this covenant relationship.

This is what we treasure; this is what we guard, (which is what tereo means – not just obey/observe) This is what we reveal to the world, it is how we disciple, this is how we live.

Even when we struggle, or doubt, for Jesus is our Lord. And He is with us.

AMEN!

(1)   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. 140). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Monday and The Priorities of Work


Devotional Thought for a Monday:

 23  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24  We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25  But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) 26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  Romans 8:23-27 (NLT)

449         Prayer, more prayer! It may seem odd to say that now when you are taking examinations and working harder… But you need prayer, and not only the habitual prayer as an exercise of devotion; you also need to pray during odd moments, to pray between times, instead of allowing your mind to wander on silly things. It does not matter if, in spite of your effort, you do not manage to concentrate and be recollected. That meditation may be of greater value than the one you made, with all ease, in the oratory. (and oratory is like a chapel or small church that is for a specific group)

450         Here is an effective custom for achieving presence of God: your first audience every day should be with Jesus Christ. (1)

It’s a Monday, and I got to the office nearly 2 hours ago.  There was a situation or two (I hate to use the term emergency) that had to be dealt with, there is a call I need to make this afternoon, a friend starting checmotherapy.

I am tempted to put aside my devotional time, and my prayer time, and get craking on my studying the passage for next Sunday’s sermon. I have to have all the research done by 6:30 tonight, to share with the group of guys who study it together, to prepare to pray for another week in the pulpit. My heart sceams not to overlook this time of devotiona and prayer, for then my research will be dry, done as a matter of duty, not as a matter of loving God’s revelation to us, the revealtion of His love.  I need to spend this time thinking of He and I, of laying burdens down, of spending a few moments, completely aware of God’s presence.

Yet my mind urdes me onto the tasks of the day.

I think that if this is my struggle, it must be your struggle as well. Heck I work with the word of God and forget I work in His Presence.  How much more so for those of you who sit behind desks looking at paperwork or terminals, or those of you serving others in industry. Or those of you in class, or in a doctor’s office.  How can you “afford” to take the time to spend a large amount of time on this?  Do you neglect what you are paid for?  I realize we must take time for Jesus, to revel and rest in His presence, but how when the times are so minimal?

We rely on God… we pray what we can – we lay our heart before Him and we trust in His faithfulness, in His love, in the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilling what we are unable to come up for the words to describe.  Romans tells of this, and we count on His promise, His presence, and in doing so, we might find ourselves more refreshed than when we spend great lengths of time in His presence serving Him in prayer and study.  (Please do not use that as an excuse for not spending appointed times in prayer! )  But there is something special, when throughout our day, as we work at being our best,, for us to hold a running conversation with Him, to lay before Him our burdens, and our work, and to realize we do it, strengthened by God.

So make your prioirities, set your days in order… but remember the first priority that each priority is part of, to realize God’s presence with you, through every part of every day.

AMEN

Text of "Our Father" prayer with Tri...

Text of “Our Father” prayer with Trinity in central column (God the Father, dove of the Holy Spirit, Jesus) and Biblical and symbolic scenes in left and right columns. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1998-1999). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

May our spirit of forgiving and understanding grow progressively…


Jesus in Pray

Jesus in Prayer…

Devotional thoughts for the day:

Matthew 5:43-45 (MSG) 43  “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44  I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45  for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 

Mercedes Morado and Begoña Alvarez, who were among those who worked with Monsignor Escrivá for years, wrote that his spirit of forgiving and understanding toward those who slandered him grew progressively, to the point where he could say in all simplicity, “I don’t feel any resentment toward them. I pray for them every day, just as hard as I pray for my children. And by praying for them so much, I’ve come to love them with the same heart and the same intensity as I love my children.”30 He was putting onto paper something of his own personal experience when he wrote, “Think about the good that has been done to you throughout your lifetime by those who have injured or attempted to injure you. Others call such people their enemies…. You are nothing so special that you should have enemies; so call them ‘benefactors.’ Pray to God for them: as a result, you will come to like them.”31 On another occasion, Encarnita Ortega witnessed how he reacted when told that Father Carrillo de Albornoz had left the Society of Jesus, later apostatizing from the Catholic faith. Monsignor Escrivá was visibly moved and deeply sorry. He buried his head in his hands and fell silent, withdrawing into himself, praying. Salvador Canals reminded him that this same man had once organized a very serious campaign of slander against the Work. Monsignor Escrivá interrupted him bluntly, “But he is a soul, my son, a soul!” (1)

Facebook is becoming more and more for me a place of sorrow, a place I dread to go.

The reason is, in part, the present governmental crisis, the shutdown of the government.

But my sorrow isn’t caused by that, but by the reactions of many friends, most of whom are followers of Christ.  Yet, even as they fall on both sides of the issue, they do so with anger and wrath to an extreme I haven’t seen yet in my life.  They act like they are the survivors of church bombings in Pakistan, or the other persecutions that is literally costing lives – not just money, in this world.  Again – I long for real discussion on these issues – but not this series of diatribes against President Obama or against the Republican leaders.    Will the people of God grow up?  Will we return our focus to things that truly matter, like the salvation of souls?  The healing of wounds caused by sin?

Or will we major in the minors? Will we continue to neglect a need for God, because our focus is on governments, or economics or protecting ourselves?  Will we mourn over sin, over those who choose separation from God, and will we rejoice when prodigals come home?  Heck, will we seek them out, even as Christ sought the treasures in the fields

Will we become like Christ – who embraced suffering, so others could be healed, so others would know life as the children of God?

In order to do that, we’ll need to develop that same kind of spirit that was observed in Escriva.  And I would be keen to note that it grew in him – it obviously needed to.

Is our reputation, our feelings, even our own personal well-being worth more than a soul that is broken, that is so easily healed by God’s mercy and grace?   Can we put the best construction on our enemies and adversaries work?  On those who battle in Washington D.C. or in St Louis, or here in our backyards?

Or are their souls worth trying to bring God’s light to?  Are they worth mourning?  Are they worth sacrifiing time to pray for them, and the effort to love them?

Lord have mercy on us – and help us minister to those who oppose us,, or whom we think oppose us.  Develop in us the heart of Stephen the deacon/martyr, and may our spirit grow, and may that growth itself encourage others to depend on you.

AMEN

(1)   Urbano, Pilar (2011-05-10). The Man of Villa Tevere (Kindle Locations 1819-1832). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

For the joy awaiting… take up and endure your cross.


Jesus Off the Cross

Jesus Off the Cross (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

Devotion of the Day

24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me.    Matthew 16:24 (TEV) 

 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.   Hebrews 12:2 (TEV)

The Cross marked his life. He took as his daily motto, “Nulla dies sine cruce: no day without the cross.” A touchstone whose truth had been proved by experience. But he brightened it up by adding two words in front: in laetitia, in joy, which denoted a disposition, a grace, for his way of living. His personal aspiration was thus “In joy, no day without the cross.” If ever a day passed without some note of adversity, Monsignor Escrivá would go to the tabernacle and ask, “What’s up between us, Lord? Don’t you love me anymore?” Not that he liked pain. But he was convinced that the cross was the royal seal of the works of God. “To me, a day without the cross is like a day without God,” he used to say;8 he did not want there to be a single day without it as a stamp of authenticity. (1)

The last two days were some of the hardest days I have encountered in my ministry.  7 top level tragedies and traumas, a 400 mile drive, a long day at work.  A facebook thread that made me wonder why some go into ministry….for the wrath and venom poured out was unlike any I have seen.

It was a day where I was drained by noon, as much emotionally as physically, but physically suffering from “drive-lag”.

Yet, as I look upon it this morning, I understand that there is no way those days can happen, unless God is with me.   To deal with broken hearts, very borken lives, some dealing with it, some running from it, some doing both at the same time.  (that is called running in circles )

At the end of the day, no, really before that, I was wiped out, finished, broken myself.   Too tired to think straight, to tired to enjoy life.

But when I went to sleep – I slept – knowing that God was present, not just in my life, but in the lives of everyone I know enduring trauma.  Somehow, despite my anxieties, and fears and all the crap that is going on in this world… God stripped me of it, took the burdens into His hands.  Otherwise? I would have been up half the night.

I suppose on of the reasons I love St Josemaria Escriva’s works, is because of such honesty.  Because he is an example of trusting in God, in knowing God’s presence, that taking up such a cross is doen without thinking, its done without complaint, its done – knowing that we are simply here to bear the burdens that others can know Christ’s peace, and love, and mercy.  But we can’t bear those burdens long – they will chew us up and spit us out, exhausted, overwhelmed, maybe even bitter and disgusted with life.

But we follow Him, to the cross, to His death, to that point where every sin was paid for, every point of brokenness removed… and then we find ourselves alive!

For we bear our cross to His cross.  For His cross takes it all…. and brings healing and joy – and rest – but we have to see ourselves there.. at the foot of the cross, seeing His brokeness, seeing His blood spilled on the ground, seeing His eyes… looking down upon his, with a joy that knows by that very pain He is enduring… that He is freeing us from our burdens, our pains, our crosses.  We can’t deal with our burdens, our brokeness, we can’t have faith and trust in Him, unless we recognize those things we bear… and realize they are to be nailed to Him, to His cross.

“In joy, no day without the cross“…. because our crosses require us to be with Him, to let Him ultimately bear them.  For joy is there, awaiting us, for He is there awaiting us.

Lord, have mercy!

Yesterday was a rough day,  One of those days you realize is a cross to bear. 

 

 

(1)   Urbano, Pilar (2011-05-10). The Man of Villa Tevere (Kindle Locations 1552-1559). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

What are you being forged by God for????


Jim's knife 2 Devotional Thought of the day:

8  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)

2  But who will be able to stand up to that coming? Who can survive his appearance? He’ll be like white-hot fire from the smelter’s furnace. He’ll be like the strongest lye soap at the laundry. 3  He’ll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He’ll scrub the Levite priests clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they’re fit for GOD, fit to present offerings of righteousness.  Malachi 3:2-3 (MSG)

7  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12  So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13  But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14  We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15  All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.   2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (NLT) 

It usually sits up on my bookshelf at home – close at hand, but above the reach of little hands.

When I look at it, I cannot help remember what it was, think of its journey, admire what it has become, and the skill of the craftsman (Jim Adams of JDA Knives) that forged it.

You see, it may be an unusual hobby for a pastor, but I collect knives. (and a sword or two) And my JDA knives are quite special.

You see, that knife has had a lot of pressure over the years… it started out as a railroad spike, keeping a a railroad tie and the track joined together.  An important job, but one with the pressure of the trains passing over it, the weather and heat and cold trying to dislodge it from what it was set in place to accomplish – keeping people and things heading toward their destination.

When it was time to be taken up, when it’s role was complete, it was tossed aside…useless perhaps…. or at least in minds other than Jim’s.

He took it, saw something, thought of a conversation and a need, and with heat, and pressure and force, took this old rusty knife and changed it into something.. beautiful, useful, practical (it’s wicked sharp).  He has a craft that few do, and this knife is a masterpiece.  He gave it to me one day… just walked in and wanted me to have it…  I am still a little in shock.  But very grateful.

The Eph. 2 passage above is one of my favorites, not just because of verses 8-9 – but because of 10.  Many people focus on the first two… and quote them without completing the thought.  But they just talk of the need for refining – for repurposing and the fact that God does it.  But 10, ahh, that speaks of the finished product, a beautifully crafted instrument that our lives become..with all the sin and dross taken care of, with the rust and pitting rubbed out (like in the second passage).  God’s masterpiece, His poiema ( we get poetiy from that) His Opus Dei – the work of God.  He takes what is washed up, used, abused and turns it into something wonderful, something that He uses for a purpose.

We have a new purpose, a new mission, a new message to communicate.  God uses every bit of us to do so,

The pressures we’ve dealt with, the storms we’ve endured, the sufferings we have wondered if we would survive…

And through all the heat, the pressure, God is at work forging someone who will be used for the greatest work..that of revealing Christ to others… of giving the hope that knowing God can bring, the awe that the Master Craftsman of life does care, does love, does know us, and will turn our lives into something beyond our ability to comprehend… He will make us a blessing to others…

So my question to all that are enduring heat – wondering why? even wondering if He is there…

Will you lean upon Him?  depend upon Him?  Let Him forrge you masterpeice….

And what is He forging you for????

The Heart of Theology & the Heart of Ministry is the Heart of Christ


IMG_6335

IMG_6335 (Photo credit: Light from Light)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

11  Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 33:11 (ESV) 

210         At times, seeing those souls asleep, one feels an enormous desire to shout at them, to make them take notice, to wake them up from that terrible torpor they have fallen into. It is so sad to see them walk like a blind man hitting out with his stick, without finding the way! I can well understand how the tears of Jesus over Jerusalem sprang from his perfect charity.  (1)

The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear (awe)  and so may also pray. (2)

One of the reasons I am a Lutheran pastor, one of the reasons I love our confessions is the same reason I often am found quoting a Catholic priest/saint named Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei.  ( It is also the reason I am indebted to my non-denom Bible College professors, especially Doug Dickey and Rodney Vliet, and my fellow alum and now professor Chris G.

For all of the above, and some others in life, there is no division between pastoral practice – how we minister and equip others for ministry, and the depth of our theology.  It’s not the academics against the pragmatics, the “confessionals” versus the “church growthers”.  And while the theology differs a bit at times, there is a…. holistic approach that requires that we realize the harmony between doctrine and practice.  The pastor/priest or whatever form of ministry (professor,teacher,deacon, director of ministry) cannot divide his day by saying, from 8-9 I will pray, from 9-11 I will do theology, from 1-5 I will fulfill my pastoral duties and ministry obligations, and from 7-10 I will do church growth.   It is one constant movement, one constant life.

Otherwise, I would contend, if you think our lives can be divided like this,  you have done none of the above, but have simply whistled into the wind.  The Lutheran doctrine of vocation, and Escriva’s teaching on the apostolate doesn’t work this way.  For both find their beginning point – and entire existence, in one place.

As this blog is titled – “the heart of theology and the heart of ministry is the Heart of Christ”.

Our theology finds itself created, not in books and seminary or catechetical courses, but in our baptism, at the point where God transforms us, begins to conform our mind to that of Christ.   As we are united to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, theology begins, ministry starts. (yes even as a baby is baptized!)  For as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, as the word begins to germinate in us, quickening life, we become theologians, we become ministers, servants of the word.

And it is the sacred heart of Christ which replaces our cold, stone hearts (see Ezekiel 36) and we begin to see the world as Christ does.  The more we see Christ’s heart and desire to be with us, the more we comprehend the depth of the Father’s love, the more we realize that our masses, our Bible studies, our retreats serve not to just impart doctrine – but to lead us to pray, to lead us to worship, to lead us to interact with God as He shares His glory with us as we dwell in His presence.

Ministry and Theology have to find their essence there, in the heart of God.

Otherwise – you can find blog after blog of theologians claiming programs aren’t based in the faith, and pastors who call their seminary experience their death, and their seminaries nothing more than cemeteries.    They both have a point – and the point is the same…..

Without being found and nurtured and developed within the heart of Christ – they aren’t theology and ministry, they are academics and business practices.

But when those very same things are baptised, when they are united with the heart and mind of our benevolent, caring Master Jesus…. when we look at those struggling without Christ as St. Josemaria describes them, as we wolf down theology that shows the glory of God’s work in us, then it is theology, it is ministry, it is one….

for we are one…in Christ.

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1086-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 250). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Back to School… Flashcard Knowledge and Faith..


 8  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)

189         The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.” Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them! Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.

It’s that time of year when children return to school.  Some can’t wait, some want to squeeze every moment of freedom that they can into these last days of summer.

The first few weeks, it is about gearing up, about getting back to the task of learning.  Teachers will review basics, because some of the kids will know the material, some will recall it with some help, and some, well you think they never heard that 2 + 2 = 4 (or 5) before.

We are like that in church.  We know we know who Jesus is, we know what the cross is about.  We might even remember some of the more philosophical stuff, like the communication of magesterial attributes, or the balance of objective and subjective justification, and why it’s important to know all those “church words”.

But it is good, its even necessary to go back and sit in awe at the basics.  For unlike math, or vocabulary, the basics of our faith are still lessons we need to learn, that we dare not leave to flash-card time repetitive memory.  We can’t just simply flash back quickly the knowledge, as if we are a human version of google.  Unlike many academic subjects, the depth of our faith, the critical application points are given at the very beginning.  A little more explanation.  In math you learn the basic functions, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.  The you learn algebra and geometry (a great class to learn how to shoot pool) trig and calculus.  At each level you can do more, applying the lessons learned before hand to do more and more.  Each level builds the next level.  And as you advance, you can do bigger and better things, for yourself, and indeed for humanity.

Christian learning is different.  The core of our faith – what truly makes the difference, is learned first! Everything else we learn supports that, and strengthens that.  If we learn deeply the Old Testament Theology regarding the sacraments of Baptism, Confession and Absolution and the Lord’s Supper – that is great and it will bring us great joy.  But the basics – His body broken for you, His blood shed for you…. that is the priceless part.  That is what makes the difference.

Which brings us to today’s passage. is work, from our being delivered, to the very thing that God, not us 

Normally, we talk about the first 2 verses – the one’s that talk about salvation.  We neglect the last – which is the basis for how we live in our relationship to Christ. St. Josemaria has it so accurate – the great words that the apostles did were done by the blue collar guys, the enlisted men types.  Which is why the educated theologians of the day had so much trouble with Jesus.  He didn’t pick the Ph.D.’s and the D.Min’s, he picked the guys that might be able to grasp new member classes and maybe a deacon class or two.  The core of our knowledge is the what makes the greatest difference.  It is that God is doing the work, that it is His strength, His wisdom, His power, and indeed His glory that He shares with us.

The greatest thing I can do as a pastor is not write the next Systematic Theology Trilogy, a replacement for the works of Pieper, or Chemnitz or Augustine or Aquinas.  The greatest thing I can do..(or technically that God does through me) is to pour water over the head of someone… and say the words “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.   Or say, “Take and Eat, this is the Body of Christ!” as I place a piece of bread in the hand, or on the tongue of a person…or share with them about the most blessed day in history and the execution of a simple carpenter who would by dying destroy death.  The same for you, the greatest thing you can do in this life… is share that Jesus loves me… this I know……(you can finish the song..)

Go for all the knowledge you can… but never ever forget that what matters… is the stuff that you learned at the beginning… and that 6 billion people need to know it as well!

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
We dare not look at a passage like Eph 2:10 above without taking the time to see what it says to us, what it assures us of, and how it reveals God working in our lives.  It’s all H

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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