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A Strange Result of Forgiveness….


clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for your day!

6 Then one of the creatures flew down to me, carrying a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7He touched my lips with the burning coal and said, “This has touched your lips, and now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven.”
8 Then I heard the Lord say, “Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?”
I answered, “I will go! Send me!”
9 So he told me to go and give the people this message: “No matter how much you listen, you will not understand. No matter how much you look, you will not know what is happening.” 10Then he said to me, “Make the minds of these people dull, their ears deaf, and their eyes blind, so that they cannot see or hear or understand. If they did, they might turn to me and be healed.”
11 I asked, “How long will it be like this, Lord?”     Isaiah 6:6-8 TEV

 

 

673         Once you used to “enjoy” yourself a lot. But now that you bear Christ within you, your whole life has been filled with a sincere and infectious joy. That is why you attract other people. Get to know Him better, so that you can reach all people.

He should have asked what the message would be…

He should have wondered what the people’s response to the message would be.

But it didn’t matter, he still had committed himself to go, he still was willing to bear the stress and the cost of bearing a message to a people that didn’t want to hear it.

Was it done without thinking?  Was it done without counting the cost?  Was it stupidity or naivete?  Or was it something else?

As a pastor, I’ve been able to witness the power of forgiveness, or reconciliation.  Sometimes it is between a husband and wife, as one forgives the other.  Sometimes it is the joy of a parent, who has forgiven all their prodigal has done, now that they’ve finally come home.

The greatest moment is when a person, fully aware of their sin, as they look up at me through their tears as I tell them (on God’s behalf and by His command) that they are forgiven.  As their shame and guilt, which one had them convinced that there was no hope, is brushed aside by the Holy Spirit’s embrace, as they come alive with joy!

Looking in their eyes at that moment is hard to explain.  It is like watching an artist paint a masterpiece, like watching a soul being born. It is seeing joy erupt like a volcano, a joy that was too long blocked, under way too much pressure, and now exploding with light and power beyond expectation.  You see it in Isiah – who hears the people’s initial reaction, and doesn’t say, “no, I am not going,” he simply asks “how long will they not list.”  Still his heart is set on going and his own forgiveness, his own being welcomed by God will sustain him.

Like the old camp song explained, you want to shout it from the mountain top, for I want my world to know, the Lord of Love, has come to me, I want, to pass, it on!”

And that is why Isaiah says, “I’ll go!

The love we’ve encountered, the power of forgiveness, it is hard to explain, but it is impossible to keep to ourselves.

The hope for the church today in America will not be found in it being conservative enough, or inclusive enough.  It won’t be found in having perfect theology, or the perfect worship service.  It’s not going to be found running this program, or emulating that church, or using this liturgy or that one.

It is found when a sinner, crushed beyond recognition is picked up, cleansed, made whole.  When the unrighteous person finds they are not just allowed, but accepted and truly welcomed into the presence of God and His people. It is going to happen when we hear our Lord’s voice, when the Spirit reveals to us the power of God at work in us, when we realize what it means to be loved.

This is the impact of the cross, and the resurrection, it is the result of realizing we are free, we are forgiven.

Lord, help us to reveal your message to people, to be patient with them, and do this by helping us see what it means to be forgiven, to have you walk beside us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2816-2819). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Does Your Missional Vision for Tomorrow Interfere With Your Ministry Today?


20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
41  Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42  Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing. Matthew 10:41-42 (MSG)

34  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35  And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36  I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37  “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38  And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39   40  Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)

617         You found yourself with two books in Russian, and you felt an enormous desire to learn that language. You imagined the beauty of dying like a grain of wheat in that nation, now so arid, which in time will yield great harvests of wheat. I think that those ambitions are good. But, for now, dedicate yourself to the small task and great mission of every day, to your study, your work, your apostolate, and, above all, to your formation. This, since you still need to do so much pruning, is neither a less heroic nor a less beautiful task.  (1)

Back when I was in college, my dream was to be a great preacher, someone whose words would inspire thousands, not because of me, but because they would point ot Jesus, and bring people peace. Or I would think of teaching pastors on the mission field or doing many incredible things for the kingdom of God. (the examples of the speakers in chapel didn’t help this – they all were “superstars” in ministry who urged us to do great things for the kingdom.)

Looking back, my great desire to win the world for Jesus didn’t always include the guys I lived with or the guys across the hall who we often tangled with over silly immature things.

I will be honest, some days when I think my ministry is in a rut, or too taxing, I wonder about newer greener fields of harvest, with more workers and more opportunities to see God at work.  For a moment, I forget that God planted me here for a reason.  Then a trauma pops up, and I am back to work.

I guess that is one of the blessings of the place where I serve now – they keep me so busy I can’t plan grandiose visions and get too caught up on the harvest is greater in another field.  Our community has come together where we do cry with anyone who cries, we do express joy with anyone who joy. And this means we know when someone is thirsty, we know when someone is broken… (including me)

So I understand what St Josemaria is saying about vision, what he is saying about the call we believe we have in the future.  SOmetimes that vision is truly from God, sometimes those dreams and desires are sincere and possible.

But they can’t get in the way of people you are called to serve today, the people God has put in your life to give hope to them (and therefore to you ) today.

See that one there, he needs a cup of cold water.  See her over there, she needs someone to hold her hand, and help her be still and know that God is her God. See that one, they need…..

And God has appointed you and I to be there for them.  This is His vision for today…..even as He’s given you dreams of the future…

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2610-2615). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Pastors and Ministers: Do We Care About the Return on Our Investment of Time, Talent, Treasure?


Devotional Thought of The Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

6  I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7  So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (ASV)

215 The ploughshare that breaks up the earth and opens up the furrow sees neither the seed nor the harvest.  (1)

In Business, often you make decisions based on a data that provides a potential “ROI”.  Te acronym means, “return on investment”.  Here is a quick summary.

You only have the resources to fund one project, and you have to decide between..

Project A – you invest 1 million, and the result in you make 50,000 in profit, pretty much guaranteed.

Project B – you invest one million, and you have a 50-50 chance of returning 500,000.

Your decision is a matter of risk versus the return you get for the investment. Some would apply this kind of idea to the ministry, where do we plant churches, which direction do we lead the church, how do we decide about staff people.  It even is applied to our daily priorities, which things will I do today, that will build the kingdom?  Who will I invest my time in, who will I pass off to to others.  What will be my best ROI as a pastor?  Do we use such thoughts to justify why we don’t talk to this person, or don’t try that in ministry.  Either the ROI is to minimal, or the risk is too great?  We can’t spread ourselves that thin, or we have to concentrate strongly on this or that.  We use concepts from time management and strategic planning.

I started thinking about this last night – and the challenge my own congregation has in reaching out.  I started thinking about my first congregation and its growth, which was significant given its size.  It wasn’t were I planned to “invest” that provided the growth.  In fact, it was what I had to do besides being a pastor that resulted in growth.  First, my work as a part-time instructor at a college, and as a hospice chaplain.  Neither was supposed to be something I was doing to help our church grow, but that’s what happened.

If we are honest, all of our statistical analysis and projected ROI’s don’t mean diddly squat when it comes to the world of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t know if the nurse watching us minister to the person with alzheimer’s or in a coma will have seeds planted that will result in their baptism.  We don’t know that the student we failed in a class will later come by the office to apologize, and then reveal struggles that only God can heal.   We don’t know if the person who watched us grab someone’s check at a restaurant will ask why we did such a thing, and find our about God’s love.  Or the person we smiled at in the checkout line at Walmart needed some encouragement on a very hard day.

We don’t know when God is using us to break through a hard heart, or plant the seed of His love.  We might not ever know.  That kind of investment cannot be quantified, it cannot be studied, it cannot be controlled and reproduced.  That present to many of us a problem.

We’ve been trained since birth, to look for results, We’ve been trained to do things in a way that can be evaluated by criteria, we’ve been instructed to get the best grade, to aim for successful goals, to describe our mission in life with quantitative elements.

And evangelism, as St.Paul points out, isn’t so easy to see the results of, because it is a matter of teamwork.  It is the Holy Spirit working through all of us, not just one or two.  It is as Fr. Josemaria indicates, often we have no clue of the harvest we’ve been working towards, because that is not our role.  We’re aren’t the owner of the field, or the foreman.  We have our vocations, our gifts, and we follow His lead.  It’s unnerving.  especially as we invest and invest and invest in some people. Being the plow blade that breaks up hardened ground, or hardened hearts is a tough job…. and it is made only tougher because we do not know the result.  Yet it is a necessary job, this work where the Holy Spirits works through us.

What gets us trough?  What eases our frustration our doubt that what we invest will have some positive return?  What helps us to keep going?

Knowing the heart of God.  Realizing that is desire is that non one should perish, but all come to know the transformation to everlasting life. Knowing is promises, how He sustained Jeremiah, how he called Paul, how e worked through Peter.  Those live serve as a legacy, a testimony to us who in this generation serve……

Not knowing the gruit of our labors, but assured He does…..

Lord Have mercy on us, in this amazing, complex, frustrating, ministry of reconciling the world to You….and increase our trust in You!
.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1107-1108). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

What Should/Does a Church Look Like? It Doesn’t Matter!?!


Devotional Thought of the Day:The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him

29  “Now, Lord, you have kept your promise, and you may let your servant go in peace. 30  With my own eyes I have seen your salvation, 31  which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: 32  A light to reveal your will to the Gentiles and bring glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:29-32 (TEV)

8  But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9  After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Acts 1:8-9 (TEV)

43  Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. 44  All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. 45  They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. 46  Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, 47  praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved. Acts 2:43-47 (TEV)

 186 People from different countries, different races, and very different backgrounds and professions… When you speak to them about God, you become aware of the human and supernatural value of your vocation as an apostle. It is as if you are reliving, in its total reality, the miracle of the first preaching of Our Lord’s disciples. Phrases spoken in a strange tongue, which open up new ways, have been heard by each one, in the depth of his heart in his own language. And in your mind you can see that scene taking on a new life, in which “Parthians, Medes and Elamites” have come joyfully to God.  (1)

This summer, or perhaps in the early fall, our parish, our congregations that meet here, will start looking forward to the future.  Most of this is extremely practical, our facility is getting older and will need more maintenance and renovation in the future.  We need to think about whether we want to aim toward re-opening a school in the future.  We are blessed to have two fields, but they take work. A lot of thinking goes into this, and we have some incredible people in the three congregations that call this place home.  The congregation I work with, most of the time, also needs to consider how we will reach out to those in our community, how we will live as the people of God, sent to this place.  I look forward to the discussions!

We are blessed in many ways here… one of them is with a somewhat diverse congregation.  Most are a bit older – but we have some younger families as well.  We have people from five continents, who were born in more than a dozen countries.  We have two other congregations that meet here, that add greatly to that diversity. Not bad for a congregation of a little over 100 people,

It hasn’t been, “intentional”  It has just happened. It is who God has deposited here, whom He brings here.

Given that I’ve heard our style of worship hampers outreach to certain demographics, or that you have to target your entire ministry to one group or another, I am not sure whether we are just the exception to the rule, or if the rule is not applicable – period.  I look at the scripture passages above, and I know.  Escriva’s words got me on the track of thought, but the scripture passages confirmed it.

The church was never meant to be mono-ethnic, or mono-cultural. I am not really sure why we believe it must be so, or why we accepted it as the status quo. It is not what was prophesied in scripture. It is a place where everyone should be made welcome, they should know they are part of the family.

But achieving this kind of thing cannot be planned either?  We can’t intentionally create a multicultural or multi-ethnic community. What we can do, is simply reach out with Christ’s love to those we encounter, whereever we encounter them.  For everyone needs Christ’s love, they need His embrace, they need Him to heal their brokenness.  The kind of healing that takes place in community, the kind where we remind each other of Christ’s love, and the complete-ness of it for everyone, of every age, or every ethnicity, of every language.

A outreach that isn’t just a program, but comes as we become aware of those around us.

And the work of Christ in our lives becomes a beacon to those around us,

For we dwell in His peace.

Look around you – see who needs that peace.

What does a church look like?  I don’t think it matters at all, but what does matter is we see the need for Christ… in everyone we know, in everyone we meet.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 991-996). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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