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The Life of a Saint is Never Perfect, Which is Why They Are Holy

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought for our days:
7  But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God’s and not our own. 8  We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; 9  we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; 10  always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body. 11  Indeed, while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh. 12  In us, then, death is at work; in you, life. 13  But as we have the same spirit of faith as is described in scripture—I believed and therefore I spoke—we, too, believe and therefore we, too, speak, 14  realising that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will raise us up with Jesus in our turn, and bring us to himself—and you as well. 15  You see, everything is for your benefit, so that as grace spreads, so, to the glory of God, thanksgiving may also overflow among more and more people. 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (NJB)

929         Don’t forget that we will be more convincing the more convinced we are.

As you look at paintings of saints, some are portrayed in very peaceful serene moments, a soft glow seems to be about them, even without the golden halos  There are others that show them in the depth of darkness, fully engulfed in pain, fully engulfed in a battle against Satan and sin and despair.  

I find great comfort in the latter type of paintings, for I know far more people engulfed in a similar battle, who benefit from knowing they aren’t the first to do battle with temptation, sin, doubt, resentment, guilt, and all the lies of Satan.  For when we look at Francis or St John of the Cross or Luther or Walther or Mother Theresa battling that which oppressed them, we realize there must be hope, for we know how the story of these holy men and women ring true in the moment.

Paul is correct, in these lives lived in the valley of the shadow of death, we don’t just see the brokenness, we see the Holy Spirit comforting and sustaining them, as the victory of Christ’s death on the cross becomes more and more real.

For united to that death, we find life. 

United to His suffering, we find peace.  

Yesterday I had the responsibility of sharing God’s love with a family, a neighborhood of people who were devasted by the death of a young man.  A man so devastated by the pains of life that it overwhelmed him and he thought peace could only be found in the arms of death.

The confidence to speak in that situation comes not from theology books, or the education I have received, but from the darkness, I’ve seen Christ deliver so many people through over the years, from the darkness I have needed to be rescued from as well.  St Josemaria is so insightful in his words, I can convince people of God’s love, because i have been convinced as well.

One of the 80+-year-old ladies is responsible for our church mission statement.  She said one morning in Sunday school that Concordia is the place where people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.

It is an absolutely beautiful, brilliant and true statement about our church.  It may not be fancy or measurable, it does not meet the standards of the guru’s who teach church leadership.  It doesn’t hold out a goal for some future time where we will have a perfect, thriving, idyllic large church.

Chruch isn’t some kind of utopia on earth.  It is a place for the broken, for the different, for those struggling with life, with shame and guilt, with resentment and hatred.  It is where we find healing and hope amid our brokenness, amid the tears and the pain to deep for tears.

This is what the saints knew… this is why the paintings can show them in despair, and in glory, for both are true, in Christ.

And we are called saints just as those whose faith in God we admire!  For we, like those who walked before us, are those called out, drawn to Jesus, those made holy the Holy Spirit, whose healing is being accomplished, for it is God the Father’s will.

He has heard our cry for mercy, and has answered it.  May we always be convinced of this, even as we convince others of it.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3775-3776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God, Why Did You Allow This?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:
26  In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27  And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. 28  We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29  Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers. 30  And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. Romans 8:26-30 (TEV)

149         I must warn you against a ploy of satan—yes, without a capital, because he deserves no more—who tries to make use of the most ordinary circumstances, to turn us away, slightly or greatly, from the way that leads us to God. If you are struggling, and even more if you are really struggling, you should not be surprised at feeling tired or at having sometimes to “go against the grain”, without any spiritual or human consolation. See what someone wrote to me some time ago, and which I kept for those who naively consider that grace does away with nature: “Father, for a few days now I have been feeling tremendously lazy and lacking in enthusiasm for fulfilling the plan of life. I have to force myself to do everything, and I have very little taste for it. Pray for me so that this crisis may soon pass, for it makes me suffer a lot to think it could make me turn from my way.” I answered only: did you not know that Love demands sacrifice? Read the words of the Master slowly: “Whoever does not take up his Cross quotidie—every day—is not worthy of Me.” And further on: “I will not leave you orphans…” Our Lord allows that dryness of yours, which you find so hard, so that you may love Him more, so that you may trust only in Him, so that you may coredeem with the Cross, so that you may meet Him.

Though I am going to direct these thoughts along the way of St> Josemaria’s discussion of dryness, they could be applied to almost any time of struggle. 

Too often I could be the person that St Josemaria was speaking to in the discussion above.  Too many times I have been struggling, and don’t have the “enthusiasm for fulfilling the plan of life”, that is working to do His will, to see this world reconciled to Him.  I recognize the need to force myself to do the things I love.  Part of the struggle is that I feel like I am trying to bail the water out of the Titanic, hundreds of feet under the ocean. Part of it is that for every trauma where people know God’s peace, three more arrive.  The work seems unending and overwhelming, and my emotional and spiritual batteries drain too fast…

Then I come across Romans 8, and wonder how in the world these times of struggle fit into the promise of God.  How can times where my faith wanders, where I feel so weary and dried out, burnt out, and where God seems silent, how can these times actually work for good?

Or is it that I am not one of those to whom this promise was made? (Yes, I’ve thought that even as I try to make sure others know they are…. and I bet I am not the only one!)

That’s why I included more than verse 28 in the quote from Romans.  We know that verse so well, but we fail to see the context is in the midst of a time of weakness, a time of brokenness, a time where even the Holy Spirit groans out in intercession, for the brokenness we endure is great.

But that prayer of the Spirit, that prayer the Holy Spirit interprets and pleads on our behalf with the Father is heard.  The Spirit ensures the connection to God’s heart is there, a connection we need to realize is there.

The context also discusses God putting us to right with Him, indeed, as Josemaria tells us, sometimes these moments are necessary so that we realize the connection is viable, that God is caring. That He is here.

I would never say God causes these struggles, these moments when we don’t know what to even say in our prayers, but I do know how He uses them.  It is just as Josemaria says, that there I can find the depth of His love, the unlimited faithfulness that sustains me.  As well, it from those depths that I find my desire to help people find God as well, that they can find the peace, that they can know He is there.  ( I only pray they don’t have to follow as far in my steps before they realize it.)   That is how amazing this is, that is how I’ve come to know to trust Him, and even though I don’t like the periods of dryness and despair, I have come to appreciate them, and even (grudgingly at first) embrace them.

For I know He is with me, and with us, and that is not just enough, it is incredibly glorious!  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 822-833). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Our Suffering, our Doubts, and Jesus’s Struggle at the Cross. A Good friday Devotion

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for Good Friday:
1  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? 2  Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.    Psalm 22:1-2 (NLT)

22  Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs: 23  Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel. 24  He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening. 25  Here in this great gathering for worship, I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers.   Psalm 22:22-25 (MSG)

He is pleased to withhold from us the milk and honey of his consolation, that, by weaning us in this manner, we may learn to feed on the more dry and solid bread of vigorous devotion, exercised under the trial of distaste and spiritual dryness. 3. That as violent temptations frequently arise amidst these desolating drynesses, we must resolutely fight against them, since they do not proceed from God; but nevertheless, we must patiently suffer them, since God has ordained them for our exercise.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was tested in every way we are, that he faced the same issues, the same temptations, the same situations which can cause us to doubt, or to want to run.

We see that today, in the passage that Jesus quotes from the cross.

He too had moments where the Father seemed to far away, where the illusion of being abandoned was strong.  Where the feeling that God has left us on our own to struggle dominated every other feeling we have.

I’ve often wondered why God allows us to go through these times.  Surely they don’t come from God, yet St Francis de Sales indicates they are ordained by God for our exercise.  God allows them to come upon us, as He did Job and Jesus, for a purpose.

IN Jesus case, the abandonment was seen for what it was, a pouring out of wrath that far exceeded the wrath of the Pharisees, Sanhedrin, and the Roman guards.  A wrath that one taken upon Jesus would kill him, yet like the grain in the sand, it would give life to us, and to all those who believe and are baptized.

In our case, the suffering intended to defeat us, intended to drive us away from God can and does (eventually) ordain for us to be drawn toward Him.   De Sales calls this being drawn a vigorous devotion, I beg to differ a little.  Like the psalmist I look at my own pain, my own suffering to early, to often, being drawn down into the darkness, being overwhelmed by the pain.  But there He rescues me, He reminds me of HIs love, He shows me that He was always with me.

This is the point David is making in the Psalm, which starts out so dark, which so describes the pain of being crucified or struggling today.  The point where we can see as the light shatters the darkness, as our faith, no even more sure of God’s presences testifies to naturally, without even thinking.  read it again,

22  Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship, and punctuate it with Hallelujahs: 23  Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers; give glory, you sons of Jacob; adore him, you daughters of Israel. 24  He has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. He has never wandered off to do his own thing; he has been right there, listening. 25  Here in this great gathering for worship, I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here in front of the God-worshipers.   Psalm 22:22-25 (MSG)

When we are struggling, when Satan and his minions are oppressing us, when all seems dark, this is what is true.  He is with you, He loves you, and you will soon be praising Him as the Holy Spirit convinces you of this reality.   Like the cross, the victory, the depth of God’s love is revealed in these trying moments, in the midst of the pain, and the darkness.  We then see the truth;

You weren’t abandoned, He was there… and you will tell others about this!

AMEN!

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

A Heartfelt Story and Plea, from those whose disabilities aren’t easily visible.

A good friend wrote this, but she wrote it so well she is speaking for me and my son, and others with genetic disorders, diseases, even things like Aspergers and other things that make life different and challenging.  It is not my usual blog, but it is something we all need to understand!  Please read and consider what Sharon and I and many others go through… and how you can either be a friend, or drag us down…how you can love them, rather than igoring or mocking them.

I want to share something very important to me. It all starts with a story.

On the side of the road, leaning against a building nearby the sidewalk, sits a young woman. She seems to ignore the tripping hazard caused by her outstretched legs. A cardboard sign is propped up nearby with the typical sob story followed by a request for donations. Also at her side is a small grocery cart containing a few essentials. It goes everywhere with her. She rarely moves from her spot during the day, but when she does it’s with an annoyingly slow plod. In general however, she sits. Always in the same place, often barely moving for hours on end. In appearance she looks healthy enough, but it’s hard to miss her slowness in responding, her glazed eyes, her excessively flushed cheeks. Occasionally someone will offer her a job, and she always politely declines. Most passersby assume that she is a lazy alcoholic who deserves little attention.

What people don’t know is the physical pain she endures every single hour. That her legs are kept outstretched because that’s the least painful sitting position she can manage. How even holding the sign for an hour would cause her arms to scream in agony, so she keeps it to the side instead. That she walks slowly and leans heavily on the cart to minimize the stabbing sensation of every step. How she wishes that she could accept offers of work, but knows that even an hour’s work will cause too much pain for her to continue. Even her begging location was chosen for its close proximity to where she could sleep, rather than for its traffic and success in income. That she tends not to move a muscle out of necessity rather than desire. People don’t realize that her flushed face, glazed eyes, and slow responses are also her own body’s making. Not alcohol or drugs. How pain combined with flu-like fatigue and lightheadedness causes her to struggle at maintaining any level of concentration.

This young woman could be me.

I am disabled. I’m also physically unable to work. Yet at the same time, I look perfectly “normal” and “healthy” to any observer. All of the symptoms described for the young woman are a simplified version of my personal experience. If I did not have my incredibly supportive family and friends, I would very easily end up on the streets.
When you talk about healthcare, welfare, and the disabled as if they’re all faking or lazy, you communicate that people like me are worth less than you. You communicate that you would rather prevent a single “lazy” person from receiving free stuff than provide assistance to 99 individuals in need. You assume that people like me, who are legitimately disabled yet look “healthy” on the outside, are lazy and lying. You communicate that you would rather assume I am lying about my condition than provide help.
When your first response to the possibility of people dying by losing healthcare is that the sick are probably going to die anyway, then you communicate to me that it would be fine if I died due to lack of assistance. You ignore the fact that people with non-life-threatening conditions can die due to those conditions, simply through inadequate support.
If your reaction to disabled people dying due to lack of medical access is that now they’re out of their misery, and oh yay their family is free to have a life again, then you communicate that I am better off dead. That I am such a burden to my loved ones that it would benefit everyone if I simply committed suicide. You communicate to me that my life isn’t worth as much as yours, because I am unable to hold a traditional job. That my reliance on others to live takes away my worth as a human.
When you call yourself a Christian and say these things, you communicate that you agree with the priest from Luke 10:31.

Whenever you talk about welfare, healthcare, or disabled people, please think of people like me. Don’t dehumanize the conversation. You are talking about the lives of human beings. Please remember that.

Thank you.

Dealing with the Pain of Betrayal….

church at communion 2Devotional Thought fo the Day:

Now please forgive us the wrong that we, the servants of your father’s God, have done.” Joseph cried when he received this message.
18 Then his brothers themselves came and bowed down before him. “Here we are before you as your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid; I can’t put myself in the place of God. 20You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened. 21You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them with kind words that touched their hearts.   Gen. 50:17-21

Consider, in particular, the sin of ingratitude towards God, which is a general sin, and extends itself over all the rest, making them infinitely more enormous. Consider, then, how many benefits God has bestowed on you, and how you have abused them, turning them against Him, to dishonour Him. And, in particular, how many inspirations you have made unprofitable. But above all, how many times you have received the sacraments, and where are the fruits of them? What is become of all those precious jewels, with which your dear Spouse adorned you? They have all been buried under your iniquities. With what preparation have you received them? Think on your ingratitude; that God having run so far after you, you have fled from Him to lose yourself.

Joseph forgiving his brothers is a great story of grace.  It is also, for one such as I am, very convicting. 

I have to admit that I am a hold a very advanced certification in resentment, and am accomplished at being merciless.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate grace, or struggle to depend on the grace of God that is demonstrated in my being counted righteous and forgiven.  I depend on that daily, and it provides hope for this sinner that I am.

I find myself likewise confronted by the parable of the debtor is forgiven millions and has a very definite style of collecting the $150 bucks owed him the very same day.

Do we have to grow into people that imitate Joseph? Can’t we just count on God’s mercy, even for our mercilessness? Does it not extend out that far?  Surely Jesus understands the pain of being betrayed, the agony of being hurt, the horrible hurt that comes as someone sinning against us.

After all, I am just a broken sinner, one He is healing gradually, how can I be expected to be the Messiah or one of the great faithful people in scripture?  How would I find the strength, the inner power to desire to be, and to become that merciful?

I think St Francis de Sales comes up with a reasonable explanation for our inability.  It is because we don’t take the time to consider God’s actions in our lives that deserve gratitude, from our Creation, Redemption and Sanctification to His daily present that waits for our prayers, to His revealing His presence through His word and sacraments and those we encounter, as we think somehow we are ministering to them.  When in reality, we are simply exploring the incredible dimensions of His love.

As we begin to appreciate the amazing love of God who comes to us, who picks us up and begins to heal our brokenness, as He invites us to dine with Him, and are welcome into His peace, that is when our resentment breaks, when the tears flow, when we look to Him and ask if these relationships, as dry as dry bones can live.

It is only in understanding that He has brought us back to life, that He is healing us, that He is making us whole, that we find ourselves allowing the resentment to slip away, our grip on the anger and pain to painful to keep up. Looking to Jesus – seeing His love, how His plan has blessed you, even the sin committed against you, leads resentment a burden to cold, too hard to bear into the light of His glory.

Devotion to God who loves you more than you can imagine, or hanging on to the pain?

As we come to Advent, as we find the need we have fro Christ’s presence, as we begin to desire more and more the peace and love He he has to share with us, may we desire to set aside those things that would drags us down, and with joy, may we hold out our hands for those who once betrayed us, to join us in the journey.

 

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

The Brutal, Honest, Real Faith: A Sermon on Hab 1-2

The Brutal, Honest, Real, Faith
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and our Risen Lord Jesus so reveal His love for you that you know with all your heart and mind that He will sustain you and that you will share in His glory!

 

When Words aren’t enough:

On Friday, I stood next to a man, as he spoke at his son’s funeral.  He talked about how time after time, his son was simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The final time, it resulted in his death, as he was shot along with a married couple.

The grief was as overwhelming as anything I have seen.  The despair in the sanctuary of a church was beyond anything I have experienced for a long time because they could not imagine a God who would answer their cry for help.

And as I looked at my outline for today’s sermon, as I looked through these words of a prophet with a name you can’t say ten times fast, I understood Habakkuk’s pain, and the despair of his cry,

2  How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. 3  Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. 4  The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.

The prophet’s words, his cries, his pleading with the Father, these words are brutal, they are honest, they are so real and even apply to today’s world.

And they only way to hear God’s answer is found in a Brutal, Honest, Real, Faith.

The faith God gives us, that He plants in us, that He nourishes is us.

The complaint

I love reading the Old Testament prophets, not because they are so uplifting – they are not.  But because they aren’t standing around pretending the world is okay, they call their listeners out on sin, but they also grieve.

They know how God has called us to live in peace, to know His live and to have faith in God.  They also see the world dealing with the consequences of ignoring God, and it breaks their heart.  They weep, they cry for what is, and what should have been.
How long, O Lord, must I call for help?

We look around us these days, and it seems like it hasn’t changed much. We still need a lot of help, the world is still violent, and it seems daily we hear about violence, not just overseas, but in our communities.  The deeds that are evil, they still exist, whether those deeds are sorcery and idolatry, or murder/abortion, or sexual immorality, or unethical business, or gossip and envy.  The world is still dealing with destruction, with misery, with injustice, and the wicked still outnumber the righteous.

Some of that, which we cry out for God to rescues us from, is our doing, our unrighteousness, our guilt, and shame.

Yes, some of the sin and unrighteousness in our world is because of our sin.

The Hope

       No pleasure in people turning away –

          Just depend on Him

The key in reading the Old Testament, in fact, all of the scripture, is to no to a take a passage without considering the rest of the chapter, the rest of the book. There are times you have to keep going, such as this passage.

In the midst of his grief, Habakkuk says he will look – he will wait on God for the answer that must come. He will, despite his despair, continue to look to God for an answer.

And the Lord answers, and not only will he answer the prophet, the answer is to be etched into stone. So that all will hear and see these answers.
That is what verse 2 says,

And here is the answer,

3  If the vision is delayed, wait patiently, for it will surely come and not delay. 4 I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away, but the righteous person will live by my faith.*
if you don’t God working, He’s got it all in His timing, and that timing is perfect,  As Habakkuk and all the Old Testament prophets waited for Christ Jesus to come, so we wait, trusting in His work at the cross to deliver us into the presence of the Father.

Peter certainly knew this, for he would paraphrase this passage

 

9  The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)
Peter will note this about Paul as well,

15  And remember, the Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— 16  speaking of these things in all of his letters.
2 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)

It is a hard answer to hear that God will be patient, that things are going to be fixed right now, in our time, because God is at work, through us, reaching out to other people. That is what the cross is all about – that no one should ever die without knowing that God would forgive them, that He would draw them to Himself, that He loves them.  God delays the recreation of the world, just to save one more, jut to rescue one more sheep, to find one more who was lost, to give one more broken person the hope of His healing them.

That’s a brutally honest, real answer.  It’s one I don’t like at first, as I see and know of so much pain, so much suffering, as I witness sin and the bondage it keeps people in, and the hope it robs of those created by God to walk in joy.

When you see that person given faith in God, who comes to know they can depend on Him, who finds themselves cleansed not only of their own sin but the righteousness of the world, the wait is worth it!  As we see those we love, whom we pray for, whom we often struggle with and against – there is the Holy Spirit, drawing them to Jesus, where they find healing and peace. This is why there is a delay, so those we love- and those we are called to love, can be reconciled to Jesus.

For we do so in Christ Jesus, and that means we do so know peace that is beyond all understanding, as Christ is the foundation of our hope.

Brutal Honesty; Atheism and Christianity

Devotional Thought for the Day:
14  “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.  Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)

For, taken as a whole, atheism is not a spontaneous development but stems from a variety of causes, including a critical reaction against religious beliefs, and in some places against the Christian religion in particular. Hence believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion.  (1)

God must become a reality for us, too, must be more real to us—no! not just more real—than the things we can grasp, so that to please God can become for us a criterion that is also a final liberation from the question of success.  (2)

As I read the words in blue this morning, I thought fo the articles and books I have read about post-modernism and the utter contempt in which some Christians hold those who claim to be atheist or agnostic.   I thought about the memes and quips and quotes which mock and condescendingly treat those whose struggle with God is not so different from our own.

Fifty-one years ago, or perhaps a little more, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church made a brutally honest statement about atheism.

They took responsibility for it, or perhaps, they noted that the Church has a hand, a responsibility for its origin.  For how could a religion (and atheism and agnosticism are informal religions develop counter to some other religion, if that religion wasn’t there?

The Catholic Church was brutal in its honesty, as we in other branches of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church should be.  We haven’t lived dependent upon God, and therefore our actions, our sin, our hypocrisy has so hurt and broken people that they rebel against God.  They strike out at Him, actively or simply by dismissing Him as a myth, and if we are honest, we know that we bear some responsibility for that.

Maybe it was the pastor who treated a young sinner without giving  him any hope of mercy, or people who turned their back on the young pregnant mom.  Maybe it was the elders or deacons who overlooked their friend’s abusive nature; and they didn’t rush to help his oppressed family.  ( Joe after all, was a good guy, don’t you know?)  Or maybe it was the Sunday school teacher, or confirmation instructor, who turned a deaf ear to questions that really mattered, that plagued the person they were instructing.

To be honest, as I think about such stories, I wonder why more people aren’t atheists, and more people are sure they can’t know whether God exists.

Even as I write this, I want you to be sure – if you were the person whose actions drove someone away from God, there is no time like the present to ask God to forgive you, assured of the forgiveness guaranteed at the cross.  Maybe consider, if you can still contact the person, that you ask their forgiveness as well. You would be surprised what and attempt at reconciliation does for healing wounds of the past, theirs and yours.

But for the future, how does the church stop creating atheists?  How do we stop de-churching those, as we have done in the past?

The obvious answer is seen in those verses above in red, to let the love of God shine through us.  Our light not being our skills, or incredible personality or personal stardom, but the simple love that reaches out and serves.  Whether it is greeting someone and asking how they are really doing, and humbly walking beside them in their pain, or praying for them, or helping them in any other of a myriad of ways.

In short, loving them as you love yourself, caring for them as you would desire others, as you would need others to care for you.   That is easy to say, and how do we do it?

At Vatican II there was a young scholar who would become Pope Benedict.  His words in blue pretty much sum up how we become a light, and how we see that it is never snuffed out.

Know God is with you, realize how real He is!  With Paul, oh I desire that you would explore the height and depth, the breadth and width of God’s love for you, revealed in Jesus. His teachings, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, everything from HIs work in Creating this word to dying for it, till the day of Judgement is to communicate this love, this incredible, real, life-transforming, cleansing love.

And when we are realizing that love when our hearts and minds are finding rest as we look to Christ, we shine with His glory, the glory they will praise Him for, as they to are drawn into it.

This isn’t rocket science, it is simply worship in spirit and truth.

So go look to Christ, ask Him to be merciful and be in awe as He answers that more profoundly than you would even have thought possible.

He loves you. And through you, he would call His children home.

(So stop treating them as outsiders, and welcome them!)

(1)  Catholic Church. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

(2)  Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

Wasting Time…

Devotional Thought of the Day.. err Night… well.. you know…
1  As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3  Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4  For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. 5  Have you forgotten the encouraging words which God speaks to you as his children? “My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you, and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you. 6  Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a child.”
Hebrews 12:1-6 (TEV)

522      Even on those days when you seem to be wasting time, in the prose of the thousand details of the day there is more than enough poetry for you to feel that you are on the Cross: on a Cross, which no one notices.  (1)

In more than one way, I feel like I have been wasting time over the last few days.  Nothing has been accomplished, tasks at home and church are going on without completion, and to be honest, the place I am is one of pain, betrayal, incredible frustration and where I am witnessing the brokenness of humanity in ways I’ve never seen before.

It seems like I am wasting time, just waiting to get off a plane and hug my wife and son, and celebrate the Lord’s sacrifice for me, for those I love, including my birth family, my adopted family, my church family, and for all the world.  Sunday can’t come along fast enough, as we celebrate Christ’s sacrifice for us as we take and eat, and take and drink, the Body and Blood of Christ.

In the meantime there is this brokenness, both that I observe (tears, frustrations,) and the feeling like I am wasting time.

Even here, this is not death I am facing, it is not the shedding of blood, it is an incredible lesson in depending on God. It’s about fixing my eyes on Christ, about remembering His sacrifice, about realizing I have been united to that death, so that I can survive this life, even trying times such as these.  I am driven to the cross to avoid the despair, to avoid the discouragement, for there, standing before my Lord, contemplating His love, in awe adoring Him because of His mercy – there I find the poetry, the craftsmanship that leads me in peace. That poetry Josemaria notes is seen in lives that are broken and healing, in lives that likewise only can find peace there.

The poetry, the poiema of God (the word in Eph. 2:10 which guarantees this isn’t wasting time), healing brokenness.  That I can appreciate, in that I can find hope and peace,  comfort and even joy.   At the cross where He Bled – at the cross where we join Him, at the cross where all is made righteous.

Realizing that, many this LCMS convention is not as much wasting time as I think it is….

Still hurtful, still feel like I have been betrayed… yet God… is working – and that is enough for me to find rest in Him.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1980-1982). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Greatest Challenge To “American” Christianity

Devotional Thought of the Day:
28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.   Romans 8:28-29 (NLT)

2  When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not. The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn. James 1:2 (Phillips NT)

42      Desire nothing for yourself, either good or bad. For yourself, want only what God wants. Whatever it may be, if it comes from his hand, from God, however bad it may appear in the eyes of men, with God’s help it will appear good, yes very good!, to you. And with an ever increasing conviction you will say: Et in tribulatione mea dilatasti me… et calix tuus inebrians, quam praeclarus est!—I have rejoiced in tribulation…, how marvellous is your chalice. It inebriates my whole being!  (1)

So often we quote Romans 8:28 to people who are going through hard times, who are suffering, who are grieving.  It often becomes a modern Christian cliche, a pious version of “don’t worry, God’s got this!” 

But I wonder if we realize the important of verse 29, and what that means.  That the reason God has our back, is because we are to be like his Son, Jesus.  We are to be Christlike.  a

That’s pretty cool when we think of the promises of reigning in heaven.  Not so cool when you think of the suffering and death he endured, even though it was for the joy set before him.  Being Christ-like means to love our enemies, to serve those who need our love, to embrace suffering to do it, as is necessary.

But how are we with embracing suffering, with trusting God through times where we put our own desires, our wants, even our own needs (and those of our families and friends) aside, to care for those God puts in our lives.

Think about this, we struggle and argue to take in people whose lives have been ravaged by war.  We would rather kill a baby who was conceived in rape than come alongside the victims (not the plural) and provide them with what they need spiritually and physically. We do everything we can to hide signs of aging, suffering, and death.  (This I think is one of the strengths of the millennials, btw – they are less likely to hide their grief, sorrow, and pain)

Even in the church, this is true, as we have experts telling us why the church is dwindling in number, for reasons that cannot be our fault, our sin, and to our shame.   We don’t teach our people to sacrifice; we don’t help them to learn to pray to embrace the cross.  We don’t help them learn to trust God in a way that will convince them of His presence in the midst of the suffering they endure, that they even embrace. 

That’s right; I said embrace!

Embrace sacrifice and suffering?  Be willing to embrace sacrifice and suffering?  

Isn’t enough that life throws enough suffering, sorrow and grief into our lives?  Isn’t that enough?

Maybe, but probably not.

Just so you are clear, this isn’t about earning your salvation, it merits nothing in that regard.  You don’t get a better view of the throne, or get next to sit next to King David in the choir, and your mansion isn’t going to be any bigger.

It is this, your joy will come, both then and now, from being in the presence of God, and knowing peace that pervades and comforts and satisfies like nothing else can.

For you will be imitating your brother, Jesus, walking with the Holy Spirit, and knowing you are a child of God.

And that my friend, we will learn is more than enough.

May God bless you, as you walk with Christ.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 382-387). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Man-colds, Suffering, Resentment, and the Abundant Life

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

26  Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than birds? 27  Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it? 28  “And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. 29  But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. 30  It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have! 31  “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 32  (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33  Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. 34  So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings. Matthew 6:26-34 (TEV)

The teaching of Christ even requires that we forgive injuries, and extends the law of love to include every enemy, according to the command of the New Law: “You have heard that it was said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say to you: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you” (Matt. 5:43–44).

You are not happy because you make everything revolve around yourself as if you were always the centre: you have a stomach-ache, or you are tired, or they have said this or that… Have you ever tried thinking about Him, and through Him, about others?

There are a bunch of pictures on the internet this week, making fun of men who are suffering colds.  Harsh and cruel to see when I am suffering with a cold.  I thought I was over it, until this morning when I coughed so hard I strained a muscle under my collarbone.  With a significant level of Pain, I am at work, trudging along when I came across the quote in blue above.

Ouch.  Now my shoulder and my conscience hurt.

But the idea brings to light something I have been realizing more and more in the last few days.

We don’t’ take suffering well!  We wil do anything avoid it, and if we can’t avoid it, we want peopel to share in it, as if their pity will somehow minimize the effect it has on us.  If we complain enough, it is possible to get so addicted to the care, to the attention, that we will subconsciously make even the littlest inconveniences, critical.

It is amazing though, what can be accomplished through the suffering, even when through the times where we are ruled by our anxiety, when we pray and keep our focus on is Jesus.  When we realise the love of God our Father, who cares for us.  It is then we find the focus that enables us to push through, to care for ourselves, but also to care for others.

This is what the gospel reading is communicating to us.  Know God cares, and if He watches out for us.  more than He does for daisies, or birds or anything else. He cares for you.

Which brings me to topic #2 for the day, which is mentioned int he green quote.

We can make our emotional and spiritual injuries all about us as well, compared to being all about, well us.  It may be the words stung us, or could hurt the people we care about.  We wallow in the injustice like we just lie there in our bathrobe  with a box of kleenex and a bottle of ginger ale, watching the movies or shows we have dvr’d months ago.  Instead of being flooded with phlegm, we are overwhelmed by our hurt, anger, and resentment.   We feel sorry for ourselves, and we want others to feel sorry for us as well.  we go over and over the story, remembering the pain being greater with every re-telling, and we convince ourselves that this event, those words, that moment in time was why we suffer throughout our lives.

What we need is the gospel to free us, we need to look at the suffering and realize it is nothing compared to the life we have in Christ, and abundant life that resentment may cloud for the moment, but that Christ’s love and mercy burns through, healing us, reconciling us to Him, and therefore to the one who is also forgiven because of the cross.

Our abundant life isn’t wrecked by a cold (even when the cough causes us to pull a muscle.  Even when the memories of injuries seem so dominant.  For these things cannot separate you from the love you have in Christ.

Just look to Jesus and cry out, “Lord have mercy!”, and be confident that He has kept His promise…

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 531-534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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