Devotional Thought of the day:
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. 10 The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up. 11 Since everything is coming to an end like this, what holy and saintly lives you should be living! 2 Peter 3:9-11 (NJB)
48 It would be good if it could be said of you that the distinguishing feature of your life was “loving God’s Will”.
Most of us go through life, living day to day. Because of that we give little thought to tomorrow, or next week, or eternity.
We want everything now, and the struggle ( noted 30 years ago by M Scott Peck ) with delayed gratification has only become worse. We can’t wait months anymore, sometimes we can’t wait hours.
SO how can we understand a God who will be patient for decades with us, who will be patient for millennia with humanity? How can we understand the patience that is born of a desire to have us realize we are His people?
For that is His desire, that we realize the Jesus died, not just to separate us from our guilt and shame, but so free of it that we spend time with our God who is holy and righteous, who wants to care for our children. God is patient, hoping we understand His desire to call us His friends.
If this realization was the distinguishing feature of our life, and of our lives together, how incredible our lives would be! How we would consecrate ourselves to His mission, to the vocation of the apostolate – realizing we are sent, whether we work in a church, or at Best Buy or running a country, to see this desire of God fulfilled. Whether it is a friend we are sent to , or a homeless person, or a corporate CEO/COO. It doesn’t matter. God desires to see all His friends at His table. All of them.
Eternity is the goal, an eternity spent in the most loving relationship there is, eternity spent free of pain, of guilt, of shame, and eternal life.
So think about tomorrow…. and God’s desire for it… and watch your life change!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 402-403). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day
24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
28 “ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
“ ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
29 “ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’ ”(Mt 13:24–30) NLT
792 Duc in altum.—“Put out into the deep.” Cast aside the pessimism that makes a coward of you. Et laxate retia vestra in capturam—“And lower your nets for a catch.” Don’t you see that, as Peter said, In nomine tuo, laxabo rete—“At your word I will lower the net,” you can say, “Jesus, in your name I will seek souls!” (1)
I’ve often read the parable above as being about the end of times. It is an eschatological treasure after all, and challenges those with complicated end times theories.
But this parable has a heavy focus on ministry as well, about how we are to deal with evil and that which doesn’t seem to be correct or dare I say kosher. To hear this lesson is challenging, because it goes against conventional wisdom, It goes against leadership rules and all those ideas about dealing with alligators in the church. These people may be your enemies, your adversaries, even your pains in the neck. But they have been given to you.
To hear Jesus’ words here takes a level of courage, even a level of courage that could be taken for complacency. It actually takes more work, more pastoral concern, more leadership, more devotion and obedience.
Leave them in the field you care for, letting God determine whether they are weeds or wheat at the end of time..
Continue to share with them both their absolute need for Christ, and His mercy that overwhelms that need.
If they walk away, so be it, but don’t push them out of vineyard. That isn’t your call. It isn’t within your pay grade to uproot them and burn them in the furnace, or at the stake. Even in times of church discipline, keep them in sight! Minister to them, plead with them to be reconciled to God. (1 Cor 5 – note it doesn’t say reconcile themselves to God – He still does the work)
This is going to take courage, and obedience. it is going to require hearing the Master’s voice, and trusting that He knows what He is doing, what He has commissioned. It may take sacrifice, and yes, more than a little pain It will take creativity and ingenuity as you minister to them, But since when is ministry about the ease of our jobs?
Even as you call them to repentance, even as you shepherd them in view of the others growing in the fields that will be harvested, you need to love them. This is exactly what Peter is talking about, as he mentions the Lord’s long-suffering nature, not willing that any should perish….
So hear His voice… listen to His words… care for those that you think may be weeds..Seek the salvation of the souls He brings into your sight… and love them. ..
God might surprise you both!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1828-1831). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. 26 Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, 27 dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. Ephesians 5:25-27 (MSG)
22 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. 23 Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. 24 Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, 25 not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:22-25 (MSG)
In the interview she also admits that, when it comes to a relationship, happiness might be more important than the commitment, which is why her perspective on love isn’t all that straightforward. “I don’t want to sound bitter because I’m definitely not, but I don’t know if people are meant to be together forever,” she tells the magazine. “Things happen over a long relationship that you can’t always fight. A marriage of 20 years, the accomplishment of that must feel really great, but there are also huge sacrifices. I just always want to fight for happiness.” (1)
As I read the article with Hillary Duff, and the quotes above, I was grieved. She notes how great it must feel for a relationship to last 20 years, the comments that the sacrifices are huge, too much for her, for her marriage has now failed.
I don’t know what they did to see it through, if there were counselors that were at their side, or if there were people there to encourage, to coach them through. Not only did they fail, their family, their community, and The Church failed them as well.
Yes, I said The Church failed this young couple.
For in the church, there should be the example of endurance, the example of depending on Christ. We are to depend on Him, the Spirit’s comfort and strength and ability to bring us through life. We do this, understanding and looking to Christ, who Hebrews 12 tells us endured, for the joy set before Him.
As I thought about this, I also thought about the church, and the commitment we have to each other. While some will look and pray for Hillary Duff, others will be scandalized by these words, The lack of faithfulness to vows made will challenge us, (hopefully?) and the attitude that marriage may not be meant to last a lifetime will see inconceivable.
Yet do we not do that with our churches? We change things, or even change churches, or forgo church for the same reason that causes Hillary to see marriage as temporary. We put our enjoyment (whether we prefer traditional, liturgical, contemporary etc.) over what will cause us to draw closer to Christ. Those of us who lead and plan our services far too often try to make the service something our people will like,
If we don’t like it? Well, there is the church down the street, or across town. If we are a pastor or priest, instead we place a call to our district president’s office, (or bishop or whoever works with churches looking for new pastors. (please note, I am not talking about leaving a church because of continued teaching that is contrary to scripture)
End result, the death of a relationship, and a further division in the family of God, A division that will be healed in heaven, but nevertheless, the pains of severing that which we pledged to be part of, in times of happiness and time of sorrow.
With each separation, the next separation gets easier, the time between finding a home church becomes less a priority, we find our happiness in other things, in other places.
Until we can’t remember the last time that we were at church.
Hillary Duff is right, there is an incredible reward that is found in a relationship that last 20, 30, 50 years. There is the knowledge that the one who makes our marriages and our churches possible will sustain them both, through the times of richness and poverty, through times where we, and the relationship are healthy or sick, the times of grief and the times of joy.
Such is our God, the Lord of Life. Such is what happens when we hear the Holy Spirit, the gift of our baptism. Such is the promise of life, walking with God, both now and for eternity, in the presence of God.
So let us work, to sustain all of our relationships! To do that, may we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Let us find His healing, His patience, His sacrifice and find in those things, the strength to desire to endure. May we find as well the strength to help others, to encourage them, whether they are struggling in marriages or in being part of their church.
Lord Have Mercy on us!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, 18 as one sings at festivals. I will remove disaster from among you, so that none may recount your disgrace. 19 Yes, at that time I will deal with all who oppress you; I will save the lame, and assemble the outcasts; I will give them praise and renown in all the earth, when I bring about their restoration. 20 At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you; For I will give you renown and praise, among all the peoples of the earth, When I bring about your restoration before your very eyes, says the LORD. Zephaniah 3:17-20 (NAB)
“Would it be a bad thing for the church to move the celebration of Christ’s birth to the spring. The tradition of Christmas and Christ’s birth could be seperate. Just a thought.” ( my friend Mark B. )
“When I hear the phrase Merry Christmas I think of decorated trees, presents and good food. Christ’s birth is the last thing that comes to mind.” ( also from Mark B )
A few days ago, one of my friends responded to one of my wild ideas about a sermon concept, as you see above. My basic idea, well – you can read the sermon, I posted it a little while ago. ( Or listen to it on Itunes at Concordia Radio)
Mark has a very valid point. We’ve allowed Christmas and its traditions to be redefined. To the point where celebrating Christmas is a completely separate idea from celebrating God’s invasion into our lives, as the baby laid in a manger, who would die on the cross.
I’ve seen this in the lament of some, as churches cancel midnight services/masses, once “the” service that all went to on Christmas Eve. You see it in the multitude of Meme’s talking about keeping Christ in Christmas, and how to do so. You see it in the willingness of people to beleive “modern” scholarship which will claim Jesus’ birth happened at some other point in the year, but the one day it couldn’t have happened was 12/25.
I think many would go along with Mark’s thought, out of frustration, out of a sense of hopelessness. Let’s just start all over again! Let’s just celebrate Christ-birth at some other point that on Christ-mas Day.
I asked Mark if I could share this, and what his vocation is. He saw the connection, and agreed.
So here it goes.
Mark is in the furniture restoration business, so I am going to suggest we use some of his techniques in restoring Christmas, and then re-use the same concepts in restoring our congregations, our parishes, His Church.
The first thing to know is that you don’t restore something based on your vision. You didn’t create it, and as you begin to carefully work at it, the vision that has been muddled, covered over, damaged will be restored!
In restoring something, you have to be aware that it survived because it had value. Maybe it is pragmatic, maybe it is artistic, maybe it is both. If it was simply sentimental, it wouldn’t have survived and taken all the abuse, neglect and paint that it has. (Example – having everyone over to feast…. there is something about gathering together to celebrate Christ’s birth hidden under all of it!) Sure, it’s often about gluttony and to see which part of the family has bragging rights now… but once… it was to celebrate God’s faithfulness!
Because the value and vision are often so muddled, so hidden, so broken, we may not perceive it accurately. That’s okay, be willing to adapt to what is revealed. After all, no Christian at baptism knows everything… we grow and mature. So will the revelations as you see more and more what you do points to Jesus.
You also have to realize that what you thought was the valuable part, may be that which obscurs the most, and the part you originally were doing to toss aside.. is a critical component.
in order to have the patience, the ability to make this happen, you have to learn to love what you are restoring. It’s the only way you will take the years and maybe a decade it take to see the job towards completion. There will be interruptions, distractions, days of frustration, that’s okay.There might even be people who question, you wisdom, your integrity, your sanity – they do this to me all the time!
The goal is worth it – a beautiful restoration that is a double piece of work of art…..that of the Creator, and that where the Creator’s vision was once again visible to mankind… and the hopelessness became hope.
I said in the beginning that this works with churches and parishes as well with the simple idea of making Christmas about Christ’s coming to us. The Mission and concepts are the same, and the goal is the same. To preach Christ crucified, whom is our hope of Glory. It’s what we do here at my church, when Christmas Day was first 10-12 people, now is 50, (Our Christmas Eve services have also grown) where once it was a bother, now people are excited to come. It can happen
It is what God promised, look above at the scripture, dive deeply into those promises… and rejoice… for God is restoring you… that started that very first Christmas morning.
He is with us. Immanuel.
Focus on that…. and all comes into place.
For no one does restoration work like God our Father!
(and if you need restoration work done on furniture – go talk to Mark at http://www.bausmanandfather.com/ or
Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven:
Where are We Going?
† IHS †
As we journey through this life, may we keep in sight the destination, the place where we realize completely the love and mercy of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Other Destination Options:
Have you ever been tempted to play hookey from a family gathering? You’re on your way to your grandparent’s house, and you see how beautiful a day it is, and you think, we could just spend a little while at the park, or maybe the beach?
Or maybe you are working on a project, sewing that new whatever it is people sew and just another twenty minutes and you will finish it! Or the ball game is on, and you will leave a little later…and make up for it by driving a little faster?
Back when we were kids, and we were about to be stuffed in the back seat together, I bet many of us had a way to stall. Maybe we didn’t want to get dressed up, Or we blamed our sister for taking too much time in the bathroom. For me, it usually was – just let me finish the book I am reading!
It’s not that we didn’t know about the feast that awaited us, Grampy’s sausage, or Uncle Wally’s fireworks, or the French Onion Dip and carved turkey? There were just other things….that seemed important for that moment.
If you did this, and arrived two hours late, were you upset when they didn’t keep everyone waiting for dinner?
Do we play the same game with God?
Do we miss His invitations to spend time with Him, to share the feasts He has prepared, because we have other things to do before we continue on our journey to heaven?
Why Didn’t God wait for Us?
Patient, we hear God is patient.
Abraham and Moses count on it for their people. Joseph comforts his brothers with the thought of God’s patience. David praises God for God’s patience with him. Job depends on it, even when he doesn’t have the answers. Peter tells us why God is so patient, because God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but all to be transformed and made holy. Set apart to a relationship with God.
An interesting thought, this patience of God.
Curious, has anyone here ever had someone take advantage of their patience?
How did it feel?
Ever plan and cook a dinner, like the king in the parable, only to have the people choose to do something else?
What if their excuse, like the excuses in the parable, is somewhat weak? I heard one yesterday, for example, that was that we miss church sometimes because we know church and Bible studies will be here next week, but that other thing, that game, is today. I need to make this abundantly clear: this parable isn’t just about our church life.
How often do we fail to talk to God, to put our trust in Him for the things we are struggling with? How often do we think we have to find another solution for our problems, a different road to take? How often will we pass by the opportunity to think and meditate on His love. Do we find something else, rather than being still, and knowing He is God?
Does being patient cost you something? Does it ever tear at you, frustrate you, even sadden you?
Have we ever wondered what God’s patience costs Him?
We know being patient costs us, we know the levels of frustration, even pain, as we see people we love do the wrong things.
Things that would so concern God, that He sent Jesus, to live life, to suffer and die on the cross, to make it right…
To bring all who would come, to His feast, to be His family.
The good and bad alike…..all are welcome, all are offered the opportunity to be made ready. Matter of fact, we are sent out to bring them here; to celebrate, to enjoy, to know His peace.
But what are we missing?
If I can go back to the original illustration, we know that there are some things that we miss, when we divert from the original journey, we realize we are going to miss some things.
if we were diverted on our way to Grampy DeLuca’s house, it would mean we would miss Grampy’s incredible Italian sausages. Even some 34 years later, I can remember walking down the stairs into his basement, where they would be in the oven. We’d miss Grampy and Uncle Bill, Uncle Butchie and my dad singing. (I’ll actually get to play the piano that I played for them this week. ) we’d miss everyone at peace, the one day when all family fights were given a reprieve, a truce.
I would have us ask what we miss, when we forgo our times with God, whether here at church, or whether it is the time we could set aside for prayer, for spending time meditating on His word, and on the gifts He gives us? What do we give up?
You see my friends, this is about doing things because we have to do them or we won’t be good. It’s about doing them for the same reason we go to our family gatherings, a friend’s birthday party, or make time to go to a wedding. No, Don, it’s not because of the food, its’ because of the love of family, and there is no family closer to us than God.
What we are missing is our time with Him, our time realizing the depth of His love. Our time where He assures us that it will all be okay, that He has forgiven us and made everything right. We’d miss the people He surrounds us with to bless us, to help us grow, to give us a hug because they are glad to see us, or to bring us comfort.
When we forgo our time with Him, we miss Him, and all He brings to our life.
These things Paul called the fruit of the Spirit,
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
These things aren’t the reason to feast with God, but they are what happens when we do. The reason is simple… to be in the presence of the One who loves us, who gives us life, who gives us Himself, who makes our lives right…..who feeds and nourishes our Spirit, who lifts us up like no other.
Enough so our souls shout His praises, our hearts trust and depend on His healing and restoration, our minds are transformed, and we begin to see reality differently, His way. And we hear his voice calling to us, encouraging more people to come to the feast, for it is ready!
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the day:
23 “At that time I earnestly prayed, 24 ‘Sovereign LORD, I know that you have shown me only the beginning of the great and wonderful things you are going to do. There is no god in heaven or on earth who can do the mighty things that you have done! 25 Let me cross the Jordan River, LORD, and see the fertile land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon Mountains.’ Deuteronomy 3:23-25 (TEV)
783 It is good that your soul should be eaten up by that impatience. But don’t be in a hurry. God wants you to prepare yourself seriously, taking all the months or years necessary, and is counting on your decision to do so. With good reason did that king say: “Time and I against any two.” (1)
I tend to think of the future a lot, In my management courses, I was identified as a catalyst, the idea man, to some extent a visionary. (btw Never confuse such people with great managers/administrators! ) I love to consider the potential in people and try to help that come to fruition. This is especially true when it comes to deacons, vicars and young pastors, anyone involved in ministry.
This doesn’t always work out the way it should, sometimes because of a failure to buy into a vision they’ve developed, sometimes simply because it takes time, sometimes because the vision has to be defined more closely, or the original vision was only the first step.
As I read Moses words to God, I felt the desire in them, God can we see your glory now? Can we see Your people realize the fullness of Your plan for their lives? Can we see them mature? Can we just skip through the times in the wilderness, the times where we rebel, the times where we can’t see you, where we doubt? I want to see your glory revealed in their lives, and I want to see it soon! After all – this is what you called them for, isn’t it? When will we see the wonderful things we know You are capable of, as you do them through Your people?
As St. Josemaria talks – the impatience can be good, but not if it forces us to hurry. Preparation is necessary, sometimes it takes years for God to form them, (sometimes that is because He is using us to do it!) Sometimes it is because the relationship and the trust they need in God needs to develop to the point they can do what God has called and prepared them to do – the amazing works talked of in Ephesians 2:10 and 4;12-14. They’ll get there, maybe we will see them there, or maybe like Moses, or Paul, we can only guide them most of the way, then others ( Joshua, Timothy, Titus) will take them the rest of the way.
We don’t know, but God is their shepherd, we just help for a time, a time He has determined.
And we have to realize, the ultimate glory, the perfect promise land is not just them mature in their trust, in their love, in their devotion to God. The ultimate glory is when they are, with us revealed in Christ’s 2nd coming.
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
May we long to see them there, complete, whole, healed, and may our desire to see them in God’s glory spur on our ministry to them, in the time we have! For this is what we work for, according to Paul,
28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)
Lord Have Mercy!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3251-3254). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought of the day:
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!Matthew 6:7-8 (NLT) 7
463 Your prayer will sometimes be discursive; maybe less often, full of fervour; and, perhaps often, dry, dry, dry. But what matters is that you, with God’s help, are not disheartened. Consider the sentry on duty. He does not know if the King or the Head of State is in the palace: he is not told what he might be doing, and generally the public figure does not know who is on guard. It is not at all like that with our God. He lives where you live, He cares for you and knows your inmost thoughts. Do not abandon the guard-duty of your prayer! (1)
One of the more interesting challenges I have, is teaching my son how to pray. Not the words to say, he has that down, but how to realize that prayer is a conversation with God. That God is there, that God is listening, that God is present.
For a very intelligent 6 year old, who can read like a teenager can eat, what isn’t in front of him, visible, is hard to see. It is hard not to see prayer and simply something we do together, a time we spend together. Body language and voice intonation lets me know he is involved, yet not quite discerning the presence of God. At least that seems to me to be what I’ve seen over the last year or so develop.
I look at people, and are we any different? As we gather, two or three, together. As we pray together in Church, never mind if I dare ask people about their prayer habits. I’ve thought about the pastors gathering that is hosted at my church, and wondering what would happen, if we talked about out prayer habits, and how many would show up if I pre-announced that topic! (Even writing this makes me a bit nervous, because if I ask them, they will surely ask me!)
So how to encourage this regular conversation with God? How do we dare open our lives to Him? How do we pour out on Him our anxieties, our concerns and how do we know He is listening? How do we know the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all creation is waiting to talk to me?
The problem is, like a 6 year old, we struggle to believe in that we cannot touch, We want documentation, a proven methodical concept that works the same way each time. In a way, we want to reduce prayer from the dynamic communication it is, to a formulary set of practices that will work the same way, each time. And when it doesn’t, we can analyze what we did wrong, or dismiss the entire thing as a intellectual fraud.
Relationships are a matter of the heart though, not of our mind. They are surprising and fluid, they are intense, and yet if abandoned dry out. They are life, which is why its called a life of prayer. It is experiental – beyond our ability to logically or within our scope of reason. So why would a relationship with God be any more rational, definable, subject to our control? Knowing His presence is observable, but not with our eyes. It’s know through a trust in Him that is alien to our minds, but with which the heart overrides that analysis, and does so in great joy… for it is there we find peace.
All I can say is faith relies on Him. It trusts Him. He promised to be here,
and He promised to listen and to craft our lives and all that happens to work out for our best. He invited us to pray, taught us how to lay it all out before Him, to let Him care for our burdens and bring life to our weary and broken lives.
I pray that we can be aware of the promises and the reality of them.
- Monday and The Priorities of Work (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional thought of the day:
3 There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, 4 and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. 5 In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! 6 Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. Romans 5:3-6 (MSG)
The world is cold and seems to be asleep. You often look on it, from your vantage point, with a glance that would set it on fire. Lord, may it awaken! Channel your bursts of impatience and be sure that if we manage to keep our whole life alight, we shall set every corner of the world alight, and the way it all looks will change. (1)
By no means am I naturally patient. It is not the gift I’ve been given, and this is seen quite easily. This morning, getting some lab work done, I was frustrated that there were 4 others before me. I know ther has been as many as 20 before, but this morning, with places to go, people to minister to – waiting 10 minutes seemed like a month.
I am especially impatient when it comes to dealing with pain. You know – the physical pain of them drawing blood ( 4 quart vials it seemed like! ) Or the spiritual pain of grieving, or the pastoral heart pain of watching people choose to do that which will hurt them.
“Why won’t they listen?” we ask.
“Why won’t they at least try it God’s way?”
“when will they ‘get it’?
Every minister I know has suffered from such impatience, such heart break as people continue to choose their own way.
Most of us have been tempted to hammer them, to “use the law” to crush them until they repent, until they conform to God’s plan. (or at least ours) We want to find something to do to turn them into “supersaints”, to help them overcome all their sin,, to get their acts right and for them to become the next Billy Grahams. We want that prodigal to turn for home as soon as he gets to the end of the driveway. It doesn’t always work that way though.
But can we have God’s patience, the father’s patience with them, and still pray and encourage and take the moments we have to call them back to Christ?
It’s hard… its really hard…dang it, it’s hard.
The apostle Paul notes it as well,
18 I’m passing this work on to you, my son Timothy. The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this. All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, 19 keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight we’re in. There are some, you know, who by relaxing their grip and thinking anything goes have made a thorough mess of their faith. 20 Hymenaeus and Alexander are two of them. I let them wander off to Satan to be taught a lesson or two about not blaspheming. 1 Timothy 1:18-20 (MSG)
What a challenge this is! How our soul, itself broken and impatent, struggles with such days of ministry! Yet, learning to discern when to speak – and how to speak, and when to let the prodigal go is a skill that comes with maturity.
I find it interesting that Romans finds the solution in trusting Christ, in looking to His promises, the work we expect that He will do, in any time of trial, and that includes this one.
Escriva’s comment is similar – that we funnel our impatience into our own life, opening it up to see God work in us. TO see God eradicate our own sin, and the things that would quench our spirit. Paul mentions this proactively to TImothy as well, telling Timothy not to walk down the road where these brothers walked….
As I thought through this… I think it is an essential part of our ministry, to be ready, in season and out, whether the time is right or not in our mind. For prodigals do return home, and we need to be aware of how we’ve been welcomed back home ourselves.
For it is in realizing the grace we’ve been given, that we find the love and mercy to welcome them home.
So pray, intercede, contemplate God’s love for them and for us and be ready…
to rejoice in their home coming.
Lord have mercy!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1424-1428). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Broken Hearts and Broken Bones (psychologytoday.com)
- Encountering others on Holy Ground. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Dare to Be Christian Means Dare to Be Broken (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT)
It was one of the worst games that I have seen Tom Brady play in 14 years.
Two of his rookie wide receivers drop 17 passes between them Besides one veteran returning from injury, only six passes of 26 were caught in the game. It was frustrating, obviously so. Even the fact that they beat a nemesis didn’t take away the sting that this game was just…. ugly.
An espn article quotes Brady after the game…
“It’s unrealistic for them to feel like they can do it like 10-year veterans. That’s not what they are,” Brady said. “But they’re trying hard and they work real hard and they have a lot of skill.”
As I thought about the game that night, and yesterday, I saw some great applciation to ministry. Especially to the very unique combinaiton of pastoral care and how that makes Christian Leadership somewhat different than Leadership in the world.
Yousee, in the real world – you play that badly, and you will get cut, or you will lose your starting position, until you can demonstrate some level of trustworshiness. Until you can prove you can get the job done. In business, you might just get fired. Some coaches and bosses can be quite callous about that. They would just get rid of you.. no questions to be asked. Here’s your last check, and don’t let the door hit you on the…
Some would even argue that the Patriots owe it to their fans – and especially to Tom Brady, one of the best qb’s in history, if not the best, to get rid of these guys and get him some real football players.
But Christian leaders have another level of responsibility. They aren’t just called to develop the good people, they are called to equip all the people of God. Including those that, how can we say it, mmove at a different pace than the rest?
It’s unrealistic to expect people not to fail in their walk with God. It is unrealistic to expect them to grow at the same rate; to comprehend to the same depth, that all would awlays trust God, as completely, as deeply…
Yet i think that’s what we sometimes do, I know that is how most Bible Studies are written, as if every congregation, and every Bible study, and every confirmation class developed in the same way. And we are trained to use them, right out of the box from the publisher – hand out the individual books – and get the study down in 13 weeks.
If people drop the pass, if they miss a week – wel, that’s their fault, and that one or two truths.. they aren’t that important. Are they? That odd question from the back right of the “classroom” – the one that opens a very special can of tangental worms… requiring a half-hour deviation? Just skip it – deal with it privately. Right?
No – we can’t expect everyone to get everything, to know it all, to not have a bad week, a bad game. We are called to be patient, and to let our desire that no one perish determination our actions and thoughts, rather than just our frustration We – pastors, ministers, priests, vicars, deacons, elders, and every other leader in church, are called to lead by serving. To lead sacrificially, to lead like Christ did… bearing our cross. To love them, knowing what it will take to get them to grow in faith, and in their being set apart to walk with God.
Leadership in the church, and among Christian leaders is more like the USMC – we don’t leave anyone behind…. even if that requires the impossible.
Why? Because we got the win, its assured, Christ is victorious, and therefore those with Him are as well. so let’s take our time – and work with everyone whom God brings ( or sends us out to go get) If it means things gets dirty and ugly and frustrating, there is a win at the end of the game. So we do what we do, fixing our eyes on Christ – the one who generated and perfected our faith in God.
The announcers both expressed a confidence during the game that was longer reaching than just the game. They said, that by the end of the season, Brady will have transformed these two young receivers into a weapon that couldn’t be stopped. If a mere man, playing a game can do that…. what can God do with and through us?
Let’s find out!
- Am I Still A Pastor? (bluechippastor.org)
- A Clergy Dominated Church? (jerrykieschnick.wordpress.com)
† In Jesus Name †
May you be encouraged, and rejoice as God shows you the love and mercy He has given you, as you witness it given to others.
I wonder if Peter was reading from the prophet Jonah?
As Peter starts to describe the way in which salvation had come to the Gentiles, I’ve wondered something. What was it he was praying about? What had he been meditating upon?
Was Peter working through the lessons he had been taught over and over and even a third time by Jesus? Was he considering the incredible grace of God that restored him each time he sinned, each time he tried to play God?
I wonder if he was reading the book of the Old Testament prophet Jonah…who would likewise be called to a place, to bring word of God’s love? Was he being sent to bring the blessed gift of repentance to a place his upbringing said wasn’t eligible or worth God’s mercy. Was he going to a people that his culture said was beyond God’s love.
Peter as always, struggled with where God was leading him to serve. It seemed that the third time God gave him the message; he actually “got” it. That is the story of chapter 10, which he recounts to those who were struggling with what he did here. This chapter isn’t really about what Peter did, to share God’s love with the Gentiles, it is what he did to help his fellow Jews to grasp how deep that love of God was, for every person of every ethnicity in the world.
It is amazing to me that Peter didn’t take on the criticism directly, nor did he take it personally. Instead, he simply focused on what God had done, and laid out the story as it happened. As Peter did this, led by the Holy Spirit, people changed.
Two Groups to Win…
Peter Is summoned to talk with those concerned about “those people” receiving the word of God. They are concerned about Peter compromising the gospel by fellowshipping with them. There will be a conversion here, a needed one, as people are reconciled to God’s will.
It is not the obvious one though, though that too is marvelous! The work of God is so incredibly evident there, as those who were far from God, and in bondage to sin. It is amazing and yet unexpected to hear that God was already working in them, that an angel miraculously intervened in Cornelius’s life, and he sent officials to bring Peter to him, for Peter was to bring them the message that would save him, and all of His household.
How amazing! That God work so bluntly, so clearly, so undeniably! By the time the vision is over, the words of God were burned into Peter’s heart. “What God has made clean, do not declare common!”
How incredible that this became true – not just about bacon and lobster, but about Cornelius and all his family! How amazing that those who were thought to have no hope, were given hope, were given life… were given the presence of God in their lives.
Which leads us to the second “conversion”, the second group that needs to be reconciled to God. They weren’t as far off, these who wanted this issue examined thoroughly. It was a foreign idea to them that God would work with these foreigners. It would be a difficult transition – they needed to see more than just information about God, they needed to see His heart, they needed to understand His will that no one should perish in bondage to sin. They needed to be reconciled to God, to come in line with His will….
And the Holy Spirit did that – again through the God’s love shared patiently through Peter.
The Critics Silenced…
God’s consistent will seen
In the midst of Peter sharing what God had done, as he explains that the men where there, that will of God is hinted at – when he says “And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. That word is the same as the word criticize above – again it means to thoroughly examine things – except in this case, no examination, no criticism. Peter, inspired directly by God’s Spirit, fully reconciled to God’s word by the vision goes…to bring words of life
He starts sharing about God’s love – He starts to lay out the gospel, to share with them the incredible love of God demonstrated through the incarnation, through the life, death, resurrection. He didn’t even get to the part about baptism, before it was evident that this was a God moment, a time when the Holy Spirit was creating life and faith and transforming them, bringing them to repentance. The very same things that happened at Pentecost – with the Spirit falling on the people of God, with the word being proclaimed, with people’s heart’s being opened and healed as they were washed and cleansed, as they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
God’s consistent love – showing a depth and dimension unforeseen despite the prophecies, despite the promises that foreigners and immigrants would be welcome. God’s consistent love – so praised in the Old Testament, made evident even for those who were wrongly considered “far off”.
They realized God meant it when he said the Messiah would be a light to all nations,
They realized God meant it when He promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed by his descendant,
They realized Jesus meant it when He said that His blood would be shed on behalf of many, for the forgiveness of sins.
I love the way Paul would describe it,
19 you are no longer outsiders or aliens, but fellow-citizens with every other Christian – you belong now to the household of God. Firmly beneath you in the foundation, God’s messengers and prophets, the actual foundation-stone being Jesus Christ himself. In him each separate piece of building, properly fitting into its neighbour, grows together into a temple consecrated to God. You are all part of this building in which God himself lives by his spirit. Ephesians 2:19 (Phillips NT)
Peter, the one who was a bit too quick to speak, who overreacted, took his time, laid out what God had done, and when it was complete, there was silence. The doubt dropped to the floor. No one could object to God’s work. They had neither the strength, nor the desire. Just as Peter realized, when he sad,
17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
and the party began began.
The Reason for Praise
I have to admit – I love the spontaneous praising and glorifying of God, as these circumcised Jews realize that God loves the long time nemesis – the people of the world. The barriers are down, we are one…
That is what they are realizing, it is what we need to realize. It is what can and should break down every barrier between people – this idea that God has made us one, that God has granted to us “the repentance that leads to life.”
You see, there is something special in watching a brother or sister become part of the Body of Christ, as we did last week. There is something incredible about seeing that – or those “aha’ moments as we gain a little in understanding more about the depth of the Lord’s passionate love for us.
This is the work God does in both Jews and Gentiles. The change is what Luke describes with the word repentance here – this transformation of both our heart and will, redeeming us from our being oppressed by sin, and reconciling us with the will of God. That is the work of repentance – a total transformation of our heart and mind, both are used in the prophecies to describe God’s work.
And God has transformed, He has granted this repentance – this change to living a transformed life in Christ.
We see it here, when a child, or a youth, or even someone who has lived 8 decades comes – and is given the promise of that change as they are baptized into Christ!
We are witnesses to it happening here as well! As we gather at the family feast – where God our Father provides us with the Body and Blood of Chris! As He again grants us the power of the transformation, He has promised. For it is here that He reconciles us with His will, as He reconciles us together as one people – no matter our place of birth or whether the times since can be easily measured in days, years, or decades. He reconciles us together no matter the language we speak, or have spoken, no matter our height or weight or anything else.
We are One, in Christ.
And that is something so glorious – for God has transformed us all into His people. To Him be all the praise, all the glory and honor.