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Dealing with Evil in the Church…without losing your faith.

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

19  But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21  No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.
Genesis 50:19-21 (NLT2)

In one of his (Boccaccio) stories in the Decameron, a practical Jewish businessman, Abraham, is contemplating conversion and baptism, at the gentle leading of the pious archbishop of Paris, but has to reside at Rome for a season to do business with the Borgia family and the papal bankers. The archbishop asks him if he wouldn’t like to receive baptism before his trip, but he is a practical man, and business must come first. The bishop is convinced that Abraham will never join the Church once he sees her corruptions with his own eyes; but when he returns to Paris, he asks to be baptized! He explains to the startled archbishop, “I’m a practical Jewish businessman. I don’t know theology, but I know business. And one thing I know with certainty is that no earthly business that corrupt and venal could possibly last fourteen weeks; this one has lasted over fourteen centuries. It’s a miracle! Count me in!”

I have been grieving over the church recently.

It seems like we are entering a season where evil seems to be winning, thrusting its devastation both near and far. I see the broken lives, some still in denial about what is going on, about their role in the game, I sense that others don’t really care, passing by the broken lives as the priest and the Levite did on the road.

On the national level, the battles are like icebergs. In my denomination, you see it in the reactions to a document which alleges chronic, planned and coordination bullying. The Catholic Church has its internal wars going, as do the Methodists, Baptists, and other groups.

And what is even scarier, the wars we see are often not the real war. As any counselor/manager knows, the stated problem is rarely the real problem. Those are deeper, even at the point of sub-conscious, as our souls can’t bear the trauma.

On a local level, sin has raised its bitter head to many times in the past two months. Again, the temptation is to deny the seriousness of the impact on individuals and parishes. We want to say, “that’s their problem, it won’t affect me or mine.” Yet, even in saying that, we acknowledge the division in the church.

To that point, Peter Kreeft’s Socrates referents Boccaccio, and makes me think deeper. Could our evil be used by God to draw others to Him? (This is by no means an excuse, or should we use it to justify or be complacent about evil – we need to confront it) The Jewish businessman finds hope because the church perseveres in spite of the corruption, in spite of the evil.

It requires a great deal of faith, or truly depending on God to see this. It takes the attitude of Joseph, who can piece together all the things God used ot come to a point where the family is preserved, where they are provided for in the midst of another storm.

God doesn’t like such things, or plan them, and I am sure they break His heart. Yet, His love finds a way to use them to bless us, all things, even the evil, even the brokenness. He promises that so many times, along with the fact that He will never leave us or forsake us.

We need to know that in these dark days, and in those to come.

He is with us, He will be with us, and somehow, He wiwll use even these times.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your heatts and minds in Christ Jesus

Kreeft, P. (2003). Socrates Meets Machiavelli: The Father of Philosophy Cross-Examines the Author of the Prince (p. 162). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

How to Survive Burnout in Ministry. (Whether “Professional” or “Volunteer”)

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13  Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 14  Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15  Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16  Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. 1 Timothy 4:12b-16 (NLT)

207         An indispensable requirement in the apostolate is faith, which is often shown by constancy in speaking about God, even though the fruits are slow to appear. If we persevere and carry on in the firm conviction that the Lord wills it, signs of a Christian revolution will appear around you, everywhere. Some will follow the call, others will take their interior life seriously, and others—the weakest—will at least be forewarned.

It doesn’t matter whether I am a 52-year-old pastor, or a 19-year-old teaching Sunday School to a class of 25 2nd=8th graders.  There is a point when you approach burnout.

Been there, done that, and it seems taken out on a lease on an apartment at that address at times.  I’ve seen others there as well, and some crash and burn, and others persevere, not by the strength of character, or a stubborn will.  For those things cannot last through burnout.  There is something more, something internal, yet foreign.  Something, dare I say it, supernatural, that sustains them.

It’s not just a matter of personal faith, but rather, the reason that we can have faith, that we can trust, that we can depend on the Lord.

Paul tells his young apprentice to keep focused on reading scriptures, using the word of God to encourage and teach them.  As odd as this seems, it is a prescription for dealing with burnout.  For there is something empowering when we see people receive that strength. Paul urges this young man to throw himself even more into the ministry, which seems counter-intuitive.  Yet, if we focus on the work of God, we encounter Him, we find the Holy Spirit who strengthens and preserves us.

We see God is faithful, and because of His promises, we see people’s lives changed, as they are delivered from darkness into light, as we see their burdens lifted, and as we do, not only are we amazed, we find the perspective that enables us to endure.

St Josemaria speaks of the same thing as he talks of a faith that speaks with constancy about God.  Sure, it isn’t as dramatic a change as some would prefer to see, but the change is far deeper, as people will come alongside in service.  Others will grow deep in their appreciation of God’s love.  Witnessing these things assures us that our burnout is not in vain and that we can endure, for the cost is worth it.

Assured of that, the burnout loses its grip on us.  We still may be tired and weary, we may wonder if the trials will ever end, but that is not comparable to knowing this….

The Lord is with You!

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1073-1077). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I’m Tired, Exhausted, Wiped out.. and Enduring!

Devotional Thought of the Day

4  “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5  And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. . Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NLT)

999    And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave Him!

it is the last thought listed in the book, “The Way”

It is one I needed to hear, especially given the last few weeks.  Full of things that I am praising God for, and things that challenge my faith.  Other things which are simply irritating, like that rock in your shoe that keeps rubbing and rubbing.

How we survive, how we endure, how we persevere is to keep our eyes on God.

To trust in Him to get us through, whether it is to a green pasture, or through the valley of the shadow of death, or just a meeting we didn’t anticipate going the way it did.

That is what this is all about.  He is our God, we are His.

Know He loves you and love Him… and He will ensure you endure.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Location 2320). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How To Deal with the Stress of God’s Mission!

How to Deal with the Stress… Of His Mission! My Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

In Jesus Name

 As you go out, bringing the news of God’s loving us enough to take responsibility for our lives, may you endure, knowing the grace of Christ!

The Mission

There were some words I read this week by a priest that resonated deeply with me.

I am going to paraphrase them here, putting the thoughts in words that would make sense to us…

In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments, in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly (pastoral) activity, we are collaborating (serving) with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do, the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own. (1)

What he is describing is what we are sent to do, to bring Christ to people.  We all do it differently.  Dane does it while going and checking on a good friend, Joanie does serves in such a way, at the Korean grocery Store, where she invited Jenny to Bible Study.  It is what Rainbow does at Hope International University, and what Wanda and Kay do as they interact in the office with all who come into see them.

This is our mission, the same one that started among us when Jesus sent the twelve out to a certain group – but now sends us to the entire world.

It is the same mission, to bring the gospel, the news of the Kingdom of God coming among them, or as the pastor said, seeing “the Lord establishing and rooting our hearts in His own!”

This incredible mission is ours, but, you need to be warned, as the apostles were, it might not be the easiest…

The Challenge…..
One might read these verses in our gospel reading and wonder what you’ve gotten yourself involved in, following Jesus, hearing and trusting Him and sharing your faith with others.

I mean what is this about, breaking up families, even to the point of one handing over another to be executed.  Why would people hate us? And real persecution, the kind of persecution where people zealously hunt us down and enslave or oppress us?

There are a number of temptations to dealing with such opposition.

The first is simply to be okay with their sin, to not see their sin, or ours as something we have to worry about.  Christ died for all those sins, right?  For jealousy and envy, for gossip and sexual immorality, for wanting to kill people, well at least with our thoughts and words, for not honoring those God placed in authority, or those who dismiss the times of rest with which God desires to bless them.  Or maybe we become comfortable with people using God’s name wrongly, or even worse, with their not using it at all.

The reading of Paul’s epistle should straighten us out on that….

Don’t be slaves to sins, and don’t let others continue to dwell in spiritual death as their reward,

Don’t weaken the message of God’s mercy, by pretending we don’t need it.  That will not free you from persecution. Don’t be cowed by those who would dismiss you from doing God’s work, by saying it isn’t necessary to treasure the life God has given us.

But that doesn’t give us the right to just stand up and act as jerks condemning people as sinners left and right.  We can’t combat the opposition to God’s word, by getting ready to wield the rock with which to stone them.  We can’t use the idea that using the Bible offensively is the best defense of the gospel.

We are called to love, and yes, sometimes to suffer, for the sake of those who need to hear of God’s love and mercy.  As I heard yesterday, a basic summer of the gospel, that they know God matters, and that people matter to Him.

So how do we do this, in the face of opposition from friends and family and those that would rather not hear of their need for God, and His desire to show them all His love?

How do we deal with the stresses of the Mission that God has given us, to take His message to the world, that they would be saved?

The Key – the Relationship We Have with Jesus

If you could see the verse that precedes the bulk of our passage, you would hear how we deal with it.

19  … don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20  For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:19b-20 (NLT)

How can this be?  That as we focus on God, the words we speak are not ours, but those of the Holy Spirit?  Who are we to speak for God, to utter not our words, but His?

We aren’t apostles, are we?

Hear verse 24 of the gospel again:

24  “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. 25  Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names!
Matthew 10:24-25 (NLT)

We are His students, His disciples, His slaves, He is our Teacher, our Master, the One into whose image the Holy Spirit is transforming us.  It should be natural, the more we think about His love, the more we contemplate the cross, and realize the link their to our unity with Him in baptism, and how we testify to that death for us, as we eat His body, as we drink His precious blood in communion, that we take on His nature, That we understand His desire is that not one of the people around us would perish in Hell, but that all would come to know His love and mercy.

The very unity we have with God in Christ, will see us through any discomfort, ever persecution, even as it did Jesus as He started this mission.

We are so His, that nothing can separate us from Him, and so we should go, and do that which He has sent us to do, to preach the gospel to all creation, to do so with each of our talents, with each of our gifts, abilities, to see this as the reason we are here, even as He came to us.

For that is the greatest miracle of this, that we dwell, we find our life, as St Paul said, in Jesus.

Or as the pastor I quoted at the beginning of this wrote,

In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments, in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly (pastoral) activity, we are collaborating (serving) with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do (in Christ), the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own. (1)
hear the last line one more time… as you go into the world to share Christ in such a way that people’s hearts are established in Christ…. Then know

At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do (in Christ), the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own. (1)

Established there, we know the incredible, indescribable peace of God our Father, the peace we know in Christ… in which He guards our hearts and minds.  AMEN?

(1)  Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 39-40). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

 

Encouragement for those who wonder “if it is worth it”

Devotional thought of the Day:
1 I urge you, Timothy, as we live in the sight of God and of Christ Jesus (whose coming in power will judge the living and the dead), to preach the Word of God. Never lose your sense of urgency, in season or out of season. Prove, correct, and encourage, using the utmost patience in your teaching.   2 Timothy 4:1 (Phillips NT) 

110  Rest assured: when you work for God, there are no difficulties that cannot be overcome, nor discouragements that will make you abandon the task, nor failures worthy of the name, however unfruitful the results may seem.  (1)

There are times life seems to difficult, the challenges to overwhelming, making progress seems impossible, and even maintaining where we are at, doubtful.

This is especially true for those who walk with God, who look at the world that Jesus sends us to bring the message of His love to, even as the Father sent Jesus.

We hear stories, like that of the lady in Britain who will have an abortion, so that she can appear on a reality television show.  ( She’s publicized it, which will put the reality show in a tough spot – will they re-issue the invite?  It will gain them publicity – but…)

But I don’t even have to go that far to see the challenges faced in this world.  The couple that gets married, but brings too much baggage from prior relationships, the person who is dealing with so much resentment in one relationship that it poisons other relationships, the pastor who is challenged by not seeing any changes in his people., that they haven’t grow in the two, or ten, or twenty years,  Is there a point where we should give up?  Where we stop giving them the answers that point them to Jesus Christ?  Is there a point where we come to the conclusion that it just isn’t worth the sacrifice anymore?

Or do we turn to “life coaches”, new programs, spend great deals of money trying to find a way to have measurable success?   There are enough programs out there, enough guru’s and experts and consultants, to last a lifetime.

Or do we stick to our guns, keep things just the way they are, taking great pride in our stubbornness, even in the face of defeat.  After all, one can serve faithfully even if it makes us miserable, the point is being faithful, right?

Faithfulness on our end is not about giving up, or finding the miracle program/person, or even sticking to our idea of being faithful.  It is about having faith, trusting that God has told us to go, but that there will be seasons of life, and seasons of ministry that are barren like winter, some are like the rapid growth of spring, others like the dog days of summer, and others where the beauty of fall shows the glory of God, and the value of being patient. In each of those seasons, our work is to point to Jesus, to His love, to correct those that are veering away from it,

We should evaluate our messages, our work, how we prove and correct and encourage others to look to Jesus. To trust in Him, not in us or to a style of ministry or worship.  But all that work has to be done with patience, knowing that in each of us, there is the struggle of sinners and saints. That is our key, patience that is born in our faith in God, in our confidence that He is reigning, that He is in charge.

It’s hard, very hard. We are like the rest of the world, we want to do what we want. But when we trust in God, when we know we can focus on Him, we begin to see those promises revealed in our midst. Luther, a man who struggled through many dry seasons, and many were life seemed forgotten said it well, as he wrote about the Lord’s prayer:

Truly, God’s good and gracious will is accomplished without our prayer. But we pray in this request that is be accomplished among us as well.  (2)

His will, will be accomplished.  It will, we have that promise.  Yet we need to know it is being accomplished here, in our midst, in our presence. (and it helps a lot to see the role we play in this -even if minimal)  We have to trust God – and keep focused on Him – even if that simply means praying the Kyrie.

Patience is the same kind of trust we have in the Lord, that He will deliver us, it is the faith that sees God revealing to us His love and mercy…

Struggling?  Look to Him.  things not working our – Look to Him…

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 661-662). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

I don’t want to…its soooo boring!!

Devotional THought of the Day:

22  They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘We must all experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God.’ Acts 14:22 (NJB)   

9  Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10  Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11  Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12  cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.  Romans 12:9-12 (MSG)

““My enthusiasm is gone,” you wrote me. Yours has to be a work not of enthusiasm, but of love, conscious of duty— which means self-denial.”  (1)

One of the joys of having a brilliant 6 year old son is having to teaching him.  Well sort of! This morning’s lesson was one on dealing with boring things.  The title of the blog is a direct quote from him, about something I asked him to do.  THe response is one I’ve heard from my own lips a time or two during my life. Luckily, with vacation noly a week away, I had some good tools to work with, to explain why doing boring things can be quite good to get done.

Daddy, “Well, going tonight to check out our tent trailer is boring, so I guess I don’t want to do that either”

William – “but….”

Daddy:  “You know – the drive up north to the campground is 6-8 boring hours… and I have no enthusiasm for that…. so we shouldn’t go…”

William – “But…” Then the lesson dawned on him…

Then when I got to the office,. gulp – it dawned on me as well….  ( I really dislike when God ramns “my” lessons back down on me!) I may not be enthusiastic about some of the things I have to endure, some of the things that are tedious and boring and.. well not fun.

The times where I am not worshiping with people, or teaching/learning with them. THe times where we aren’t in awe of God’s grace – but wonder why life has to be so… boring, mundane or trying.
The times of doing the grunt work – either at home or at church.  It is just a fact – there are times in our lives where we will deny our own wants and desires, times where boredom will cause us to slow down, or even be distracted.  Other times where we won’t have any enthusiasm to endure because the road is to rough, the obstacles take to much effort to overcome.

The answer in both places is the same.  When we persevere, our goal cannot be the task alone.  Most of them would fail to be worth our effort.  But if we see the end of the task as a place to rest and be ministered to by God, a chance of peace and a time for healing, then it changes our attitude.  The Kingdom of God is there… waiting… ready for our entrance home. The only way to get there is to endure – and the key to that is to know who has taken us on His journey home… for we live and dwell and persevere and find life’s great victory… in Christ. With Him, the trying times can be endured.

WIth Him, even the boring times can be endured. AMEN

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2309-2310). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can we work together?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

I came across the passage after looking at Facebook yesterday, and being in despair. Not because of the election, but because of the responses to it, from both sides of the aisle, and from pastor’s whose hopes were pinned to one candidate or the other.  In despair, because the love and mercy that has been modeled to us by Jesus dying on the cross, was evident no where… I was despondent, and I wondered – has there ever been a time like this, were the people of God were so despondent about their leadership, and about each other?

Preparing for worship services for the next few weeks led me to the readings for thanksgiving Day.  One actually is a parallel to our Bible study in Ezekiel, and is found in Daniel 2.  There – having been taken from their home, having seen what they thought has been gross injustice in the way the government was treating them (Ezekiel 17 shows that isn’t necessarily so) an impossible task is laid on a young leader named Daniel.  He is asked to provide that which others say will require a miracle. TO not only interpret a dream that caused him great anxiety, but to do so without the dream being shared.  The penalty for failure was decapitation after limp being separated from limb.  (and some of us are discouraged by economics!)

Daniel asks for a little time – goes hope – calls the prayer chain (some other young men who will soon know God is their refuge) and they pray, and the prayer is answered.  Here is Daniel’s response to the answer:

“Blessed be the name of God, forever and ever. He knows all, does all: 21 He changes the seasons and guides history, He raises up kings and also brings them down, he provides both intelligence and discernment, 22 He opens up the depths, tells secrets, sees in the dark—light spills out of him! 23 God of all my ancestors, all thanks! all praise! You made me wise and strong. And now you’ve shown us what we asked for. You’ve solved the king’s mystery.” Daniel 2:20-23 (MSG) 

If God is indeed in charge of our lives, if God is truly here, active, our refuge and strength and the King of Kinds, Lord of Lords, and Prince of Peace, then, and only then, is a reaction like this possible.  Only in faith can we find the strength and patience to turn to God in prayer, when Government seems oppressive and wrong.  Only in Christ can we find a way to work with them, loving them, treating them in a way in accord with Phil 4:7-8, that will result in their honoring God.

It can never be about faith in men (see Psalm 2 and 146) or even a lack of faith in man….

It has to be about the faith we have in God, in the expectation we have, because God has vowed to make us His and keep us in His peace.

You want to know how to survive – look to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith in God….

and then you will know how to work alongside each other, and a leader we didn’t think was God’s will.

We might even find out – like Israel was told by Ezekiel, that it was…  (see Ezekiel 17)

God’s peace, my friends, is yours!

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