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Need A New Years Resolution? Here’s An Miraculous and Missional One!

Devotional Thought of the Day!

5  Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. 6  Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4:5-6 (MSG) 

918 You should always avoid complaining, criticising, gossiping… You must avoid absolutely anything that could bring discord among brothers. (1)

Within the next week, you will hear people talking about their New Year’s resolutions, the changes they know they need to make, and at least will verbally commit to attempting… and least for 3-4 weeks.

The above verse from Colossians, and the corralary from a devotional work from St Josemaria Escriva, I would ask you to consider, if you are making such resolutions.  If not, I would simply point out that the red letters above are scripture, and they are how God has planned us to live. ( in other words. resolve to make this a change anyway!).  I pray that the resolution is not just something in passing, but starts a movement.

We live in a society, where this is so counter-cultural, that we take to twitter, fb and every other means possible to complain, to criticize, (which is a nice way of saying condemn), to divide us from others. We fight for rights, we demand respect, we forget that the person we are upset with may have had a long tiring day, or that they are in grief, or that they are struggling with anxiety or fear.  We can’t know what they are going through, and that God may have sent us into their life to show them love, to impart to them a little joy and peace. To give them a moment to catch their breath and know that God will make everything alright.

Think of what that would mean to us, if someone did that for us when we are stressed, when we are dealing with loss, or fearing it. When we are feeling alone, and the one that feels like an “outsider”. We’ve all been there, we’ve all known the hurt, the pain, the anxiety, even to the point of compromising ourselves to avoid it. So how would we feel if someone reached out to us, in that very moment we were at our weakest?

This is what Christmas is all about, and in a sense the idea of New Years.  That God would reach into our lives, and put a stop to our being outsiders.  He makes us family, He creates in us a sense of belonging, by reaching out, comforting, drying the tears, forgiving us from sin, helping us to realize the height and width, depth and breafth of His love.  Then, He commissions us to go and bring word of that love to others that are outsiders as we were, People that are just asa broken, but hide it.  People that are just as in pain as we were, and strike out at everyone, people whose sins require the healing that only God can bring to them, but brings it through us.

They need Him.

You want a resolution that will chagne more than the numbers on your scale?  That will change life for others?  Here it is…scripturally sound, missional, loving, and can only be done,even miraculous, For it can only be done by living in Christ.

Lord have mercy on us, and flavor our speech with your grace, mercy and peace!  AMEN

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3732-3734). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Pastor? Preacher? Spritual Director? Life Coach? which do I NEED to minister to me?

Devotional 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. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)

 1  Take me as your pattern, just as I take Christ for mine. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NJB)

 1  Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2  I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3  Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4  And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5  The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6  He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7  Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8  He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.Philippians 2:1-8 (TEV)

It seems more and more advertising dollars are spent trying to convince me that I either should become a life coach, or that I need one.  A lot of master’s programs at Catholic and Protestant universities have M.A. and M. DIv programs in becoming a spiritual director.  Heck, one group is willing to provide me coaching, via videos and taped phone calls where I have no imput at all, but I can listen to them anytime I want.  I also have been inundated with books by preachers about ministry, and how to take my church from a failure to a success, and books about how to preach to my people so their lives turn completely around and they can live a good and proper life.

Lots of advice….

Now, don’t compelte read me out of context, there are those that are wise, and experienced coaches, some of whom I talk to and bounce ideas with on occaison.    But I’ve also talked to a coach in revitalization who was trying to get me to hire him as a coach, whose experience in churches under 1000 members was non-existent.  They developed their theories and their plan based on statistics and the works of others.

As I look at all these programs, and talk to some who director them, I am reminded of a ministry opportunity I once had, to teach and shepherd a group of young married couples. Only one problem, I was 23 years old and had just broken up with my fiance a few months before!. But hey, I could have purchased the latest book by Dobson, or Trent and Smalley and taught the material.

As I think about the ministry, and how we train our ministers (deacons) and pastors, I wonder what sort of message this sends them about how they should serve their people.  Do we want ministers who stand back and observe people and give advice that they haven’t quite experienced themselves?  Do we want them to turn to studies and books and “journeys” that are not unlike an old diagram with yes/no questions with tracks to take?  Or do we want someone who will be there, who may not have the answers but will continually point us to Christ’s presence in our lives, to His promises revealed in scripture, who assumes that God’s presence in our lives, is the final answer… and how that applies is something we work through together.

I think we need to get away from the cookie cutter approach, whether it is more traditional, or more contemporary, more cutting edge or more based in cautious stewardship of yesterday’s concepts.  We have to stop de-humanizing the relationship between pastor and people, and and humble ourselves and get down in the mud together, and see what God is doing. That’s not the way Chirst worked among those with whom He lived.  He got involved, He knew their pain, He took their burdens.. and He calls us to love each other in the same way.  Including being patient with those whom we serve.. He didn’t meet them in an office, he met them at tax tables, and by the waiting room at the ppol, on the road and where the boats gather… He met them in their life, and endured with them

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe that’s the point about all this, that it isn’t just a title, but finding someone to work with who is willing to do what Christ did – to come to us in our brokenness, and minister healing to us.  Not just advice, not just a sermon series, not just rubrics and guidelines and 6 steps to that.  But someone who comes and serves, and cares, and brings healing and trains us to do the same to others.

May we train ministers and pastors and bishops and our laity – all who minister in Christ’s name.. to do so as Christ did..

How Do “We” (the church) Treat “Them”

Christ church

Christ church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day

 40  Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40 (MSG)

Yesterday I referred to an article that talked about how we can mistreat those who gather with us in church, simply because we want our service done well, reverent, uplifting.  And we forget that the service is not about us pleasing God with our perfection, but His ministering to us in our brokenness…

In a way, today’s article is similar – not about in the church, but about a group of people that are often overlooked, or even deliberately ignored by the church.  At least that’s how they might perceive it.

Here’s the article:

http://sojo.net/blogs/2013/10/29/do-churches-alienate-intellectuals#.UnEWVCIQddc.facebook

Now you might think – the intellectuals?  They are the “least of my brothers?” Seriously?

The answer of course, is yes. If they are the ones who because of their lot in life we choose to ingore.  If they are the ones we think are beyond our call, who don’t deserve to be brought to Christ.

We might assume they won’t respond, we might justify our inaction saying they won’t listen, they’ve got their mind made up.  We might read the article and get defensive, saying we can’t capitulate (using one of “their words) or compromise on Christian values.  (for example – I’ll work with them on Global warming – but never never abortion)  even thoguh the article doesn’t say compromise.  We can talk with them, discuss with them, treat them as people who are like us, sinners in need of God. We can treat them like people, befriend them, learn from them, love them. We can struggle alongside them, for they are really no different than us.

Maybe your issue isn’t with the intellectuals, but we all have ot be aware of the walls we build, of the divisions, cultural,, age, education, wealth, ethnic origin, even those of different religions.  Our job isn’t to triumph over them, its to minister to them – to all the world.

No more division in Christ, no more de-valuing this group or that group or..

Our goal is everyone in Christ… and if that takes our dealing with some discomfort in oroder to do that… let us embrace the discomfort in the way Christ endured the cross…for us.

Lord have mercy on us all.. and reveal it to us, and through us to all who are broken and without.

Amen

We are God’s people….but what does that mean???

Devotional/ Discussion Question of the Day.
 6  To show that you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, “Father, my Father.” Galatians 4:6 (TEV)

Therefore it is the intent of this commandment to require true faith and trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God and clings to Him alone. That is as much as to say: “See to it that you let Me alone be your God, and never seek another,” i.e.: Whatever you lack of good things, expect it of Me, and look to Me for it, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, creep and cling to Me. I, yes, I, will give you enough and help you out of every need; only let not your heart cleave to or rest in any other.
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

We talk of faith all the time in the church.  But I think we often mistake it for something that it is not.

Faith is not the doctrine we teach, the doctrine that has been handed down to us.  Our Faith is not a description of our practices and policies that define the Church, or even the church itself.

All these things are good, but it is not at the core of that which we must past down.

Faith is described in Luther’s words above – the trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God and clings to Him alone.  That is faith!

It is what drives us to call our to God, recognizing that He is our Father, our Abba – our Daddy.  That we need Him and need His protection, His guidance, His correction, His love.  And we have it, for He has promised it, and His promises are always true in Christ Jesus.

We are His people, His children, His beloved.  He has drawn us into a relationship with Him, a relationship that is described with the words faith, hope and love.

May we never look past this, or take it for granted.  Rather let us rejoice in a God who desires that we cling to Him… that invites it, that delights in our clinging to Him.

Cling to Him this week…

Amen.

Title page of the Large Catechism of Martin Lu...

Title page of the Large Catechism of Martin Luther, printed in Leipzig in 1560 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Dance of the Liturgy, Learning to Partner with God

Devotional Thought of the Day,

 11  You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy. 12  So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. LORD, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever!  Psalm 30:11-12 (TEV)

I’ve been working on a new series for Sunday School – which is shaping up pretty nicely.

It is a refresher of sorts, a way to help people remember why we do what we do in worship – which is in many ways – a rehearsal for life now, and life everlasting.  For those who prefer church terms – it is a on-going catachesis – a way to present the core of our faith in such a way that people see it with fresh eyes.  You see, while our liturgy is worship – it is also where we learn what it means to partner with God, to follow His lead, to celebrate and move.  If we learn the lessons from it – if they become as integral to our life as the steps of a dance are to an accomplished dancer, we find it flowing into our lives – and the dance continues, no longer practice – but lives in us as we leave our sanctuaries.  The steps, the rhythm, the music, all becomes part of us.  Even more – that we are partners with God – becomes more natural, more real, the discipline, the beauty, it is our life.

The first basic key for us – is that everything is focused on our Partner…. as we let Him guide us through this dance of life.

Come, its time to pray, our Partner awaits…

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