Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)
“‘God loves you’—isn’t that the most well-worn of clichés? It’s just standard filler for the laziest, most obvious and repetitive homilies. Smile. Yawn. Everybody knows that by now, at least everybody who has ever been in a church or read a Bible.
No. Exactly the opposite. It is not familiar. It is shattering. It changes everything. And most Christians do not realize it.”
Right now on Wednesday evenings I am teaching through the Book of Revelation. It is an amazing book of the Bible, but so misunderstood. Some think it is like a mystery or a riddle that we have to figure out who the characters are. Others think that it is a prophetic calendar, that we have to determine how this is the time it is describing. Who is the beast? What is the mark of the beast? who is this who is that? Is the pandemic a sign there, what about the racial tension?
Amid all the questions, all the theories, all the guess, and hype there are two things the Revelation really does teach us. No, make that three.
1. Jesus is the LORD, He is, along with the Father and Spirit, God who is worshipped, and will be worshipped by all of creation.
2. Jesus is with us in the midst of life. Life may seem broken beyond repair, it may seem oppressed and anxiety-laden by external events, or the effect of sin. Jesus is there to save us.
3. God loves us. Not in a simplistic way that has no effect on us, but in an intimate way, where He cares for us, bringing healing and peace to our brokenness. This is what the Apostle Paul desires so much that the church experience, for we cannot understand it. It is too deep, too wonderful to be able to describe it.
Those in His presence fall in awe, with all creation they praise Him, thanking Him, in awe of His care.
In the midst of trials, we need to see this, in the midst of isolation, we need to realize He is there, in the midst of being knocked down and shattered by the world, or by our own sin, we need to experience this love of God, and that He is there with each one of us.
God loves you…. He, the Lord, is with You.
Think about that!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 11.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:10-11 (NLT2)
1 Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. Revelation 14:1 (NLT2)
16 He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. 17 And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. 18 Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666. Revelation 13:16-18 (NLT2)
I knew it would happen eventually, that some well-meaning people who are anxious would tie the present pandemic into an end-times scenario. I’ve seen it happen before, after the Northridge Earthquake, and as we approached Y2K.
For the first few weeks, no one was really talking about it, now all of a sudden they are. And the latest fears are that implanted microchips, and Bill Gates and vaccines will somehow enable Satan to drag you into hell. Unless you repent and buy into the teaching of a well-meaning pastor who bought into the theory from someone’s blog.
In order to reduce anxiety, let’s look at a few scriptures.
I will note for the record that I had had microchips in me since 1992 when I received my first Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator. I also ran one of the early smart-card programs, as we rolled it out at Pepperdine University in the ’90s. Then, along with several Bible Scholars there, I looked into the claims that I was about to usher in the time of the Mark of the Beast.
I remember a lot of those conversations, and the talks we gave, and letters we answered.
Here is a short version of the points:
- Notice the “mark” is going to be put on your forehead or hand. Even if it were a physical mark, It wouldn’t be ingested, part of a vaccine.
- The definitions of the word in greek point at something carved, such as a seal, which is then stamped or impressed ( or branded) on someone.
- Just a few verses later, in Revelation 14:1, a mark is put on the forehead of the 144,00, a number representing all the people of God throughout history, the people who would praise God with all their voices. If that mark is not considered a physical mark, why are we concerned its imitation would be?
- That mark/sign on the people of God is also found in the Old Testament, in Expdis 13:0, 16 In that case, the mark was a reminder of God’s work, that was also on the forehead and hand.
- So the mark and seal of the beast is simply a counterfeit of the mark given to those who believe and trust in the work of Jesus.
The kicker point is this, that in chapter 12 of Revelation before anything about the mark of the beast, it describes the victory already won by all the people of God. That is the first quote at the top.
There it says we defeated Satan by three things
- The blood of Jesus Christ, which takes care of every sin. No sin, no condemnation for those in Christ
- The word of their testimony – what is that? Simple, our testimony is that Christ has died and risen, and we have been united to Him in both. (like the mark, this is a reference to baptism – see Romans 6, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Colossians 2 and Ephesians 1:14)
- They didn’t count their lives as so important, because they trusted in Jesus’ victory over death.
If those who worried and wrote about this mark of the beast took the time to realize that their victory over Satan was already won by Jesus and that nothing he could do would steal it from us (Romans 8:38), then they could spend more time rejoicing in that! They could spend more time loving their neighbor, and sharing the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, hope that is incorruptible, hope that eternal, hope that is based on God’s faithfulness.
Relax, look to the cross, see the love of God, and trust in Him!
He has won the victory, your victory!
Devotional Thought of the day:
“I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.* 17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.* 18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.*”
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 NLT
2 But who will be able to endure the day when he comes? Who will be able to survive when he appears? He will be like strong soap, like a fire that refines metal. 3 He will come to judge like one who refines and purifies silver. As a metalworker refines silver and gold, so the LORD’S messenger will purify the priests, so that they will bring to the LORD the right kind of offerings. 4 Then the offerings which the people of Judah and Jerusalem bring to the LORD will be pleasing to him, as they used to be in the past.
Malachi 3:2-4 (TEV)
814 Ask Jesus to grant you a Love like a purifying furnace, where your poor flesh —your poor heart—may be consumed and cleansed of all earthly miseries. Pray that it may be emptied of self and filled with him. Ask him to grant you a deep-seated aversion to all that is worldly so that you may be sustained only by Love.
There is a part of me that fears to pray as St. Josemaria suggests.
There is so much to lose, so many things I cannot see apart from myself. Yes, those things include not only what I perceive as the pleasures of life (and are not) and the miseries of my existence.
Could I deal with that radical of a change in me? Could I allow myself to be defined not by broken heart (in my case, both physically and figuratively) but spiritually as well? How can I allow God to take the scar, many of which I find a perverse pleasure in, knowing I somewhat survived them, and not just remove them, but heal the damage they have done?
St Josemaria describes it well as a furnace, for the heat and pain it will take to separate us from these things which haunt us is intense. How do I let Him remove all this, and the sin which so easily ensnares me
How do I find the strength to pray this?
How dare I?
What if he doesn’t answer the prayer? What if He does?
As Malachi points out – how will we endure it?
I think St Paul has the answer, it is not found in us, but in the promises God has made to us, promises He stands behind, promises that are coming true in our lives, even if we do not see it.
It is in those promises, in His making us holy, that we find comfort and learn to trust Him. In those promises, we find the strength to work, to hear Him in a way our soul resonates with what He is doing, to nor fight against His purifying our lives.
You and I, we need this, we can’t continue to live in our brokenness, even if we have gotten used to its stench. The life that God provides, cleansed, purified, holy, is beyond our comprehension. We see it here and there, our souls thrive on it in the moments we experience it, at the communion rail, deep in lament, in the middle of serving others, As God purifies us, as He applies the heat and we cling to Him, these moments we are aware of Him grow… and we begin to desire them more.
So pray for God to refine you and purify you. Pray for me as well, and I pray we all will realize the blessing of walking with God. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3357-3360). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have now come, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown out: the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death. Rev. 12:10-11 HCSB
223 Christ expects a lot from your work. But you will have to look for souls, as the Good Shepherd went after the hundredth sheep: without waiting to be called. Then make use of your friends to do good to others. Tell each one of them that nobody can feel at ease with a spiritual life which, after filling him, does not overflow with apostolic zeal.
As I am reading through Revelation, I am not surprised at how much verse 11 sticks out. It does every time I read it, it is just so powerful, this testimony of the victory of the saints, of our victory.
And yet this time, it struck me that this verse is one of the keys to understanding the Book of Revelation, and indeed, the role of the church in these days. If we understand this, the mission and the very existence of the church becomes clear.
We are sent, we have our apostolate. and we are freed to accomplish this work, assured that our victory over sin and Satan, and death is finally won. Satan has been conquered, and His ability to accuse us of sin is over.
That is where the word of our testimony is so powerful, for we witness to the love of Jesus, the incredible mercy that floods our lives, our hearts and souls cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. That is our testimony, not of our work, but of the love of God which establishes us as His children, His Holy People.
And having that testimony, that knowledge that we are God’s forever, our priorities change. NO longer are we concerned as much about our own pleasure, our own happiness? What becomes more important is the 1 whom has wandered from the 99, the child of God who has forgotten their Creator, their Father. Our hearts break for them, and their situation.
And drawing them back to Jesus, that becomes far more important than the latest toy, or that trip. Their eternity becomes more a concern than riches or fame. The foreigner who is lost, the woman in the hospital, the 20-something in jail, these are the priorities we gain over self-indulgence.
God with us, freeing us from all the fear of that which is to come, He is who we witness of, and that witness is what forms our life until He returns.
This is who we, the church, are called to be, a people full of joy as the love of God infects the world around us, drawing more an more people to Him, and into being part of His people.
We can only do that, knowing the victory of Satan is complete, and because of the blood of Jesus it is. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1133-1136). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions.11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring.
12 So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first. Job 42:10-12 HCSB
670 Jesus says: “Everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.” Try to find anyone on earth who repays with such generosity!
Twenty years ago this August I made the decision to leave my position at Pepperdine University, and become a full-time pastor at the small desert church I was pastoring on weekends. Ten years ago, we made the decision to leave our very comfortable life in the mountains where I pastored, to come back to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
In both situations, the decisions had a significant financial impact, and more, for pastoring means you are there as people die, as others struggle with their sins (a number of times I have had members or former members who were arrested ) as people struggle with their brokenness. Though most pastors don’t know it, part of the burn out is from something psychologists call “Second-Hand Shock Syndrome” a subset of PTSD that occurs for those like pastors, nurses, fireman and counselors who encounter regularly the brokenness. of the world.
As I have thought about the last 20 years (and some before that as a jail chaplain) and looked at others who struggle in ministry, the words from Job and St. Josemaria echo in my ear. I wonder, seriously wonder at times, when the payoff described will happen.
I am not asking you to feel sorry for those in ministry, especially me. There are incredible blessings out there, every time I see someone baptized, or someone cry with joy as they realize that “God loves you” and “the Lord is with you” aren’t just trite sayings. They are the truth and a life-changing truth. We get to see these incredible miracles, and they are a blessing that goes beyond description.
Yet there are days as well when most of us wonder when the work will ever get easier if the stresses will ever end.
So is having newer homes, and more kids, and more riches the reward that is waiting?
If that is all that is waiting for me, the answer is simple.
No, absolutely not.
While God is generous and loving and merciful, I think the blessings, whether now or in heaven that counts is what happens before chapter 42. It is in the discussion God and Job have, in the fact that here is a man who converses with God, whom God challenges, yet doesn’t throw away. Whom God will declare is righteous, and though suffering becomes a blessing to his friendly tormentors.
It is this relationship, where God knows me better than I know myself, where He doesn’t abandon me (though sometimes I wonder why He hasn’t!) that is the ultimate level of generosity, that is the ultimate payoff. Intimacy with God who loves us is what this is all about, and that is more precious than any earthly reward.
And it isn’t just for pastors and priests.
He calls us all to be His sons and daughters. He desires to clean us from all that mars us, to heal our brokenness, to never leave us alone, to guide us through every portion of life, even when we don’t notice.
And to bring us into eternity, where we will see Him face to face.
25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me. Job 19:25-27 HCSB
There it is, the “payoff” that makes this all worth it. To look at a God and know Him, not as a stranger. This is what makes it worth it for the lady that teaches 3-year-olds in Sunday School, or the Elder who takes communion ot the shut-in (and rushes to get there, so the lady can then go play Bingo at the senior center!) or the worship leader, tired from a hard week, who still smiles and ignores her own pain and anxiety and leads the people of God in praising Him, or the returned prodigal, who rejoices that wherever he goes people want to talk about God.
Or the pastor, who is simply tired… yet keeps on going, sustained by the God who is not stranger….but loves us all. And who is reminded of that presence by those who lovingly tell him, “and also with you!”
For the Lord is with you as well… and I pray that you will see Him revealed, in all His glory, as you are embraced by Him.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1559-1561). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Day:
2 I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up. I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people. You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars. 3 You have patience and have suffered troubles for my name and have not given up.
4 “But I have this against you: You have left the love you had in the beginning. 5 So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place. Rev. 2:2-6 NCV
Here we must also mention those hypocrites who put their trust in their own righteousness before God, as the Pharisees in Luke 18:10 ff. Upon such people falls the guilt of many sins, because they do not recognize their own weakness, they do not recognize that in the eyes of God they are worthy of punishment because they have a false confidence and do not call upon God through Christ the Mediator. Indeed, they put their own works forward in the place of the Mediator’s. I have described their attributes above under the fifth degree.
A third point should be added here: when absolution has been given, one should accept the new melody of life and let oneself really be re-tuned to the new rhythm of God. The first indication of this new melody in our lives is prayer, for the new life is above all also a turning to God.
It seems like a new idol is gaining strength in the church. That pastors, ministers, and others who serve are being trained to serve this idol. That people are being led to put their faith in this idol, that if it is served, that if sacrifices are made to appease it, then everything will be okay.
It really isn’t a new idol, it simply put on new clothes and addresses a certain fear we have, that somehow, God is displeased with us, that this is the reason that churches in 1st world countries are shrinking and closing.
The church in Ephesus also had to deal with this, look at what the Apostle John wrote it above.
They didn’t tolerate false teaching, they tested everyone and discovered who was teaching falsely.
They had patience and suffered troubles (even ones they didn’t create for themselves!)
They had doctrine and practice of that doctrine down pat, so much so that Jesus even praised them for it! Yet they were as empty as the Pharisees railed against. When we enter a point where our focus is primarily correct doctrine and practice, we leave behind the Lord we love, (ironically the one correct doctrine should lead us to adore, which is what is the definition of true orthodoxy!)
Please hear me, teaching correctly about God’s grace is important, critical even. Worshipping Him in a way consistent with what the scriptures reveal is also very important. Do things our own way, in what makes sense to us in that moment is dangerous. But making doctrine and practice THE focus of our ministry, or how we judge other’s ministry is still idolatry.
St John encourages us to return to our first love, the love we had for the Lord who delivered us, who brought us into fellowship by the power of the Holy Spirit. To change our hearts ( not our minds (doctrine and practice dwell there too!) and return to what we did at first, being in awe, trying to learn how to love God. It is from such a life of prayer that doctrine and practice really come alive anyway. The words mean more, they aren’t just rote, the actions we take we find are nourished and strengthed by the Lord we dedicate them to Him!
I love how Pope Benedict XVI phrased this, in regards to absolution. THe idea of God re-tuning us, transforming us to live in this new melody of life, these new movements, My guitar cannot tune itself, neither can I tune myself. Yet as God does this, as I get out of the way, I find myself desiring to spend more time with Him. I find the music that is life sweeter and more comforting, more serene.
FOr it is God turning us to Himself, revealing His presence, His embracing us, even as the prodigal was embraced by the Father who loved him.
For He loves us…and therefore, we can love Him, our first love…
Lord Jesus, help us to know the presence of the Holy Spirit, Tune our hearts and souls so resonate deeply with your voice, that we may love you more, and so that this new melody would be heard by many. AMEN!
Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print. quote from Melancthon
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 It is of the mysterious wisdom of God that we talk, the wisdom that was hidden, which God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. 8 None of the rulers of the age recognised it; for if they had recognised it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him; 10 to us, though, God has given revelation through the Spirit, for the Spirit explores the depths of everything, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NJB)
318 Place yourself before the Lord each day and tell him slowly and in all earnestness, like the man in the Gospel who was in such great need, Domine, ut videam! —Lord, that I may see!; that I may see what you expect from me, and struggle to be faithful to you. Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge
Yesterday they saw Jesus humiliated, they saw the results of the beatings, the interrogations, the whipping. They heard the crowd cry out, “Crucify Him”; whipped into a frenzy, a desire for blood that scared a Roman Governor to the point of submission.
They watched Him carry the beam, and then fall, and then when He wasn’t able to carry it any longer, they watched a stranger carry it for him. They didn’t volunteer, they didn’t go near Him. They rejected Him.
Just like we do at times.
But what did they do today? Where they so stunned they just sat behind locked doors? Did they spend time in prayer, as they had been taught? Did their fears and anxieties oppress them? Did their guilt complete the job, leaving them depressed and in despair?
What did they do?
I ask this because I think we live in a similar situation today. Jesus hasnt’ returned yet, and while we know scripture teaches it, while we know the prophecies and promises, there are days where it all seems like a nightmare, and the promises, well they are diminished by our grief, our pain, our anger, our denial. our guilt and shame. We live in this time, where our minds should remind us, but our hearts and souls are overwhelmed.
We need to see Jesus. As St. Josemaria advises we need to remember we are in HIs presence and ask Him to help us see that which we perceive. We need to let the Spirit reveal to us the depth of the wisdom of God, the wisdom that planned for our salvation, that planned to and did raise Jesus from the dead.
And with Him, we died and rise as well….
† Lord, have mercy upon us, and in these days when we are brought low, when we struggle to see Your face, open our eyes, remind us of your promises. We pray this in the name of the Father, † the Son, and the Holy Spirit, AMEN!
Greater Confidence in the Message
2 Peter 1:16-21
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
As Jesus love for us in revealed as He journeys toward the cross, may the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus transform our lives, as we dwell in His glorious light and love! AMEN!
An Odd line
I love the honesty of scripture, especially the insights that we see into the lives of Peter and Paul into their letters to the early church. They do not portray themselves as perfect, but as men who have struggled, and still struggle to walk in a relationship with God.
Much like I do.
And as Peter looks back on his life and ministry, and writes his second epistle, he remembers an “ah ha” moment in the section we come to today. A moment that everything becomes more real.
The moment on the mountain, when he and James and John see Jesus revealed in His glory and honorwhen it was revealed to them exactly who Jesus was, and what it meant for the Messiah, the Anointed One to be with them.
But in the middle, as Peter is talking about this wondrous voice, and the Father revealing to them who Jesus is, Peter makes an incredible statement
“Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets!”
Which means that while they knew the scriptures, there was something about this experience, this moment, that made the scriptures come alive for them. It makes them look differently at the Old Testament differently, something that you and I would benefit from as well.
The Temptation to just see the Bible as myth
We gain a little more insight into this comment if we go back to the first line of the readings,
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.
Simply put, St. Peter is telling us that the reports he has made about Jesus are eyewitness accounts of God’s life, lived among us. It is not just a story or a fable that we tell people to get them to behave.
While we wouldn’t use the word myth, I think many of us treat scripture in a similar way. Stuff to ponder, and think about, to consider and to apply to our lives so that we live better. One pastor/theologian recently talked like this when they said that our mission wasn’t about waiting for the hope of heaven, but to bring heaven to earth now, by our doing good work. They dismissed the ideas of heaven and hell and said our focus is on transforming the here and now. That is how they see scripture as if it is the guide to making life perfect here.
And what Peter talks of counters that.
These are just stories from an alternate reality. They aren’t just fables. The transfiguration, like the incarnation, the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection are miraculous events, Events that Peter and the apostles are witnesses of, and that experience changed everything.
And in Peter talking of how His experience observing Jesus making a change in how he viewed the Old Testament, we see the same thing in effect. Prior to knowing Jesus, the stories in the Old testament, the lessons, all were simply that. History and training in being a good person. Scripture is living, and for Peter it came alive when he saw Jesus transfigured, and everything began to make sense.
But seeing Jesus in His glory, seeing the love of God up close changes that…
And Peter says it will change our lives as well.
The Bible comes alive as the words reveal Christ in you!
You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.
These words in scripture. They aren’t just words.
They tell us that God planned to shatter the darkness, the hopelessness, the kind of life that is so oppressed by the brokenness of the world. Lives shattered by sin, broken by hatred, tormented by resentment we can’t free ourselves from, from guilt and shame, as well, for it is not just the brokenness of the world that could crush us, but our own brokenness as well. This is why he directs us to pay close attention to them, for as Jesus is revealed, our confidence in God’s work is strengthened.
In these words we see Jesus and the promise of his love enter our lives, as glorious as Peter and James saw – as He enters our hearts, as He reconciles us to God the Father and sets our lives apart to live in the presence of God.
For this is the purpose of scripture, to draw us into this relationship with God, a relationship more complete, closer, with nothing that can shatter it. One based on truth, the truth of God’s love for us.
God who spoke of Jesus as His dearly loved Son, and who speaks of us with the same words…..
Words which cause the scriptures to come alive, for they tell our story, and help us to realize the deep love He has for you and I.
Knowing that love, having Christ shine in our very hearts, brings to us the peace of God which can’t be explained, but which we are safe in, for Jesus keeps us there. AMEN!
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors.* 3 Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first! NAB-RE Rev. 2:2-4
414 How pathetic: a “man of God” who has fallen away! But how much more pathetic: a “man of God” who is lukewarm and worldly!
A lot of conversations I’ve been in recently have been about the church in decline.
One talked about how we need to start lots of new churches because old churches can’t grow.
With another friend we talked about how three churches, healthy two decades ago, may share in the services of one pastor, rather than simply have someone come in every Sunday to preach.
A third conversation was about one of the largest of mega-churches, and how it, and its worship, are but a shadow of what they once were.
We look at the extremes of the church, and it is no less grievous. One side wants to embrace society’s ills, setting aside the scripture that tells us to shine the light in the darkness. They do such by just agreeing to live there. The other extreme also avoids shining light in the darkness, by shining light where there is the brightness of day. Like in the passage from the Revelation, they do all the good things, they detest the false teaching, they suffer abuse and endure.
What you don’t often hear anymore, is how in love the church is with God!
How head over heals we are, how much we are in awe and wonder, and how we adore God. How amazed we are to find ourselves counted as His loved ones.
The result of loving our love for God? Lukewarmness, busyness, being focused more on what is going on around us, than being aware of His glorious presence in our life. A church that focuses itself on outreach, or on maintaining a level of purity.
We need to remember this – we need to rekindle that love! But how does that happen?
We need to spend time, resting in God’s presence, meditating on His love, hearing His voice which calls out to us. We need to hear of His love for us, His desire for us to be in His presence. As we meditate on such things our love for Him grows, depending on Him, having faith in Him becomes easier, as does sharing that love with others.
Pastor – you want you church to come alive, for people to grow in faith (and in a pure faith?) Then fall in love with God, rejoice in His love for you.
The rest will fall in place.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1033-1034). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do to these men. 36 *Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing. 37 After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered. 38 So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. 39 But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him. Acts 5:35-39 NABRE
His name was Gamaliel, one of the greatest of Jewish Rabbi’s, not just of his time, but in history.
Not exactly a friend to those who followed Jesus; though, in this situation, he certainly had words of wisdom that were beneficial to them.He’s not the only one throughout history who was not a believer, yet God used to deliver and guide his people. Jethro’s father was one, and Cyrus the Persian for another. I’m not sure that Balaam’s ass was a believer, but God even spoke through it.
So how do we deal with such things?
We know that there are two forms of revelation, that is two ways in which we know about God. The first is through scripture, specific revelation. This is where we get to know God deeply. He tells us who He is, how much he loves us, how Christ came and proved that love. The second way is what is called general revelation, and is what we can discern of the Creator through nature, through observation, through the various sciences.
Even the observations and thoughts of man that create idols and establish man-made religions have some truth in them, some portion that is written based on how God has ordered things. For such false religions were created based, not in a vacuum, but withing God’s creation, within His world, by humans who are made in His image, and have a portion of the truth.
Remember – they aren’t His enemies, though they may fight against God, and struggle with His direct, specific revelation.
That doesn’t mean they have the complete truth. Or that we should just accept what they can observe as being equal to what we interpret from scripture. But we can consider their wisdom, measure it against scripture ( not just our interpretation of scripture). and rejoice where it is found consistent.
Is this easy or fast? No. Sometimes testing their belief means that we spend a few hours in scripture, and in prayer. But Gamaliel’s advice is similar – let’s see if God is at work in this. And hold fast to the truth we know!
Does it change how we relate to those who believe other than we do? Yes – we see them as people who are looking for God, and doing what they can to deal with their own brokenness.
This change in attitude leads us to a position that means we aren’t opposition, but rather working alongside them. There may be a line in the sand – but that isn’t to divide us, it is to remind us of what has been specifically given to us, through Christ’s life, death, burial,and resurrection. There is the line – that love of God revealed in Christ. That specific, merciful, glorious revelation of His love.s
In the midst of all of this, praying and asking God to bless us, we find a very special ministry, that of seeing all reconciled to Jesus.
And that my friends, is worth it. .
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.