Blog Archives

Discouraged? Remember His Claim

DSCF1421Devotional Thought for our Days:

6  “Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the LORD. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. 7  I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. 8  I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the LORD!’” 9  So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. Exodus 6:6-9 (NLT)

Now it becomes clear that what took place on Sinai, in the period of rest after the wandering through the wilderness, is what gives meaning to the taking of the land. Sinai is not a halfway house, a kind of stop for refreshment on the road to what really matters. No, Sinai gives Israel, so to speak, its interior land without which the exterior one would be a cheerless prospect. Israel is constituted as a people through the covenant and the divine law it contains. It has received a common rule for righteous living. This and this alone is what makes the land a real gift. Sinai remains present in the Promised Land. When the reality of Sinai is lost, the Land, too, is inwardly lost, until finally the people are thrust into exile.

As I read these two quotes above, as it talks of people who are discouraged and inwardly lost, they resonate with me.   A lot of my ministry is helping people who think they are lost realize that they’ve been found,   The role of a shepherd/pastor is to bring people home who are broken and lost.

Israel was there in Egypt, it wasn’t where they belonged.  They would later confuse the belonging to being attached to real estate, and when they lost that and were taken in captivity again, they had already lost the belonging that made the land special in the first place. 

It wasn’t the dirt they lived on that made them special, it was who they lived with, as God shared His glory with them.  It was the interior life, as we dwelled with God that made the place special. It was the fact that they were aware that God had claimed them…

Even as He claimed us.

At Sinai, the people couldn’t do anything but dwell in God’s presence.  They struggled with the glory, they struggled with depending on God for food (manna again!) and water.  They struggled with idolatry, and with obedience.  

Yet they lived in His presence, and they had access to the restoration God provided.

There is a lesson here, as we remember how dependable God was at Sinai, how eagerly He would restore those who came for forgiveness. He was there for them, He would rescue them again and again.

He will rescue us, and refresh our shriveled interior life, and help us to again live in His glory.  For He has claimed us as His own>  We are His people, whom He loves. 

Discouraged by the evil you see in this world? The brokenness you feel in your life and the brokenness in the lives of those you love?  There is hope, there is the promise.  You are His!

Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.

Justice, Mercy, Thirsting for Revenge or Righteousness?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6  Arise, O LORD, in anger! Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice! Psalm 7:6 (NLT) 

A few days ago I wrote about mercy.  A disclaimer, I was struggling with the topic myself.  In at least 3 cases, I was trying to figure out how to respond mercifully, and yet honestly.  Try to seek reconciliation, and pursue what is right and just.

After reading that day’s blog, and a couple of tweets, a good friend asked how we are to balance justice and righteousness.   In fact, she asked me to write on it.

Darn it, now I have to think it through!

That’s what real friends do – they help drive home the lesson God is trying to teach you!  And so my friend did for me….and others helped.

Tough question, not just because of the thought needed, but to face the answer, I don’t want to face.

I just want to pray with David the top quote from Psalm 7.   Bring JUSTICE!  Trash my enemies.  Get rid of those who are my adversaries!  Whether they be ISIS/ISIL or whether they be… well, God knows who I am struggling with presently.  Anf I find myself too often wanting revenge rather than justice.   Revenge is never justice; it is a judgment against some in my favor.  It is, therefore, contrary to justice.

I thank God for some other friends that study the Bible with me a couple of Thursday mornings a month.  We looked not only at Psalm 7:6, but the verses before and after in the chapter.

If we are to hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness AND show mercy, we need to find the point where both are valid.  In the Psalm, as we discovered, there is the answer.

1  I come to you for protection, O LORD my God. Save me from my persecutors—rescue me! 2  If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion, tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me. 3  O LORD my God, if I have done wrong or am guilty of injustice, 4  if I have betrayed a friend or plundered my enemy without cause, 5  then let my enemies capture me. Let them trample me into the ground and drag my honor in the dust.  Psalm 7:1-5 (NLT)

Developing a heart that desires justice and mercy starts with examining one’s own heart, and one’s behavior.  Knowing how easy our heart can deceive us, we do what David does, we don’t examine it.  Rather it is in prayer we beg God to examine it.  We welcome His judgment, and the means He will use to bring about in us humility.  The humility needed to answer a call to holiness; the humility needed to trust God to make things just, to make things right in our lives.  The humility to know we need His mercy, we must depend on it.

For otherwise, a call to the purest form of justice will see us judged.

We need to be examined, cleaned, healed.

Foremost of us, this process of being refined will be painful.   It will be difficult; it will be filled with grace, applied to the darkness, most sin-dominated areas of our lives. That grace will sting at first, but will soon turn sweet, and joyful.

It is then we can thirst for justice, and to love mercy.  Mercy for our enemies, adversaries and those who we see being unjust.  Our being refined will counter that as we realize that God’s justice, at this point in eternity, is still synonymous with other words.

Reconciliation.

Restoration.

Healing

Those things are just and right, and exactly what the Great Physician ordered.

Lord, have mercy on us all!  AMEN!

We Talk of Winning Souls, but Do We Protect them?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.Ro 13:11–14NLT

64         What a wonderful thing to convert unbelievers, to gain souls!… Well, it is as pleasing, and even more pleasing to God, to avoid their being lost.

This week, as I prepare to preach on Mark 9, this theme keeps coming back in my devotions.

This idea of the Church, its pastors, and its people, not caring whether we cause others to walk away from the church.  Whether we, with all of our theological studies, with all of our systems and programs, do not have a pastor’s heart, a brother or sister’s care to encourage people like Paul does above.

Do we encourage people to live lives that will bring God glory?  Not because of their perfection, but because of the love we show others?  Because we don’t look out for #1 but look out for the one, who isn’t in line?  Who is starting to wander off, who is choosing the darkness, or just being tempted by it?

I am not, by any means, talking about a forced life of purity.  For such doesn’t exist.

But I am talking about a life that recognizes the love of God and treasures it more than the pleasures of the moment.  That knows the promises and blessings, the love and mercy of God who comes to us.  A life that journeys close to the cross,

And we allow too many not even to know that is possible.

It is simple in theory to change, as we encourage each other to hear God, not just a verse here and there.  But time spent understanding the breadth and depth, the width and height of God’s love.  To share in that word, not just study it in a closet, to rejoice and point out the blessings confirmed to us as they flow through the sacraments.  To make sure that the old who know the story best hear it alongside those who haven’t heard it, so they may all rejoice together in God’s presence.

All of us, those who have been in the church for all our lives, and those who are just coming to hear of His love.

That’s the way it has been, that is what we even see at the dedication of Solomon’s temple.  All come to pray, all come to know His love. 

The family, acting like a family, the people of God, gathered around Him.

Bringing others, ensuring everyone has a place, helping others continue to focus on Jesus.

May our lives be lived in Him, and may they draw others to reconcile with God and encourage

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 487-489). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Why “They” Are Wrong About Sin….

devotional thought of the day

8  And when he comes, he will prove to the people of the world that they are wrong about sin and about what is right and about God’s judgment. 9  They are wrong about sin, because they do not believe in me; John 16:8-9 (TEV)

Prayer does not fall into a void; neither is it just a kind of psychotherapy that helps us to assemble our spiritual forces and bring them once more into balance; nor is it merely a kind of pious fiction to exercise our souls and calm them. Prayer is directed to reality. It is both heard and heeded. God, then, is someone who has the power, the ability, the will, and the patience to listen to us men. He is so great that he can be present even for those who are small.

If I bring you to this point, I have also brought you to confession. Those who really want to be good Christians, free from their sins, and happy in their conscience, already have the true hunger and thirst. They snatch at the bread just like a hunted hart, burning with heat and thirst,
33 as Ps. 42:2 says, “As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.” That is, as a hart trembles with eagerness for a fresh spring, so I yearn and tremble for God’s Word, absolution, the sacrament, etc.
34 In this way, you see, confession would be rightly taught, and such a desire and love for it would be aroused that people would come running after us to get it, more than we would like.

I am curious about who you thought “they” would be, when you read the title of this blog.

Maybe you were hoping I would lay into those rejoicing over the jailing of the court clerk in Kentucky.  Maybe you were hoping I would chastise those who complained about her being arrested, sure that she is the bravest person under persecution in the world today.

What if both groups of people are those that are wrong about sin?  What if, when they are describing sin, when they are pointing out sin in others are proving Jesus correct.  They don’t understand sin because they don’t get that it isn’t about breaking this rule or that rule.

It is because they don’t trust in God, they don’t know Him.  They don’t understand about sin because they don’t have the relationship where they depend upon Him.

Take away hat intimate relationship with God away from someone’s understanding, and sin can only be defined as breaking all the rules.  But that can’t be what defines sin, because to do so would result in condemnation, and there would be no hope.

For hope, for relief and comfort comes within a relationship. Forgiveness, mercy, love are all words that exist withing the nature of a relationship.

And sin is ultimately, denying that relationship is the ultimate sin.

You see that clearly in the quote from Pope Benedict XVI where he talks about prayer, about what it is and what it isn’t.  It is that greatness of God that He can relate to us, not in a condescending manner, but He comes to us.  He listens to us, not as a king listens without empathy or interest to his serfs, (or a CEO to one of his p/t employees) but as a friend, as a Father, as one who loves us.  He listens, He cares, He knows us.

Which brings us to the quote from Martin Luther, about confession and absolution. Sometimes we treat a sin, or a tendency to sin as if it is the worst thing that can happen.  In the Kentucky case, she is either the greatest sinner since Hitler, or those that deny her the office she was elected to.are the equivalent of those who crucified Jesus.  In either case, I will not say there is no sin, my instinct is that both groups of observers need to be called to repentance, and to reconciliation.   As do the actual people involved in the case

In fact, if there is a need to be reconciled to another person, you can be pretty sure that there is a need to be drawn closer to God.  Not for Him to punish, but for Him to heal.  For God to be so manifested in their life that His call on their life is understood, not just a law to obey, but as the loving guidance of a parent,  We need to realize His law is not punitive, bt based in wisdom.  Wisdom beyond us.

That is why reconciliation, why confession and absolution are so critical. We desperately need to hear that our sin is not going to wreck our relationship with God, that He will still hear and answer our prayers, that He will comfort us as anxiety threatens, That is what absolution does.  It reconciles us to Him; it assures us of His presence. It helps us to trust, to wait in His presence.

That’s why Luther says if we understand what Absolution gifts us with, we won’t hesitate to confess our sins.  We wouldn’t hide in denial of them, we wouldn’t play the game of “their” sins are worse than ours. We would rejoice in the word of God, rejoice in our forgiveness, and we would plead with others to be reconciled, rather than condemn others without the intent of showing them the love of God.

May we spend our days rejoicing in God’s answers to our plea – “Lord have mercy on us sinners!”.  Amen.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 286). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 460–461). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The End that Justified the Means

The End that Justifies the Means

John 6:51–69

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may that love and mercy be revealed to you, and may it assure you that in His presence you will remain!

Is the Journey more important than the destination?

Four years before Martin Luther would nail to the door an invitation to discuss indulgences, a man in Italy, the man who would become the father of political science, and the first to write on political ethics finished his best known work.

Though not in the book as a direct quote, a summary of it gave us one of the best known proverbs that is not contained in the Bible.  A proverb many a businessman and many a politician see as foundational.

The end justifies the means.

Basically, Machiavelli held that, a ruler must be concerned not only with reputation, but also must be positively willing to act immorally at the right times.”  (Wikipedia)
One example given on Wikipedia of that is this, “Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”

As odd as it sounds, there is one example of that proverb, that you and I must be grateful, one time in history where the end justifying the means was not only appropriate, but a blessing.

As the Jewish people struggle with Jesus teaching that they must eat His body and drink His blood, they will struggle even more that in order to receive the promises of God, in order to be His people, they would have to depend upon the greatest injustice in history.

The Journey

There is a part of me that wants to preach on this passage from the safety of focusing on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  After all, there are theologians who say this passage where Jesus demands us to eat His Body and drink His blood as being primarily about the Lord’s Supper.  And there are some that say it is not.  Fascinating arguments on both sides.

It is safe, it would help you comprehend what we do during communion, and it would miss the point.

This passage isn’t about communion, in the way that a journey isn’t about the journey, it is about the destination.  Because the Jewish people were worrying about the journey, they missed the message of the destination.

That God would remain in us, and we in Him.

We’ll get back to that in a moment, but we need to see that we are no different than the Jewish people, who though knowing God’s law, struggled with what Jesus was saying, struggling so much that they would say,

“This is very hard to understand, how can anyone accept it?”

It was so hard to understand, that most of the disciples would leave.

Because they were focusing on the means, rather than the end.

We do the same thing today, when we toss aside God’s word.  Maybe we consider it out of date in the moral standard.  Or when we dismiss something because those rules were okay back then before people were educated, but they don’t apply to us smarter and more sophisticated people today.  We argue with God, we try to define what is right and what is wrong.  We try to change the rules, rationalize our way out of things, or create a different standard.

A great example is how we treat our enemies, adversaries and those who are a pain in the butt.

Do we really love them?  Do we really pray for them?  Do we really want to forgive them and welcome to commune with us?

Or do we try to find a loophole, an exception to God’s desire that we love all our neighbors?

Or what about when God says to embrace persecutions and suffering, for the sake of the gospel.  He just means pastors and worship leaders and elders.  Not bass players and sound men, and ushers, right?

We don’t get it, it seems too hard to understand.  We don’t like it when God confronts us and challenge our agendas, or rules out what we like and what we dodo.  Sometimes, confronted by God’s wisdom and unable to get it, sometimes we walk away.  Just like the disciples did.

John’s gospel shows how hard it is, as it records Jesus’ words, The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.”

We need it, we need a God we can relate too, trust in, depend upon…

for our very lives.

Remaining in Christ Jesus

One of the things that we look at, when studying the passage, is the frequency something is mentioned.  For example – if a thought is repeated, even if a little different, that is called a parallelism – and it is important.  Especially if it followed by AMEN! AMEN! or “This is True!”  Three times is even more critical to understand.

We know this well.  If our parents or our wives or our bosses repeat themselves, it is critical we are listening.

In this passage, the body and blood being sacrificed is mentioned frequently.  But even more frequently is something else.  Here it is….

“will live forever”
“so the world may live”
“have eternal life within you”

“has eternal life”

“I will raise that person at the last day”
“remains in me, and I in him.”
“will live because of me”
“will not die”

“will live forever.”

“The Spirit alone gives eternal life”

“Very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life”

68 
Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”

This is what it is all about, this life we have with God.  That we are His people, that He is our God.  That we are fixed to Him, we remain in Him, and He in us.  United from the very moment of our baptism, united by a promise, the very new covenant, a promised renewed as He sustains us with His body and blood.

A life given, and shared.

A glorious eternal life.

That is our destination, that is the end that justifies the means that seem beyond unfair.

For  one of Nicollo Machiavelli’s summaries became true, at the cross.

Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions.”

Or let me phrase it a little differently

Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of God’s reign and introduction of a new covenant.”

The violence of a Cross, the creation and stabilization of a righteous people of God, gathered in His presence, by the enactment of a new law, a new covenant.

That is what this is all about… it is why we know Jesus words are true.

Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

So eat, be nourished, understand the gift of life in Christ and remain in Him, for there is His peace.  AMEN.

The Cry for Justice…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

19  And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20  By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21  And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22  let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 (NLT)

502      If bare justice is done, people may feel hurt. Always act, therefore, for the love of God, which will add to that justice the balm of a neighbourly love, and will purify and cleanse all earthly love. When you bring God in, everything becomes supernatural.  (1)

We live in a day where the cries for justice are ringing out, or do we?

At least the cries that sound call for justice.

But I don’t think we know what justice is anymore. If justice is based on an outcome that is demanded, It is justice?  if in seeking justice, we have to commit injustice to achieve it, is it right?

Will will seek after justice if we, or our way of life is that which is found unjust?  Will we as readily accept our punishment and suffer for what we’ve done, (or not done) that led to unjust actions?

Do we want bare justice?  An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, ruination for ruination?

Because if we do, we don’t want true justice, we don’t want the other term scripture uses for justice, righteousness.

God showed His righteousness, His justice at the cross,  When the value of those who act unjustly was seen – God’s righteousness, God’s justice meant He had to take on the burden of injustice, and make it just and right.  That those who were once unjust, could walk into the presence of God Almighty peacefully.

I don’t know whether the which of those in Ferguson or New York, Cleveland or in the interrogation rooms of the CIA, in the Ukraine, the Middle East, the Ukraine, etc are just in God’s eyes.  Well let me re-phrase that – none —- none are..  Yet all who believe, all who have been cleansed by God are now right.  for they dwell in the One who determines what is righteous and what is just. ….

Praise God my friends… this is a marvelous thing that brings us hope and peace.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1916-1920). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Blossoming of Faith

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

4  “Israel, remember this! The LORD—and the LORD alone—is our God. 5  Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (TEV)

1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded, but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God. (1) 

296      Learn to praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Learn to have a special devotion to the Blessed Trinity: I believe in God the Father, I believe in God the Son, I believe in God the Holy Spirit; I hope in God the Father, I hope in God the Son, I hope in God the Holy Spirit; I love God the Father, I love God the Son, I love God the Holy Spirit. I believe, I hope and I love the most Holy Trinity. This devotion is much needed as a supernatural exercise for the soul, expressed by the movement of the heart, although not always in words.  (2) 

I wish there was a way to study the human soul, but there is not, at least from our perspective.

Simply put, there seems to be a movement away from intimacy with God that is becoming more and more apparent.  It reveals itself often in our attitude toward faith and works, as I’ve written about recently.

Some just want a list of behaviors to enforce, a way to measure righteousness that is completely divorced from the soul.  A list of publicly viewable sins (as opposed to the sins of our mind, or those we do in private) that can be used as a checklist.

Some want no accountability at all, and use theology to try and prove the behaviors prohibited in the Old Testament aren’t binding, and the behaviors commanded are not either.

In my branch of Christianity, in our basic doctrinal statement, note that works are the production of faith and such works we must do   The reason isn’t so God will approve of us, or that they merit God’s graces, we have that already because of Christ.  Nevertheless, the works need to blossom from our faith.  Obedience needs to come, not forced or coerced, but naturally.

How does this work?  I would say it comes from see the Bible passage in red above become our reality.  To love God with everything we are.   To desire His presence the way a couple desires to be In each others presence.   To adore, to be devoted to God, as He reveals Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, even as St Josemaria advises us.

It is from this love, that treasuring the words of God begins.  As we revel in His love, in His sharing His life and our lives, that good works can blossom and grow.   Good works don’t come from our own strength, they can only come from being in the presence of God, of knowing His love so well that it becomes our nature as well. The kind of closeness to God that makes us uncomfortable, that causes us to be distant at first….even as it did to those in the past. z

yet it is His intimate presence that changes everything, His love that creates in us the ability to love, and the desire to love beyond our ability.

Knowing this, it is no wonder that St. Paul prays,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 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 3:16-19 (NLT)

May it be so in all our lives today…..

Even in the lives of our enemies.

 

(1) [1] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 31–32). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  (Augsburg Confession Art. VI

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1201-1206). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Sin, Righteousness, Works, Holiness

Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19-20 (NLT) Galatians 2:19-20 (CEV)

1  What shall we say, then? Should we continue to live in sin so that God’s grace will increase? 2  Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it? Romans 6:1-2 (TEV)

288      You were still rather hesitant when you were telling me: “I am deeply aware of the occasions when the Lord is asking more of me.” All I could think of was to remind you how you used to assure me that the only thing you wanted was to identify yourself with him. What’s keeping you back?  (1)

I am still trying to understand the reason there is a long battle over the nature of faith and works.

For some, the quote from Galatians stops at the second hyphen.  “so I died to the law – I stopped trying to meet all its requirements-“  In doing so, there is missing the the second half of the statement, so I might life for God!”

It is as if they were answering Paul’s query in the second quote, “Yes, let us continue to live in sin, because to expect anything else from us is not only impossible, but it it bringing the penalty of the law back upon us.”  The claim of being a pietist quickly follows, when you encourage people to go to confession and receive absolution, when you encourage them to make regular use of the sacrament of Lord’s Supper, spend time in God’s word, or pray continually.  Theologically, there is no “third use” of the law they expound, we can only expect people to have “faith”.  Thus reducing faith to some kind of knowledge, rather than the trust which enables us to live in Him.

Some will cry, but it is impossible to live a holy and perfect life!  That God’s call to us to do that only serves us to run to Him for mercy.  But that reduces mercy to forgiveness, not the love which He binds Himself to show to His people.  it negates the work of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, equipping, empowering, setting us apart as the Bride of Christ, as His body, as the co-heirs of Christ.

Then why go so indepth in every epistle from Romans to Jude about what the Christian life looks like?  Why the incredible descriptions of the Body of Christ working together in Romans 12, in 1 Corinthians 12, why the discussion of the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us in II Corinthians? of the mutual care for each other in Ephesians 5-6, the striving in Philippians 3?  Why the words in the third chapter of Titus saying this is how we used to be – now be this?  Why the challenges in James 2-5?  Why the warnings to the 7 churches in Asia minor in the Revelation?

We aren’t saved by works, but as we are untied to Christ, that means His work becomes our, His ministry becomes ours, His apostleship becomes ours as well.  These things take a devotional and focus, not on our efforts, not on our capabilities, but on the Lord, even as the Holy Spirit conforms us to His image.   As Paul notes:

12  So then, my dearest friends, as you have always followed my advice – and that not only when I was present to give it – so now that I am far away be keener than ever to work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility. For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose. Philippians 2:12 (Phillips NT)

That’s the point, it is the work of God in us, the very blessing of His presence, in our lives. That is why it isn’t a question of faith and works.  It is walking with God, working alongside Him in His fields, sharing in His presence. That is how we work, not apart from God, but alongside Him, letting Him giving us not only the power to do what pleases Him, but the will, the desire to do it as well.

Confused about faith and works, tired of the arguments?  Look to Christ, the author and finisher of your faith, identify with Him abide in Him, remember to share with Him everything that causes you concern, anxiety, fear.  Let Him take those things away, while He shares with you the wondrous ministry of reconciliation.  Examine fully the depth of His love for you, and walk with Him.  That will produce good fruit, far more than the theological debates and discourses.   That which you consider impossible? He will accomplish it.

Love mercy, live in His righteousness, and walk humbly with God, your God.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1175-1178). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Teaching People to Obey God Isn’t Nearly Enough…..

Devotional?Discussion Thought of the Day:
16  The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18  Then Jesus approached and said to them, All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NAB)

280      You know that you will never lack God’s grace, because he has chosen you from all eternity. And if this is what he has done for you, he will grant you all the help you need to be faithful to him as his son. Go forward, then, with assurance and try to respond at every moment.

As I continue to see debates about faith and works online, as I continue see to people demand full obedience to one commandment and not another, I am saddened.  For people hyper-focus on the law, and debates about it, much as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Herodians did in the age of Christ.

Because of this, I know quite a few people who leave the church, dismayed either because of hypocrisy, or because of a burden that they are expected to keep, that they cannot on one hand.  On the other, they are dismayed because despite what scripture says, they don’t see the life of those claiming to be believers to be all that different.  There are the same kind of sinners, justified not by the blood of Christ, but because of their own justifications, they still go about life, unchanged, and in chains to sin.

My contention isn’t that we need to teach people to obey the commandments, or to simply live free of them.  My contention is that we don’t do nearly enough in teaching people to obey God.  We go about it wrong in teaching them to obey, and when we reduce it simply to God’s commands, we do something even worse.

First let’s deal with “obey”.  In the very well known passage called the great commission, about half of my translations use obey, some use observe, and a few older translations use keep.  I think the idea of obey comes from that old KJV era use keep, but they in doing so, they cause a problem.  The word in Greek comes from the word to watch over, to guard, to treasure, to protect.  As I have noted before, the keep in a castle was the place of the greatest possible defense, the final point of resistance, the place where children and wives were kept, along with the treasure.

Guard them, treasure them, doesn’t make as much sense when we combine it with command.  or at least it seems awkward.  But consider how much the psalms rejoice in God’s law, in His commandments.  (for example in Psalm 119) Consider the opening of Proverbs 7,

1  My child, remember what I say and never forget what I tell you to do. 2  Do what I say, and you will live. Be as careful to follow my teaching as you are to protect your eyes. 3  Keep my teaching with you all the time; write it on your heart. Proverbs 7:1-3 (TEV)

1  My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; 2  keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; 3  bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 7:1-3 (ESV)

I put the two translations here for a reason, there is something more to commandments than what meets the eye.  Normally we think of commands as God’s law, the Decalogue, what are referred to as the Ten Commandments.

I would contend that we would be less confused if we replaced commandment with a synonym, commissioned (we call it the Great Commission, don’t we?) But we have a slightly different meaning.  Commissioned doesn’t reduce what is taught to the “do’s and do not’s”.  It beings out the scope to include all God has ever commanded about you, as well as what He has commanded you.

For instance, the declaration of our righteousness, the work of Christ’s life, lived with one mission.

18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed 19  and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.” Luke 4:18-19 (TEV)

it includes His work in completing what He began in us, and in the Holy Spirit’s work in transforming us.  It includes the entire covenant – promises as well as regulations.  That is why spending time heaing and meditating upon what God has commissioned brings such joy, not just bondage to a law.   (btw, the commission concepts works with the Decalog/Ten Commandments)  as well, including what some dismiss as the prelude – the key to understanding it.

This is why the joy is so complete, for what God has commissioned for you and I is wondrous.  It is the full measure of His love, not just His plans for our lives.  It is that we are to become His worksmanship (Eph 2:10), a people He made for His own.

Teach His people, those He has claimed in baptism this Truth, for they are His disciples, His children.  And the joy will be unsurpassed.  As they treasure what God has called and commissioned into their lives, the obedience will follow, naturally and assured of His empowerment.

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1137-1140). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Reformation Day Is NOT Independence Day

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

14  I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15  I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16  They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17  Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19  And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. 20  “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John 17:14-21 (NLT)

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.  (1)

236      A firm resolution: to abandon myself in Jesus Christ with all my wretchedness. Whatever he may want, at any moment, Fiat—let it be done!  (2)  

Four Hundred, ninety-seven years ago, a professor at a University posted the above as the introduction to discuss Ninety-Five thesis about Indulgences.

As far as I have read, his intent wasn’t to start a reformation, yet it is the anniversary of the publishing of this event that history notes as the start of the Protestant Reformation.

To quote one of the characters in a WEB Griffin novel, “i regret that it is was necessary”.

Indeed, I dread the celebration of the events that would follow, as the works of Luther went viral. As that viral nature exploded, as the conversation that he was intent on having didn’t occur. As the church began to splinter apart.

Please understand me, I fully acknowledge that the discussion was necessary, the truths that Luther re-discovered, especially that we cannot merit salvation on our own, that God comes to us in our wretchedness,  Yet this was not Luther’s truth alone, and it needed to be understood, both head and heart.

What causes the regret is the division in the Body of Christ.  The idea that one group can be kicked out, while another group can walk away.  An idea that know has morphed into the idea that I can belong to a church, or denomination, and simply ignore that which it teaches that I don’t agree with completely.

Teachings on the sacraments?  Who cares!  Teaching about what is sin, and what isn’t?  Don’t need to bother with that!  Teaching about the gifts of the Spirit and the role of the church?  Why bother, it doesn’t really affect me today, does it?  Teaching about how to care for sinners, based on the love of Christ seen in His treating us who are sinners?  Not necessary, just condemn them as an abomination.   This is what the church has resulted in, because we choose to divide, rather than to reconcile.

Some treat the Protestant Reformation as if it was a spiritual “Independence Day”.  As if it were a celebration a small portion of the church is now completely independent of the body of Christ.  But the Body of Christ cannot be divided, the Invisible church is always that of one Lord, whom we trust in, One faith in Him, one Baptism where we are united with Christ.  Given the ministry of reconciliation, not of further division, and definitely not of celebrating the division.

Celebrate what Luther discovered in regards to the gospel of Christ – AMEN!  An awesome thing to celebrate.  But not the division that occured then, in fact, maybe it is time to have those discussions, to pursue the truth that is found in Christ Jesus, to work to see the Church reconciled in Him, to abandon our wretchedness and find the glory of being united in Him.

Lord have mercy on us sinners….
(1)  Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1004-1005). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

%d bloggers like this: