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The Question We Should Have Been Asked! (and all should still ask!)

Devotional Thought for the Day:

12 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.
3 And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.
Romans 12:1-3 GNT

The last question summarizes, in essence, all the others: “Are you prepared to unite yourself daily more closely with Christ, our High Priest, and to become with him a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?”

for those of you who aren’t ordained, please read this anyways, it will and does deal with you as well!)

Over 20 years ago, I was ordained.

Since then, I have been installed as the pastor at three more churches. Each time a series of questions are asked, pertaining to what I believe, and how I will care for the people entrusted to my spiritual care. One of the more challenging questions is whether I will ever talk about what is confessed to me, revealing the sins people needed to know God would forgive. (the answer to that is never, even if threatened with jail or death)

But the question above, which my Roman Catholic brothers are asked, is one I wish would have been asked. It is one I need to ask myself each and every day, as well.

Am I prepared and willing to unite myself with Christ, this day? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?

It is what Paul urges us to do, to be living sacrifices, and as He explains it, as chapter 8 goes on, doing what you are gifted and called to do, setting aside all semblance of pride, so that others may be served, and thereby saved.

Am I prepared to unite myself to C\hrist? Am I willing to become a sacrificial offering for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind?

Are you?

I think we fear this, for fear of confusing our salvation, which we can do nothing to merit, nothing to earn, with living a life that is free form sin, from being set apart, from being holy. This is the life united to Christ.

We know the theolgoical answer to this – that we were united to Christ in our baptism, that we are joined to Him, in His death, and in His Resurrection. (Romans 6 and Colossians 2 teach so) But this is far more than an academic theological question.

Much more.

It is about the stuff of life.

It is about embracing hardship, suffering, not getting the things we desire, about seeing every person we talk to as a divine appointment, as we are put there to help them encounter God (as we do encountering them!) It is about setting aside our frustration, our anger, our joy, even our sorrow for their sake.

It is what the “Missional life” and the “aspostolate” are really about.

It is what being a pastor and priest is about.

It is, as well, about what being the church, the rpiesthood of all believers is about.

So ask yourself the question, “Am I prepared…”

And know that God is with you.. preparing you to say yes, as the Spirit transforms you into the image of Christ. (2 Cor 3)

Father, in Jesus precious name, help us answer “yes” to Your call on our lives. AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 186). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Because of What He is Done: A Sermon on Romans 11:33-12:8

church at communion 2Because of what God has done,
I plead with you…

Romans 11:33-12:8

I.H.S.

May you experience the incredible gift of the love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as that love changes your very life!

Because of What He’s Done

Normally, I unveil the bread and wine during the Lord’s prayer.

As I say the words, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, for in that moment we recognize that God’s will, I uncover and reveals the chalice and the tray.  That Jesus would die, giving up His body and blood, that our sin would be forgiven, that our lives would be renewed.

I am not going to wait to do that but will do that now, and as I do, I would ask that we all take a moment of silence, and think about the suffering, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(pause)

Now, thinking of all God has done for you, I plead with you, as Paul pleaded with the church in Rome, give your body to Jesus, a sacrifice that lives and breathes and IS holy.

For God has done so much!

As Paul wrote, everything comes from Him, exists by His power and is for Him! All Glory to Him for ever and ever!  AMEN!

So let’s find out what it means for us to be living and holy sacrifices…if we can!

How Impossible
I say if there for a reason.  We are talking about dealing with, and interacting with God, the Creator of all there is, the one whom Paul started this passage describing when He said,

How great are God’s riches and knowledge, How impossible it is for us to understand His decision and His ways!

We know it is impossible to know what God knows, and I think we get that it is impossible to understand His decisions and the ways He arranges our lives.

Even so, how often do we try to advise God, or throw a tantrum when things do not go our way?  How many times do we choose to go our way rather than His?  How many times do we struggle with life, and choose to sin because we can’t see how God’s way makes more sense than ours?

Maybe we don’t understand why it’s so important to be faithful to our spouse, (not just sexually faithful – but in all ways) Or maybe we struggle with respecting an authority figure because we can’t figure out why God put them there.  Maybe the temptation is to covet what someone else has, not being content with what God has blessed us with in our lives. Or maybe the problem we have is with judging people and sharing that judgment in a way that is called gossip.  Or maybe we don’t understand why God would have us set an entire day apart, we don’t get why we should waste it and be still, and know that He is our God, that He is our refuge and strength.

It doesn’t matter which sin it is, for they all find their origination in our not recognizing that God is greater in riches and knowledge, as we determine that since we cannot understand His decisions and ways, that ours is better.

It isn’t, and we don’t realize it until we hit rock bottom.  And most of the time not even then.

It takes the grace of God to run us over before we ever can realize that God’s decisions, His ways, His knowledge is best, even if we cannot understand it.

It takes the mercy of God, it takes a transformation, the one Paul describes that happens to us as we realize God’s ways are not just bigger, but far better.  Hear Paul again,

You Will learn

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Notice it doesn’t say let Pastor Dt change you, or change yourself, or let the latest self help guru change the way you think about yourself.

What Paul wants us to do is to let the Holy Spirit transform us, by changing the way we think.  What it says in Greek isn’t just to change a though or two, but to change your mind.

This is an absolute key, and it is what causes our lives to be lived in a way that is discussed in the rest of the chapter, to embrace depending on God, to work as God calls us to live, doing what He has chosen, but doing it in in accord with the faith he gives.

That is part of the result of the transformation.

You are a transformer!

Paul describes this transformation to the Corinthians this way,

18All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.

 

What a transformation God does to us!  (Much better than going from a car to a militant robot!)

A transformation that affects every part of us, every bit of our lives.

For God creates life in us, and shows us that we can have faith, we can depend on Him, and we can know, not all the mysteries of our faith, but what God’s will is for us, His pleasing and perfect will.

What is that will?  To do what God has called and equipped you to do.. whether it is to speak publicly about God, to serve others who are in need, to teach, to encourage others, to give beyond normal, to lead others, or simply show kindness to others…

just do it, depending on Jesus – as much as you can, as humbly as you can, as God has called you to do.

just do it, because of God’s love for you – and the work He does, revealing His love to you, serving you, teaching you, encouraging you, giving to you without any boundary, leading you, and simply showing you His mercy and kindness….

live life, moving with Him, for He is your God, and you are His people…..

For that is His good and pleasing will….for you – to know you are His, and He is with you always…  AMEN!

 

Vengeance is Mine! says God, but my will is…. (more we don’t want to hear…but need to!)

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day….

WARNING – If you don’t like yesterday’s post…read on.. and be challenged some more.

One of the challenges for people who claim to be Christian, is to encounter the entire counsel of God in scripture…and not just isolate passages.  Here are some incredibly timely…

 18  Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. 19  Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it. For the scripture says, “I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.” Romans 12:18-19 (TEV)

 2  Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered; and anyone who does so will bring judgment on himself. 3  For rulers are not to be feared by those who do good, but by those who do evil. Would you like to be unafraid of those in authority? Then do what is good, and they will praise you, 4  because they are God’s servants working for your own good. But if you do evil, then be afraid of them, because their power to punish is real. They are God’s servants and carry out God’s punishment on those who do evilRomans 13:2-4 (TEV)

In light of the recent attacks on Boston, we really, really like these verses.  We want vengeance, and as long as it meats our standard, we are more than willing to let God use whoever He wants, the FBI, local police, my prefereance – the USMC  – whoever.

But if we are to trust God with wreaking vengeance on these horrific sins, then we have to trust Him…(gulp) to do it in a way consistent with His character, with His will….

and that may mean… He will not get vengeance in a way that we will appreciate.  Matter of fact, we may hate the idea.

A couple of other passages:

 8  But do not forget one thing, my dear friends! There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years; to him the two are the same. 9  The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 2 Peter 3:8-9 (TEV)

 21  It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. 22  He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips. 23  When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. 24  Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed. 25  You were like sheep that had lost their way, but now you have been brought back to follow the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25 (TEV)  (see Isaiah 52-53 and Romans 3-5 for more on this)

9  Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give you when he called you. 1 Peter 3:9 (TEV) 

I could go on and on – God did get the fullest of vengeance on these sins, and many, many more.  And we have to trust Him at His word – every sin has been paid for, every bit of evil perpetrated by man.  And justice has been done, as Peter noted above.

And proved that God the father is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance, to transformation, to know His love, His mercy and forgiveness.

That is, I guess – where our trust in Him has to be challenged.  Could God forgive these people?  Could God forgive the horrors that have been done to mankind?

I think that is why the old general prayer in the Lutheran Hymnal had us give voice to these words, “May it please Thee also to turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries that they may cease their enmity (with  God) and be inclined to walk with us in meekness and peace” ( The Lutheran Hymnal p.23)  I am deeply indebted to the pastor who introduced this hymnal to me, as well as the Theology of the Cross.  The Theology that so tells us of the depth of God’s love and providence in our lives – that suffering becomes something where I depend on Him more, trust in Him more… and know even more that He is with me.

How many of us are ready to pray such a prayer?  Whether it be about those who have traumatized Boston, or the neighbor…or maybe our boss?

Are we willing to trust God that far?  Are we willing to be that bold in our faith – that we can God to God and say – Vengeance or Mercy- it is Your call God.  Doing so, pouring our our pain, our anxiety at the altar.

Do we trust Him that much?

For if we can trust Him that much, how assured are we that He has done the same for us.  For every one of our sins, for every one of our failures.

I for one, am not strong enough – even the strength to write this – requires that I depend on Him for it – that He will create in me the strength necessary.

And for this day… so far.. He seems to be providing that strength I need to trust Him.  Even thought I don’t want it, even though I do not like to depend on Him for it, and would rather play God….

But it is there… and in Him, I can find peace.

 

 

 

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