Thoughts I pray help you depend on Jesus..
But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 NLT
But I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will bring down my fist on Egypt. Then I will rescue my forces—my people, the Israelites—from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. 5 When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” Exodus 7:3-5 NLT
Some of you know something of that which has been called “the dark night of the soul.” Some of you have spiritual desire and deep longing for victory but it seems to you that your efforts to go on with God have only brought you more bumps and more testings and more discouragement. You are tempted to ask, “How long can this go on?”…
Yes, there is a dark night of the soul. There are few Christians willing to go into this dark night and that is why there are so few who enter into the light. It is impossible for them ever to know the morning because they will not endure the night.
For every nail that pierces Christ, more than one hundred thousand should in justice pierce you, yes, they should prick you forever and ever more painfully! When Christ is tortured by nails penetrating his hands and feet, you should eternally suffer the pain they inflict and the pain of even more cruel nails, which will in truth be the lot of those who do not avail themselves of Christ’s passion.
One of my mentors, Dr. Rodney Vliet, once told a bunch of us that it was not reasonable to think our families wouldn’t suffer because of the ministry we all hoped to enter. He was quite blunt, and said that there would be times where our families’ wants and desires would be sacrficed because someone in the church was in trauma. There would be times where even their needs would be laid down as a sacrficie.
Some are told today that not only does family come first, but family’s comfort should come first.
I struggle with this… a lot. For I’ve found out that Dr. Vliet was right. Not just the vocation of the pastor or worship leader, but the vocation of every volunteer in the church – wheter and elder, a sunday school teacher, or the person who gets up early…
Being a Chirstian includes being part of both the Church, and a church. And that means being a servant to others. Putting them first, even above other commitments.
Even when the ministry is tough, and you want to run. Moses wasn’t promised an easy kingdom too lead – first he had to deal with Pharoah, then, once free of that – he would have to deal with Israel! Ministry wasn’t easy then, nor would it be for the judges, the prophets or the apostles.
Nor should we expect it to be easy, simple, and able to be blocked out on a standard schedule.
Tozer talks about the dark times, the times where it is so dark we want to quit, where we think we’ve reached our max burnout level, where we can’t see how God is going to work.
And then, looking to Him on the cross, we see our suffering is not what we deserve. Jesus saved us from that. I love that point of Luther’s that we deserve so much for our sin, that any sacrifice we make because we are forgiven, to help others know, is worth it. …
Sacrifice is not as great a sacrficie as we think, compared to Jesus. Even martyrdom is not, for we die to bear witness to a death that bore all of our sin, Leave your burdens behind, tkae up your cross and walk with Jesus, knowing that His work thorugh you will save others from Hell. It doesn’t matter if you are a preacher, a missionary, a preschool or junior high Sunday School teacher, or someone who visits shutins…
what ever the sacrifice, it is worth it… for people will experience God’s love… for you do not make the sacrifice alone…
He is with you…. just cling to Him…
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 9.
Devtional Thought of the Day:
17 If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. 18 What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News. 1 Corinthians 9:17-18
Grant, my Lord, that before I die I may do something for Thee!
The apostle does not belong to himself/herself, but is buried with Christ
Any other way is to be ashamed of Christ and, therefore, to face
the eschatological consequences: “If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, also the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels” (Mk 8:38).
The Apostle Paul writes something to contrary to our culture today.
He preached Christ crucified, and if that meant surrendering his rights, he did.
Even to the point where he would welcome chains, for then he could share the love of God with those guards to whom he was chained.
I wonder how many of us would be willing to do that today?
How many of us pray with de Ligouri that we could do something for God before we die? What suffering or sacrifice would we accept and embrace if that desire could be come true?
If you think I am trying to pour on the guilt to try and motivate you to serve God, to love your neighbor and your enemy, I am not. If you are feeling guilt over this, go back to the cross, go back and look at the love that Jesus has for you there, as He embraced the guilt as He removed your shame, as He embraced that cross for the joy that He would come to know, as you walk with Him in your life.
That is what it means that you aren’t your own, that you belong to Jesus. That you were untied to Him in His death, burial and resurrection, THat guarantees God is at work in and through you, the queston is do you see it?
THat is the job of pastors and priests, daecons and elders, Bible teachers, and 4 and 7 year olds who remind you that Jesus is with you…
at which point, thoughts about our “rightes” mean nothing, not compated to the love God has for us, as He trusts us to invite others into this divine fellowship.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 140.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 57.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.
927 Pray for one another. One is wavering? … And another? … Keep on praying, without losing your peace. Some are leaving? Some are being lost? …Our Lord has you all numbered from eternity!
Can we relate even Hell to God’s love? It is the most unpopular of Christian dogmas and the one most widely disbelieved, even though Jesus clearly taught it on many different occasions. It is disbelieved mainly because it seems to most people to contradict the dogma of God’s love. And if we have to deny one of the two, then of course let’s deny Hell. Hell without God’s love is … well, just Hell. God’s love without Hell is still God’s love.
But in fact the two do not contradict each other. Far from contradicting God’s love, Hell manifests God’s love. It is the other side of the coin of God’s love.
The question exists in many people’s minds.
How could a good loving God create a place like Hell or even the kind of people that would deserve it?
Theologians and Biblical Scholars will tell you the Hell wasn’t created for mankind, and that hell is an effect caused by our decisions to sin, and even more, our decisions to not seek and claim the forgiveness that God promises.
They are right of course, they often are.
But that doesn’t answer the question, why would God create such a place?
The simple answer is, – there has to be a place that is an option to being in a place where you are loved.
This means because hell exists, so does a place exist where God’s love, His mercy, His care, His presence sustaining us exists.
The existence of Hell doesn’t mean God would force any human being to go there, that it is a place where a loving God would send someone to punish people who rejected Him, who chose to worship themselves, or inanimate objects.
It is simply the option for those who would not be in an intimate, loving relationship with their Creator. And as horrendous as hell would seem, cut off from everything that is good, everything that is love, that tells us how incredible heaven is, and what those who are in this incredible, intimate, merciful love of God will experience.
Something we have begun to experience now, here, together.
The question then is simple, will we, who know this, reveal to those who have wandered off that God loves them?
This about why I said that is the question, more than the question being why would people choose hell. I don’t think they do, as much as most would think. Think about it, and love them.
Heavenly Father, help us love those around us in such a way, that they know YOU LOVE THEM. Empower us with Your Spirit to show them the care, the mercy, the deepest levels of love, even as we embrace the cost, as Jesus embraced the cost to show us Your love. We pray this in His precious name, AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 154.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The priests have the priesthood as their share of what I have given Israel to be handed down from one generation to another. They are not to hold property in Israel; I am all they need Ezekiel 44:28 GNT
God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 2:1-3 GNT
363 You’re disheartened, crestfallen. Men have just taught you a lesson! They thought you didn’t really need their help and so they made you plenty of empty promises. The possibility that they might have to help you with hard cash— just a few pennies—turned their friendship into indifference. Trust only in God and those united with you through him.
There is a part of me that doesn’t want to write this blog. Partly because I know pastors who are well described in the words of St Josemaria. Ministers who needed a few pennies, and were turned down by congregations whose people drove new luxury cars, and lived in more than moderately priced homes. And there are pastors whose people are just as poor and financially desperate as they are.
And the words disheartened and crestfallen are descriptions that are blunt and accurate. Depressed and anxiety laden could be added.
I won’t say I’ve always had a solid salary to work on in ministry, Twenty-one years after I started serving “full-time” I am about where I was before I entered the ministry. My wife has had to work all the time, and there have been times where I worked a second or third job, but when push comes to shove, we’ve not gone without a meal, or been late on the rent. God’s people have been there. For which I am grateful
I know guys who haven’t had their church there. Pastors whose families are on welfare, who receive assistance from the government. Or who are too proud for that.
And then I come to passages like the two in my Bible readings this morning. Odd they come up on the same day, on a day I am writing a sermon about the disciples asking Jesus to “increase our faith”. Are these passages just talking about the days of old? Does the LORD still provide all that those in full-time service to him need? Do we have everything we need to live a truly religious life?
Yes, but we don’t often see it, and our lack of vision causes us to stumble, and fall into despair.
Yeah there are times we are stretched thin, and times where our people don’t see our need and doubt. Some of that is our fault, not helping them see what is going on. ( One church wasn’t aware how much their pastor’s rent was – they all owned homes, and hadn’t reconsidered the housing allowance for 30 years!) Sometimes it is necessary that we look somewhere else, as God is opening up doors for ministry. ( I know of two pastors who planted a church while working for a large hardware store – they built it from their regular customers whom they got to know. Similarly, my first church grew from the students I taught computer science to, and the families of the hospice patients I served as their chaplain).
The challenge is seeing what comes, the good and the bad, the time of wealth and the time of great need as something where God is. Being transparent about that, all the while investing in people the one treasure we have in abundance, the presence of God. Of realizing there are times where God’s provision is in the few pennies, or the bag of groceries (ot supermarket gift card) that appears on your desk. Other times it is in the opportunity you find to provide for yourself and your family. Other times it is found in going to your people and saying. can someone help us with food, or pay for our meds, or… and all the time trusting in God for your needs. And in the process, watch your people’s dependence on God grow as well…and that, my friend, my brother in ministry, is worth all our trials. It is why we do what we do… to see our people walk with God
Above all, remember how God fills our greatest needs, the need for peace, for mercy and love found in His presence. For that is our greatest treasure… one that doesn’t get used up, or go into the red. God is with your there…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 924-927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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?
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.
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.
Devotional Thought for the day:
28 So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30 That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31 If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32 But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 (TEV)
235 Examination of conscience. A daily task. Bookkeeping—never neglected by anyone in business. And is there any business worth more than that of eternal life?
We don’t allow enough time for it in our church services.
Perhaps because the silent time of reflection is awkward.
Perhaps it is because of the shuffling of papers that occurs, or the sound of people shifting (squirming) in their seats, fifteen or so seconds into the silence.
Perhaps it is because we mistakenly think the things we have to say or sing are more important,
The time of reflection, when we consider that we’ve sinned against God, and against others. When we think back and take inventory of the time since we last confessed our sin since we are brought face to face with those moments where we failed to love, where we failed to care, where we made ourselves and our desires the most important thing in life.
It shouldn’t be just on Sunday morning that we do an examination our of lives or our consciences. But we need to do it before we commune, not out of a sense of duty, but because we need to realize why we commune, why we need Jesus to come to us, why we need to know He loves us.
Because we realize we are broken because we need to realize that it was our sin that Jesus responded to, laying down His life to erase it from our books with the grace found in the body broken and sacrificed, and love found as He offered His blood to cleanse us.
We need to do this, not to dwell in the guilt and shame, not to recount how horrible we are, but to realize how precious God’s forgiveness is, and how much He truly loves us, and how much we need to know He does love us.
That is why Paul warns us to examine ourselves. because as we do, we understand the blessing of God’s forgiveness. If we don’t if we neglect this, look at the warning, God will, and rather than pour out His grace, it will result in HIs judgment, and His punishment or worse, His wrath.
Not because we didn’t cover every sin (who has that big of a memory) but because we didn’t trust Him enough to deal with our failures, and we continued in life not dealing with our sin. Because we neglected the freedom God offered to us, and chose to stay in the dark.
So take your time, let God bring to your heart and mind the sins you need to know are forgiven. Ask Him to help you, so that you are convinced of this, you are clean, hole, healed,
Because He was broken, and His blood was shed, for you….
And knowing that, it is a time for a feast!…
How much time do you need, would you like, to examine your conscience in regards to the last week…?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 640-642). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:16-20 (NLT)
16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 (NLT)
249 Sacrifice, sacrifice! It is true that to follow Jesus Christ is to carry the Cross— He has said so. But I don’t like to hear souls who love Our Lord speak so much about crosses and renunciations, because where there is Love, it is a willing sacrifice— though it remains hard—and the cross is the Holy Cross. A soul which knows how to love and give itself in this way is filled with peace and joy. Therefore, why insist on “sacrifice”, as if you were seeking consolation if Christ’s Cross—which is your life—makes you happy?
All who believe, who trust and depend on Jesus are called to imitate Him. This is a constant theme in Paul’s writings, and it is what Jesus meant when he called disciples, when he asked men and women to follow Him.
It isn’t easy, in fact, there are days I wish we could quit, where the cost challenges my ability, or my patience, or the struggle and sacrifice is too high. Not wanting pity, for this is true for every believer. From the pastors that have labored for 40 years, to the young lady who was baptized last week.
Being a Christian includes embracing suffering, it includes greeting sacrifice willingly, not even complaining about it.
Yeah, I said that we are supposed to not even complain about it.
Look at Jesus’ words about fasting – don’t even show that you are, act normal, despite embracing the suffering you chose to embrace.
I am not saying we shouldn’t ask God to comfort us or ask other to pray with us, but there is a difference between asking people for help and whining and seeking praise for our suffering. Indeed, I think we can be addicted to the “praise” for being martyrs, for our suffering. That’s what we must avoid, for then our suffering serves a different purpose.
Think about this, Paul talks of rejoicing always, at the same time talks of praying without ceasing. The combination is that which sustains us, as we give our burdens to God, that is the way to deal with our struggle, with our sacrifice. Paul takes it further here. talking about making music in our hearts. singing and praising God.
St. Josemaria notes something we have to set our hearts upon, that as we take up the cross, there is love, His love. There the sacrifice takes on a new meaning, as it is a moment with Christ, a moment understanding the depth of His love for you and me. In fact, Josemaria would be so bold as to say run to that sacrifice, knowing what it means for us. Time with our Lord, time realizing the depth of His love, for He embraced far more than we will, he suffered that all of our sin would be forgiven.
God is with us, He is here…
Know His peace.. even in the midst of the storm.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1224-1229). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Love is, Jesus Is, We are
Not Demanding of our Way
1 Corinthians 13:5
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe that you walk humbly with Him, rejoicing in His presence!
Love is not
The song we just sang, and have sung each week during Lent is a hard one for me to sing. Simply because it calls me to admit how I feel when I look at what God expects from us when I realize how hard it is to love, to truly love someone else….
When I realize how hard it is for me to love God with everything I am, all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. To love my neighbor as I love myself.
Especially when loving means that I don’t get what I want, that what is in my best interest, what I think is right has to be set aside.
We hear from Paul that love does not demand its way. It is not zealous; it doesn’t put all its energy seeking what it desires, what it wants, even what it needs. Or what it thinks is the right way to go….
And I as read this, the words to that song come to mind…
“my eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold. And I know how I ought to be, alive to you, and dead…. To me.
I would have thought I would be better at this by this time in my life, that I wouldn’t get so riled up when I didn’t get my way, that I wouldn’t be so hurt when what I know is right is denied by bureaucracy or systems that don’t consider the effect they have on people.
There are still times where I want to shake some sense into people……
You know what I mean? What were they thinking? How could they be so blind, so stupid,
and then I read this passage and realize how far I’ve strayed from what God desires….
For even if I am right, even if the way I demand is right, too often in demanding it I will win the battle, but I will lose the war.
Jesus is not
When we consider any aspect of love, it helps to see it in action, and the perfect example is usually Jesus. Okay, it is always Jesus, for only Jesus was perfect enough to love completely, and only Jesus, in that love provides the cure for when we aren’t loving.
In this case, we could look at the times when people begged for mercy, and Jesus went out of his way to provide it, to provide food for those that wouldn’t leave him alone, and followed him out into the wilderness.
Or we can look in the garden, and see Jesus asking the Father for an option to the cross.
38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Matthew 26:38-39 (NLT)
That certainly is not demanding your way!
And it was done so that you and I could know the depth of God’s love for us, for the cup of suffering he took, included the betrayals, the beatings, the cross,
He didn’t demand his way, but as Isaiah prophesied, like a lamb, he was silent.
We are not!
So what about us? How can we whose hearts are dry, whose faith is old, find the strength to love so sacrificially? How can we deny ourselves and take up our cross, and be silent?
On our own, we cannot.
As God guides Paul to write these words, they are there. This is what our confessions talk about as the describe the “New Obedience,” the way we begin to live as we trust and depend on God.
As we explore His love, as we come to realize our need and trust in God’s work, the Holy Spirit teaches us we are loved, and brings us to the point where we can love God and those around us. He shapes us the way an artist draws, guiding our lives as we look to Jesus, as we stand in awe of His love.
The way to love is not just to study the character of Jesus, but to know His love, to look to Him for that love and be amazed, to see the depth of His care for you and those around you, understanding what He promises, and rejoicing and treasuring the hope He gives.
Loving isn’t something that happens easily, but it is something that happens as we know we are loved.
A love that leaves us so at peace, so content, that we simply lay aside everything else to enjoy it, including the way we once so zealously demanded.
That peace is beyond our understanding, but for those who know God’s love, it is our reality, for Christ guards our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!
Devotional Thought for a day just before the beginning of Lent
25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)
938 Try to live in such a way that you can voluntarily deprive yourself of the comfort and ease you wouldn’t approve of in the life of another man of God. Remember, you are the grain of wheat of which the Gospel speaks. If you don’t bury yourself and die, there will be no harvest.
As I read these words, my thoughts wander from thinking of the mansions of the mega church preachers, to considering many of the luxuries I have. From (self)-righteous indignation to guilt and shame.
Added to the latter is a number of people asking me, as they do every lent, about whether it is necessary to give up, or fast from something for the days of lent.Some people want to give up bad habits, or things they’ve been told are good for you. Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Facebook, Talking about politics. Others sacrifice a meal, and even use the money saved to give to others in need.
And then, as Lent brings about Easter, the fasting ends, the habits return, the sacrifices stop and comfort returns.
What if the change that we seek in our Lenten time were to become a lifelong change? What if the sacrifices became our way fo life? What if we chose to give up something that impeded our relationship with God, and the sacrificed caused us to depend on Him more?
Which brings up a question – do we plan and try to give up the things that we know distract us from God? Is this even a desire in our lives? Or do we simply go, day to day, stuck in those habits, feeding those desires, and allowing ourselves to burn out spiritually?
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, can we grow in our devotion to God? Can we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual growth? Can we go to those who care for us spiritually and ask for direction and prayer as well, confident of God working through the gifts He gave us for this very purpose?
This may not be as easy as pledging to give up steak on Friday, but it will benefit us… of this I am sure.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2177-2180). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 (NLT)
Therefore, anyone who seeks an office in the Church must know that he thereby declares himself ready for a greater share of the Cross. For, properly speaking, the real pastoral activity of Jesus Christ, through which he fashioned the Church and will never cease to fashion her, is his Cross, from which there flow for our blood and water, the holy sacraments, the grace of life. To want to do away with suffering means to deny love, to disavow Christ. It is impossible to struggle with the dragon and not be wounded. That is why what the Lord says in the Beatitudes is valid for all times: “Blessed are you when men revile you; blessed are the meek; blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:11, 5, 9). It is true, too, that where the Lord is, where the Master is, there must his servant be also. But the Master’s place was, ultimately, the Cross, and a shepherd who seeks nothing but approval, who would be content to do only what is required of him, would certainly not be taking his place where the Master has taken his.
I was once told that if I could be content in any other field, to avoid becoming a pastor. At the time, I didn’t understand. Today I do.
The blessing requires a high price to be paid.
I look at my friends in ministry, those I admire the most sacrifice so much to serve. Some are pastors and priests, others missionaries serving far from what most would consider their home. Some are teachers and youth workers, others are the leaders most don’t consider professionals. The elders, musicians, those who teach the Bible to young and old.
The costs are high, and while I am not talking about financial costs or the time demanded by the needs of those we serve, they cannot be dismissed either. The deeper costs include betrayals, it includes weeping with those who are weeping, crushed in grief. It means disciplining people that may not like be corrected. It means being willing to accept the loneliness of the prophet, being dismissed as we bring messages of hope, of being sent to stubborn and stiff-necked people as the prophets encountered.
It’s not about reports and strategies, it’s about laying aside our plans when someone is hurting, and helping them bear that pain. It’s not about giving a vision, unless that vision includes the cross, leading to the resurrection. It’s about the joy of the sacraments, and the pain when we see people in need for the comfort and strength they give, but who dismiss them. It’s about not giving up on the prodigal, it’s about showing mercy to the prostitute and tax collector, the drug addict and the scoundrel.
This is ministry, this is service, this is finding that as we minister to those who are drawn (and sometimes dragged ) to the cross, we find our healing occurs as well. For we are at the cross, where Jesus raises us from death, heals us from brokenness, comforts us in our grief, and gives us hope, even as we despair.
That is the paradox of Christian ministry, the sacrifice, the life surrendered at the cross is the great blessing of being such a servant leader.
Which is why Paul, the one we imitate as he imitated Christ praises God int he midst of sacrifice and suffering….
as will every leader in every parish, in every congregation, and throughout the Church in history, and throught out the world.
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.