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Our need for community, a special community.

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:
42  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44  And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)

As the Father is called Creator and the Son is called Redeemer, so on account of his work the Holy Spirit must be called Sanctifier, the One who makes holy.
37 How does this sanctifying take place? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion by purchasing us through his birth, death, and resurrection, etc., so the Holy Spirit effects our sanctification through the following: the communion of saints or Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. In other words, he first leads us into his holy community, placing us upon the bosom of the church, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ.

We often talk about the Body of Christ from a functional or clinical viewpoint.  That is, we will talk about it as we try to find people their place in the church, finding out what part they will play, what gifts they have.  Or we might use the concept clinically when one person is disrupting the unity of the church, and we appeal to them, reminding them that they are a part of the whole.

I think Luther, in explaining the work of the Holy Spirit, brings the topic up from a view that is not primarily functional.  Rather it is experiential, that the Holy Spirit brings us into the special community to reveal to us the dimensions of God’s love and transform us.  That transformation is called “sanctification”, which is another way of saying making us holy, setting us apart to a special relationship, to be one with God and all His family.

His family, His holy people, His holy community, His communion.

This is easy to say, but hard to accept, this idea that we are one body, that we are one community (no matter how fractured or impaired)  That we are one in Christ, which makes us one, even as Jesus and the Father (and the Spirit ) are one. That we live and move and have our being in Christ, as the Spirit sanctifies us, removing every bit of sin, causing us to live, reflecting the glory of Christ into the darkness of a world that doesn’t know hope.

We are, whether we want to admit it, one, holy, catholic (all of us in all places/times) holy and apostolic church.  This isn’t our work, it is what the Holy Spirit has established and drawn us into, even while we are being saved. This isn’t just a theological teaching or a pragmatic tool to use.  It is our reality, it is where we together explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ.

Let us pray, as Jesus prayed, that we all may be one!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 415). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Christian, do you ever feel like your life is a waste?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the day:

16 Then He told him: “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. 17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his •slave to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’
18 “But without exception v they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’
20 “And another said, ‘I just got married, w x and therefore I’m unable to come.’
21 “So the slave came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his slave, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame!’ 
22 “ ‘Master,’ the slave said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’
23 “Then the master told the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will enjoy my banquet!’ ”   Luke 14:16-24 HCSB

The supreme and eternal Priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.
For besides intimately linking them to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them.

Vivification.  That incredible blessing as the Holy Spirit pierces our heart with the law, and then creates life in a person, creating in them the ability to believe in God, and the ability to depend upon Him.  We talked about Justification a lot, and Sanctification some, but Vivification?  Not so much!

To put it in less technical language, Jesus brings us to life, all of us, through the work of the Holy Spirit.  The older versions of the creeds talk of being quickened, and that is what we are talking about.  We were dead in sin, and in baptism intimately linked with Jesus death, and then so united, we rise to new life again. This is how the Holy Spirit makes us born again!

Too often though, we don’t encourage each other to live this new life.  We talk about being united with Jesus in life, but we too often forget we are united in His mission as well. To use the parable from Luke, we forget the importance of the party and choose instead to waste this new life away. 

We come up with so many good excuses though!  I can worship God on my own, I don’t have time for long prayers, or studying His word.  We don’t have to do these things -because we don’t earn our salvation!  We keep making the excuses, we keep telling ourselves we will get back to church later, that we will open that dust-covered Bible, that we will spend more time in prayer, and we will try to love our neighbor, and our enemy.

And with each excuse, we choose to not walk with Jesus, we choose to ignore His wonderful invitation, and we fail to see the Spirit work through us.

This isn’t “do this or you won’t be saved”, it is “this is what salvation is”, walking with God, knowing His love, ministering to others, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  It is having a life worth meaning, a life we can look back on and truly say, God was with us!”

Lord, have mercy on us, forgive us of making excuses, and help us live in everlasting life, with you!  AMEN!

Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

Setting Aside Sin Evil – Such An Easy Task? Why not?

Devotional Thought for our Days

 Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. Christ is your n life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory. So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. These things make God angry. n In your past, evil life you also did these things.

But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. Do not lie to each other. You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before. 10 You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God.   Colossians 3:3-10 NCV

3       My Father—talk to him like that, confidently—who art in heaven, look upon me with compassionate Love, and make me respond to thy love. Melt and enkindle my heart of bronze, burn and purify my unmortified flesh, fill my mind with supernatural light, make my tongue proclaim the Love and Glory of Christ.

“Hallowed be thy name.” 
What does this mean?
A
nswer: To be sure, God’s name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.
5 How is this done?
Answer: When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy lives in accordance with it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives otherwise than as the Word of God teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!

Paul’s words are difficult in verse 5, these words we hear as commands, as Law.

Put all evil things out of your life…

This sounds easy – that is until Paul defines it, then defines it more. 

How are you doing with that?  I pray you are doing better at it than I am.

It is a battle. A battle not between Good and Evil with Evil being those opposed to us, it is a battle inside each of us, to turn away from the evil we, to embrace good.  But even this battle is a paradox, for we cannot do this by our own strength or will-power.

When we believe we are the masters of our spiritual development, when we believe we can put all these things out of our life by ourselves, we’ve fallen back into the trap of the evil one. Yet that is what we hear often when we read this passage, it is what our pride focuses upon. 

What does it miss… the embrace of Christ as He died, that embrace that continues through His death to the resurrection.  The beginning of life in Christ, and the being MADE NEW AND ARE BECOMING LIKE THE ONE WHO MADE YOU. 

This is what St. Josemaria is talking about, as he points out a part of the Lord’s Prayer.  It is God who makes us new, it is God who changes us, it is God who separated us from evil and our sin, and is our hope for staying disconnected from it.  (that is not to say He is responsible if we return to it!)  Therefore it is our prayer, our begging God to do what we cannot, even as we realize that He has not only promised this, it is His desire. 

It is our need.

And it is how we let go of the evil that has bound us, as we adore our Lord for what He has done and is doing.  We don’t actually create the separation, we don’t broaden it even, we just leave it behind as the light of the glory of God. His love revealed and realized draws us away from the life we had before.  

We can pray for this, that God would do His work.  Not that He wouldn’t do it if we don’t pray, but that as we pray we would realize God is at work, already doing this to us.  This is what Luther was getting at in the small catechism. We pray this to know what God promised to do, and so we can realize it is being done.

It is being done, let us continue to pray we see Him doing it! 

AMEN!

[1]  From the Small Catechism: edition from Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 242-246). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Anyone and Everyone. A Pentecost Sermon on John 7:37-39

Anyone and Everyone

John 7:37-39

I.H.S.

 May the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life not only bring you the comfort but also may it bring the love that will flow out others and change their lives!

Quiz:

Since it is the end of the school year, I thought it would be appropriate to give you all a little quiz about Pentecost this morning.  The first is yes/no, the second is multiple choice.

Question #1  Is Pentecost only a New Testament “holy day.”

Nope, it was an Old Testament Feast, celebrating the harvest.  At this point you can see what the rest of the harvest might look like, we see it commanded in Leviticus 23:15.

Question #2  How many people did the Holy Spirit fall upon at Pentecost.

A)  120       B)  12    C) I am not sure

How many think A? B?  Anyone want to admit to C?

Well C was the right answer, and anyone who didn’t get both questions right has to stay after service for some much-needed catechesis.  Don’t know what catechesis is?  Well, it’s a lot like going to a doughnut shop with some friends and having a good discussion.  All those who got the answers right can also come.

Back to the Holy Spirit, and Pentecost, which is the reason we are here today.  If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit, I am not sure we would be here together, and Pentecost is where the church came alive, as the Spirit falls on the people of God, creates in us faith, and transforms us into the Father’s children.  

It is a feast day where we see that anyone who believes is welcome and that everyone who believes will be given the Holy Spirit, who will flow out of their lives into a world that is incredibly thirsty and need to know they are loved.

Anyone who believes

I want you to hear the invitation that Jesus gives in the Gospel, that anyone who is thirsty can come to Him.

It doesn’t matter your age, or your whether you are male or female.  It doesn’t matter if you are 5 or 95, it doesn’t matter if you are from Indonesia, from Austria, from Guyana or even Boston.

On the first Pentecost they came from all over, religious people, people that came because of culture, we even know that some who weren’t Jewish, but simply curious about the God Jews worshiped came. Many didn’t know what they were thirsting for, like the crowd we heard about in Athens two weeks ago, but they knew they didn’t have the answers they needed in life.

They were thirsty,

Jesus goes on to talk about any that who believe in Him can not only come but that they can have that thirst quenched.

Believe in Him, not believe about him, or believe He was this or that.  Believe in Him, trust Him, depend on Him, take God at His word to be involved in your life.

That is what believing in Him is about.  As one pastor put it, the kind of belief, faith, and dependence that causes us to participate and contemplate on this incredible love.  He described it this way,

Christian contemplation ponders, reflects, gazes, and delights in the wonders and the mysteries of God active in this world “reconciling the world to himself”

Even as we know and begin to trust that Jesus loves us this much, it takes us aback, it is too incredible, to amazing, and trusting in Him causes us delight and joy, as we explore as Paul urges us to

18  you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! 19 Live full lives, full in the fullness of God
That is what happens as God makes us His children, it is a miracle of our baptism, of our Pentecost.  It is the beginning of trusting God when He says, “I love you, let me provide and care for you,”

And when we come to know this love, it changes everything, for the Spirit has brought us to life.

Everyone will have the Spirit

Let’s go back to that second question for a moment, how many people did the Holy Spirit descend upon?  We know it was more than 3132 because it wasn’t just the men, but their family, their wives and children that were baptized that day.  And upon each of them, just as upon us, the promises of the Holy Spirit was made as sure as the water was wet.

It is what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit being poured out on us that is amazing, that from our hearts will flow the Holy Spirit. That from our hearts the love of God will pour out with the Spirit, reaching and touching those around us.

‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy.

All this talk of prophesying, it just means speaking for God, sharing His love, sharing the message that the Spirit uses to bring others to life and faith.

A message that we all have, empowered by the Spirit we all have been given, and share with those who like us, need to know they can trust in God, that they can depend on Him, that He is with them, and with us.

This promise of the Holy Spirit being given to anyone who believes, to everyone who believes is why Jesus was born, and died, and rose. It is why Jesus when He was drawn to heaven, did what He promised and had the Spirit given to us.  The Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit has come, and is yours, just as Jesus said.

He is here, as sure as God’s promise….

The Spirit is here, to transform our hearts, and flow from them to bring healing to this broken world.

And here in our hearts, the Comforter provides His incredible peace, and we can relax, protected by Jesus, our hearts and minds kept safe by Him.  AMEN!

Devoted to God’s House….

photoDevotional Thought of the Day:

17His disciples remembered that the scripture says, “My devotion to your house, O God, burns in me like a fire.”
18 The Jewish authorities replied with a question, “What miracle can you perform to show us that you have the right to do this?”
19 Jesus answered, “Tear down this Temple, and in three days I will build it again.”
20 “Are you going to build it again in three days?” they asked him. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple!”
21 But the temple Jesus was speaking about was his body. 22So when he was raised from death, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and what Jesus had said. John 2:17-22  TEV

19 Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; 20 he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory.   1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (TEV)

Most people would see the words in verse 17 as belonging to the context of what had gone before, where Jesus clears out the temple, so that people could pray in peace.

Given what is quoted above, perhaps it is also a transitional verse, a transitional moment, that point where people go from a devotion to the presence of God in the temple, to the presence of God in their midst, as Jesus is there with them!

The temple of God, the moment God no longer hides behind the curtain, hovering over the ark of the covenant, unsatisfied by the sacrifices that were poured out to appease Him.  Now God is there, Jesus is with them, listening to them, responding to them, even as they are gathering to pray….

He is there.

For God’s house, the place where he abides has a purpose.  Whether it is the temple, the body of Christ on the cross, the bread and wine, or the heart and soul of a believer, the place is a gathering place, a place where God’s people are gathered to being the presence of the God who makes them His people.

There are churches today that still distract people from God’s promise, even as the sellers and bankers did in the temple. The examples are numerous, and we are great about looking out at other churches, and noting how they water down the gospel, or make the show more important than the message.

Such things scandalize us, as they turn the house of God into a den of thieves.  We may not going in and raise a riot, but we do so with our words, and with our gossip.

Will we get as scandalized as we do the same thing with the temple of the Holy Spirit, the places where the Spirit abides, in us?  In these temples.  Do we deny the Spirit the time to hear us, or hear those around us in need?  Or do we treat our bodies the same way as the Jewish leaders treated the temple, filling it with business, and noise and distractions?

Can we let Jesus have the same zeal for our lives that He showed for the temple?

God has promised us to do so, to love us that much that He will still dwell with us, cleansing us, making us holy, even as He has made us His.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us and cleanse our hearts, minds, and souls.  AMEN!

It’s Monday, Are You Ready for a Good Cleansing?

Devotional thought of a Monday

 And this is what he (John the baptist/cleanser) proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8  I have cleansed you with water; he will cleanse you with the holy Spirit.”  Mark 1:7-8 – my paraphrase

Faith, hope, and charity will come into play in your professional work done for God. The incidents, the problems, the friendships which your work brings with it will give you food for prayer. The effort to improve your own daily occupation will give you the chance to experience the cross which is essential for a Christian. When you feel your weakness, the failures which arise even in human undertakings, you will gain in objectivity, in humility, and in understanding for others. Successes and joys will prompt you to thanksgiving and to realize that you do not live for yourself, but for the service of others and of God.  (1)

It’s Monday, and many of us on Monday’s are suffering from the toxicity of life.

Maybe it is because we overdid it on the weekends. Some have a tendency to enjoy some things a little too much, and what is good in moderation affects us when we move past the line of moderation into levels of excess.  It can become toxic.

Others aren’t enjoying their weekends, the dynamics of what might be called their “home life” is the source of the toxicity.  Broken families, broken relationships, broken lives.  Or maybe those we love, are suffering from this, and we spend our free time anxious on their behalf.  Our inability to do anything we consider tangible leads to a toxicity that is paralyzing.

Or maybe the toxicity is what we spend our weekends dreading, the return of Monday and the toxicity of our workplaces.  Maybe our work situation forces us to be too competitive, to unethical, or to take on burdens and scars we are tired of facing.

I have a bunch of people who are into various cleansing diets.  They purge the bad stuff from their system with shakes or drinks that basically cleanse their digestive tracts, and maybe their bloodstream as well.

I think we see our baptism as such – a spiritual cleansing – a purging of all the sin and unrighteousness that oppresses us.  Confession and Communion, as sacraments, have a similar effect.

Oddly enough, my devotional reading this morning lead me to believe a similar blessing is found in that dreadful thing known as Monday.  For in the suffering, in the toxicity, we find the cross, we find a reason for prayer, we find the need to depend on the Holy Spirit’s presence.  For the Holy Spirit, often through the oddest people, brings comfort and cleansing to the toxicity.  The Spirit enables us to know peace, unexplainable peace, that comes from being assured of the presence of God, and His cleansing, the power of His blood poured out for us in death, and his body, in which we are raised to life. Abundant life.

This is the work of the Spirit in our various vocations, the roles we take on, often just for physical survival, yet which the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, uses to bless us, and those around us.  For in exercising our faith our trust in God, we come to hope, to expect, that His love sustains us, even on Monday.

For if in the midst of all the toxicity that surrounds such a day, we can know peace, then we realize His presence is with us, not just in church on Sunday, but in the moments of every day.

So rejoice, it is Monday!  God is with you!  The Holy Spirit is drawing yo into the glory of God, intoHolinesss, into that moment of peace!

And remember – when you are given food for prayer because of the incidents and problems, when the suffering helps you be aware of the cross, and the need for Christ’s love, cry out Lord Have Mercy on Us!

Know He will!

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1477-1481). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When Justification Isn’t Enough

Devotional/Discussion Thought fo the Day:

7  I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Romans 1:7 (NLT)

7  I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Romans 1:7 (NLT)

1  This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.
2 Corinthians 1:1 (NLT)

1  This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2  God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace.
1 Peter 1:1-2 (NLT)

356      The first Apostles, when Our Lord called them, were by the side of an old boat busy mending the torn nets. Our Lord told them to follow him and statim—immediately—relictis omnibus—they left everything—everything! And followed him… And it does happen sometimes that we, who wish to imitate them, don’t quite leave everything, and there remains some attachment in our heart, something wrong in our life which we’re not willing to break with and offer up to God. Won’t you examine your heart in depth? Nothing should remain there except what is his. If not, we aren’t really loving him, neither you nor I. (1)

In Lutheran Theology, the Article of Justification has a primary place. Indeed, some call it the chief article of the faith.  But that doesn’t mean that it is the only article of the faith

It is a genesis point, a point of beginning, and God’s declaration of our righteousness is something that continues in our life.  It is hearing this declaration that enabled the disciples to walk away from family and work, and follow Jesus.  His call to them, even as He calls us. But even in Luther’s explanation of the Creed we see that it is a beginning point, that God works something more in us.

But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  (2)

It is work, the enlightenment, the sanctification and preservation that brings Paul and Peter to describe the people of God as holy, as saints (the same thing in Greek)   Were they perfect from our perspective?  No, but God was sanctifying them, and creating in them a perfection that no one can deny.  

While we don’t make ourselves holy, there is the nature of self-examination that helps us realizing that the Holy Spirit is at work.  As the Spirit confronts us, illuminates those things which our heart could easily turn into our idols.  It might not be something that people would normally think of as an idol, but what do we trust in, what can we not live without.  Where does our hope balance upon, and if that is threatened, we react strongly, even vehemently, to protect it. Do we believe something may make a difference, that only it can make a difference?  Then we have made a god and idol and given it a place in our heart that need be reserved for God.

And it is as we examine our conscience, as we look for that which is not set apart from God, that we can cry out like the blind man, “Lord have mercy!”, “Lord, Son of David, Heal me!”

Faith is the confidence it takes to ask God to remove it, to remove that which mars the holiness He has declared to be true.  Faith means we depend on the Holy Spirit to create in us the repentant spirit that is part and parcel of our being declared righteous, being declared justified.  Faith realizes that we’ve been united, that we are in communion with Jesus.  That his incredible union, our baptismal gift from God, is strengthened as we spend sacred time,  participating in the sacrament of the Eucharist, hearing we are absolved of our sin, reading and hearing scriptures and meditating on all these things.

This is our life saints… to cry out for mercy, and to trust God as He purifies our lives, a work that is brought to completion in the day of Christ.

Justification is primary, yes, as in the beginning.  It is not all the work of God in our lives, just that which begins and makes the rest possible including the amazing fact that we can love God, and He would know that love.  For this purpose we have been created… to love our God, and to know His love for us, His people.

AMEN!

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1406-1412). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Are Christians Willing to Engage in This Fight?

Discussion Thought of the Day:
23  All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings. 24  Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25  Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26  That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27  I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.
1 Corinthians 9:23-27 (TEV)

22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 7:22-25 (NLT)

209      In your personal prayer, whenever you experience the weakness of the flesh you should repeat: Lord, give the Cross to this poor body of mine, which gets tired and rebellious!  (1) 

I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.  (2) 


As I look at my social media feeds, it seems there many Christians are calling others to join in the battle against evil.  Some are targeting the recent bathrooms issues; others are targeting abortion, or homosexuality.  Others are waging other battles against divorce, or perceived injustices.  Some want to take on the entire community of Islam, or at least the terrorists who are creating martyrs of our brothers and sisters. 

There are cries in the church, as some want Equal rights for everyone in the church, or at least equal access to roles.  Others want to purify the faith, returning to eras when they think everyone was pure and without sin. They base this on a form of worship, or the use of a translation, or some other thing, overlooking the sin and division of those days.

There are many, many pleas, people begging us to join the battle, and each battle promises some form of heaven on earth, should we be faithful and win.  They promise utopia, if only our side can win, and the other be crushed in defeat.

But the war which is more critical, a true war for our souls.  One which we so easily overlook, one which is simple in theory to win, yet so difficult to execute and realize the victory.

The war for my soul.  The war for your soul. 

This is a battle for holiness, one which has faded into the background, because these other battles are easier to gather people around, they are less insidious, and we can be the heroes that are lauded and praised.  We can even find theological precepts, or create them, warning people about this horror called pietism, without extolling piety.  We will call people to focus on God declaring people to be righteous while ignoring the sanctification that makes the declaration true.

The personal war in our own souls, the souls which the apostle Paul describes at war, that St Josemaria describes as tired and rebellious,  the soul Luther describes as requiring the Holy Spirit to cleanse and make holy.  For we don’t have the ability to do it, save in our surrendering to the Spirit’s work.

What generations of the church called mortification comes from letting the Spirit purge us of sin, of bringing healing to that which is broken, to cleanse those parts of our lives that are rotting spiritually.

Or do we imagine Paul was speaking hypothetically when he talks of being disqualified?

Mortification is not about whipping your body physically; it is by no means that easy.  It is not about fasting to purify yourself, but it can help you to focus and prioritize.  In advocating the mortification that the Spirit controls, I am not talking about some kind of self-abuse.   Then again, we have to do something about the abuse that does crush us, our tendency to sin, even though we are Christ’s.  The sin that leads us to dare confess our wretchedness, and be guided to healing and strength by the Spirit.

Mortification is allowing the Spirit to guide you to take up your cross and walk with Christ. The quote from Romans 7 is preceded by that very discussion in chapter 6.  We are nailed to the cross with Christ, and it is back to that cross we must go to deal with sin and temptation.  If we are to find the strength to withstand the temptation this time, and the grace for those times in the past and the future when we will fail and fall.

Mortification is confessing our sins, and receiving absolution, it is found in remembering the promises that were made sure in our baptism, that we are called to know, as we feast on the Body and Blood of Christ.  As we kneel in prayer, as we adore the God, who calls us His.  These spiritual blessings, these things we call disciplines, are the place where we are reminded that spiritual warfare is the victory that comes in walking with Christ.

It prepares us for the other battles, giving us the reminder about what those battles are.  They aren’t the decisive battle between good and evil, but a rescue mission for the souls of the people we engage with, knowing that God desires that they too are declared righteous, and made holy by the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.   Because we need to remember that, for it is our hope when we begin to stray.

AMEN!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 914-916). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press

We pray and plead with you…”Do You Job!”

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
3  For we remember before our God and Father how you put your faith into practice, how your love made you work so hard, and how your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (TEV)

9  The servant does not deserve thanks for obeying orders, does he? 10  It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say, ‘We are ordinary servants; we have only done our duty.’Luke 17:9-10 (TEV)

12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.(1 Th 2:12 NLT)

92         Every Christian has the duty to bring peace and joy to his own surroundings on earth. This cheerful crusade of manliness will move even shrivelled or rotten hearts, and raise them to God.  (1)

“Do your job”  – Bill Belichick

This week a couple of Patriots players commented that their coach rarely compliments people, and that when he does, it really really means something to them.  It’s not just someone trying to be nice, or trying to motivate them, the praise is sincere and they are worthy of it.  They might not even think what they did was that noteworthy, but Coach noticed it.  Often it is just that they obeyed his instructions to “Do your job.”

Some people make a big deal of living a life in tune with Jesus, reflecting his love  Some will argue that such is a mandate, that we aren’t saved unless we reach that level of perfection.  Others will point out that it is wrong to tie works to salvation, works to being required to have faith.  They are so afraid that people would think they saved themselves that to teach anything as what we should do puts them into a frenzied panic.

Yet we don’t see that in the writings of St. Paul to the churches, especially this church in Thessalonika. We see a prayer that encourages and applauds living life in harmony with Jesus.  We see Paul plead with people freed from the Old Covenant Law to live a life in a manner consistent with what God created and recreated them to be. It is the understanding St. Josemaria had when he talked of our joy and peace transforming even the most shrivelled of hearts.

It is simply what we do.  It is a response to God asking us to “do our job.”

Do what you are created to do.  It’s not miraculous, though it requires a supernatural dependence on the mercy of God.  It is not special, it is just ordinary.  It is serving, ministering to the needs of those God puts in our path.  And the more time we spend with Jesus, the more it becomes, unnoticed.  It is just our life, and we encounter it with the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life!  

This is the life described in Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 12-14.  A life lived, affected deeply, far more than just consciously by God’s work in our baptism, and in those times where we commune with Jesus’ Body and Blood.   When we are in awe of His love and His presence, when the Spirit has us focusing on Him, there is a mystical transformation that occurs, as God conforms us into His image.

And so we pray, and plead with you, do your job, confident that God will work in you, even as He planned.

So go, “do your job!”

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 599-601). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

 

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