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Why the Church Needs to Be One…

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought for our Days:

18 Here is My Servant whom I have chosen, My beloved in whom My soul delights; I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations. 19 He will not argue or shout, and no one will hear His voice in the streets. 20 He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick, until He has led justice to victory. 21 The nations will put their hope in His name.

1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.
2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.

194      Nam, et si ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis, non timebo mala—though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, no evil will I fear. Neither my wretchedness nor the temptations of the enemy will worry me, quoniam tu mecum es—for you Lord are with me.

Our Lord prayed that His church would be one, as united as God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are one.  Historic churches usually use either the Apostles or Nicene Creed each week, in which they state they believe and depend upon the Holy Spirit to work through the church, which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

And most of us desire the church to be unified, if by unified we mean that those who disagree with us come to our position, imitate our practice, and bow to our superior, more Christ-like version of the one true faith.

But do we ask why we need to be one?

Do we seek the underlying reason to put our own preferences aside, to work diligently through the different understandings, why we need to humbly listen and work with each other?

It is seen in my devotional readings this morning.

This world is broken without hope.  It is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and it does fear evil, the anxiety seems to be growing at a palpable rate.

Our only hope is in the Lord, who will deal with us with both His incredible power and HIs incredible care.  He will nurse us back to heal, like someone tending a bruised plant, the Holy Spirit’s gentle comfort us will take us and kindle in us a roaring fire.

Our unity directly affects that witness, the ability to give that hope.  That doesn’t mean we compromise on things critical to having trust in God, but rather, we work all the harder at making it happen.  We acknowledge our broken fractured church and pray together, then work to see it become one, for it is one in Christ Jesus.

Lord, give us the desire to see You heal our brokenness, our divisions. Help us to seek you together in prayer, and to work diligently together to give this world the hope it can only find in You.  Lord, have mercy on us all, for we are sinners in need of your healing.  AMEN!

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 873-876). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Sharing the Hope You have in Christ Jesus: Doing God’s work

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

27  “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 28  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:27-30 (NLT)

658    If things go well, let’s rejoice, blessing God, who makes them prosper. And if they go wrong? Let’s rejoice, blessing God, who allows us to share the sweetness of his cross.

We are too much like the laborers of the first hour in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Mt 20:1–16). Once they discovered that they could have earned their day’s pay of one denarius in a much easier way, they could not understand why they had had to labor the whole day. But what a strange attitude it is to find the duties of our Christian life unrewarding just because the denarius of salvation can be gained without them! It would seem that we—like the workers of the first hour—want to be paid not only with our own salvation, but more particularly with others’ lack of salvation. That is at once very human and profoundly un-Christian.Escriva,

A recent response to a blog indicated that I was doing something wrong, by trying to show that sharing one’s faith, doing the work revealing the love and mercy of Christ, was wrong.  The writer thought I was unjustly burdening people, by using the law to motivate people.

Except that in a relationship with God, sharing the good news of His mercy, the love He wants everyone to know, isn’t hard, or burdensome. It is if we condemn people for not doing it, but it isn’t if we free them to be able to share the greatest gift they have ever been given.

Like Herod talking to John the Baptist, I like and dislike hearing the words of Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict).  They ring very true – why are we jealous of those who find a relationship with God at the last minute?  Are we upset that we had to work harder alongside our master?

I’ve often explained it this way.  Imagine some billionaire is down at the local bank, handing out million dollar checks to whoever shakes his hand.  You get yours, deposit it.  What do you do?  Do you simply go home, or go to the local BMW dealer?  Or do you get out your cell phone and call a few friends?  Do you consider it work, do you consider it burdensome to do so?  No, you do it because you know people who could use some cash, and you care about them.

It’s the same thing with the good news that God loves you.  Yeah – you.  He loves you so much to carefully strip away everything that hinders you, all the sin, all the resentment from being sinned against, all the crap in your life. Is that worth more than a million dollars?  If we realize it is, then shouldn’t we joyfully share it with those who are hindered and broken by sin?

That is what being yoked to Christ is about in this life.  It’s about doing the Father’s will, helping fulfill His desire that all would come to the transformation that is true repentance.  Serving others, ministering to their needs, helping them find Jesus, and the hope He gives them in life.  Some have the vocation of doing this as shepherds of God’s people.  But if they are doing it while they are shepherding, so the church is doing it alongside them.  Which is why the burden is easy.  We aren’t alone.  We bear this with all the church, and with the Lord of Life, the Holy Spirit who indwells and empowers us.

It is bearing our crosses, it is abiding in Christ.  When we see people come to know Him, to receive His mercy, His forgiveness, His love, it is an incredibly joy filled experience.  When the road gets a little rough, when thins don’t work as we  planned, when we are rejected or when we are oppressed, we still are sharing His cross, His yoke, and dwelling in His presence, the joy remains.

It is the only work, the only vocation I know of, where we beg people to join with us, as we rest in peace.  His peace.

Enjoy it!

Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1538-1539). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (pp. 217–218). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Sharing Hope not Winning a Verdict

Discussion/Devotional thought of the day:

It seems that somewhere after CS Lewis, the nature of evangelism and apologetics shifted from coming alongside a person, and sharing the reason we have faith, into a contest of beliefs, a combat of philosophies, where the more logical, the more provable position wins, even if it loses.  The Christian apologist loses, not by presenting a less logical system of belief, but the moment the conversation turns into win-loose discussion, the moment they become condescending, the moment they seek to trump the other persons belief system.

Consider this, from a catholic evangelist,
“The spreading of Christian teaching need not provoke antagonism, or harm those who do not know our doctrine. Caritas omnia suffert!—love bears all things. If one proceeds with charity, anyone who might otherwise have been opposed to Christianity and been deceived by error may easily and honestly end up committing himself to it. However, there can be no giving ground in dogma in the name of a naive “breadth of belief”, for if anyone acted in this way he would risk putting himself out of the Church. Instead of winning a benefit for others he would harm himself.”  Escriva,

Too often,  we rejoice in the well honed comeback, the story where the young Christian trumps the professor, or the atheist, where “we show them”.  Yet such victories ring hollow, if the other person walks away without the hope that we rejoice in knowing Jesus, and the enormous dimensions of His love, if they walk away without hearing of God’s love that will heal their lives crushed by sin.  Apologetics – is not a game – its not a victory strategy over people who live in darkness, who have no concept of light.

Our purpose isn’t to win an argument, it is to win a life.

That doesn’t mean we compromise our faith, but we patiently work with those on the journey, helping them get used to what is revealed, a God who has come to them, who will cleanse their wounds, who will take their burdens, who will walk beside them, making their journey one of joy, no matter the struggle.  That is why the Holy Spirit’s “nickname” is the Paraclete, the Comforter, the One called alongside…and as we are the temples where that Spirit dwells, we too are called alongside…

To share, as St Peter tells us, the reason we have hope….

Lord Have mercy, and as we realize that He has… may we share that with those who do not know it…. yet!

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