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The Great American Temptation…

Devotional Thought of the day:

26 Do any of you think you are religious? If you do not control your tongue, your religion is worthless and you deceive yourself. 27 What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
James 1:26-27 (TEV)

907         They spread slander and then make sure themselves that someone comes along immediately to tell you: “It is said that…” No doubt that is villainous, but don’t lose your peace; the tongue can do you no harm, if you work honestly. Consider how silly they are, how tactless, humanly speaking, and what a lack of loyalty they show towards their brothers—and especially towards God!
And don’t go and fall into slander yourself, through an ill-conceived idea of the right to reply. If you have to say anything, make use of fraternal correction as the Gospel advises us.

Therefore, to avoid this vice we should note that no one is allowed publicly to judge and reprove his neighbor, although he may see him sin, unless he have a command to judge and to reprove. For there is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it, but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is greater than his. But if you know it, do nothing else than turn your ears into a grave and cover it, until you are appointed to be judge and to punish by virtue of your office.

Often, sinning is like a Olympic Sport.

We train for it, we cheer on when someone excels in it, and rarely do we offer real critique… even when they are our adversary there our critigue is meant to hurt, rather than help improve.

And yet we call ourselves Christians, belivers, we claim to strive for holiness, to be imitators of Christ.

Check out a basketball court, or hear the comments made among friends during the NFL draft, or get a bunch or religous folk in the room, and bring up televanglists, theoligical liberals or legalists.

We greet the news of someone falling with cheers, and cries of”they got what they deserve” as if we were the judges that condemned them to their fate, as if we knew all that led to their brokenness.

Our slander may even be in response to their attacks on our charachter, our personality, even our ministry, and so we react in kind, not seeing why their attack is so brutal, so negative, so deriding.

We just defend ourselves, and want to show them as more frequent and worse… sinners.

God calls us to live in a life of grace, to live a life that is beyond such pettiness, such gossip, such slander. We don’t have to defame that politician, or that sports team, that actress.

We don’t have to do that because we don’t have to prove ourselves better than them, we don’t don’t have ot be better, we can simply relax knowing that God loves us.

You see, whether it is trash talking on the basketball court, talking about the president or congress, or talking about our obnoxious neighbor, the bottom line for doing it is that we think we somehow gain something, whether it is self-esteem or revenge,

Which is why the Biblical letter of James helps us properly define religion, It is why Luther tells us to avoid judging and condemning others. It is why St Josemaria warns us not to fall for the same temptation.

We fine our identity in Jesus, we find true justice there as well. As we do, that person we once trash talked and gossipped about becomes someone else God would save, someone else He would transform, someone else He loves. They are someone God would have us love, not from compulsion but from realizing what God is trying to do in their life.

So think before you speak, and if your thoughts aren’t nice… we need to pray before speaking, asking God to help us know His presence, and His love. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3689-3694). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

Spiritual Formation, Gossip and Presidential Campaigns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought fo the Day:
16  “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
Exodus 20:16 (NLT)

263 The third aspect of this commandment concerns us all. It forbids all sins of the tongue by which we may injure or offend our neighbor. False witness is clearly a work of the tongue. Whatever is done with the tongue against a neighbor, then, is forbidden by God. This applies to false preachers with their corrupt teaching and blasphemy, to false judges and witnesses with their corrupt behavior in court and their lying and malicious talk outside of court.
264 It applies particularly to the detestable, shameful vice of back-biting or slander by which the devil rides us. Of this much could be said. It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others.
265 To avoid this vice, therefore, we should note that nobody has the right to judge and reprove his neighbor publicly, even when he has seen a sin committed, unless he has been authorized to judge and reprove

444    Never speak badly of your brother, not even when you have plenty of reasons for doing so. Go first to the tabernacle, and then go to the priest, your father, and also tell him what is bothering you. And to no one else.

As I have been considering God’s discipline recently, and the way in which God forms us, I realize we are in a season where our faith is either tried significantly.  It is a time where we can depend on God, or we can rebel, being disobedient children ruled by fear and anxiety.

For the temptation is great during this presidential campaign to gossip, to speak ill of people, from the candidates themselves to those who back them.

Please hear me, there are issues that we need to discuss, issues that themselves lead to sin, advocate and approve of it.

There is more to the debate, both in this world and in the cyber portion of it.  There are rumors, which we are ready to believe and exaggerate as we spread them throughout our spheres of influence. There is character assassination done, and we rejoice as we have the chance to “speak the truth.”

If we took St. Josemaria’s advice, how better off would we be?  If we took those anxieties and laid them at the altar from which we receive the Body and Blood of Christ?  If we still struggled, going to our pastor, our priest, those who assist them in guiding us, and let them reassure us of God’s promises, his presence, and His benevolent, loving merciful reign over all of His creation including our hearts and mind.

What we happen if we didn’t try to destroy the people running for office, but instead prayer for their salvation, and that they would know, without any doubt, the love of God or them?

What I am saying takes a lot of faith, it requires us to depend on God in a way similar to the children of Israel were supposed to trust during the Exodus a the Exile.

This is spiritual formation, this is spiritual growth, this is living the life of a disciple.

It is my prayer that this election season that we all may grow in the awareness of God’s grace and love, so that this faith would be revealed to all.

AMEN!

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1090-1092). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Dangerous Thought on Tax Day: A Day of Repentance

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand 2  No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous. Titus 3:1-2 (MSG)

13  Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; 14  they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. 15  It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. 16  Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. 17  Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. 1 Peter 2:13-17 (MSG)

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and some of the Herod-party to trap him in an argument. They came up and said to him, “Master, we know that you are an honest man and that you are not swayed by men’s opinion of you. Obviously you don’t care for human approval but teach the way of God with the strictest regard for truth – is it right to pay tribute to Caesar or not: are we to pay or not to pay?”  15  But Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why try this trick on me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” 16  So they brought one to him. “Whose face is this?” asked Jesus, “and whose name is in the inscription?” 17  “Caesar’s,” they replied. And Jesus said, Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God!” a reply which staggered them. Mark 12:13-17 (Phillips NT)

67 The scene of the parable is being repeated: it is the same as with those people who were invited to the wedding feast. Some are afraid, others have their own concerns, many… make up stories or give silly excuses. They put up resistance. That is why they feel the way they do: fed up, all in a muddle, listless, bored, bitter. And yet how easy it is to accept the divine invitation at every moment, and live a happy life, full of joy!  (1)

It is April 15th, the day annual tax documents are do in the USA.

It’s also a day where we should confess our sins, and be absolved for them.

For disobeying the law, not man’s law (though some of us are guilty of that!), but God’s law.  The law which tells us the government is something God has established as a blessing for us.

Now some of you are thinking – but the government uses our money for evil, the government is trying to persecute the church, the government is giving our hard earned dollars to those that do not deserve it, the government is, and the slander and disrespect goes on and on, without end.  Unlike Jesus on the cross – who could have called down 10,000 angels while he was hanging on the cross, we want to call down God’s wrath on those who would take our idols, our Benjamins, Franklins and Lincolns.  Heck we begrudge even the littlest Lincoln upon which the government has a claim.

Dare someone quote the words from scripture above, and ridicule and scorn will shift, from the government, to the one writing them.  People (and pastors too) will start justifying their actions, and especially their words and their thoughts.  In do so, they deny that sin occurs in thoughts and words, beside in the things we do.  We toss our theology out the window – in order to protect the “rite” to free speech.  Even when that speech is sinful.

It’s time to repent, its time to realize that in keeping the fourth commandment, (honor thy Father and Mother) that includes the blessing of the government God established, the government that has the right to tax us, and to set what those taxes are.  It’s time to stop stealing, stop bearing false witness, to stop coveting our governments stuff.  Instead we should pray for them, bless them respect them (and not just “the office).

We’ve got a much better thing to be doing, we can revel in the presence of God, we can rejoice at His love and mercy. That’s what it means to find our place in the wedding banquet, rather than in the marketplace complaining and slandering.  It is what it means to live as forgiven, baptized children of God – to do things (like obeying the government) that we do – for God’s sake.

It’s a time for us to hear our sins are forgiven, that God has rescued us, that we no longer need to protect our idols.

It’s a day to know God’s mercy so well, the we show it to others….

May our Lord Jesus Christ walk with us this day, and may the Spirit of God, dwelling within us, empower us to keep these words above.

AMEN.

I am tired of it. 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 500-505). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Why are we so eager to “share” gossip and “memes” that make others look bad?

1 “Don’t pass on malicious gossip. “Don’t link up with a wicked person and give corrupt testimony. 2 Don’t go along with the crowd in doing evil and don’t fudge your testimony in a case just to please the crowd”.  Exodus 23:1-2 (MSG)

 8 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.”  Philippians 4:8 (TEV)

It is the most trying thing about FB and Google+ and other social media.  It is a sin that needs to be checked, and it is more rampant and as devastating as any thing the church normally publicly protests.

It is not just violating the 8th commandment, but is a complete disregard of it, and the two passages above.  The incessant number of rumors, most of them lies, that we are so willing to pass on, without checking the facts behind the story, something that can be done with a highlight and a click or two.  Of course, we also takes these “gems” of wisdom with us, and they end up in conversations over lunch, or preceding Bible Studies and Worship services, giving more fuel to the falsehood, because people we know and care about shared them with us.

These days, many of them are still about the President of the United States.  Even more about the Pope who is about to retire, or about the church he oversees.  But there are many targets out there, and the gossip and slander is…sickening.  

I will be the first one to admit that I have done this in the past. 

I will also admit that with both men, and their predecessors and positions I have some issues.  (Less with this particular pope, more with the theology he inherits from the Council of Trent) If we have issues – deal with the real issues.  Do not degrade someone, do not dismiss someone based on heresay and gossip that has nothing to do with the issues. engage in discourse with those who can affect them. They are not the enemy…nor is any target of gossip and slander.  (see Eph 6)

There are a number of logical positions that can be made about this topic – how such spreading such gossip affects your own credibility, how it is simply sin, how it hardens you, and affects your prayer life, and your relationship as you dismiss other sins just as easily.

But simply put – it is sin, and we are called to abstain from it, be reconciled to those damaged by it, and to confess it.  Grace will not abound because you share that picture, or that article, or that quip or slam… it just won’t.  

But when we sin, confess it, and know we are forgiven…and cleansed… and then go and sin no more..

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