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Creeds, Declarations and Spiritual Warfare.

A Devotional Thought for our Days:

The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.  2 Corinthians 10: 4-5(Phillips NT)

824         Do you feel as if goodness and absolute truth have been deposited with you, and therefore that you have been invested with a personal title or right to uproot evil at all costs? You will never solve anything like that, but only through Love and with love, remembering that Love has forgiven you and still forgives you so much!

It seems in the last week another religious crusade has erupted.  On one side there are those who are signing a creed that defines proper marriage and marital relationships.  On the other side a creed that defends people who don’t seem to fit within those relationships. Both have proponents that say unless you support their new creed, you really aren’t a Christian.  And that is definitely true if you do support the opponents Creed.  

Thousands have proudly affixed their names to one or the other creeds.  They call them declarations, but when you define your understanding of the Christian faith by them when you say this is what you believe or what you condemn, they are creeds or confessions. ( Ironically, a lot of those signing these documents come from church brotherhoods or denominations that were against having formal creeds!) 

Which is why I will sign neither.

Simply put, I want a creed and confession that gives me hope.  I want one that promises reconciliation, one that isn’t condescending or treats those with other beliefs like their enemy.  I want one that talks of God’s work in our lives.

Paul says it clearly, our weapons are spiritual, they pull down Satan’s strongholds, revealing to people the true knowledge of God.  It doesn’t tear them down but rather reveals God in such a way that people’s thoughts are about Him. 

That’s what the historic creeds and confessions do, they bring people to Jesus, and leave them in awe, knowing they are loved, that their sin is forgiven, and that the Holy Spirit is renewing and reconciling them, transforming them into the image of God.

St. Josemaria states it so well if we think our job is defending God’s truth that has been deposited with us (as if He left the building ).  Apologists are to give the reason we have hope, not wield a rushing and condemning offense. Our job is to love, knowing the mercy of God, and treasuring is so much we want everyone to have it revealed to them. 

Yes, we need to show them the need for it, but we need to do so with love, not with anger, or with statements made without the chance for conversation and revealing God’s grace.   That is why there is a call to remember our own brokenness, and how Jesus addressed that with mercy, and do likewise.  From out of our brokenness, we approach others differently than if we were the self-appointed morality police. From out of our brokenness, we realize the blessed truth found in creeds and confessions that talk of God’s love and redemption, of His works through one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Love them, pray for them, ask God to bless them, and do battle for them, with the intent of saving their souls.  This is spiritual warfare, this is the hope our creeds give us!

That the Lord is with us! AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3390-3393). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Battle for Spiritual Growth….is Not What it Seems…

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:
12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.      Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

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 7:24-25 (NLT)

223      Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.

For decades I think we’ve bought into an idea of spiritual growth that is both childish, and damaging. It begins with telling stories of the great people that precede us in the faith as if they were perfect, as if they had no faults, as if they weren’t broken.

King David was perfect, and not an adulterer and murderer.  St Paul was a theologian par excellence, without a doubt or any struggle with sin. ( I can even find commentaries that say the above quote from Romans was St. Paul talking about prior to his conversion! )  We will whitewash Luther’s bi-polar nature, or Mother Theresa’s dealing with both depression.  We do this all the time, even with the modern folks we believe will be the next generation’s heroes of the faith.

That idea seems to be revealed for what it is, immature at best and perhaps deliberately misleading.

Paul struggled with sin, he realized that he had to battle for what was his in Christ, not to achieve it, but to receive it, to believe in, to depend on it. Even when our heart is trying to get us to focus on our sin, on our failures, on our spiritual growth not being as great as it should be.

St. Josemaria describes in a way that resonates with me, that there are times where we are going backwards, rather than forwards, that things are getting worse rather than better.  I resemble this at times, more often that I want to admit.

Which makes it challenging, because my mind will then move to why be a pastor, if I can’t grow deeper in faith myself?

Evaluating our spiritual growth is good, if we understand what spiritual growth is, what it really looks like, how it is measured.

The struggle with our sinfulness is part of it, we should never become complacent with our sin.  It shouldn’t haunt us, for Christ has won the victory over it, but we shouldn’t become complacent either. Our sin still needs to irritate us, disgust us, make us uncomfortable.

Not so we hide from God, but that we depend upon Him to purge that sin from us, that He would transform us.  Growth that has as its goal that we would treasure His love and mercy more than we treasure the sin.

This is growth, this battle, this fight, a growth which seems unending, but it will end. He has promised and He is faithful.  As He hangs on to us, we learn to hang on to Him.

May we be transparent enough with the generations that follow us, that they clearly see our trusting in God, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when we think we don’t deserve His mercy and love.

For then they will know this growth as well.. and not be as dismayed when Satan assails them.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 959-964). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

How To Find Peace in the Middle of Conflict…. is it possible?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

6  I am tired of living among people who hate peace. 7  I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war! Psalm 120:6-7 (NLT)

304    Each day try to find a few minutes of that blessed solitude you need so much to keep your interior life going.

I am getting very tired.

Tired of those who yearn to fight, whether trying to tempt others into confrontations or verbal arguments, and especially those over spiritual things. I’m tired of watching those who would try and dominate over others, forcing their opinions, even opinions about inconsequential things, on others.

Tired of seeing people react without thought, assuming the worst, rather than letting things settle down and work out.  I can think of international issues, issues in our cities, issues in the Church. People trying to take advantage of those emotions, encouraging division, encouraging the battles that can rob people of any comfort, of any peace.

So do we just walk away, do we fail to minister to those on embroiled in conflict?  Do we hole up in a cave, like some in the early church did, creating our own monastic fortress, a place where heaven is on earth, and there is no conflict, no battles, no one trying to take over our world?

Or do we stand and minister to those in the fight?  Do we enter the fray, with the intention, not of fighting, but simply giving aid and pointing out to those in turmoil the hope of peace that is always there in Christ?

It is not so much that we find peace; rather we need to know that we have it already.  We have it because the Spirit dwells within us, because the Spirit brings that peace into our lives from the beginning. Therefore, our presence in the conflict can bring peace there.We become the point of peace, not only for ourselves, but all of those involved in the conflict – even the aggressors.

For us to have the ability to do so, we must take time to be with Him, in solitude, to pour our heart out, to let Him take our burdens.  We need to let Him not only bear the weight fo the sins committed against us, but to deal with our sin as well. That’s what it means to be still, and know that He is God.

For being involved in conflict, even as the peacekeeper wears you down, and it isn’t your strength that will sustain you.  Even more so, if you are the one involved in the conflict, if you are the one being engaged,

We need Christ; we need to know Him, depend on Him and trust Him, in every situation, in every moment.

For as we grow in our relationship with Him, even in the middle of a battle, or an argument, or as our frustrations grow, we ill depend on His presence, and that will give us the hope and peace needed to survive.  That is the result of spending that time Saint Josemaria talks of, that time in solitude and silence,..with our Lord.

Lord, have mercy!

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 789-790). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why fighting false teaching is not a oneman job.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
19  Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?20  So Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. Matthew 17:19-21 (NKJV)

Again you say, “The temporal power is not forcing men to believe; it is simply seeing to it externally that no one deceives the people by false doctrine;85 how could heretics otherwise be restrained?” Answer: This the bishops should do; it is a function entrusted to them86 and not to the princes. Heresy can never be restrained by force. One will have to tackle the problem in some other way, for heresy must be opposed and dealt with otherwise than with the sword. Here God’s word must do the fighting. If it does not succeed, certainly the temporal power will not succeed either, even if it were to drench the world in blood. Heresy is a spiritual matter which you cannot hack to pieces with iron, consume with fire, or drown in water. God’s word alone avails here, as Paul says in II Corinthians 10[:4–5], “Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty in God to destroy every argument and proud obstacle that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and to take every thought captive in the service of Christ.”[1)

Over the last few days, I’ve given a bit of thought to how to deal with those who promote heresy or heterodoxy, and to those who attempt to deal with it.  It is a bit of a focus in the higher echelons of my denomination presently.  Or at least some are making the case that it is, and they are struggling to determine how to deal with it, or not deal with it.

Yet in the parish, we have to deal with both heresy and heterodoxy.  It may be someone who has strayed into it.  It may be someone who deliberately comes into the church, or posts something on FB.  So how do we approach those who would lead people away from the mercy of Christ?

The question, no matter the situation, whether large and prevailing, like Arius, or the lady who watches Joel Oseteen, is whether we can confront is love, and call the person to repentance.  This is why force cannot be used, or power and “authority”.  That is not the pastoral approach, nor is tt that of Matthew 18, where it is not the individual or the elders that deal with the sinner, but the community of God.

Why does this work this way? Simple, because as faith  and prayer, leaving it in the hands of God.

You see, when you fight heresy by your own strength, by your own will, what you are doing is falling into heresy, for you have created a idol out of your position.  Worse than heresy is this… for it is blasphemy.

You see, when dealing with history, one must be pastoral, one must care for souls.  Doing so is critical, to have the people of God be the correcting source, the church is the one who has the witness.  Not just any one man has the ability to defeat heresy or heterodoxy.  You see, dealing with it through force, through authority doesn’t evangelize, either the heterodox or heretical, or those who are watching the confrontation.  You see, they need to hear the clear gospel as well, those who would challenge it. By using authority, by using force to bluntly crush heresy and heterodoxy, you fail in that regard, you don’t show the people the true gospel, the light that will always shatter the darkness, that will reveal clearly Christ.

That’s what is important, not seeing them crucified, but seeing them crucified with Christ.

This is ministry, it isn’t easy to bear this cross, and not everyone is able to….. but this is how He did it, embracing, reconciling transforming….

That is what those who follow Him pray to see… not to win a battle, but as we see Christ victorius over sin and satan and death.

May we pray for all souls.. even as we desire to see all reconciled.

(Side note – seeing the church work together in this – also allows for the humility that corrects us when we go astray…)

85 On Luthers approval in another connection of the position here rejected, see Kawerau (ed.), Kötlin’s Martin Luther, I, 584.

86 Cf. Titus 1:9ff.

[1] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 45, p. 114). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

An Introduction to Spiritual Warfare…..

devotional thought of the day;

Featured image We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5  We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to really hearing (obeying) Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (adapted from the NLT)

3  Long ago the LORD said to His People   I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. Jeremiah 31:3 (adapted from the NLT) 

764      Now, when the Cross has become a serious and weighty matter, Jesus will see to it that we are filled with peace. He will become our Simon of Cyrene, to lighten the load for us. Then say to him, trustingly: “Lord, what kind of a Cross is this? A Cross which is no cross. Now I know the trick. It is to abandon myself in you; and from now on, with your help, all my crosses will always be like this.”  (1)

I see a lot of talk on line, and indeed, I’ve probably got 50 -75 books on Spiritual Warfare.

Some dismissing it, some exhaustive guides on what to do when you face this, face that.  Books on praying for those who are spiritually oppressed, even a couple of odd guides on exorcism.  ( Having read them, and knowing about the sons of Sceva… I wonder why those without experience dare write such!)

Ultimately, spiritual warfare is a fight to trust in God.  To abandon ourselves, our hearts, our minds, our souls, in Christ.  To realize the cross we bear… the anxieties, pains (yes physical/emotional/spiritual) we endure, are endured differently, because we are united to Jesus.  That they can’t separate us from Him, that He has promised these things will be a blessing.

When I replaced the word “obeying” with “really hearing” Jesus in the quote above, I do so because that is what the Greek means. Hyper – which translates as…well “hyper”; and the work akou, which simply means to hear.   We need to hear Him, we need to hear of His love, of His mercy.  We need to understand that He became man, suffered under pilate, was crucified, died and was buried – not for His own personal gain, but to gain us… His people.

That is where spiritual warfare begins, at the baptismal font where we are claimed by Jesus, and joined to His cross.   Where we are made His people – as He desires, as He and the Father planned from before the foundation of the world. Where the promises are sealed to us, guaranteed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. (see Titus 3:1-8)

Yeah – there are spiritual battles, there are demons, and Satan, but they cannot steal someone from God.  Knowing that our burdens, our battles, the things that cause our anxieties, worries, fears… they were defeated at Jesus death.

All spiritual warfare is, including exorcism (and yes, in some cases that is a necessity) , is a battle to make that known…. that we may find refuge, sanctuary, peace.

We must know our cry, “Lord, have mercy” is heard……

And we must hear, as Jesus heard at baptism, “You are my child, and in you I find great joy”

AMEN
(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2751-2754). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

More on the Faith “under attack”

Devotional THought of the Day:  1 God, hear my cry, listen to my prayer. 2  From the end of the earth I call to you with fainting heart. Lead me to the high rock that stands far out of my reach. 3  For you are my refuge, a The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!strong tower against the enemy. 4  Let me stay in your tent for ever, taking refuge in the shelter of your wings! 5  For you, God, accept my vows, you grant me the heritage of those who fear your name. 6  Let the king live on and on, let his years continue age after age. 7  May his throne be always in God’s presence, your faithful love and constancy watch over him. 8  Then I shall always sing to your name, day after day fulfilling my vows.    Psalm 61:1-8 (NJB)  

1. A mighty Fortress is our God a trusty Shield and Weapon;He helps us free from every need that hath us now o’ertaken.The old evil Foe now means deadly woe,deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight. On Earth is not his equal.

2. With might of ours can naught be done soon were our loss effected;  But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is.Of Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God; He holds the field forever.

3. Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us.We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpower us.This world’s prince may still acowl fierce as he will,  He can harm us none, He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him.  (A Mighty Fortress is Our God:  Martin Luther)

I wasn’t planning on writing about Spiritual Warfare again, about the church being under “attack” by society, until I looked at my devotional reading above this morning. Seems King David was no light weight when you consider the internal and external spiritual warfare he faced in life. THink of the time with Saul, where David’s music calmed his spirit.  His sons who died, one because of David’s sin, one because of his own rebellion.  The man was surrounded by enemies, yet so often, not did he just escape, but he triumphed.

Spiritual warfar is like learning the passive self defense styles like judo and akido.  You want to ask the Master, “what do you mean I need to let him hit/kick/grab me before doing anything else?”   “What do you mean that their attack is the beginning of their loss?”   Except we take it one step further.  A real victory for those who attack us, becomes something we rejoice in, in the same way we rejoice in our baseball team, (the World Champion Red Sox) getting the final out that leaves us victorious.

For their victory isn’t found in their triumping over us, but in Christ enveloping them in His love, in His crucifixion, and in the hope of the resurrection.

That is our goal something possible when we realize that if Christ is our Fortress, that if our trust is in Him, then they have to attack us on our ground.  In the fortress where mercy prevails over unforgiveness, where righteousness triumphs over sin, where love overcomes all that is not loving. That when they come to fignt, condemn, mock us, that as we are confident in Christ’s presence, we can point to Him, not as judge, but as Deliverer.

It may be that we have to suffer some, in order to see this happen.  It may be that our “rights” are taken away, it may be, as it is in many countries, that Christians will becoem martyrs, their lives given as a testimony to the love and mercy of Christ.  It’s happened before, it is happening all around the world. Yet it is in those places, where the church/the faith is under true attack, that there are miracles of reconcilliation, or redemption, of repentance.

May we yearn for that, more than we yearn to prove ourselves, our culture, even our theology, “right”.

Lord have mercy, and help us look on our persecutors with mercy and love.

Is a Soul worth it?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4  We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5  We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) 

881 Sacrifice yourself, give yourself, and work at souls one by one, as the jeweller works on precious stones: one by one. Indeed you should exercise even more care, because you are dealing with something of incomparable value. The purpose of that spiritual attention you give is to prepare good instruments for the service of God: and they, each one of them, have cost Christ all of his Blood.

In 2 Corinthians, indeed in several of Paul’s works (and the OT Prophets) we see passages like the one above, where spiritual warfare and pastoral care are challenged, and answered.

The reason that Paul and the prophets, and even Jesus was challenged is simple, someone who cares for a soul will challenge that which enters a life and obscures the work of Holy Spirit, that denies the presence of Christ and our unity in Him, that which would try to convince us that something other than being God’s beloved is what defines life.   Simply put, if some sin, or some belief that would pull your focus away from God’s love for you exists, the word of God will challenge it, and those of us tasked with shepherding you will bring scripture to bear on life, their lives – and yours.

The reason is your soul is worth it.  Your life, lived distracted from God by obstacles, needs to be encouraged back to Him, and the obstacle?  Will you let us destroy it?  Even as Gideon destroyed the Ba;alite altar and image in his dad’s back yard?  Will you let the Holy Spirit perform surgery on your soul, skillfully using the word of God to remove that which holds you back from knowing you love?  Will you trust God to do that, trusting Him to leave you, and eradicate that which isn’t you?

It’s a scary thought. Especially for those who know some of their weaknessness well.  It might be pride, it might be resentment, it might be clinging to a sin that you think defines you, because it has been there so long.

Paul thought the souls of the people in Corinth were worth it, your soul is worth it.  Christ died to heal you from the damage of those obstacles…that is how much your soul is worth to Him.

Maybe its time to confess that sin… and trust in God  – knowing His promise to forgive you, and clease you from all unrighteousness….

Come – talk to a pastor who would love to point you to Christ, and do battle – by God’s strength – with the obstacles that would deny you knowing how much God loves you…

Godspeed!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3110-3113). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Can We Love Those Trapped in Darkness?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 19  So I gave orders for the city gates to be shut at the beginning of every Sabbath, as soon as evening began to fall, and not to be opened again until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my men at the gates to make sure that nothing was brought into the city on the Sabbath. 20  Once or twice merchants who sold all kinds of goods spent Friday night outside the city walls. 21  I warned them, “It’s no use waiting out there for morning to come. If you try this again, I’ll use force on you.” From then on they did not come back on the Sabbath. 22  I ordered the Levites to purify themselves and to go and guard the gates to make sure that the Sabbath was kept holy. Remember me, O God, for this also, and spare me because of your great love.Nehemiah 13:19-22 (TEV)

Every single day, do what you can to know God better, to get acquainted with him, to fall more in love with him each moment, and to think of nothing but of his Love and his glory. You will carry out this plan, my child, if you never, for any reason whatever, give up your times of prayer, your presence of God, with the aspirations and spiritual communions that set you on fire, your unhurried Holy Mass, and your work, finished off well for him. (1)

Through the darkness of sin, Your love reached out to me! The cost of it all, You bore there on that tree! For nothing could stop You declaring us Clean!  Conquered sin, Rose again, now eternail You reign, and so we praise you!   (2)

Yesterday I wrote about the church Militant, that Christian soldiers aren’t marching off to war with sinners, but to liberate those who are oppressed and in bondage to sin.  That are so caught in darkness, that they sturggle to hold on to it, for that is all they know. We mistake that struggle, far too often, as an attack on us.  It is so like the classic lifeguard interaction with a drowning person.  The drowning person strikes out in desperation, and if the lifeguard isn’t careful, the drowning person will take them both under. It takes skill and patience and wisdom to save someone who is drowning.  To know when and where to move, but also to know that these hits are not an attack – but even more a sign of their desperation.

As the lifeguard is sent to save the drowning preson, so too we are sent by Christ to bring His love, His mercy, His peace to those who need to be freed from sin.  To those whose darkness needs to be shattered.by the light of Christ.  They to thrash and strike out – and far too often, we respond, not with the patience and care to save them, but as if they are spoiling for a fight – and we are ready.  We take their struggle to survive – which they cannot on their own – as an attack on Jesus, or the church or us.

In the meantime, they are dying… the people we’ve been sent to bring salvation to, the people we’ve been sent to reflect Christ’s glory and love to…..

You might be wondering what this all has to do with the reading from scripture, from the book of Nehemiah.  And with St. Josemaria’s words.

Call it a lesson in Life-guarding, a lesson in how to deal with those who we think are attacking us, but are really floundering in life. For if we “go to battle” them, what will happen is that we will founder as well.  We will take our eyes off of salvation if we go to battle.

When what we need to see instead, is these people the way the God does – the way oen who would save them and bring them life abundant does, the way the One who died because He loved them does.

That my friends, can only happen, the more time we speand rejoicing in His presence, the more time we realize we live in Him, and He is us. The more we are transformed into His image (see 2 Cor. 3:16)  Then we see His heart – the depth of His love for us – and we will begin to realize that “us” is more than just ourselves – and our friends at church – but us is all people – all ethnicities, all languages, and.. eventually – even those that are out there – itting away at those who would try to bring them back to life, back to standing on solid ground, back into the presence of God.

Where they belong.

Where we would stand against that which would keep people from God, that which would rob them of their time, resting in His presence.  That’s one of the roles of the Levites – the servant priests of God.  To try to guard the precious time people have with God.  That they can know Him more and more – that they can just enjoy His presence, His love, that they can celebrate His mercy, His healing.  The more we, those who minister, those who serve and shepherd, see what happens as our people do this, the more we treasure its impact on them, and the more we realize how this opens their hearts up to seek and save the lost – by brining Christ’s love to them.

How can we love those struggling in darkness, thrashing about, even appearing to attack us?  By realizing how much God loves and desires to cleanse us all, and make us His children.  That’s how we learn to love sinners, trapped in darkness… by learning how Jesus loves us… even there and then as well.

Lord, Have mercy on us, and teach us to show that mercy to all….

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2667-2671). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Lyrics by Rev. Mike Rayson and Dt Parker…

Church “Militant” I don’t think that word means what you think it means….

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

 12  For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens. Ephesians 6:12 (NJB)

18  So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. 19  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’  Matthew 16:18-19 (NJB) 

 1  For is not everything dark as night for a country in distress? As the past humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, so the future will glorify the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, the territory of the nations. 2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on the inhabitants of a country in shadow dark as death light has blazed forth.  Isaiah 9:1-2 (NJB)

Onward Christian Soldiers, marching off to war…. with the cross of Jesus, going on before…  

This morning, there are people crying for the church to wake up, to take up the challenges thrown before it this weekend, to reclaim lost territory as the forces posed against the church have attacked Christianity by once again trying to distort one of it mosts sacred symbols, marriage.  I’ve read concepts that this is the worst attack yet, that the evil people need to be stopped that we have to draw the line here, and reclaim what is ours by right, or else all will be lost. They urge the church to become the church militant… I can hear pipe organs warming up to lead the great anthems that will lead us into this great crusade to come..

And the words of that great philosopher Inigo Montoya come to mind.  “Church ;’Militant’  You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

When I see people talking about the church with military like speech, it is not a church locked in a life or death struggle with the Satan and his minions in the world.  It is not a struggle to keep what is ours, our culture, our rights, our dominant place in society, defining the norms and behaviors in our society.  That’s never been the proper battle arena in the church.   And those who “fight us”, aren’t fighting us, anymore than a blind man with two teaspoons could fight a Navy Seal unit. They can’t – they are locked in darkness, and they have absolutely no clue about who God is.

Luther says it well,
For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

We are talking about people we believe cannot know about God’s love yet, so why do we take offense at their attacking a god they perceive as un-loving?  Worse – why do we defend that God, rather than giving them an explanation for the God we know – the God that invaded our darkness, that showed us love? When we fall into this battle they want, we end up doing exactly what we aren’t supposed to be doing.  We are making them believe that it is a code of behaviors that matters, that we don’t care about their eternal soul as much as we care that they meet our behavorial standards.

And so the church militant is confused with a type of group that wages war on sinners, rather than does what its supposed to do – delivering them from oppression.  Bringing them healing and restoration from the damage caused by sin – their sin, the sin of the world, and yes our sin as well. Delivering them into the presence of God, where that healing begins.  Delivering them their, by living alongside them, for God dwells with us.

That’s the mission of the Church Militant, even as it was the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, who John tells us – came and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.  May as we live in the midst of this oppressed, broken, sinful world, reflect that glory, a reflection that continues to invade darkness, and see God set at liberty all that are oppressed.

AMEN.

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