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Why are we so willing to judge and condemn?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?  James 4:11-12  HCSB

28. Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.
This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.10 God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.11

There is a great difference between judging sin and having knowledge of sin. Knowledge of sin does not entail the right to judge it. I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town is not my business. If I interfere and pass sentence on him, I fall into a greater sin than his. When you become aware of a sin, simply make your ears a tomb and bury it until you are appointed a judge and authorized to administer punishment by virtue of your office.
267 Those are called backbiters who are not content just to know but rush ahead and judge. Learning a bit of gossip about someone else, they spread it into every corner, relishing and delighting in it like pigs that roll in the mud and root around in it with their snouts.
268 This is nothing else than usurping the judgment and office of God, pronouncing the severest kind of verdict and sentence, for the harshest verdict a judge can pronounce is to declare somebody a thief, a murderer, a traitor, etc. Whoever therefore ventures to accuse his neighbor of such guilt assumes as much authority as the emperor and all magistrates. For though you do not wield the sword, you use your venomous tongue to the disgrace and harm of your neighbor.

It is amazing how much judgment we see today in the world.  And equally disturbing how much we see in the church. So many people claiming to be experts regarding situations they have no intimate knowledge, of, but simply reacting to the news and rumors put out there. As so we somehow think we can judge (and prosecute or defend ) those whose situations are in the public eye.

A lot of our judgment is based on our own experiences, and on the experiences of someone who did something to us or to someone we love.  And therefore, all in a similar situation we judge based on our experience, not on the facts that we don’t have access to.

Or we judge the case because of the affiliations or demographic data of the person who accuses or is accused. They agree with us, so they are the ones under attack. The other side is only loyal to their peers, therefore, since their peers are wrong, they must be lying.

A great example of this is the present situation with the supreme court nominee.  I have some friends who have been sexually harassed and a couple who I have counseled because they were trying to cope with rape.   I also have been involved in situations where one accused of such was the target, and they were out to hurt him.  In the process of one such situation, the accuser was presented with evidence that proved her story a lie, and she confessed to it.

Been there, cried with both, was anxious with both, and the present situation has brought me to pray for those who stories are never far from my mind.  And as I hear the details, as I see people share the rumors across social media, both groups of stories come to mind. The victims who no come forth, and the victims who had their lives damaged by false claims.  No, let me rephrase, these situations today doesn’t just bring their stories to mind, it tears at the heart, as I remember the pain I tried to help them deal with.

Oddly enough, three of my readings this morning dealt with judgment and the notion of our judgment and condemnation of those people whom we don’t have the responsibility to judge, or all the information to judge the stories of those involved.

And then I see all those who would play God, who would decide this situation based on their own past realities, or worse, based on political issues.  And my heart tears for them as well.

And then we have scripture, and the writings of Vatican II and the Large Catechism.  All three warn us, they even command us not to judge.  They ask us to leave it in God’s hands, something that takes a lot of faith, to trust God with what we would rather handle. It takes humility, such humility that is only found when we are in the presence of God, witnessing His glory and wisdom, which show him to both just and merciful. It takes trusting in God to set aside our own presuppositions and to be healed by our own pain.

But this is God who I am urging us all to trust in, a God who would reconcile us all through the blood of Jesus.

Trust Him, depend upon Him, leave the lynch mobs behind…

And rejoice in the presence in your life.  AMEN!

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 401). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Has the Church Forgotten the only Fact it needs to focus on?

devotional thought fo the day
Featured image
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age Matthew 28:20b (NLT)

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”   Mt 1:23 

For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”  Mt 18:20 

“Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.”  (1)

2. In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14–15) and lives among them , so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.  (2)

584    Stir up the fire of your faith! Christ is not a figure of the past. He is not a memory lost in history. He lives! Iesus Christus heri et hodie: ipse et in saecula! As Saint Paul says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today—yes, and forever!”  (3)

We cannot probe more deeply into the roots of the world in order to change it than by resting on the Heart of God, thus making it possible to call upon the living Ground and Power that supports everything and is alone capable of restoring all things  (4)

When something keeps showing up in my morning devotions, I figure it must be something I need to share with those who read my blog.  Actually, I don’t want to admit the real reason, and writing the blog helps me, because I write what I need to hear/read.  It is God’s way of seeing if there is anything functioning in my brain, trying to get me to understand the most critical fact the church needs to remember.  The critical fact I need to remember.

To know that not only God is, not only does He love us, but that He is with us.  He has designed us to live with Him, describing us as being in Christ, abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit residing with us.  Over and over and over. That is why we can trust in Him because He is present because we have a relationship with Him, a relationship more intimate, more complete than any other relationship we have.

It all begins and ends with that relationship.

Every doctrine focuses on it, from Justification that makes it possible. Sanctification, the doctrine of being set apart, to that relationship.  The sacraments, by which the reality of the relationship is communicated. Scripture, the record of the promises God makes to us, and a record of how He faithfully keeps those promises. Faith, the trust that becomes the natural expression of the relationship.

This is where we need to focus; it is this fact that is the reason for evangelism.  It isn’t about transforming behavior (though that may happen), it isn’t worry about whether the world reflects what God teaches us is good and holy behavior. (We struggle with it, why do we expect them not to?)

This is what our religion is all about, walking with God.  Everything else in Christianity, in our religion brings us to know this.

It is what matters in the end, and it is what gets us through this day.

I need to be reminded of this daily, so I expect that you will hear of it often.

The Lord is with you!

1.   Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

2. Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana

3.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1395-1397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

4.  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 211). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

A Necessary Ingredient for Faith in Troubled Times…

Devotional Thought of the Day
8  No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NLT)

16  Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17  When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18  Jesus came and told his disciples, I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:16-20 (NLT)

581    How humbly and simply the evangelists relate incidents that show up the weak and wavering faith of the Apostles! This is to keep you and me from giving up the hope of some day achieving the strong and unshakeable faith that those same Apostle s had later.  (1) 

The simplicity and pastoral care with which the Fr. Josemaria Escriva wrote his simple sentences astounds me.  I may not agree with everything he writes, but there is so much which resonates with me.  Simply put, he often puts the words to what I know and struggle to explain.

This is true today, as I struggle with how the church (myself included) struggles to reflect the love of Christ into a broken and dark world.  We get so caught up in our own pain, the sense of betrayal we have felt, our own anxiety and paranoia that we fail to trust God, to have faith in His promises.

The task to have a world, a country, a community that glorifies God seems overwhelming, and even impossible. The world wants what it wants, its version of justice, its version of freedom, its version of love and hope, and we seem surprised that it is at odds with what we know from scripture.

And rather lament over the brokenness of the world, we lament over the loss of power and the loss of our dreams. As we do, or faith wavers, we doubt, we give way to our feelings.

To this loss, the words in blue above speak strongly.  We aren’t alone when we struggle; the apostles struggled just as much as we do.  They walked for 40 days with the Lord Jesus, after he rose from the dead, after being beaten, crucified and a spear strike into his heart and lungs.  And in Matthew’s gospel, it tells us, their faith wavered, they doubted, they knew anxiety and fear.  (What else did they need – they had Jesus, risen from the dead!)

That they did, that God continued to work through them, that they would go on to grow in their trust of God is amazing.  10 of 11 of the men there would die, brutally, because they took the task Jesus commissioned them for very seriously.  They made disciples, they baptized people and taught them to treasure what God had given them in Christ Jesus.

But first they doubted, first their faith wavered, and Jesus even rebuked them a time or two… for not trusting Him, for not turning to God.

That is where humility comes in, of knowing we are children of God, people who are his, and are welcome to depend on Him.  Even when we don’t understand the world any more than it understands us. It is at that point where we need to be humble, to be meek, to find our confidence, not in our strength, not in our ability to argue, not in our witty meme’s or comebacks.  We need to be humble, to walk with God, to seek out the justice of the cross.  To know the love of God, shown in Jesus bearing the wounds that would bring healing to all the broken people, all the broken relationships in the world.  Including us.

As we find that healing in Christ Jesus, we can help others heal.

That requires trusting God… and being humble enough to admit our need, our dependence on Him.

Lord Have mercy on us!

1.  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1387-1389). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

True Confessions… A Sermon Based on Matt 16 (text only)

True Confessions

Matthew 16 13-19

In Jesus Name

May you see revealed to you, the grace, mercy and peace of God the Father, that comes from knowing Jesus, and knowing He is the Anointed One, the Son of God sent to save us!

 The Confession of Peter

The Supreme Court decision on Friday will not change the bottom line of this sermon, it won’t change the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  As the Christ, He  the one chosen and put in place to deliver us from sin.

But the decision on Friday did impact this sermon and what I am going to say.  It did help clarify and focus the message on Peter’s confession, and what it means for us, and to us.

It will help us to know where we stand, what is our confession, what we can rely on, what we can base our life upon.

On Friday and Saturday, I heard over and over a part of our gospel reading quoted over and over.  It was used with the intent to rally the church, to comfort those plagued by anxiety and fear, those feeling hurt and betrayed. It was to rally them, to give them some hope that despite an attack to what they know of life and religion, that God was still in charge.

I also hear it used triumphantly, as some Christians saw the decision as proof that God was blessing their position.

Either way, the confession that everyone pointed to as their hope was this,

upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

or to hear it the old way,

upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it!  (KJV)
That the gates of hell can’t stand against the church, is true but it is not why we have hope, they are not the good confession.

This is the conversation that gives us hope

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

and knowing that, trusting in that, making that your rock, your foundation in life, is what matters.

The “other confessions”
The Prophets of Law….
It’s not that they aren’t needed…

When the people of God in Jesus day looked at Jesus, they struggled to figure out who He was.  That is the first question Jesus asks, as he uses the word from which we get logic.  Who do they reason I am?  Not just say as in passing, but when they really think about it.

The answer the apostles gave was John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah.  Three prophets, three men, it can be said, brought an uncomfortable message of hope in a time where people didn’t want to hear it, yet held out for the hope it offered.

What the people saw in Jesus, based on their answers, is someone who could be with them in the present, but also looked with great hope for the future.

Let me say that again,

What the people saw in Jesus, based on their answers, is someone who could be with them in the present, but also looked with great hope for the future.

They were hoping for a prophet that would call those sinners back to God.  They were hoping for a change in their society, in their life, and those prophets promised that it was coming…

And just a promise would have been such a great thing, to hope for the fulfillment of the promise was more than they could imagine. Never mind how the fulfillment of the promise would change everything.

Even Peter and the apostles, who had revealed to them by God the Father that Jesus was the Christ, the chosen One, couldn’t understand.

That the gates of hell cannot withstand the church is something really great, really encouraging.

But it is nothing compared to the fulfilled promise, the rock on which we base everything, the true confession we need to understand.
The Confession… the Christ!

Would it have been bad if Jesus was another Jeremiah?  Another Ezekiel? A second John the Baptist?  Perhaps not, and we constantly need people who call us on our own sin.

But even more we need the Christ, the one chosen and anointed to deliver us into the presence of God our Father.

I guess I can put it this way.  Nancy and Bob yesterday celebrated their 50 year reunion.  When they got engaged, it was a good thing.  But imagine if they had remained engaged for the fifty years, never getting married.

That is the difference between being those promised the Christ, somewhere in the future, to those who have a relationship with God the Father, because Jesus came to us.

He came to us, the Anointed, chosen One of God came to us.  Then the Father revealed to us, as Jesus taught, as He healed, as He did miracles, that Jesus was more than just a prophet.  God came to live among us, to give us life, to make us His.  He came to prove to us His love, His commitment to a relationship that would survive our sin.

That is or hope, that is why we have confidence in God.

He is the Christ, the one chosen to deliver us from sin, and into the presence of the Father.  He is our Savior, our Redeemer, the One who Reconciles us to the Father, our Life, the Lord who calls us His beloved, who tells us we are no longer without a home, no longer without a family.

Because of Jesus, we know our Father in Heaven, the Creator of the Universe listens when we talk to Him, when we pray.

He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

And it is as we know this, as we begin to understand the love this takes, the love He has for us, that we see the church being drawn together.  God begins to build His home in us.  His love is so strong, that it can’t stop us from raiding hell, to bring back those who sin has damaged, whom it is broken.

Because He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

That is our confession, that is why we have hope, that is why we plead with people to be reconciled to God.  We want them to know that love, that brings a peace that passes understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

True Confessions A Sermon Based on Matthew 16 (audio/video)

The manuscript for this video is posted seperately.  Since this is the first time I’ve tried recording this with video and audio, I would appreciate your feedback, whether the video feed was helpful.  Thanks!

The Challenge of Preaching this Sunday:

Devotional Thought of the Day:
..simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts. Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you. . 1 Peter 3 (Phillips NT)

32  And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself. John 12:32 (NJB)

But only when this message is preached does the real sin manifest itself, the sin of which it is stated here that it makes all the difference, namely, that “they do not believe in Me.” For the world does not want to hear such preaching: that they are all sinners before God, that their work righteousness has no validity before Him, and that they can obtain mercy and salvation solely through this crucified Christ. This unbelief toward Christ becomes a combination of all sins; it leads man into a damnation from which there is no rescue.  (1)

As I have watched the internet and twitter today, I have grieved over the entire situation. I have contemplated and prayed about how I and the other pastors (I met with over 200 this morning, as well as laypeople representing churches all over Southern Cal, Arizona and Nevada.  We did not meet about this, it was our every three year meeting. But the decision was mentioned).  I have wondered about writing about this, knowing I must.

Knowing as well that there will be expectations about sermons on Sunday, and I imagine many pastors will be re-writing their sermons tomorrow.  Our sermons will need to confront all sin, and call people to be reconciled to God.  People will have different expectations, some thinking we should fall on one side of the issue or the other.

I have to disappoint them, The decision and reaction to it are not the sin we need to talk about on Sunday.

The sin we need to talk about is the one that robs us of our hope, the sin that sucks life out of us, the sin where we forget, or indeed rebel against God loving us. People who agree with the Supreme Court have sinned, as have those who do not agree with the Supreme Court.  All have sinned; all have experienced the brokenness of life.

We need to examine ourselves individually and find the Spirit granting us repentance of the sin of not loving God, about not trusting Him to keep His promises.  Promises like:

28  We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good. Romans 8:28 (NJB)

and just a few verses later,

38  For I am certain of this: neither death nor life nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, 39  nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NJB)

My reaction to the Supreme Court will not reveal to people Jesus, who lived and died for them.  It won’t share a love that drove him to suffer and die on the cross to give all sinners the hope of being righteous.  All sinners, including gossips, slanderers, idolators, haters, adulterers, people who are so envious of others it consumes them, and those who are so bitter that they cannot love people enough to desire reconciliation and healing of relationships.  From sin, we need to be cleansed, to be transformed, not just from individual sins.  Sin, as Luther wrote above, is not trusting, not having faith, bot believing God.

My friends, we are called to give the reason we have hope, why we expect something greater that the division of our country and the world. To do so, we have to realize our mission is to not demand purity, to plead with people to be reconciled, to let God draw them to Christ Jesus.

We need to be saved from sin – not just from sins.  We need to find the life He promised, that the Holy Spirit gives, the hope that comes in Christ Jesus.

That’s what He does… He embraces us, brings healing to our battered lives, brings holiness and sanctity to those who sins He has died for, to free them.

He is our hope, no matter how shattered or communities, our neighborhoods, our families and our churches.  Yes they are shattered, and the sin of our unbelief, our distrust of God is what shattered them.  But that sin of unbelief is why He came.

Be reconciled to God, I plead, for there, in His love, there is hope.

The Hope we are commanded to give, the hope that is the reason we preach and administer sacraments.  If we do that, if we lift Christ, the hope of sinners, high, if we reveal Jesus on the cross, because He loves us, Sunday will be a day of joy for all who are drawn to Him.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s Works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 342–343). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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