Devotional Thought fo the Day:
But they were no match for Stephen, who spoke with the great wisdom that the Spirit gave him. Acts 6:10 CEV
28 When Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were surprised at his teaching. 29 He taught them like someone with authority, and not like their teachers of the Law of Moses. Matthew 7:28-29 (CEV)
In other words, loving neighbor means not only coming under God’s law but coming into God’s life. It also means coming under God’s law but in a deeper sense than obeying the precepts. Law in Scripture sometimes means not just precept or prescription, but also a principle or origin of living.
I have pondered the idea of Jesus teaching with authority often. Indeed, I have often thought it would be a blessing to compare His manuscripts (which we have in the four gospels) to the manuscripts of the teachers of the law. Imagine, being able to sit down and look at some of the greatest teachers in rabbinical history, and compare them to Jesus, to find out what is missing, and then be able ot include that in my preaching, teaching, and writing.
As I’ve grown older, I ‘ve realized that it is not the manuscripts that would hold the answer. I am sure there were men as erudite, that there were those who included more references to back up their teaching, who could also enthrall crowds. So comparing the manuscripts would not lead to an answer.
Jesus gave that ability to His disciples, we see it in the scriptures, for they to taught, empowered by the Holy Spirit. You can see that in their writings, but it is also seen in the way people react to them. Stephen, one of the first deacons, spoke in a way that astounded people. He spoke of Jesus, and as he does, they described his face as like one of the angels.
There was no mistaking it, it was unnerving.
I think Professor Kreeft has an insight into it, that I didn’t think about until my devotions lined up this morning. It is not when we study the law that we can teach it, it is not when we feel its weight, but when we realize we are in Christ, when His logos, His order is rooted in us because He is there. When His love, for He is love, has taken root in us. When we become intimately aware that we are in His presence, and His glory transforms everything.
Including us, and therefore, including our teaching.
Not just the instruction that occurs in a sermon, or a lesson. But the teaching of our lives. The teaching that points people, not to us, but draws them into His glory. It is the impact of knowing you are loved.
As Jesus taught, the Father was revealed, may as we teach, the Spirit reveals Jesus, and the love He has for those who are listening.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 170.
24 As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, 25 who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. 26 And then they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will. 1 Tim 4:24-26 GNT
Hence the profound sense of the Church’s social presence derives from the Eucharist, as is testified by the great social saints who were always great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Sacred Host, recognize Him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need.
Our educational work should have a purpose: to elicit a change in our students, to make them grow in wisdom, to help them undergo a transformation, to provide them with knowledge, with new feelings and, at the same time, achievable ideals. Many institutions promote the formation of wolves more than of brothers and sisters by educating their students to compete and succeed at the expense of others, with only a few weak ethical standards.
For most of my life, I have loved a good argument. I loved getting into it with someone, whether over politics, sports (an easy one NOW, since Boston teams have been great for a couple of decades), philosophy, even, I am embarrassed to say, religion.
I still occasionally still enjoy a good debate, and with a highly intellectual 12 year old in the house, I have a ready made opponent. Yet I would dread to see him observe me arguing about religion. For what I would be teaching him is that our belief is God is not as important as winning an argument.
Our relationship with God, our ability to trust in Him is too precious, to important to argue about. Correction needs to me more loving, more patient, and this is something every single one of us needs to grow in and mentor others, helping them develop an attitude like Jesus.
This is something we need to model, to teach, whether as pastors, elders teachers, parents, our purpose is to help those entrusted to our care to mature in faith. What Pope Francis noted about our educational system is true in our lives as well – we need to stop pushing competitiveness in a way that humiliates and demonizes the competition. It has invaded to many relationships, wrecked to many friendships and divided too many communities, and sad to say, to many churches.
I think the quote from Benedict XVI shows us where the hope of the answer is found. I have long thought the answer to division is not found in an office or conference room, but at the altar. To realize that the Body broken and the blood spilt for me was also broken and spilt for my nemesis, to realize my being drawn to the table to communion is matched by the same Holy Spirit drawing them there, puts ou relationship into a different form. It helps us recognize Jesus in them, or the work the Spirit is doing to draw them to Jesus, a work that is either advanced or hindered by my actions, words and attitudes.
This is one of the myriad of blessings found in the Lord’s Supper, and it is one of the reasons I run to it, or spend time contemplating the gift it is, especially when I am in conflict. To realize what God is doing, bringing us all to completion, bringing us all into the holy relationship with Him that He has created and set us apart for, is amazing. At my church, we still have an altar rail, where everyone kneels together, and receives this blessing together. The choir and praise team especially, but many others have begun to hold hands after they receive, another sigh of unity. This isn’t forced, and it started during a time when one member was struggling. It is a sign of this unity that transcends anything we could argue about.
We can still strive to do our best, we can still try to correct what we see is in error, we can still hold strong opinions, but when we see Christ in the other person, it calms our spirits, it helps us still do our best, but to do so in a way that glorifies God, and encourages them to trust Him.
Lord, help us not only be good examples of Your love and care, help us to encourage that in others, including those we struggle with…AMEN
Benedict XVI, “Homily for the Solemn Mass of Corpus Christi,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 221.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 286.
I was given this letter by a friend who is a mom, who wanted not only her daughter to see it, but others parents, and their daughters. For all of us who have kids who are outside the norm, it is an encouragement to love them, care for them and hunt for the teachers who will do the same. Thank you!
There is a picture of you I keep at my desk, a beautiful bubbly blue eyed girl with golden curls. You are standing in the sun eyes closed head tilted toward the sky. It seems as though you are trying to absorb the sun and you look like pure joy. Every time my eyes gaze upon it, it fills my heart with joy. But that joy is fleeting because I know now what was to come. From the moment you were born, and they laid you on my chest I knew that you were going to be a force in this world. You have amazed me with some of the things you have done in your life. At the age of two, you hopped on a bike with no prior experience or even training wheels and rode off down our cul de sac with all the confidence in the world. By age four you were asking me things that I couldn’t answer, like how radio waves worked, how you even knew what a radio wave was at that age has always surprised me. At seven you were rollerblading and skateboarding with amazing balance, and when you got on skies at 17 for the very first time, you tackled the highest slope with the skill of someone who had been skiing their whole life.
When it was time for kindergarten you weren’t scared in fact, the excitement you had was contagious, and I knew just how amazing you were going be. After all, you were clearly very intelligent.
Kindergarten was full of fun and learning new things, but even then, I could tell something was off. The teacher told me you were just a little slow in learning new things. That wasn’t true I knew that in my gut, but I listened to them and took their word for it. First grade proved to be even more difficult for you, and you started to notice that you were different. At seven you asked me why you were stupid. My heart broke into a million pieces, and even though I assured you that you were smart I could see that you didn’t believe me. They told me to hold you back so that you could catch up to the other kids and fearing this would only make you feel dumber I decided to take you to a fancy private school that promised they could “fix” you. Thankfully you flourished there emotionally, but academically you only grew further behind. By the fifth grade you were having anxiety attacks and teachers started to complain about your behavior. You would often hide in the bathroom in favor of going to class. I fought with them, I tried to make them see what I could see in you, I wanted them to see just how intelligent you really were. Nothing I did seem to work, and I could see in your eyes the light beginning to become duller and duller with each passing year. Each time you would bring home a piece of paper that said, “Try harder” or “Did you even STUDY”? in big angry red letters or when teachers would say things to you like, “You should know the answer to that” when you tried asking them questions, and with every bad grade on your report card I could see your confidence evaporating. Those teachers who had the power to lift you up were slowly breaking you down. My heart ached for you. It was as if one day I had this bubbly girl excited about the world and all of its possibilities and the next I looked into your eyes and the light had gone out, you were covered with scars from torture you inflicted upon yourself, and I knew that your soul was full of scars too. I failed you and I am full of regret for not finding the answer in time for you to have not felt like a such a failure. School should have been a wonderful experience for you and instead it was torture.
Today we know the answer to your struggle, Dyslexia. We know that you weren’t just a little slower to develop, but that your brain just works differently. We know that it is because of dyslexia that you have amazing athletic abilities and can remember the words to practically every song you have ever heard. It is because your brain is wired differently that you have such a big imagination and a knack for conversing like an adult even from a very young age. It is not a disadvantage when someone receives the help they need, it is just a difference.
My Dearest Daughter, I want you to know that every time I sit across from one of my students, every time I see their pain, every time I see them struggling to fit in, it is your face I see. Every time a fellow teacher tells me that a child is just slow, or when I hear teachers say they just need to try harder or they are lazy, it is your face I see. It is a fight I choose to fight not only for them but also for you. The reason I get up in the morning is to be the voice for those who don’t have one and deep down it is your voice I am hoping the world hears. Your reach in the world if far greater than you will ever know. In the faces of the Wade’s, the Abigail’s, the Sydnie’s and the Ryan’s the Rachel’s and the Caden’s is your face. As your mother I will never stop trying to heal your soul. As a teacher I will never stop trying to protect theirs from being scarred.
Love Your Mother
one last thing… if this letter resonated with you… please hit like…and let others know as well…it took a lot for my friend and her daughter to make this journey, and dedicate her lives to those who are making it as well, the other daughters and sons, parents, and teachers. God Bless all on the journey!
Devotional Thought of the Day…
4 Every time your name comes up in my prayers, I say, “Oh, thank you, God!” 5 I keep hearing of the love and faith you have for the Master Jesus, which brims over to other Christians. 6 And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it. 7 Friend, you have no idea how good your love makes me feel, doubly so when I see your hospitality to fellow believers. 8 In line with all this I have a favor to ask of you. As Christ’s ambassador and now a prisoner for him, I wouldn’t hesitate to command this if I thought it necessary, 9 but I’d rather make it a personal request. 10 While here in jail, I’ve fathered a child, so to speak. And here he is, hand-carrying this letter—Onesimus! Philemon 1:4-10 (MSG)
230 The wish to teach and to teach from the heart creates in pupils a gratitude which is a suitable soil for the apostolate.
I am blessed to be able to be at a church where I get to teach a lot. My people love studying the Bible, and so a majority of those in church stay for Bible Study, and come on Wednesday Evenings, or every other Thursday morning. I also am blessed to teach some guys who want to serve in the church, to assist their pastors, and I get to work with a guy who is in seminary.
But the more I teach, the more I realize what Christian Teaching is, and isn’t about.
It’s not like teaching history, (even when we are teaching Church History) or like teaching Math or English or even Ancient Greek. While there are things to commit to memory, you want them more to be committed to the heart. There are important details to remember – but more, you want people to know not just about Jesus, but to know Him. To trust Him, to find Him with them, whereever they are, whatever they are going through.
The challenge is that teaching to the heart requires the “instructor” to teach from the heart and mind. Or to use another concept – we isolate right and left brain and educate only one side at a time. Not just from one – but from both. In the “West” or among people where the enlightenment and rationalism have become the process of thought, this is difficult – out educational models are based in such things as the scientific process and linear thought. We even think children are not capable of cognitive thought – that happens later. Those that struggle with this go to the opposite extreme (as I often have) and try to focus on the experiential. Role play and the experience dominate – even as we realize that people can learn more from failure than from success.
Even all this analysis loses the point – we must teach them with all our heart and with all our mind when we teach them about Christ. That means opening up our heart – letting those we mentor/teach/guide see how Christ has ministered to us, we have to let them see the passion of knowing Christ’s love, the excitement and joy of exploring the depth and breadth and height and width of his love. You see this in Paul’s pastoral letters – especially to Philemon, as he wants Philemon to experience the joy of seeing Onesimus as a blessing – and the challenge of restoring him and forgiving all debt.. being the blessing of seeing ministry done by Onesimus – because God has called him to it. Such forgiveness? You can’t teach that in just a sterile classroom.
Nor should a sermon follow the norm of an educational presentation, or a technical, missional briefing. Nor should worship and liturgy be that kind of concept – dry, encoding of those who are completely passive.
It has to go beyond that – if we are teachers and preacher of the gospel want people to know Christ – we have to show them how much it means to us to know Him, to know His love. It requires us to be honest like Paul is in 2 Corinthians,
7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (NLT)
This revelation, of how much pressure that Paul and crew and going through isn’t complaining, it isn’t whining…but it’s there to help the Corinthians realize God’s power and presence atwork in the life of every believer. It is teaching from the heart and the mind – allowing people to see his utter dependance on God and His love. A bit hard for us guys to do, yet, for their sake, it needs to be done… and perhaps for ours – for we have to realzie our need for Christ. This isn’t about him… it’s about Christ, and the hope and power Jesus brings and generates in us, for He abides in us.
Such teaching is powerful – not because it is emotional, but because it is real. It cannot be programmed into a lesson, or a service, and it goes beyond manipulation.
It simply is our heart – resonating with the heart of Christ… bringing others to resonate with it as well. For they will – far more than they will resonate to logic and dictated presentations….for in our healing in Christ – they find the hope of healing as well…..
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1159-1160). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Acts 18:24-28 (TEV) 24 At that time a Jew named Apollos, who had been born in Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he proclaimed and taught correctly the facts about Jesus. However, he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home with them and explained to him more correctly the Way of God. 27 Apollos then decided to go to Achaia, so the believers in Ephesus helped him by writing to the believers in Achaia, urging them to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who through God’s grace had become believers. 28 For with his strong arguments he defeated the Jews in public debates by proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.
A Confession Prior to the Devotion.:
I will be the first to admit that I am the chief of sinners in regard to this, but then again, if I wasn’t, this post wouldn’t be written. It is my prayer, and solid hope, that God will work wonders to correct the errors of my past in this, and help me to overcome this tendency in the future.
Last night, probably while I was driving home from a friend’s Superbowl Party, one of the victorius Ravens was approached and said some thanks to God and quoted from Romans 8. I know of this because my twitter feed and fb was filled with people’s attacking him and questioning his faith and practice. The accusations ran from calls to discredit him because of his past, to charges of twisting the word of God.
It would be twisting scripture to say his sin was any worse than ours, so that sets aside that charge for a moment, to deal with the charge of twisting scripture, or taking it out of context. He might have – I haven’t watched the video, he might have not. But if we thought we did, the response of simply blasting away with charges, is not correct.
The model that Priscilla and her husband give us, is a great one. Look at some of these steps:
1. Take the person aside, and work through the issue.
2. Focus on the Way of God – not our cultural applications of it, not our personal opinions, but focus on God’s revelation to man (i.e. the scriptures)
3. As the respond , encourage their ministry! Their zeal is something that should never be stifled, but directed and encouraged. Too often, I believe, we decide to stifle them, afraid they will go back to their erring ways. We should be praying for them, teaching them, discipling them and sending them.
We confess in my congregation each week that we belong to one, holy, catholic/christian and apostolic church. Such a response as Priscilla and Aquilla had towards Apollos had, yeah that is consistent with that belief. If we can’t work with them directly, our words should have the same flavor, as we instruct those who heard those words about how they apply. But doing it with graciousness and love is still important. Doing it with the best construction is still important.
May we all have the mercy shown to us, as we work together in His Kingdom.