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It’s time to be “The Church”

Devotional Thought of the Day:
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25  The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, 26  the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. 27  You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (MSG)

575      To think of Christ’s Death means to be invited to face up to our everyday tasks with complete sincerity, and to take the faith that we profess seriously. It has to be an opportunity to go deeper into the depths of God’s Love, so as to be able to show that Love to men with our words and deeds. (1)

I am getting tired of conversations about the church.  There are theologians who will talk of church militant and church triumphant.and the visible and invisible Church.  There are consultants who will talk about healthy churches, revitalizing churches, legacy churches (the new euphemism for a church dead or dying, usually blamed on being 25 years or older)  There are goals to be seeker oriented, confessional, conservative, liberal, missional, contemporary, and a thousand more labels.

It’s time to stop all of the strategic talk, all the planning and plotting and vision casting and calls for others to repent.

I love the description of the church in Paul’s 12th chapters of Romans and 1 Corinthians. It’s not an organization, or a entity.  It is a family, a body, an organism, not an organization.  When one part of the church hurts, whether through real persecution/martyrdom, whether through grief and bereavement, no matter the cause, the entre church hurts, whether this is a cell ground of 6 or 8, a small church like mine of 60, or a mega church of 2000, or the Church as the entire body of Jesus Christ.  The same thing is true with moments of joy.  If all of heaven parties, if God dances when a prodigal returns home, when a baby is baptized, when a cynic or critic is gifted with faith and repentance/transformation, the whole church should as well.

For this is who we are – one body, Christ’s body.

It shouldn’t take a team of experts consultants to realize this, or to provide 8 steps to seeing it happen. What it does take is bearing our cross with Christ, of seeing everything as killed off and that cross and re-created, reformed, brought together, bonded to His resurrection as we were to His death quickened, made alive IN Christ.

In the past week, I’ve  been there when friends are hospitalized, when a former member of my church was buried, when another friend struggled with sin, when they needed encouragement to enter that struggle. I’ve watched quite a few struggle in relationships, and I’ve seen people struggling with change, both good change, bad chance and just the fear of potential change.  This is church stuff my friends, it is the time where we need to all be together, weeping working, encouraging, partying,

I love St Josemaria’s quote today… Each of the moments, each of these struggles, and the celebrations as well – each is a time to encounter Christ, each is a time to see the marvelous love of God at work, to share that love, to receive that love.

When the people of God, called together do such things – whether 2 or 3 or 10,000 do this, they are His people, His church… they aren’t just talking and setting visions, they are finding the healing they need in Christ Jesus.. and helping others to heal….this is Eph. 2:10, and Article 6 of the Augsburg Confession.

This is the Church…. let’s be it.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2141-2144). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Should A Christian Behave? A Look at the Third Use of God’s Law

Devotional/Discussion THought of the Day:The church, is always in the midst of a storm... but safe in Him
23  ‘Everything is permissible’; maybe so, but not everything does good. True, everything is permissible, but not everything builds people up. 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NJB)

11  Some of you used to be of that kind: but you have been washed clean, you have been sanctified, and you have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God. 12  ‘For me everything is permissible’; maybe, but not everything does good. True, for me everything is permissible, but I am determined not to be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:11-12 (NJB)

117      “What do I have to do to maintain my love for God and make it increase?” you asked me, fired with enthusiasm. Leave the “old man” behind, my son, and cheerfully give up things which are good in themselves but hinder your detachment from your ego… You have to repeat constantly and with deeds, “Here I am, Lord, ready to do whatever you want.”  (1)

For those unfamiliar with the terms in this devotion, please feel free to ask me to define them, if I don’t do so enough to explain them.  This topic is a valuable one… and I would hope I explain it okay. 

In regards to God’s law, there are basically three ways it is active in this world.

The First Use of God’s Law is what we call “civil use”, that is, the law of God which is seen in natural revelation, and is seen in its basic form in all cultures, and in all religions and a-religions.  Example, pre-meditated murder is wrong in almost every culture.  Some cultures make exceptions like abortion, euthanasia or the killing of enemies can be seen, but the basic idea, “Thou Shall Not Murder” is universally recognized.

The Second Use of God’s Law is found in both general (natural) revelation and specific revelation.  It shows us that breaking these laws results in brokenness that is beyond our scope to heal.  We need a deliverer, a savior, a healer, a Way out of the debt we have got into, a way to make reparation.  God’s revelation of Himself, what we call the Bible, provides that way to freedom.

It is the Third Use of God’s law that confuses people.  How does God’s law work in regards to those who have been washed cleaned, made holy, counted as right in the eyes of God?  does it have any force, any effect?  It was fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and St. Paul tells us it cannot be used to condemn us.  So how does God’s law apply to the people of God?  How should a Christian think of it?  Or maybe more simply, how does someone who is God’s child behave?

Some would have us pay it no heed, since it’s power over us was broken at the cross.  Some would have us enslaved to it again, mandating that we fulfill every single letter, if we are to be completely “faithful”.  The latter would allow people to sin at will, the others create a system filled with guilt and shame.  Both lead to hypocrisy and condescending pharisaical attitudes.  Often these two options go against each other, theological treatises point out the other’s errors.

It isn’t rocket science folks.

Scripture is pretty clear about it.  Look at the two Bible passages in red above.  They set a pretty simple standard, even as they recognize the freedom we have, having been cleansed by Jesus.

Look at what will benefit your life?  Look at what builds up, what does good.

Which means we have to have some standard of determining what is good, what is beneficial, what builds people up.

Look to Christ, there is your answer.  Look to the love He shows you, the course He reveals in the scriptures that reveal Him.  Look deeply into how He fulfilled the law, by loving YOU. By sacrificing all He was, so that you could be God’s child.  Look at the kind of life you would live, if you followed Him, if you sought Him in every relationship, in every moment.  he’s defined that in His law of love, in the example of His life which fulfilled it.

That is how to have a good life.  Simply do what is best… and ask God to help you see that as you walk with Him.

His law?  It helps draw a picture of it, but it isn’t the life.  The law indicates what a life lived in a relationship to God would look like…..it maps the journey we walk with the Spirit dwelling with us.

So walk with Him… and enjoy the journey!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 614-617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Did You Leave God Behind This Morning?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:Will new camera 12 2008 167

66  As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. 67  Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NAB)

465         “Just one minute of intense prayer is enough.” Someone who never prayed used to say that. Would someone in love think it enough to contemplate intensely the person they love for just a minute?  (1)

Every morning that I am in my office, I use a morning devotion service from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  I like it for a number of reasons, it is well set up, and is a nice mix of liturgical form and meditation.  Instead of one of the three creeds, there is a simple declaration of faith (same thing really – Creed comes from Credo – I have confidence in) The declaration of faith is simply Peter’s response above, Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”

After using this devotional liturgy for a year, those words are well written on my soul. I have pondered them quit a bit as well in this last week – and wondered how often our lives do not match Peter’s response.  How often do we say that there is no where else to go, no one else’s words that give eternal life? Yet we leave our homes, and sometimes God is left behind.  Or we left Him at church on Sunday.  We run our lives as if he wasn’t there.

If we are honest, maybe we don’t want Him around, getting into our business, convicting us of sin.  Do we want Him answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation, when our minds and bodies are desperately trying to justify submitting to that temptation, or even searching it out.

Do we want to hear the words that give us life?  Do we want a life of continual prayer?  Or do we, like the crowds, want to leave Jesus places. so that we can return to our former way of life?

I’ve heard people ( and have even done it myself )justify their lack of prayer life by saying they pray in bursts, like the one St Josemaria points out.  I have a dynamic deep prayer life of 4 minutes, or I talk to God constantly through the day, so I don’t have to have devotional time.  And we leave Him behind again, preferring the television, or the computer or the company of others to spending time with God.  We play the quality versus quantity card too frequently.  The out for most of us pastors?  We don’t have the time because we are caring for people.

We need to be immersed in God’s presence, we need to realize how much a difference it makes, that this isn’t about discipline like calisthenics or working out in the gym.  We aren’t doing it for being holy for holiness sake. The only way to learn to value this time?  By being in it, tasting and knowing that God is good.

If you think these words are only aimed at you, my dear reader, they are not.  They are for me as well.  They are not to produce guilt, but to hold out to us that which is the most incredible news.

God, the creator of the universe, the One who died to bring hope and healing to the world, wants to spend time with you, to walk with you, to work with you, to encourage and comfort and rejoice and even dance with you.  That the Lord is with you….. and also… with me.

We didn’t leave Him behind, for He dwells with us.

I pray that we would receive the mercy of realizing that presence, and spending both time of quantity, and time of quality, in dialogue we our God, for we are His children!

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2052-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Will We Treat God Then, the Way We Do Now?

Devotional Thought of the Day:photo(35)

17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)

 16  Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17  But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” Genesis 28:16-17 (NLT)

 2  Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever. Psalm 125:2 (NLT)

470         Our Lord sent out his disciples to preach, and when they came back he gathered them together and invited them to go with him to a desert place where they could rest… What marvellous things Jesus would ask them and tell them! Well, the Gospel is always relevant to the present day.  (1)

Last night, as we studied the passage we are preaching on this week I began thinking of the question that is the title of this post.  I meet with several guys and we work together on the Bible passage for this week, which was talking about the struggles in this life are nothing compared to the glory that is awaiting us.  It also talks about the presence of the Holy Spirit being the foretaste of that glory.  This morning, my devotional readings included all three passages above, further fueling the thoughts and the need to meditate on this – and share it here.

We have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, therefore the places we stand and sit, as plain and simple as they are, are holy ground.  But do we realize it?  Do we realize that God surrounds us, His people – now and forever, Do we realize that as God makes His home in us, as we come to know the measure of His love, may we begin to really live?

Will we rest in Christ, and find the peace our souls depend upon, even as our bodies depend on food?  Will we struggle with the concept of an incarnate God in our lives?  Will we learn to depend upon His presence the way we depend on oxygen in the air we breathe?

A way to ask that is the title – do we expect to treat God in heaven the way we do now?

Will we forget about His presence, will we do what we want, will we go days without thinking of Him, talking to Him, hearing His voice as we meditate on His word?  Will we keep Him at a distance, fighting with others for the furthest row from His presence?   Or will will be in awe of the glory He shares with us? Will we run to Him, will we rejoice as He welcomed us, His children, into His presence?

Will our relationship change, and if so, why isn’t it changing already?

Look again at the above readings, what will change about the relationship, except perhaps that what we know, will also be what we see?

I pray that we would enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Love of God, that we are in awe at the thought of eternity with Him!

Godspeed!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2066-2069). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

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