Devotional Thought of the Day
19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 (NLT)
32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12:32 (NLT)
. 21 I will pardon my people’s crimes, which I have not yet pardoned; and I, the LORD, will make my home in Jerusalem with my people.” Joel 3:21 (NLT)
There is a lady who’s name, face and voice have been plastered all over the internet lately.
She has been compared to Nazi doctors; she has been termed a devil, she has been called evil, her sin has been paraded all over the world.
And she is welcome to come to my church. She is welcome to come and know she is safe. Her sin will not be the only focus of the sermon and the message. People will welcome her, we might even rejoice that she has come! We want her to come to Concordia, and hear a message of hope, a message of love, a message of mercy, that all of us desperately need to hear. Not just her, not just that one sin either a mercy that covers every sin, for He died to forgive every sin.
Some may hear this in disbelief. You don’t mean the doctor from Planned Parenthood. The one who was involved in the selling of body parts? You surely wouldn’t welcome her into your church? Don’t you realize how guilty she is?
Yes, I do, Christ didn’t come to save the good people. He came to save sinners, people broken by guilt and shame, He came to save her. He came to save you and I. he came to save every one of us that has chosen evil over good at some time in our lives. Jesus came so we could be granted repentance and trust in Him, and given hope. This lady needs to know that God is still willing to reach out to her! He not only wants, He desires to bring her back to Him! Jesus died to make her reconciliation to the Father possible, as He has for every sinner.
You and I included.
For this is what the church does, it reveals hope to the sinner. It is i the church’s mission. We exist to give sinners hope. We exist to bring them into the Father’s presence. We exist to see everyone be cleansed of all sin and welcomed into the family of God.
And if God can do that for me, he can surely do it for her. For she is not a worse sinner than I am. Or for that matter Paul the Apostle who said,
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, 13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. 14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. 15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:12-17 (NLT)
That is how powerful the mercy of God is. He desires that she would know His love and mercy. And fellow sinner, we need to be so in awe of God’s love for her, that we don’t get in her way, that we don’t block her way to the Father.
He can work with her, she needs to know that, as does every other sinner we know. That Jesus has done this for us, we who are of all sinners the foremost, should give them hope.
I pray she comes into one of our churches this weekend, along with every other person who needs hope. And I pray she find it.
For that is God’s desire… and it should be ours
Lord have mercy on us all!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips. When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:21-24 (TEV)
785 If we join our own little things, those insignificant or big difficulties of ours, to the great sufferings of Our Lord, the Victim (He is the only Victim!), their value will increase. They will become a treasure, and then we will take up the Cross of Christ gladly and with style. And then every suffering will soon be overcome: nobody, nothing at all, will be able to take away our peace and our joy. (1)
Yesterday I wrote of the challenge of making the world my monastery, a place where even amidst the chaos, the anxiety, the pains and sufferings, I found the refuge, the rest, the sanctuary I need. That the things I would do in solitude, writing music, reading and writing, could be replaced with people-craft, watching God work in the lives of those around me, even as perhaps He would accomplish some of that work through a poor tool like me.
It is funny – among those who liked the blog were a man that appears – by dress to be a Budhist monk, and another whose penname leads me to believe that though they like the idea, they don’t understand how I see this happening. Specifically, the world can only be my monastery when it intuitively is lived in Christ Jesus. When I am following His steps, not from a distance but in jounreying with Him, Being carried in Him, depending on Him, Jesus Christ who was crificied for our sins.
Not just some ethereal form of community with all things, Not just in being one with nature, nor some primeval thought. But being with Jesus, the One in and through whom all things were created, and who redeems us by bearing our guilt, our iniquity. A person, a presence, a life, lived in and with us. Given to us, not just so we could be better people – but that we too would be considered God’s most incredible work – as God redeems us, re-creates us, shows us that we walk with Him.
It happens to su when we take up our cross – when we realize that God is in charge, and we trust in His promises that all will work for good for those who love Him. When we see our entire lives wrapped up in Him and we are joined to His cross, to His work.
It is hard to explain, because it is intuitive. But to know His presence, to know Him. Deeper than we know anything else. For to know Him is to know love and mercy and joy, and peace. Know not as in data, but as in living with Him.
Then our cross, is our monastery, is our life…now and is in Him.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2808-2811). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind! In Sight? Christ
† IHS †
May you see the incredible love and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so clearly, that it robs you of any desire to focus your life on anything else!
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
The thing parents miss the most…
It is the one tactic that works in raising children for a while, that works so spectacularly that when it no longer works, parents and preschool teachers cry.
Described by six little words, oh the problems solved by it.
If I give you the first three words, I bet you will get it. Heck, I bet some of you will get it with only one word.
Out ….. of ….. sight
Yeah – that great opportunity to simply remove something from the picture, and in a moment, most young children forget it was ever there. You are driving past a golden arches, and they so want to go there… until of course you are 30 seconds past it…. Then it is forgotten.
It is true for adults as well, especially spiritually. Not so much for things like coffee and doughnuts and… bacon.
But spiritually, we are very much children – we have to deal with those things that are in front of us, and the challenge is.. what is in front of us!
What should Be out of Sight and out of Mind
In the epistle reading today, we see a great example of this very thing. Paul talks of those things that we in front of him spiritually, consciously. The things that gave him the confidence he needed when he was a young up and coming rabbi. He had all the right boxes checked off, all the advantages that anyone could want.
Genetically – he was perfect, family – perfect (those are the root words in Greek Genea and phylum) the right schooling – the roughest and most demanding program which he excelled at, He even proved how loyal he was to his nation, to his religion, by squishing like a cockroach those who opposed it.
Imagine being the next American hero – a cross between Tom Brady and Bill Gates – and being the captain of Stanford’s football team and making a 4.0 in a dual major of computer science and a MBA and while there – you invent a computer that costs $5 dollars to make –can be sold for $500 and blows away everything else on the market?
These are the things that Paul counts on, they are on the forefront of his mind – so much so… that they become a detriment. They actually are so incredible – so depended upon, so much in sight, that what was not in sight, was was not forefront in his mind… was that which every Jewish person for hundreds of years said they were looking for, the Messiah.
The very things that should have helped him to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, got in the way, as Jesus was standing before him all the time. It is
These things – to put it simply, like the things we depend upon for our being considered “right” need to be put aside – for they distract us from what truly makes us righteous. It’s not that we’ve been coming to church all our lives, or that we’ve been Lutheran for 10 years, or that we are Irish, or that we’ve done this or that, or we’ve worked hard, or whatever it is… for if you don’t see Jesus, these things are nothing more than…distractions. It isn’t even that we belong to the very special church family,
Or As Paul says,
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him.
What should be in sight, and in Mind
Even before Paul leaving behind all his stuff, there were two sets of brothers, who left their dad, and their family business, to follow a young homeless teacher, who a preacher said was the Agnus Dei – the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Another man, a very tax collector, left his tables on April 15th, to walk with this teacher. Paul leaves behind everything else – it cannot capture his mind, or his heart anymore. Indeed, he counts them as refuse – not just the trash but the stuff that fills sewers and raises a stink. St Patrick will, because of this very thing – return to the land where he was a enslaved and escaped – knowing that he could face death…because of what he gained in leaving it all behind. Everything they were, they left behind…
Because of the infinite value of knowing Jesus. Please hear this – it is the most important thing I can tell you. It isn’t that we know about Jesus, As the Epistle of James tells us, even demons know about Jesus – they recognize Him faster than anyone else in scripture. It is not knowing about Jesus, it is about knowing him.
Luther explained it this way.
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. The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
They can know of him – but unless they understand God’s mind and will – that His desire is that we all come to repentance – the transformation that occurs when He comes to our lives, unless we understand His love and blessing, the motions we go through are worthless…
It is as we gain Christ, and become one with Him – as we are pulled into that intimate relationship with a God who loves us beyond anything we can imagine. That is when we begin to grasp what Paul says when he says..
I become righteous through trusting in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on trust. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
The incredible blessing that comes from knowing what happened to us here – as we were baptized, isn’t easy to comprehend. How do you explain the “coming to life” that happens when we realize that we’ve been cleansed from sin, when the cross becomes more than just a historical event, but the place where our life completely transforms because we are untied to Christ there, at the cross, in our baptism? Where we are united with Christ, and His death and the hope of His resurrection?
Where we are united to Him!
A few days ago, the new pope said it this way, in his first sermon
“This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord.
Without the cross – all we have is the garbage – the worthless stuff, the things this world might recognize as important – but have no meaning in the face of life or death, that isn’t what will sustain a marriage, or as Pope Francis said, will sustain a church. He went on, to recognize, very much like St. Paul, what would. He said,
I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward. “
Though the challenge would be worded slightly different for us – it is when we are joined to the cross of Christ, that everything is transformed. As we partake of the Body and Blood of Chris. That we begin to realize what Paul says… how this can occur.
How it can be…
I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
You see – that is our key – to strive to “get” that we’ve already been gotten. That in Christ, it is not the attaining of perfection or holiness that is what we are challenged with, it is not being good enough.
The battle, the fight is to realize that we are already there, that God is calling us to realize He is there… He is our vision – and then we don’t need to toss aside all these other things – all these other “good” things… for they will have fallen aside, and become out of mind…
For we will dwell in incredible peace – the peace that comes from living in the presence of God, protected there, our hearts and minds kept there, for we are Christ’s possession. AMEN?
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven .Matthew 5:43-45 (NLT)
I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest challenges as I try to walk in Christ, to walk as one cleansed of sin, is to live out the above. I can usually deal with those who want to frustrate me, well most of the time, but when someone does something against my family, either my biological one or my family in Christ, or does something that stops the family of God from being out there, searching for and taking in those whom Christ died for, I want to go all “billy jack” or “chuck norris” on them.
The last thing I really want to do for them, is love them. I want the right to be righteously indignant, I want to just take them on, and show them how their error – whether legalism that makes the church a fortress safe from invasion, or the extreme liberalism that basically turns the church over to the world and disregards God’s mercy, either way.. there are stumbling stones that… I must get rid of quickly. Time to grap a sword, put on armor and start the next crusade!
At least that is my reaction in anger.
Then the scripture comes alive… and I wonder, as a friend pointed out recently in a pastor’s gathering – should I be angry or grieving? In anger,
If I am angry I want retribution, I want to quickly eradicate the problem, even if the cost is great, or it simply inflames the situation.
If I can breath for a moment, I will realize that the anger hides my own pain, my own hurt, the brokenness caused, and the sorrow over what I hold dearest betrayed. If the people I blame my struggle are indeed “enemies of the cross of Christ”, will my reaction be to admit the sorrow, the pain, the loss of a relationship, of the loss of possible relationships? A
I can never love the enemies I am angry with… but I can love those whose actions cause sorrow. Such was the actions of Christ, towards us. If we could love them, if our goal wasn’t wrath and our version of justice, could we instead aim for their being found righteous in Christ, and instead of frontier justice, we find reconciliation at the altar?
This week’s sermon will go down this line further… but today, as people antagonize you, or others actions just infuriate you…before you react, think through the hurt and pain you feel – give it as well to God, then, even as you grieve…try to love them, knowing Christ’s love for the both of you.
Such is living in Christ…
In my devotions this morning – thinking through the sermon passage for this week, I came across this:
“When you open the Holy Gospel, think that what is written there—the words and deeds of Christ—is something that you should not only know, but live. Everything, every point that is told there, has been gathered, detail by detail, for you to make it come alive in the individual circumstances of your life. God has called us believers ( original said “Catholics”) to follow him closely. In that holy Writing you will find the Life of Jesus, but you should also find your own life. You too, like the Apostle, will learn to ask, full of love, “Lord, what would you have me do?…” And in your soul you will hear the conclusive answer, “The Will of God!” Take up the Gospel every day, then, and read it and live it as a definite rule. This is what the saints have done.”
The will of God – to love Him completely, to love your neighbor..
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2721-2729). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.