Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 HCSB
The heart is like a home. There are houses that are open because they are at peace; they are welcoming because they have warmth. They are “not so tidy” as to make people afraid even to sit down neither so untidy as to become an embarrassment.
The same goes for the heart: the heart that has room for the Lord also has space for others.
The words in red above are the last words of the Epistle of James.
The is no final blessing, nor is there the usual list of greetings and please say hi to that conclude Paul’s letter to the churches.
Just this comment about facilitating the return of people to Jesus, to the Truth, and the incredible blessing it is to be involved in saving someone and removing the guilt and shame that is caused by our sin.
What an incredible blessing! To be involved in such a work! What an amazing God who would use broken people like us to help bring hope and healing to those who are broken. Realise, it is not the perfect people that are involved in Evangelism, it is those who God is healing form their own brokenness. It is those who know the amazing hope found as they experience God’s love, and see the healing that is happening.
I love Pope Francis’ words about the heart that has room for the Lord. It rings so true.
For years I remember hearing (and saying ) that every person has a Jesus size hole in their lives, Something only He can fill, an emptiness that only He can heal. Yet, as He does this, we begin to realize there is a ton more room in our hearts, a room that needs to be filled with others who help to us and are helped by us. As Pope Francis notes, the heart that has room for Christ finds it has space for others.
THe help, of course, is pointing to Jesus, to His work restoring our relationship with the Father, bringing God’s family together. Doing the work He promised to do…
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19 HCSB
and which he tasked us to do as well…
21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 (NLT2)
This is our incredible work, this is the blessing we have, of seeing sin consumed by the cross, and freedom come to those who have walked without God, but are welcomed back to the journey.
James’ last words are ones we need to hear!
Heavenly Father, as we walk this day with You, help us see the people we can help you rescue, restoring them, and assuring them of Christ’s blood, poured out ot cover their sin, and claim them as righteousness. AMEN!!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 312). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT2)
1 There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.
“Responsibility is something to be avoided. Evade it at all costs!”
It seems more and more this is the mission statement of the church. Not just in terms of man-made trauma, as people scatter, trying to avoid the blame game like kids playing tag. But in regards to the work of the church as well.
And we wonder why the church as a whole is in decline!
We all know the great commission, we know it is the responsibility of the church to disciple those who are saved. Yet we think its the pastor/priests responsibility. Or we think the pastors/priests should train those people up to do it, but no one will volunteer. Everyone avoiding responsibility, everyone pointing to someone else.
So the work goes undone, and we all shake our hands and wonder why…
How do we create in the church the attitude we see in Paul, who realizes this wonderful thought, Christ in you, which gives you the assurance of sharing in His glory eternally.
That people would know their share of this glory, that they would be free of the cruse of sin and enabled to do so, this was Paul’s struggle in life, one he threw himself into with all abandon, this was his reason for being here.
A reason that we, as the priesthood of all believers, have as well. To tell others about Christ, warning them and teaching them, that we may present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Jesus!
So it is time to wake up church, to realize this love that Christ has for us, that welcomes us, cleansed sinners, broken souls who are finding healing in Christ Jesus, and helping others who need to heal. We have to realize that this isn’t an obligation or a task… it is the glorious blessing God gives us, to see others made new!
Whether we help them teaching Sunday school, or praying for someone on the street corner, or offering them a cup of cold water, or simply inviting them to comse see Jesus love of them revealed.
And at the end of the day, may we each look back in awe at what Christ has done in our communities, through and with us! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created 7 This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:7-10 (NJB)
592 Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?
There is a balance to everything in life, especially in how we are to view ourselves. The problem is we fail to judge ourselves accurately. And sometimes we believe we are superheroes, and sometimes just the opposite.
Pride may cause our self=examination to fail n that we think we are better than we are, smarter, more beautiful, more successful, more in tune with life. So too may a poor self-esteem, as we consider ourselves the ugliest, the most wretched, the failures that deserve nothing more than eating dirt.
Asking others doesn’t help, they may boost our pride, they may tear us down even more. And when these statements are coming from well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we keep them in balance?
Into this discussion comes the words of a simple, but a very effective priest. St Josemaria was fond of describing himself as a donkey, tied to one of those decides that lets him walk in a circle, faithfully plodding, though sometimes in need of some “encouragement” His words today, describing us as a garbage, re-purposed as a planter makes so much sense.
It establishes our value, who we are, not based on our natural talents, abilities, charisma, but rather on what the “divine gardener does with us”. Our value, our being is so integrated into God, that we take on both humility and yet a meaning deeper than anything we could have imagined.
This is God at work in you and I, God at work creating something in us not seen before, A value that finds fulfillment in the greatest work there is, the saving of souls. What an incredible joy it is to know that someone will be in heaven rather than hell because I took a moment to pray, a moment to offer comfort, a moment to help them know peace.
That somehow, God can use you and me to reveal His glorious love to others.
Even if how he uses us in the same way he used St. Paul
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 1:15-17 (NLT2)
God is at work… He is with us… all glory and honor to Him, who makes us His children, and invites us to the feast!
Conversation: Which do you think you are, the superhero or the slimeball Do you struggle more with being humble, or with seeing yourself having value?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1413-1416). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17 so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (TEV)
18 Lay the greatest weight on those commandments or other parts which seem to require special attention among the people where you are. For example, the Seventh Commandment, which treats of stealing, must be emphasized when instructing laborers and shopkeepers, and even farmers and servants, for many of these are guilty of dishonesty and thievery.8 So, too, the Fourth Commandment must be stressed when instructing children and the common people in order that they may be encouraged to be orderly, faithful, obedient, and peaceful. Always adduce ma.ny examples from the Scriptures to show how God punished and blessed.
531 “Treat him well for me, treat him well,” said a certain elderly bishop with tears in his eyes to the priests he had just ordained. Lord, I wish I had the voice and the authority to cry out in the same way to the ears and the hearts of many, many Christians!
The “S” word, sorry to tell you, isn’t “sex”
It’s the other “s” word that is difficult to talk about and for the same reason. It is just as awkward, embarrassing, and produces as much anxiety as talking about sex with your 11-13-year-old child.
And the consequences of not having conversations about sin are worse than letting the world teach your kids about sex. For lacking understanding about either sex or sin can lead to incredible pain, sorrow, and even death.
Not just physical death, the death of the spirit, death one’s soul.
So it is one we need to have. Not just pastor and parishioner, but parents and kids, those who teach and govern with those whose lives they are entrusted with, those whom God has put in their lives to love and care for beyond the point of sacrificing convenience, to the point of complete sacrifice.
We have to get by the discomfort and have these talked with each other. talking about the sins which entrap us, the sins which drive us into despair, the sins that isolate us.
but we have to do it with the skill and wisdom that only comes because of the love we have, because of the love we know God has for them. To talk about sin with the deliberate intent of freeing each other from its burdens of guilt and shame, from its curse and the death it causes.
We can’t talk about just to prohibit it, as if we could, by proper persuasion, convince them to never sin again. That will last an hour or two, and then they will hide the sin that entraps them, denying it, or justifying it in some form of logic we twisted them to use. I say “we” because talking about sin improperly leads people to fear talking about it with us. They have to realize that our goal is not to condemn the sinner, but free them.
This has to be made clear in our teaching, not just to proactively work with them to rely on God to overcome temptation, but also to help them run to the comfort and peace that comes with repentance, with absolution, that comes via the Holy Spirit washing and renewing our hearts.
This is our ministry, as pastors, as leaders, as parents, as those entrusted with the lives of others. Yet in order to dohese things, we have to be confident that God is working in our life as well, cleansing and strengthening us, causing us to run to the Father, through Jesus.
This is who we are… and Lord help us talk about sin… in the way you did! AMEN!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 340). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1285-1287). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
12 You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 14 And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 (TEV)
480 Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.
13 Although we cannot and should not compel anyone to believe, we should nevertheless insist that the people learn to know how to distinguish between right and wrong according to the standards of those among whom they live and make their living
I am tired.
I am tired because of the fighting going around us. In this world as nation is against nation. As nations are divided into camps we call parties but are not exactly fun! And even inside those parties are divided, starving for attention and often, revenge.
The Church, the one, holy, catholic (as in united, universal church) is likewise fragmented, and denominations and congregations know bitter division, know its horrific pain and avoid the issues. Too often we determine reconciliation and renewal is not possible, or perhaps if possible, not desirable.
I see this all around me, and it makes me weary of life.
I want to compel people to have enough faith in God, to trust Him enough to let Him heal them, and surely He would. I want to force them into a maturity that cares more about being merciful than the pain that has been caused by others. That cares more for Christ being revealed than for hiding our own sins and pretending we are not shamed by them.
But I can’t compel people to trust in God more, it is not the way it works. No amount of threats can do it, no amount of pleading, all I can do is ask, and point to the scriptures.
It is a common dependence on God that turns the church into something more than a group of individuals separated by their own brokenness. That unity, that being woven tightly together, it can create a bond that can conquer anything. That unity is found in Christ’s love,
It is found in the love that is the source, of mercy that empowers us to of set our own discomfort and pain, even the agony aside. That enables us to forgive, for He has shown the way in forgiving us.
Only in Christ Jesus is this possible. In that love that weaves us together, binding the broken, splicing us together, making us stronger than anything else can.
Can we all get along? Only in Christ, who draws us all into Him. This is what is good and right… everything else is wrong.
Lord have mercy on us, mercy that is so overwhelming that our anger, our pain, our resentment and even shame our washed away, revealing that we dwell in You, and in You, we are already one. Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1175-1177). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 339). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 A false accusation is as deadly as a sword, a club, or a sharp arrow. Proverbs 25:18 (TEV)
38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Matthew 5:38-39 (NLT2)
15 See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled, Hebrews 12:15 (NAB)
63 The third aspect of this commandment concerns us all. It forbids all sins of the tongue by which we may injure or offend our neighbor. False witness is clearly a work of the tongue. Whatever is done with the tongue against a neighbor, then, is forbidden by God. This applies to false preachers with their corrupt teaching and blasphemy, to false judges and witnesses with their corrupt behavior in court and their lying and malicious talk outside of court.
264 It applies particularly to the detestable, shameful vice of back-biting or slander by which the devil rides us. Of this much could be said. It is a common vice of human nature that everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor. Evil though we are, we cannot tolerate having evil spoken of us; we want the golden compliments of the whole world. Yet we cannot bear to hear the best spoken of others.
442 Never think badly of anyone, not even if the words or conduct of the person in question give you good grounds for doing so.
There will always be people we struggle with, people whose actions and words we don’t understand, and often, those words and actions seem to attach or denigrate or embarrass us.
Sometimes the original intent is harmless, like the joke that struck to close to home.
It is hard not to react. Some would say impossible.
They’ve given reason to think badly about them, to gossip about them, to strike back with words that would hurt them, and perhaps those around them.
Scripture pleads with you, as does Luther and a Catholic saint, don’t say, it, don’t think it. Don’t let your words add to the catastrophe that is occurring. Don’t let the bitterness rise up within you, and spread out like poison. DOn’t get involved in backbiting or slander. Don’t try to justify it, don’t try to
Your words will simply cause more damage, they will tear more people up, as the Psalmist says, these words are weapons, they do an incredible amount of damage, even to the point of killing.
So someone’s words hurt, they stung, they damaged you. How do you respond?
Prayer is the place to start, asking God to remind you of and reveal His grace to you. The grace that will remind you of your forgiveness and the promise to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Prayer is the place where you can ask God to give you the strength not to respond.
It is when we are secure in HIS peace that we can love past the pain, that we ae assured His cleansing of our lives includes the injustice, the unrighteous acts committed against us. It is there then, with Christ bearing all the sin in our lives, that we find hope, and the possibility of grace.
This isn’t easy, it takes the spiritual maturity of a saint.
That’s okay, God made you to be a saint…
So think of His love, and rejoice, and share that blessing with those whose words hurt.
The Lord is with you!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 400). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1087-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 16 but do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (TEV)
350 In addition to being a good Christian, it’s not enough to be a scholar. If you don’t correct your rudeness, if you make your zeal and your knowledge incompatible with good manners, I don’t see how you can ever become a saint. And, even if you are a scholar—in spite of being a scholar—you should be tied to a stall, like a mule.
Given how many times St Josemaria referred to himself as a donkey, I can’t but think this was one of the lessons he had to be taught over and over.
Which gives me hope, because it is one I need to learn over and over.
A little knowledge and a heart full of zeal and wonder of God’s love can be a very dangerous thing. And the more the knowledge, the more danger you can do, as you bring forth that knowledge with the force of projectile vomit.
It is hard to temper the zeal, it is hard to govern the rate that we explain these great things we have learned. I get that, and sometimes it is the very zeal that leads to a charisma that attracts people, for it is special to see someone who really believes, fired up about the love of God.
Unfortunately, the very fire that burns within us can rage and burn out of control, damaging the very people we try to help, and those around It is not intended, it is not because we lack sincerity, but it is because we are not aware of the people we are trying to reach, we don’t hear them, we don’t’ bother to find out where they are at.
And we need to take that time. We need to find out where they are so that our message shows them the love of Christ, not just describes it. As Peter, one of the original models for saying things before his mind engaged warns us, we need to give the reason for our hope with gentleness, and with respect.
Of course, it doesn’t help that as while I write this post, I am having to live its lessons out. But isn’t that the point of this? That God’s words and those who went before can help me deal with those in life I would love to correct, and correct quickly and forcefully?
They need to know the love and mercy of God, but I do as well. I can never lose sight of that fact, and zeal can be tempered by love, and our knowledge by humility, acknowledging that all knowledge and wisdom comes from God, and should be used to glorify Him
Lord, give us hearts that care for those who stray from you but give us the peace, the wisdom and patience to go alongside them and show them you love and mercy, which is at work sanctifying us. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 889-892). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 Bodily fitness has a certain value, but spiritual fitness is essential both for this present life and for the life to come. There is no doubt about this at all, and Christians should remember it. It is because we realise the paramount importance of the spiritual that we labour and struggle. We place our whole confidence in the living God, the saviour of all men, and particularly of those who believe in him. These convictions should be the basis of your instruction and teaching. 1 Timothy 4:8 (Phillips NT)
282 Paradox: Sanctity is more attainable than learning, but it is easier to be a scholar than to be a saint.
I have been having the same conversation recently with a couple of friends. Both were asking about how Christians growth.
And as I talked with them a question started to grow in my mind. Do we even know what spiritual growth looks like?
If we cannot define it, how can we make it a priority in our own lives, and how can we lead others and help them grow and mature in their faith? As I look at my mail, and the various Bible Studies, Sermon Series, and other materials offered for sale to help me guide and shepherd my congregation, it is rare than the material is geared to help them grow, at least grow in more than knowledge.
For the record, I would use two words to describe spiritual maturity, dependence, and expectation. ( Or if you want to use “churchy” words, faith and hope. )
Dependence is simply trusting in God. It starts with trusting Him to save us from our sins and thereby giving us eternal life. But our dependence upon Him only begins there. We need to depend on Him in every moment of the day. We need to depend on Him when everything is… screwed up. We need to depend on Him when change occurs, or when He calls us to take on some mission, or reach out to people.
There isn’t a part of our lives where we don’t need to depend on God. To trust Him that all things work out for good for those who Love Him, who are called according to His purpose. This is especially true as we try and deal with our failures, our brokenness, our sin.
Expectation is what the other measure would be. What do we expect God to do in our lives, and what do we expect afterward Do we expect Him in our lives, do we expect Him to keep His promises, do we look forward to the day when He comes again? Do we base our lives on these expectations?
Those are the areas we need to grow in, to mature in, if we are to be spiritually mature.
It seems counter-intuitive, for most see maturity linked with freedom or independence. But with spirituality, true maturity comes from realizing that God is God, and we are His people. That means we expect Him to care for us, even as He cared for Jesus. That means we realize He is wiser and has promised to care for us, and depending on that care.
That is why being holy is so challenging, even though it is so easily attainable.
What area of life is the hardest to trust God with?
What expectations should you have of God, that you don’t think of often?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 747-749). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42 Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.“ Matthew 10:41-42 (MSG)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35 And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36 I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38 And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39 40 Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)
617 You found yourself with two books in Russian, and you felt an enormous desire to learn that language. You imagined the beauty of dying like a grain of wheat in that nation, now so arid, which in time will yield great harvests of wheat. I think that those ambitions are good. But, for now, dedicate yourself to the small task and great mission of every day, to your study, your work, your apostolate, and, above all, to your formation. This, since you still need to do so much pruning, is neither a less heroic nor a less beautiful task. (1)
Back when I was in college, my dream was to be a great preacher, someone whose words would inspire thousands, not because of me, but because they would point ot Jesus, and bring people peace. Or I would think of teaching pastors on the mission field or doing many incredible things for the kingdom of God. (the examples of the speakers in chapel didn’t help this – they all were “superstars” in ministry who urged us to do great things for the kingdom.)
Looking back, my great desire to win the world for Jesus didn’t always include the guys I lived with or the guys across the hall who we often tangled with over silly immature things.
I will be honest, some days when I think my ministry is in a rut, or too taxing, I wonder about newer greener fields of harvest, with more workers and more opportunities to see God at work. For a moment, I forget that God planted me here for a reason. Then a trauma pops up, and I am back to work.
I guess that is one of the blessings of the place where I serve now – they keep me so busy I can’t plan grandiose visions and get too caught up on the harvest is greater in another field. Our community has come together where we do cry with anyone who cries, we do express joy with anyone who joy. And this means we know when someone is thirsty, we know when someone is broken… (including me)
So I understand what St Josemaria is saying about vision, what he is saying about the call we believe we have in the future. SOmetimes that vision is truly from God, sometimes those dreams and desires are sincere and possible.
But they can’t get in the way of people you are called to serve today, the people God has put in your life to give hope to them (and therefore to you ) today.
See that one there, he needs a cup of cold water. See her over there, she needs someone to hold her hand, and help her be still and know that God is her God. See that one, they need…..
And God has appointed you and I to be there for them. This is His vision for today…..even as He’s given you dreams of the future…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2610-2615). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.