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Does Your Missional Vision for Tomorrow Interfere With Your Ministry Today?


20170124_103703Devotional 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…

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2610-2615). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are You Comfortable In Your Faith? Some Thoughts as We Approach Lent.


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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for a day just before the beginning of Lent
25  But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27  and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)

938    Try to live in such a way that you can voluntarily deprive yourself of the comfort and ease you wouldn’t approve of in the life of another man of God. Remember, you are the grain of wheat of which the Gospel speaks. If you don’t bury yourself and die, there will be no harvest.

As I read these words, my thoughts wander from thinking of the mansions of the mega church preachers, to considering many of the luxuries I have.  From (self)-righteous indignation to guilt and shame.

Added to the latter is a number of people asking me, as they do every lent, about whether it is necessary to give up, or fast from something for the days of lent.Some people want to give up bad habits, or things they’ve been told are good for you.  Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Facebook, Talking about politics.  Others sacrifice a meal, and even use the money saved to give to others in need.

And then, as Lent brings about Easter, the fasting ends, the habits return, the sacrifices stop and comfort returns.

What if the change that we seek in our Lenten time were to become a lifelong change?  What if the sacrifices became our way fo life?  What if we chose to give up something that impeded our relationship with God, and the sacrificed caused us to depend on Him more?

Which brings up a question – do we plan and try to give up the things that we know distract us from God?  Is this even a desire in our lives?  Or do we simply go, day to day, stuck in those habits, feeding those desires, and allowing ourselves to burn out spiritually?

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, can we grow in our devotion to God?  Can we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual growth?  Can we go to those who care for us spiritually and ask for direction and prayer as well, confident of God working through the gifts He gave us for this very purpose?

This may not be as easy as pledging to give up steak on Friday, but it will benefit us… of this I am sure.


Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2177-2180). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Did Someone Change your Schedule? Rejoice!


Devotional Thought of the Day:
13  On the Sabbath we went out of the city to the riverside, where we thought there would be a place where Jews gathered for prayer. We sat down and talked to the women who gathered there.  Acts 16:13 (TEV)

14  And this Good News about the Kingdom will be preached through all the world for a witness to all people; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (TEV)

799    What amazes you seems quite natural to me: God has sought you out right in the midst of your work. That is how he sought the first, Peter and Andrew, John and James, beside their nets, and Matthew, sitting in the customhouse. And—wonder of wonders—Paul, in his eagerness to destroy the seeds of Christianity!

St. Josemaria’s words this morning about Paul get me to thinking.

Paul encountered God on the road, as he was journeying to do damage to the church. Paul would then go where he knew to go to persecute, but with a different purpose.  Now he was there to bless, to share the mercy, the love, the very glory of God. The knowledge once used to persecute those who trusted in God was now transformed, and being used to bless them, and enlarge their numbers.

This is the work of God.

People don’t seek Him out as much as He seeks them out.

I’ve seen this in my own life, the very thing that torments me, that causes anxiety and  pain, that has required so many surgeries over the years (Nost to change batteries) and odd hospital trips had caused me to often me angry with God, to question “why me”, to doubt.

It has also led me to be able to minister to others, to be able to seek them out, even when withdrawn. It has enabled me to minister to the nurses and occasionally the doctors who are over worked, overwhelmed and dealing with their own anxieties, their own problems, their own challenges. They needed someone there, and God brought me there, and everything seemed to work right.

It is amazing to see God encounter us, and then lead us to encounter others. It sometimes seems far beyond coincidence, and it is, these are divine appointments.  SO don’t sweat the change of plans, He’s directing your day!

So look for God in your day, and look for those he’s sent you too…

Rejoice the Lord is with you!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1840-1843). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The God Who Can Be Hurt….. He is your God, you are His!


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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
3  “Worship no god but me. 4  “Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5  Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals.    Exodus 20:3-5 (TEV)

1  The LORD said to me, “Go again and show your love for a woman who is committing adultery with a lover. You must love her just as I still love the people of Israel, even though they turn to other gods and like to take offerings of raisins to idols.”
Hosea 3:1 (TEV)

441    You are hurt by your neighbor’s lack of charity toward you. Think how God must be hurt by your lack of charity—of love—toward him!

I have sat with many people who are angry, who blame God for the pain and brokenness in their lives.  Living with such pain, they get mad at God; they will claim it is His fault, or that He has abandoned them, they strike out at Him. 

My temptation is to try an answer for God before they are ready to hear the answer or defend the God who needs no defense. Thankfully, He is patient with me, because He is not willing for them to perish. 

And I think we need to see that, this God who is patient, this God who is merciful, this God whose goal is reconciliation and restoration.

We need to see a God who hurts when He is betrayed, who hurts when people are unfaithful, and who embraces that pain to provide an opportunity for those who hurt Him to experience again His incredible love, His limitless mercy, and the abundance of peace.

Yeah, we can hurt God, we can turn our back on Him. He hurts when our pain our anxiety, and the pressures of life seem to drive us away from Him.  When we hurt so much, we ignore His presence, and refuse to let Him comfort us.  He is there, hurting with us, trying to comfort us anyway, trying to heal us, trying to get us to listen, to be still and know He is God.

So how do we minister on behalf of a hurting God, to people who are hurt?   As He does, with great patience, comforting them, allowing them to know they have a refuge, a place to rest, and when they are ready, revealing that to be no less that God Himself.

He is with them, He is with us, AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1086-1087). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It’s not Inconvenient! It is theft of a treasure, your treasure.


Devotional thought for the weekend:

16 He replied to him, “A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. 17 When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready.’ 18 But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 The servant went and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out and still there is room.’ 23 The master then ordered the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled. 24 For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.’ ”  Luke 14:16-24 NABRE

 3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?   Hebrews 2:2-3 (NLT)

I’ve got to work!  I’ve got responsibilities!  I’ve got family obligations! (Though what obligation a newlywed has to his wife… or wait – nevermind!)  

Following Christ doesn’t have a simple agenda.  It can’t be planned out a month in advance.  There are times it means that after a hard day’s work, you spend the night helping a neighbor, or helping (with love) to that obstinate, pain in the ass relative. 

There will be long days, days where plans are changed, days where things are moved around.  Days where our devotions may not happen when we want. There might even be a day when we have to miss church, not to go to a ball game, but to help a hurting person.

The temptation is just to skip it that day, to pick up tomorrow what we should have done today, and just push it all back a day.  Been there, done that. One year – my read through the Bible – which should have gone November 1 to October 31st, well – I gave up mid-February as I was already a month behind!  Guilt and shame set in, because I wasn’t giving God the proper response He deserved.  I wasn’t a good disciple, and I wondered if I was so weak, why would people follow me as a pastor?

But I didn’t understand discipleship – and I didn’t really understand the purpose of devotional time, and that misunderstanding gave me the ability to set it aside, to declare it inconvenient. An inconvenience somehow excused the necessity, because the ministry was more important than devotions, or work projects were, or family and family…uhm… obligations.

I realized sometime in that year that I missed the reading, and the liturgy I entered into every morning. I realized I didn’t “do” devotions to prove that I was devoted to God!  (Sometimes we do it to prove to Him, and sometimes just to prove it to ourselves.)  I can’t prove my devotion, and too be honest, as long as was my motivation, I would falter and fail.

Devotional time is not about proving our devotion as if providing us improved us.  I need my devotional time – because it proves His devotion to me. I need to know that, I need to know the love that won’t let me go, I need to be convinced that I can run to His arms, depending on a mercy that promises to forgive my sin, and cleanse me from the sin of a world that could crush me.

This is my time with my Father, to hear of His love, His mercy, His desire to rescue me from the brokenness of my life.

And so, if life made me miss, I get back and make it up, savoring the little steps I take with Him, as He points out a little more of the height, the depth. The width and breadth of His love for me, and for my people, and for the community of humanity.

I need this time, which comes all together as I write a blog, or a sermon, or just worship and pray.  I desperately need it, so much so I can’t count it inconvenient to miss, I consider it theft, and do what I can to get what God would give me back…. 

You too need a time like this, not just to read, not just to pray, but to realize the blessing of God; that is in your life. No, that is your life.

Start simple – and as you begin to be in awe – add a little more….. and become hungry to know more and more of this Lord of life.

For this is His mercy… the mercy we sinners cry out for… 

Imitating Christ… in dying to self.


English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

 23  Jesus answered them, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to receive great glory. 24  I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains. 25  Those who love their own life will lose it; those who hate their own life in this world will keep it for life eternal. 26  Whoever wants to serve me must follow me, so that my servant will be with me where I am. And my Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12:23-26 (TEV)

 17  In the Lord’s name, then, I warn you: do not continue to live like the heathen, whose thoughts are worthless 18  and whose minds are in the dark. They have no part in the life that God gives, for they are completely ignorant and stubborn. 19  They have lost all feeling of shame; they give themselves over to vice and do all sorts of indecent things without restraint. 20  That was not what you learned about Christ! 21  You certainly heard about him, and as his followers you were taught the truth that is in Jesus. 22  So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. 23  Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, 24  and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy.   Ephesians 4:17-24 (TEV)

If the grain of wheat does not die, it remains unfruitful. Don’t you want to be a grain of wheat, to die through mortification, and to yield stalks rich in grain? May Jesus bless your wheat field! (1)

Yesterday I asked on Facebook a question about whether we would follow Jesus if he showed up today and asked us too.  Actually, more specifically, I asked what our excuses would be when we told him we wouldn’t follow Him.

Most people said they would, and I believe in their hearts they sincerely believe it.

Even as I know most of us do not, even now, as Christ is present in our lives,  as He is calling us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and walk with Him, through that dying to self, into the presence of the Father.

Will we walk with Christ in loving those who would kill us, that we could win their souls to God?

Will we forgive others who have sinned against us?

Will we depend on God when life is rough, the answers unknown, when we need to forsake joy and embrace suffering – that a person would come to know God’s love?

Will we give up taking care of what we are responsible for – to care for others.  (think of John, James, Peter and Andrew leaving their fathers and boats behind, or Matthew leaving the tax table and the taxes he collected behind.._

Reading Les Miserable in my spare time is really causing me to ask these questions, not of you, but of myself.   Wondering how I serve as an example, as Paul did, as Peter did, for those whom I have been entrusted with shepherding.  It’s a hard question… and it seems like the law is condemning me…even brutally.

Until I realize that such things I cling to, are actually snares… snares that would stop me from following Christ, or at least blind me to His Spirit’s presence.  I have to come to my senses and realize in whose presence I dwell.  The Lord and Master who shatters those holds, who brings me healing, who brings me life.

This dying to self thing – its not so I can just die.  It is so I can live.

We too need to experience what that seed did… actually we just need to realize we have… He has done this to us, even as He subjected Himself to it.

This imitating Christ – is the living that we were created for…

It is what began at our baptism, it is what is strengthened as we are absolved and commune…

It is the abundant life.

Lord have mercy on us, by crucifying our sin and sinful desires… leaving us nothing else, but You, and the glory in which you share with us. AMEN

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 574-575). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Beauty of Faith, the Beauty of Christ


Corcovado jesus

Corcovado jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:

“There are some who pass through life as through a tunnel, without ever understanding the splendour, the security and the warmth of the sun of Faith” (1)

As I read this little quote this morning, my mind goes back to the study I did yesterday, for Sunday’s sermon on the gospel reading which is found in St. John 5:1-18.   It is the story of the invalid man -whom Jesus heals, after Jesus asks him, “do you want to be made whole?”  An incredible story!

What struck me while I did my research was the comments and references to the passages throughout church history. Early on, the church Father’s talked about how this story represents Christ coming to us, and even before the man is ready to face the change of a new life, Christ gives him that new life.  It is a picture of the miracle down to each of us in our baptism.

Then I moved into the reformation, and the enlightenment. The use of the passage changed, now it became a source for “doctrine”- especially regarding the divinity and humanity of Jesus.  ( Albeit I have less “sermons” and letters to churches from that era).   There are a couple of exceptions- such as Newman. But for the most part, in order to focus on the deep theology, they overlook the incarnation of Christ into this man’s life.  They miss His passion, and the healing- which is a type of the very healing Christ does in each of our lives.   We can miss Christ coming to us, we can miss His presence, His healing, and the peace and security Jesus brings us, who dwell in pain.

I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting to, in this little quote.  Do we see Jesus – do we see the beauty of His love, and the beauty of the relationship that He builds with us, as we learn that we can trust Him, and how much we can trust Him.  Or do we see the minutae –  the stuff about Christ, the things that are beyond our comprehension – not because we are so small, but compared to knowing Him, they are!  I can’t think of any of the unknown things of Christianity, the stuff that academic theologians often get distracted by, that is more glorious, more profound, than what has been revealed to us, in Christ.

And that’s the point.

So for today, think, meditate, and be still and know – all the thoughts, the meditations, the knowledge focused on knowing the Lord Jesus, who has come into your life to make you whole…..

 

 

 

(1) Escriva, Josemaria

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