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Pastor? Preacher? Spritual Director? Life Coach? which do I NEED to minister to me?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 11  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)

 1  Take me as your pattern, just as I take Christ for mine. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NJB)

 1  Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2  I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3  Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4  And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5  The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6  He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7  Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8  He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.Philippians 2:1-8 (TEV)

It seems more and more advertising dollars are spent trying to convince me that I either should become a life coach, or that I need one.  A lot of master’s programs at Catholic and Protestant universities have M.A. and M. DIv programs in becoming a spiritual director.  Heck, one group is willing to provide me coaching, via videos and taped phone calls where I have no imput at all, but I can listen to them anytime I want.  I also have been inundated with books by preachers about ministry, and how to take my church from a failure to a success, and books about how to preach to my people so their lives turn completely around and they can live a good and proper life.

Lots of advice….

Now, don’t compelte read me out of context, there are those that are wise, and experienced coaches, some of whom I talk to and bounce ideas with on occaison.    But I’ve also talked to a coach in revitalization who was trying to get me to hire him as a coach, whose experience in churches under 1000 members was non-existent.  They developed their theories and their plan based on statistics and the works of others.

As I look at all these programs, and talk to some who director them, I am reminded of a ministry opportunity I once had, to teach and shepherd a group of young married couples. Only one problem, I was 23 years old and had just broken up with my fiance a few months before!. But hey, I could have purchased the latest book by Dobson, or Trent and Smalley and taught the material.

As I think about the ministry, and how we train our ministers (deacons) and pastors, I wonder what sort of message this sends them about how they should serve their people.  Do we want ministers who stand back and observe people and give advice that they haven’t quite experienced themselves?  Do we want them to turn to studies and books and “journeys” that are not unlike an old diagram with yes/no questions with tracks to take?  Or do we want someone who will be there, who may not have the answers but will continually point us to Christ’s presence in our lives, to His promises revealed in scripture, who assumes that God’s presence in our lives, is the final answer… and how that applies is something we work through together.

I think we need to get away from the cookie cutter approach, whether it is more traditional, or more contemporary, more cutting edge or more based in cautious stewardship of yesterday’s concepts.  We have to stop de-humanizing the relationship between pastor and people, and and humble ourselves and get down in the mud together, and see what God is doing. That’s not the way Chirst worked among those with whom He lived.  He got involved, He knew their pain, He took their burdens.. and He calls us to love each other in the same way.  Including being patient with those whom we serve.. He didn’t meet them in an office, he met them at tax tables, and by the waiting room at the ppol, on the road and where the boats gather… He met them in their life, and endured with them

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe that’s the point about all this, that it isn’t just a title, but finding someone to work with who is willing to do what Christ did – to come to us in our brokenness, and minister healing to us.  Not just advice, not just a sermon series, not just rubrics and guidelines and 6 steps to that.  But someone who comes and serves, and cares, and brings healing and trains us to do the same to others.

May we train ministers and pastors and bishops and our laity – all who minister in Christ’s name.. to do so as Christ did..

Love Them, Love Them, Love Them: Discipleship lessons from the gym…and Coach C

The 100-Meter Run

The 100-Meter Run (Photo credit: Government Press Office (GPO))

Devotional THought of the Day:

13  We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. 14  And we have seen and tell others that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15  If we declare that Jesus is the Son of God, we live in union with God and God lives in union with us. 16  And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17  Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18  There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.  1 John 4:13-21 (TEV) 

7  It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. 8  But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! 9  By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger! 10  We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! 11  But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God’s friends.  Romans 5:7-11 (TEV) 

194         You have to be a live ember that sets fire to whatever it touches. And, when your surroundings are incapable of catching fire, you have to raise their spiritual temperature. If not, you are wasting time miserably, and wasting the time of those around you. (1)

I was at the gym this morning, working out when I thought of one of my PE coaches from high school.  As we used to work out, he would “encourage” us with a constant mantra…. LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT!.

It pumped us up – enabled us to run a bit farther, lift a little more, grind it out.  But I don’t think many of us loved it.  Matter of fact, a few of us didn’t like it or Coach Carter (during class) all that much. But the results across a semester in the weight room and on the track showed us the benefit of being trained and “encouraged.”  And because Coach Carter had been there before himself – he knew how to discipline those willing.   I am leaning on those lessons a lot as I return to working out.  With a genetic disorder that affects my heart and spine.  For my heart it has resulted in two heart valves being replaced and internal defibrillators, and a limited lifestyle – so starting to work out again is a challenge.

Yesterday, there was a discussion online about our enemies, about those who verbally attacked a Roman Catholic Cardinal who seems to be a pretty good guy.  My response was, knowing of him, he was probably praying for those attacking him.  One lady didn’t quite get that – and over a number of posts told me to mind my own business, and not talk to her about the concepts of self-defense and faith.  I didn’t, but I’ve thought and prayed for a bit since then.  Wondering what issues prompted a response that wasn’t where I was going at all.  I thought as well about our attitude towards those people who are the thorns in our life, those who are incredibly difficult to love and forgive. Those who test our ability to live life trusting in God, like that extra 20 pounds tested my endurance on the calf press this morning – and that .2 of mph faster made the difference on the treadmill.

These people, hopefully, are a burden we will embrace – or as Coach C would say – LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM!

For in doing so, we have to that which is extremely difficult, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross and walk with Jesus.  We have to have no fear (for love casts out such fear – see above) and even if our lives are sacrificed as martyrs… (which few of us will face) we must love them anyway.   (Many, many saints serve as great examples of this.)

Whether we realize it or not, these people can be those in our life that help our dependence on God, our faith and trust in Him grow the most. And in loving them, wholeheartedly, even as they are our enemies, we begin to see how great God’s love is for us.   We find the strength in Him, in HIs cross, which we are united to, to love them, to be patient with them because we want them to be transformed by God and not perish, to be our brothers and sisters in Christ, feasting together at God’s table.  As St. Josemaria noted – sometimes we have to turn up the heat — sometimes we need the heat turned up on us…

It’s not easy.  It is significantly harder than getting up an hour earlier to get to the gym, or being embarrassed by realizing how weak we’ve become over the years.

Even so, as John said, we are loved…so Lord in your mercy, help us to

LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM!!!!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1022-1025). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Charity (love) and being discipled/trained to love as Christ?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

“Loving souls for God’s sake will make us love everyone: understanding, excusing, forgiving… We should have a love that can cover the multitude of failings contrived by human wretchedness. We have to have a wonderful charity, veritatem facientes in caritate, defending the truth, without hurting anyone.” (1)

As I hear people talk about the lack of need in their spiritual life for “church”, I grieve for them, and for the church.  It is a loss for both, for we were not meant to have an “individual” relationship with God – and more than the Trinity has relationship apart from the entire Trinity.  We are meant to abide in Christ as a family, a body, a group called out together.  The people of God, since Adam and Eve were meant to be in community, as they walked through the Sinai, as the encamped around the tabernacle, as they rejoiced at the Temple – offering sacrifices and celebrating the putting off of their sin – together.

Yesterday I wrote about restoring the word “charity” as it helps us focus the nature of the love (which is a synonym of charity when its the highest form of love) and today’s comment from my devotions likewise uses the word.  (Surprise!)  As I noted then – charity is not about giving our cast-offs – our no-longer used, or giving from our abundance – it is just the opposite – its giving from our need – to care for those we are called to love. (not just those we decide to love – there is a big difference)   The relationship between the people of God is supposed to amaze others – and extend out from the church… to bring the world into it.

The church then – as a body is the tool which God uses to demonstrate how to love in such a complete, even sacrificial way.  For indeed, He demonstrates such charity/love towards us, as He graciously cleanses us, heals our souls (and yes sometimes our bodies) as He marks us as His children, as He gives us new life, (see Titus 3).

He does call us to then love others, even as He loves us… that’s charity – and the church is a great training ground.  For some of us are harder to love, some are indeed great challenges.  And there are a multitude of failings, which need to be corrected with discipline, even as we do it in love.   This isn’t easy – and yet – as we learn to do it in safety, with the other brothers and sisters in Christ, we find ourselves showing such love/charity to those in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our very lives.  Let me put it bluntly – the church isn’t a place where every one is easy to love – because we are a bunch of hypocrites and sinners. But then – it is the ability to love even these, that God demonstrated in Christ, and desires us to show as well.  God had St. John explain it this way…..

16 And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17 Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18 There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21 The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.  1 John 4:16-21 (TEV) 

The people at your church such as you struggle to love them?  Rejoice – you have some wondrous opportunities to depend on God, and to see Him work through you ahead!

ANd remember – you can always cry out….

Lord Have Mercy!

Be assured that He does!

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2099-2102). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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