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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.

The Restoration of Christmas… and the People of God

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you Featured imagein his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, 18  as one sings at festivals. I will remove disaster from among you, so that none may recount your disgrace. 19  Yes, at that time I will deal with all who oppress you; I will save the lame, and assemble the outcasts; I will give them praise and renown in all the earth, when I bring about their restoration. 20  At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you; For I will give you renown and praise, among all the peoples of the earth, When I bring about your restoration before your very eyes, says the LORD. Zephaniah 3:17-20 (NAB)

Would it be a bad thing for the church to move the celebration of Christ’s birth to the spring. The tradition of Christmas and Christ’s birth could be seperate. Just a thought.” ( my friend Mark B. )

“When I hear the phrase Merry Christmas I think of decorated trees, presents and good food. Christ’s birth is the last thing that comes to mind.” ( also from Mark B )

A few days ago, one of my friends responded to one of my wild ideas about a sermon concept, as you see above. My basic idea, well – you can read the sermon, I posted it a little while ago.  ( Or listen to it on Itunes at Concordia Radio)

Mark has a very valid point. We’ve allowed Christmas and its traditions to be redefined.  To the point where celebrating Christmas is a completely separate idea from celebrating God’s invasion into our lives, as the baby laid in a manger, who would die on the cross.

I’ve seen this in the lament of some, as churches cancel midnight services/masses, once “the” service that all went to on Christmas Eve.  You see it in the multitude of Meme’s talking about keeping Christ in Christmas, and how to do so.  You see it in the willingness of people to beleive “modern” scholarship which will claim Jesus’ birth happened at some other point in the year, but the one day it couldn’t have happened was 12/25.

I think many would go along with Mark’s thought, out of frustration, out of a sense of hopelessness.  Let’s just start all over again!  Let’s just celebrate Christ-birth at some other point that on Christ-mas Day.

I asked Mark if I could share this, and what his vocation is.  He saw the connection, and agreed.

So here it goes.

Mark is in the furniture restoration business, so I am going to suggest we use some of his techniques in restoring Christmas, and then re-use the same concepts in restoring our congregations, our parishes, His Church.

1.  Vision
The first thing to know is that you don’t restore something based on your vision.  You didn’t create it, and as you begin to carefully work at it, the vision that has been muddled, covered over, damaged will be restored!

2.  Value
In restoring something, you have to be aware that it survived because it had value.  Maybe it is pragmatic, maybe it is artistic, maybe it is both.  If it was simply sentimental, it wouldn’t have survived and taken all the abuse, neglect and paint that it has.  (Example – having everyone over to feast…. there is something about gathering together to celebrate Christ’s birth hidden under all of it!)  Sure, it’s often about gluttony and to see which part of the family has bragging rights now… but once… it was to celebrate God’s faithfulness!

3.  Flexibility
Because the value and vision are often so muddled, so hidden, so broken, we may not perceive it accurately.  That’s okay, be willing to adapt to what is revealed.  After all, no Christian at baptism knows everything… we grow and mature.  So will the revelations as you see more and more what you do points to Jesus.
You also have to realize that what you thought was the valuable part, may be that which obscurs the most, and the part you originally were doing to toss aside.. is a critical component.

4.  Love

in order to have the patience, the ability to make this happen, you have to learn to love what you are restoring.  It’s the only way you will take the years and maybe a decade it take to see the job towards completion.  There will be interruptions, distractions, days of frustration, that’s okay.There might even be people who question, you wisdom, your integrity, your sanity – they do this to me all the time!

The goal is worth it – a beautiful restoration that is a double piece of work of art…..that of the Creator, and that where the Creator’s vision was once again visible to mankind… and the hopelessness became hope.

I said in the beginning that this works with churches and parishes as well with the simple idea of making Christmas about Christ’s coming to us.  The Mission and concepts are the same, and the goal is the same.  To preach Christ crucified, whom is our hope of Glory. It’s what we do here at my church, when Christmas Day was first 10-12 people, now is 50, (Our Christmas Eve services have also grown)  where once it was a bother, now people are excited to come.  It can happen

It is what God promised, look above at the scripture, dive deeply into those promises… and rejoice… for God is restoring you… that started that very first Christmas morning.

He is with us.  Immanuel.

Focus on that…. and all comes into place.

For no one does restoration work like God our Father!

(and if you need restoration work done on furniture – go talk to Mark at http://www.bausmanandfather.com/ or

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bausman-and-Father-Furniture-Refinishing-of-Huntington-Beach-Ca/321617409278?pnref=lhc

A Dream for the Church I pastor…

Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:My Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

2  People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. Micah 4:2 (NLT)

“A few places in the world are held to be holy, because of the love which consecrates them, and of the faith that enshrines them.  One such is….”  Celtic Prayer Book, Reading for 8/11)

For the last couple of months, I have been praying about my congregations, the church that gathers here in Cerritos.

As a entity, there are necessary complications to ministry.  How do we deal with an aging facility, how do we accomplish evangelistic outreach and meet the needs of people in our community.  How do we make disciples of all peoples – of those young and old, of the stranger, of our own people.  How do we effectively use all the talents God gives us.  Big questions for sure, and we are working through them as a people.

But the biggest answer for my dream for our church is seen, not in our future plans, but in the green words above.

It doesn’t matter if we have a sanctuary that sits 500.  Or if we have a school.  Or even if there are 50000 people that attend our services and watch them on television, hear them on radio or live-feed them from the internet.

What matters to me is that where Concordia meets, becomes known as a place of holiness, a place where the love of God is known, a place where people’s trust in God’s faithfulness sees them through their lives.  Where people are devoted to God, where His vision compels them to act in others lives, bringing that holiness there. What disciples become crafted, not just through intellectual stimuli, but by worship, by adoring God, by the thoughts about His love.

I think that was what the prophet Micah is referring to, the ways we are taught by God, to walk His way, That is the change that God’s word makes in our lives, it opens up a relationship defined by words like cHesed, agape, phileo, charis… love, mercy, grace.

If the people of Concordia (or your church, or any church) grow in these things, then we have succeeded as a church.  We are a place where disciples are made, where God’s ways are treasured, where people live the life of those cleansed by God, and are immersed in His life. Where they are sure He will be with them, even until the end of the earth!

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What do we invest our money in? What about our Time?

 

The Passage of Time

The Passage of Time (Photo credit: ToniVC)

 16  Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. 17  He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ 18  Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, 19  and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ 20  “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ 21  “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”  Luke 12:16-21 (MSG)

People engaged in worldly business say that time is money. That means little to me. For us who are engaged in the business of souls, time is glory!  (1)

It seems we live in a world that concentrates on the here and now, and that now is imitated by the church.  Back in the ’80’s,w e called this the Tyranny of the Urgent.

I think it has gotten worse, and we rarely, if ever, look to the long run, whether in how we invest our money, or something even more precious, our time.   We want thee quickest turn around The quickest route to healing and recovery, and we will settle for far less than God has promised.   Heck – do we even bother to consider the long range outcomes anymore, or do we just react to everything that is happening, to focused on “this moment” and what has to be accomplished?

What would happen if we did pay attention to our future?  How would it change how we spend our time, our money, our lives?  Would we give more time spent in God’s presence?  Would we spnd time – not questioning those mysteries He hasn’t revealed to us, but simply being amazed by the truth of them? Would we consider our careers differently?  Would we see what we do with our spare time differently?

Josemaria Escriva said, “time is glory”.  The more I read that, the more I realize it is true.  Because time, our time, has been revealed to be spent in the presence of God.  God promises to never leave s, has promised to be very patient with us. Do we realize the time spent in His presence is spent in His glory – even if we cannot see it revealed clearly as it will be in heaven?

I think this is the biggest difference maker, to know God’s presence, to revel in it – to value and cherish it.  To even be a little defensive of those times – until we realize how to integrate them into our blessed lives and walk with God.

So take a afternoon – find a quiet place – and think it through – what takes your time, how is it invested..

Then figure out how to spend it, knowing that you are in the presence of God!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 904-906). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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