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Revealing rather Lecturing: Evangelical Catholicism II

Devotional Discussion Quote of the day:

Yet the hard fact is that “The Church teaches . . .” is language destined to fall upon deaf ears in twenty-first-century cultures of radical subjectivity, in which the highest authority is the imperial autonomous Self. “The Gospel reveals . . .” is a different matter. “The Gospel reveals . . .” is a challenge in answer to the critique of the very idea of “revelation” mounted for the past two centuries by the high culture of the West. “The Gospel reveals . . .” is a challenge not unlike the challenge posed by Jesus to his disciples on the road to Caesarea Philippi: “Who do you say that I am?” [Mark 8.29]. By throwing down a gauntlet in the form of a proposal, “The Gospel reveals . . .” demands a response. That response may, initially, be skepticism, even hostility. But it will likely not be indifference. Moreover, if the truth, proclaimed clearly and fearlessly enough, has its own power— as two millennia of Christian history have shown—“ The Gospel reveals . . .” may, at the very least, be a conversation starter— unlike “The Church teaches . . . ,” which sets off every modern and postmodern and antiauthoritarian alarm bell in minds and hearts formed by the ambient culture of the twenty-first-century West. Evangelical Catholicism understands that there is an inherent connection between divine revelation and the Church: “The Gospel reveals . . .” eventually leads to “The Church teaches . . .” But it gets to the latter from a distinctive starting point. Evangelical Catholicism begins from an unapologetic confession of Christian faith as revealed faith—“ the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” [1 John 1.2]. 5 That eternal life, that Word of God that has come into history in search of us, is “what we have seen and heard” [1 John 1.3]. (1)

I’ve had 11 courses in preaching – from 4 in my junior and senior years of Bible college, to my Master’s program – to 5 Doctoral Level courses where I was paired up with a mentor who was a mega church pastor.  (the ratio in those classes was 5:1)  In a lot of those courses, the style of preaching was similar.  We preached the word “authoritatively”,  that is, we were the experts.  We knew the Greek and Hebrew.  We were trained to dissect the text, and put it together in a way that would apply to the lives of those people. Indeed, one of the best classes was in how to comprehend the lives of our people.   Often times we included quotes from the great preachers, John Chrysotom, Martin Luther, the Wesley’s,  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the modern guys like John Stott, or Chuck Swindoll, or Ken Korby or  and of course Spurgeon – using their wisdom and ability to thread words together into beautiful tapestries and shore up our weak points.

Some lessons ran counter to that… and those are the ones that make the above quote resound

My first preaching teacher, Doug Dickey, told me once that every sermon has to share the love of Christ, to not worry about being brilliant, but simply show those listening about Jesus.
Juan Carols Ortiz, my mentor in the doctoral level program, told me not to lecture, but to tell a story, that walks the people along the road with Jesus, allowing them to get to know Him, to feel His love, His gentle correction, and even the joy that He feels, as we respond to that love.
And WMC  introduced me to the style of preaching that is considered the distinctive approach of Lutheran preaching – to afflict those comforted in their sin, and comfort those afflicted by their sin. (see Walther’s “The proper distinction between Law and Gospel”)

Those rules can work within a standard presentation, whether it is a sermon, or over a glass of diet coke/coffee/tea/beer.  But in each of those roles, we are pulled out of the model of the lecturer, the one who says the Church (whether Catholic or Lutheran ro Calvary Chapel or Baptist) says… (or its stars say) to reveal to those we are in dialogue with the incredible person of Jesus Christ, the One who is the way, the truth and the live.  Not as what I think of him, but as how He has revealed himself to us, through the scriptures, through the very word of God, given to prophets and apostles, that they would reveal to us the living Christ, to invite us into His presence.

There is a big difference there, that as Wiegel says leaves the post-modernist and the skeptic with something that strips their post-modernism and leaves them, a human being needing to get to know this Person.  It causes the one who says they want to be spiritual but not religious with the insight that you can’t divide your knowledge and practice – because God gave us both, in order to be in a relationship with us, revealing in us each – our ability to trust Him, and that we are entrusted to Him.

So my brothers who preach, and to all who share the gospel, it is time for the Apocalypse – no, not the end of times horror stories of novels.  But what the word really means – to unveil the Lord Jesus Christ, to reveal the height and depth and breadth and width of the Love of God revealed to us, to the people who so desperately need to know it.

And may all who do this, whether Lutheran or Catholic, Reformed or Wesleyan, Baptist or Pentecostal, rejoice as Christ is made known…

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 30). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

On Surviving Mondays…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“By yourself, if you don’t count on grace, you can do nothing worthwhile, for you would be cutting the link which connects you with God. With grace, on the other hand, you can do all things” (1)

Peter, James and John were on a short side trip with Jesus when the man came, looking for help.  Desperate he was, to find some comfort, some rest, some refuge for his tormented son.

The apostles tried, but to no avail, what they had done before wasn’t working, for some reason they couldn’t help, they couldn’t find the power, the “dunamis” to cast out those oppressive spirits.

Mondays can be like that, as we come back to “reality”, to the grind of another week.  Maybe the weekend was not a restful one, maybe it wasn’t what we expected, or maybe it was too much – and we need to recover from it!  Either way, back on the job on Mondays is always difficult, even oppressive.  I wouldn’t go so far as saying demonic… (well there have been some Mondays… )

But where do we find the strength for them.  In the same place that Jesus instructed his men to find their strength.

“his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Mark 9:28-29 (ESV) 

We were reminded on Sunday about this rtuth – that we must depend on Jesus, that we must entrust ourselves into God’s hands, to recognize that the Holy Spirit dwells in us.  Yet on Mondays, so often we forget this, so often we fail to remember this.  We let the situations get the best of us, we look at everything with a darkened, pessimistic view, we approach life, if not paranoid, then at least a little hesitant – wondering which trauma, which challenge, which confrontation will next pop up to bash us like a storm.

Yesterday in Sunday School I used a long quote from another pastor.  Not my usual thing – but this one – despite it’s somewhat archaic language rings so true.  Even though it will extend this devotion out – it is good for us to read:

” ( God’s ) Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, thou dost not make use of Christ as thou oughtest to do. When thou art in trouble, why dost thou not tell him all thy grief? Has he not a sympathizing heart, and can he not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art going about to all thy friends, save thy best Friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except into the bosom of thy Lord. Art thou burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: use it, saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon thee? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to him at once for cleansing. Dost thou deplore thy weakness? He is thy strength: why not lean upon him? Dost thou feel naked? Come hither, soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Stand not looking at it, but wear it. Strip off thine own righteousness, and thine own fears too: put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear. Dost thou feel thyself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer, and call up the Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive thee. Thou art poor, but then thou hast “a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth.” What! wilt thou not go to him, and ask him to give thee of his abundance, when he has given thee this promise, that thou shalt be joint heir with him, and has made over all that he is and all that he has to be thine? There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for his people to make a show-thing of him, and not to use him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on his shoulders, the more precious will he be to us. “(2)

In closing consider this – you look at Catholic Saints like St Josemarie Escriva, you look at protestant preachers like Spurgeon, or hymn writers like Wimber or Newton or Wesley and Luther – the one common thread they have – is that we have to trust – we have to depend on God’s presence in our life.  Not just to get into heaven, but to enjoy the life eternal that starts when God makes us his…

Cry out Lord have mercy my friends, and know He has, He is, and He will…



(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1282-1285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2)  Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

How to find strength in the face of adversity and trauma?

Discussion/Devotional thought of the day:

There are days when it seems the trials and traumas never end.  For a pastor, perhaps we see this more often than others, but I don’t think so.  There are so many things out there to cause anxiety, from health issues to financial struggles, to friends and family in trauma, to marriages and relationships that struggle and need supernatural help to survive and heal.

As I related yesterday, I’ve had a few myself –  from dieing to surgeries, and to being there for people in the midst of so many issues.   I have found that in the midst of adversity, in the midst of trauma, there is both a sense of peace, and strength that is there that isn’t mine, but it is available to me.  It is one of the reasons I am writing a book about churches in trauma – to remind them of what is already there… for them..

In this mornings devotion, I came across two notes that reveal it a little, once you think them through:

475    You realize you are weak. And so, indeed, you are. In spite of all that—rather, because of it—God has sought you. He always uses inadequate instruments so that the work may be seen to be his. From you he asks only docility.

476    When you really give yourself to God, no difficulty will be able to shake your optimism.  (Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1165-1168). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

I’ve been accused of being too optimistic once or twice, and while I would adjust St Josemaria’s statement a little – I agree with it.  My adjustment would be to say “When you abandon yourself to God” rather than give.   Give makes it sound like you can, like a child “take back” that which you have given.  (and so often we do!)  But to come to the realization that there is no other option, no other hope, then you do let God be God, the Master who promises to and designs your life as a piece of artwork.  (see Eph. 2:10 – the word for workmanship there is the word we get poetry from!)

I am not talking about conversion here – at least not in the evangelical sense.  For there, conversion has little to do with us, God simply reveals Himself and His love, through those who come to us with His word.  Wesley may have called this a “second infilling of grace”, Robert Schuller calls this positive thinking (knowing that we are God’s brings about incredible strength in times of need – that’s the hallmark of most of his writing) , the prophet/leader Joshua would ask it this way “choose you this day whom you serve”.  The apostle Paul talks about being confident that “all things work for good for those that love God.”   Luther would talk about such as a First Commandment issue – don’t have other God’s – but call upon Him in prayer and praise.  When you abandon yourself into God’s hands, and are confident that is the thing to do- you simply know and trust in Him.

What is mistaken for optimism – is simply a matter of confidence in God.  Trusting Him, having faith in Him, knowing Him.

That is where the other point of St. Josemaria comes into play.  When we realize we are weak – when we realize we have no real option but to abandon ourselves to God, then we begin to realize that God has plans, He has designs on our life, and those designs bring us to places we would have never imagined, to work with people we would never anticipate, and see them respond to the work of God in our lives.  Not because we can do great things – but in the midst of the storms, in the midst of what should promote incredible anxiety, in the middle of it all… we know God is with us.

Having mercy, pouring out His love and comfort, assuring us of our place with Him……there is our strength, and knowing that, we can be incredibly bold – in being His people.

So know He is God, and you are His chosen people.  And let Him do His thing… being God – He’s significantly better at being God than you are!

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