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Is there a Biblical Work Ethic?

Devotional Thought of the Day”

15  Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16  Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NLT2)

Since we should behave at all times as God’s envoys, we must be very much aware that we are not serving him loyally if we leave a job unfinished; if we don’t put as much effort and self-sacrifice as others do into the fulfillment of professional commitments; if we can be called careless, unreliable, frivolous, disorganized, lazy, or useless … Because people who neglect obligations that seem less important will hardly succeed in other obligations that pertain to the spiritual life and are undoubtedly harder to fulfill. “He who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in very little is dishonest also in much.”

It was known as the “protestant work ethic” but it was imbedded in me while I grew up Roman Catholic. Simply stated we were to work hard, simply because our work habits would reflect on our parents, our school, and our God. So, getting good grades, or doing the dishes, or shoveling the driveway was done the best we could do. To do less than a perfect job, well that brought into question our devotion to God, and our appreciation for the family God gave us as a gift.

So we pushed the limits, in our schoolwork, in our early jobs. We could be told to slow down, to stop embarrassing others who did not put as much (if any) effort into their work. Now we were embarrassing people we had to work with, live with and that too was uncomfortable.

As I read St. Josemaria’s words, I wondered about the tie between working hard and the two great commandments. Are we truly loving our neighbor Do we love them if we only invest ourselves 40% in the work, we are doing for them?  DO we love God if our work reflects poorly as we fail to love our boss, our employer, our clientele? (Never mind the commandment about not stealing – which we do if we work at our best!)

These are heavy thoughts and could turn into using the Law to motivate behavior.

Because someone used the wrong tool to motivate us, are we free to slack off?  Can we find the justification to argue we are only working at the level for which we receive pay?

I think we find the answer in Paul’s words to Timothy – the idea that we are presenting our work, not to a manager, owner, or board. We present ourselves to Him, the Lord who loves us, the Lord who cares, the Lord who fixes our mistakes, who forgives our sin. Our reaction to that is what our work is, or at least it needs to be. We do this because, not out of obligation, not out of some guilt motivated, but as a response to love. The response is not mandated, forced, it simply comes from know the love that is shown us.

Spend time with the Lord who loves you! Spend time thinking about the cross. You will never have to worry about whether you are working hard enough, or doing enough.  

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Miserable Job? Try Worship while you work!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

13  Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Romans 6:13 (NLT2)

60 Forgive this digression, and, though we haven’t really gone off the track, let us return to the central idea. Be convinced that our professional vocation is an essential and inseparable part of our condition as Christians. Our Lord wants you to be holy in the place where you are, in the job you have chosen for whatever reason. To me, every job that is not opposed to the divine law is good and noble, and capable of being raised to the supernatural plane, that is, inserted into the constant flow of Love which defines the life of a child of God.

As I came up to with the title of this post, I thought of the 7 dwarves in Snow White’s famous cartoon, marching off to the mines singing “Whistle While You Work.” It is cute song at first, but try singing it at work when everyone is stressed out, or just about any Monday in a year!

Seriously, try researching how many people are not happy at work. First up in my search was Forbes, – 53% unhappy with their work! It gets worse, CNBC said 85% of the employees they surveyed are unhappy doing what they spend 40-50 hours or more a week doing!

Switching jobs won’t help, for all you would be doing is taking the job another person’s place, where they were unhappy. Trading misery isn’t a great option, for often the misery is found inside you, rather than just inside the building.

Maybe the answer then is something other that what you do?

One of my early mentors talked about who your real employer is, who you work to please. It isn’t your boss, or the head of your department, or even the owner of the company. You work for God, and the you work pays you to do that!

I am not saying spend all your time preaching in a break room, or being annoying with your faith in God. I am not advising you to become the apostle, prophet or evangelist that argues osmeone into the faith. Nor should you act like you are holier than the rest of the people at your workplace.

Instead, look at yuor co-workers are people who Jesus died for, because He loves them, just like He loves you! Look at your tasks as things God is using to draw you closer to Him. See every moment as one where you encounter God! As you do, you will realize the promises of God are for your work life as well as your lives at church and at home. If you are McDonald’s, or a Real Estate office, running a tractor or driving across country in a big rig, there you are with God. Even those in front-line, high stress jobs go about their lives in the presnce of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit is transforming them into His image.

This isn’t God’s law, you won’t go to Hell if you don’t do it. But it is living life the way He desires, casting cares, problems, sins into His arms, and dwelling in His peace and love. Find people that will remind you that the Lord is with you! Find little things that remind you of this.

And then be there, in the moment, with Jesus.

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Church on Sunday, Work on Monday… Why do we have such burdens?

Can we bear to see the pain,
in order to see the beauty?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

With your faithful love, you will lead the people you have redeemed; you will guide them to your holy dwelling with your strength. Exodus 15:13 CSB

Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross!

For many of our contemporaries, though, work is “a tedious function”: they see their professional obligations—intellectual or manual, of public relevance or unfolding quietly within the four walls of home—as a weight that must be carried “because there’s no way out of it.” Some live for the weekend and try to bear with the fatigues of work with the consolation that their well-deserved break is coming. Thus, they condemn themselves to five days of suffering and two of fleeting enjoyment, for the gray monotony of the next Monday appears immediately on the horizon. Others imagine that work is a divine punishment, the fruit of original sin. They forget that when God created man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden ut operantur, to work, he gave this command before the Fall of our first parents.

Yesterday, I had the honor of confirming 4 young adults in the faith. Over the time we studied together, I hope I gave them a different view of church than many adults have. A way that Fazio expressed above regarding work, the idea that we have to go “because there’s no way out of it.” That church is somehow an invasion, God trying to take his chunk out of the time of rest that people are owed for their back breaking work.

I think people need to see both work and church in a different way. Not as tedious things they must do, but as a time they are able to work alongside the God who loves them. Managers and bosses can encourage this, giving people the freedom to do their work in a way that encourages their artistic sense, or gives them a measure of satisfaction and joy.

We need to do this with church as well. To help people run to the cross, because they know the faithful love that is revealed there. They know how singing and even dancing in the presence of God, no dancing with God, is more fulfilling than anything else. That the feast of the Lord’s Supper is something to be celebrated, a time of great joy and wonder. We need to be drawn to the cross, not purpose driven.

This is the picture Moses drew for the Israelites in Exodus, as God guides His people into His presence, into their home. To see the faithful love of God at work in those moments, and to see it infect people who take that joy of being home with God into their work places, recognizing His presence there. He would guide them there, patiently, just as He guides us…

To that place where we look on awe, realizing the strength of the love that endured all of it, from the pain of the betrayal to the beating, from the mocking voices ot the tearing pain of the spikes which pierced His hands and feet. Hebrews tells us that He not only endured it, He did it for the joy set before Him, the joy of reuniting us with the Father, of bringing us home.

When we are there..at the foot of the cross, it changes everything. No longer is work an obligation, no longer is church a duty to do, a burden laid on us. It is a time of refreshment, of joy, of being reminded that God surrounds us in peace. That peace extends out from these few hours on Sunday, and makes even work come alive.

For we are His people…His beloved people, and He is with us… even if all we do is work in the kitchen…

Lord, help the people i minister to see Your love for them, and rejoice in it.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 366.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (pp. 105-106). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

management … and Faith

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
9  And as for you employers, be as conscientious and responsible towards those who serve you as you expect them to be towards you, neither misusing the power over others that has been put in your hands, nor forgetting that you are responsible yourselves to a heavenly employer who makes no distinction between master and man.   Ephesians 6:9 (Phillips NT)

727      When you have to give orders, do not humiliate anyone. Go gently. Respect the intelligence and the will of the one who is obeying.

Most people have to answer to someone. Employees have the obvious bosses and managers that oversee their work. Pastors and priests have presidents and bishops who oversee their work. CEO’s still have to answer to their boards, their investors, even their customer base. Bob Dylan once said it well, you’ve gotta serve somebody.”

Being an employee, a servant of someone is a challenge.

But so is being the manager, the boss, or older terms, the master. Whether you realize it or not, those employees depend on you. Your work has an effect on them, as does the faith that causes you to work in a manner that reveals that faith.

If you believe in God, that is great. But would your employees know that apart from you directly telling them that? Would your students, and others you supervise recognize that as well?  St. Josemaria notes that your faith could become known even as you order people about. You may have to ask them to do some hard things, some distasteful things, and yet you can do that in a way that is encouraging, that lifts them up, that recognize their effort and attitude.

In short, those of us who oversee our people need to realize our responsibility to oversee them as God oversees us. With a firm hand, yet with grace, with love, with care.

Heavenly Father, help us to care and provide for those whom we are depending upon. Help us treat them as You would, revealing your love ot them through our actions and our words. We pray this in Jesus’ Name.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who Will We Help?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for our Days
14  What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15  Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16  and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17  So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:14-17 (NLT)

827         A friend of ours used to say: “The poor are my best spiritual book and the main motive of my prayers. It pains me to see them, and in each one of them, Christ. And because it hurts, I realise I love him and love them.

Article VI Of New Obedience:  Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17:10. The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.  

A number of issues seem to be addressed by today’s readings, (and the quote from the Augsburg Confession)

We could start with the devastation of Houston, or Northwest and the fires that plague them.  This week adds the Carribean, and possibly all of Florida as Irma draws close.

We can add to that those around us who are stressed by the changes brought about by the end of DACA.  And the growing homeless along the Santa Ana and other river trails.

There are others I think of, as next week I will do a memorial service of a young man who left behind his father (who is my age) and a neighborhood of friends still in shock  Or other friends battling health issues.  Including them, our prayer list is over 150 different people and the friends and family that walk with them.

How do we help so many?  We start on our knees, we ask God to bless them, to strengthen their faith, to strengthen ours as we pray, depending on God not only for the ability to help where we can…. but for the wisdom to know who to help.

And then we live out our lives, knowing God is faithful.

That is how we do it, looking to a God who so loves us, who so gives to us, who is with us.

We may end up giving more than we thought we could, we may end up having to make tough decisions between a lot of people in need, a lot of people who do not just need our money, but our time.

With confidence built up the promises of God, promises delivered through His word and the sacraments, we can do this… we can love, for that is who we become in Christ Jesus.

Amen

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3401-3404). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

— Augsburg Confession, The

No Man is an Island. Neither is the Church.

f68f6ad20bfbc6d47f4c6aab419b44e6e2044849510c043d7b02e848674b9064_1Devotional thought for the day:

5 Then the LORD said to me, 6“Haven’t I the right to do with you people of Israel what the potter did with the clay? You are in my hands just like clay in the potter’s hands. 7If at any time I say that I am going to uproot, break down, or destroy any nation or kingdom, 8but then that nation turns from its evil, I will not do what I said I would. 9On the other hand, if I say that I am going to plant or build up any nation or kingdom, 10but then that nation disobeys me and does evil, I will not do what I said I would. 11Now then, tell the people of Judah and of Jerusalem that I am making plans against them and getting ready to punish them. Tell them to stop living sinful lives—to change their ways and the things they are doing.  Jeremiah 18:5-11 TEV

9 I wrote you in my earlier letter not to associate with those who sin sexually. 10 But I did not mean you should not associate with those of this world who sin sexually, or with the greedy, or robbers, or those who worship idols. To get away from them you would have to leave this world. 11 I am writing to tell you that you must not associate with those who call themselves believers in Christ but who sin sexually, or are greedy, or worship idols, or abuse others with words, or get drunk, or cheat people. Do not even eat with people like that.
12–13 It is not my business to judge those who are not part of the church. God will judge them. But you must judge the people who are part of the church. The Scripture says, “You must get rid of the evil person among you.”  1 Corinthians 5:9-13  NCV

Our goal is not to form islands of peace in the midst of a disintegrated society but to educate people with the ability to transform this society. Therefore, “fruits and results.”

I often hear people misquoting the Book of the Revelation (often mispronounced revelations) advising people to withdraw from society, to come out of Babylon as if somehow they could live a life separate from their neighbors, their family, and friends who do not know that they can depend on God.

Some Christian schools started with that purpose, and there are Christian groups to offer an option to joining secular fraternal organizations like the Boy Scouts, Lions, or Elks.  There are now even coffee shops on church campuses, that some people use so they don’t have to go to that evil Starbucks and grab their venti triple cappuccino with fancy whipped cream and pumpkin froth.

It is as if we want to form special communities within communities, just for those who are good and pure and holy.  It is as we need to create safe islands for believers so that they are not tempted to sin the rest of the evil world.

Will we recognize the gospel there in the midst of Jeremiah’s prophecy, that God will welcome anyone back?  Not just any person, but any people group, any nation.  What a blessed hope!  What an incredible promise!

Will we recognize the wisdom that inspired Paul to make sure we understood that it was sin among the people of God that concerned him, not the sins of the world?  That we aren’t to avoid interaction with normal sinners, but rather to deal with those in the church that struggle with sin first.  Those others, yes they need to be saved, far more than they need us judging them.

Will we hear Pope Francis plea, not to segregate ourselves, withdraw to our own safe places? Rather, as the Holy Spirit works within us, to educate people to have the ability to transform society, to share the hope and peace found in Jesus which will do that very thing.

We have to have more trust in God than we fear the world’s sin.  We have to have more confidence in His love and care than anxiety about somehow being separated from the love of God ( AN impossibility Dontcha know!)

With our eyes focused on Jesus, we need to go to the same places he did.  To those broken by sin, to those blinded by greed, to those who do not understand that God loves them.  To those who are broken, just like we’ve been broken.  We’ve got to invite them into our homes, our churches, into the place of peace and healing we find as we dwell in GOd.

This is who we are in Christ. people’s who work and message is one of reconciling people to God, and therefore to another.   We can’t do that from pristine protected islands where we pretend all is perfect.

So go out there, live and help someone know that God loves them. AMEN!

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto,  Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Contact Management Software and the Missio Dei

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day:

When it was late in the day, his followers came to him and said, “No one lives in this place, and it is already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the countryside and towns around here to buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But Jesus answered, “You give them something to eat.”  Mark 5:35-37  NCV  

191         When I speak to you about “apostolate of friendship”, I mean a personal friendship, self-sacrificing and sincere: face to face, heart to heart.

On any given morning my email box is filled with thirty to a hundred emails, and about 80 percent I simply delete.  What really irritates me are the ones that are form letters sent out by a contact management software, that try to make it look like they are personal messages.

One recently even mentioned that if I had already responded to the previous email, they apologize for the software not being updated to recognize this and that they would stop sending the email eventually!  I get the feeling that if I called the person, they would not know that they “contacted” me.  I know some of the programs are set up to send letters, pre-written, on a schedule.

They didn’t.  Their software program did.

I don’t mind bulk mail, I understand that missionaries and other churches are busy, and I appreciate copying me along with many others for support and prayer.  I don’t even mind advertisements that are automated.  It’s the idea that someone thinks that they will gain by making the advertisement look like a personal contact.

In the gospel reading this morning, the disciples were amazed by the people wanting to hear Jesus.  I imagine they loved the accolades, the great joy (and a little frustration) that comes with being a superstar, or at least part of His crew.   They were learning about the kingdom of heaven, and they would learn a lesson today.

” the show’s over, they need to go eat!” they tell Jesus. We are done with them, you taught, they listened, some were healed.  Good day, let’s pack it up and get the rest, relaxation, and prayer you mentioned.

Jesus’ reply, “you feed them”

Don’t care from a distance, actually care   Don’t just see their need, make sure the need is met.  You can do it, (Jesus knowing he would supply the food) just do it.

That’s how the Missio Dei works, the apostolate of friendship as St Josemaria describes it. Laughing with them, crying with them, being involved.  Not just monitoring responses to a contact system, but actually getting involved in their lives.   Not just keeping in contact, but being in communion with them.  And as St. Josemaria said, this means there is a sacrifice, there is something personal, face to face, heart to heart.  There is cost, but there is also immeasurable grace, mercy, and love.  For God is there.

As I was writing this, I think back to several conversations recently.  The basic idea of each was that the pastor seemed to be writing the sermons directly to the person that heard it.  Pastors who hear this often reply, “that was one I was preaching mostly to myself.”  They are astonished when they realize how that sermon also touched their people’s hearts as deeply as they struggled with it.

I believe this is evidence of the relationship of people and pastor in communion with each other.  It is the evidence of the apostolate of friendship, the communion of saints that we confess in our Creed.  It is about learning what sacramental and incarnational ministry mean, and it is imitating Jesus.

Get to know those people around you, be their friends, share their struggles, rejoice with them in their celebrations.  Whether pastor or layperson, you need to understand you were sent into their lives, and you get to help them explore the love of God. And as you do, with them you will find His love ever more true, every more bright, ever more glorious!  AMEN!

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Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1012-1014). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tired at Work? of Work? Me too! Yet….


Devotional Thought fo the Day:
17  And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (NAB)

23  Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, 24  knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.   Colossians 3:23-24 (NAB)

277    You ask me, “Why that wooden cross?” And I quote from a letter: “As I raise my eyes from the microscope, my sight comes to rest on the cross—black and empty. That cross without a corpus is a symbol; it has a meaning others won’t see. And I, tired out and on the point of abandoning my work, once again bring my eyes close to the lens and continue. For that lonely cross is calling for a pair of shoulders to bear it.”  (1)

It is Friday, and I am sitting in my office, trying to get my act together, to prepare an inspiring sermon.  I’m tired, my allergies are not helping! Neither is a sore back.  I want to whine and complain and go home and escape into a television show, or more likely a book.

And I know even those who aren’t tired are counting down the hours until the work day is over, and then get that rush of energy which signifies that it is the weekend!

O wait – the laundry needs, to be done, the garage cleaned, the …..

The energy drains and we are back to being tired.

As I was reading this morning, I was reading the book of Colossians, lots of good rich teaching in that work of Paul. Could have written about anything from preaching and baptism to the fact we dwell in and for Christ.  IN fact, I was thinking about writing on the incredible song of praise that starts in 1:15, until I got to Josemaria’s writings, and the quote in blue above.

“Tired and abandoning my work….”

Uhm, yeah – I have not only been there, I am there.

And the ministry waits… and yet the cross has no body…

Will I bear my cross?

Part of me wants to say no, I’m too tired.  I hear the invitation to bear the cross as one demanding more sacrifice.

Then I remember the other cross, the one where I am there, and His body has taken it up. There love is revealed in all of its fullness, where I find hope beyond belief.  Where joy is the focus, not the shame (see Heb 12:1-3) Where I am invited to die with Him, that I may live with Him.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether my work is writing a manuscript from which to preach from, or listening to a co-worker, or a friend. “Whatever you do” Paul reminds us – all of it do in God’s name, for His glory, knowing we have already been guaranteed a reward of all of eternity, sharing in His glory.

To run to bear our cross, to embrace the work, even the suffering is not just a challenge, it is an opportunity to experience God, to know His presence that sustains us.  For while we were nailed to a cross with Christ, He is with us, as we bear our cross.

Knowing that, the work takes on a new meaning, a time of contemplation, a time where His peace overwhelms my brokenness, my tiredness.

God is with you, share the work with Him, as a child shares their work with their dad.

Have a blessed Friday!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 735-738). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Lesson for those Depending on Christ, Learned Emptying a Sand Box

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

14  “You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. 16  In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (TEV)

313 It seems to me that we shall have our hands full to keep these commandments, practicing gentleness, patience, love toward enemies, chastity, kindness, etc., and all that these virtues involve. But such works are not important or impressive in the eyes of the world.

Of great importance are the things which are said about closely joining spiritual formation with the doctrinal and pastoral; about living a life patterned after the Gospel without looking out for one’s own comfort or that of one’s family; about cultivating a deep appreciation of the mystery of the Church. From all this, they will be well taught to dedicate themselves wholly to the service of the Body of Christ and to the work of the Gospel

844    Raise magnificent buildings? Construct sumptuous palaces? Let others raise them. Let others construct them. Souls! Let us give life to souls—for those buildings and for those palaces! What fine dwellings are being prepared for us!

Today a parable is being written, the kingdom of God is like, changing the sand in a sandbox.

Where people today are investing their time, their laughter, one man acquired the use of a little tractor, another supplied the money for the sand that fundraisers didn’t.  Some will pay with sore muscles, sore and blistered hands, and weary bodies.  Others sacrificed to buy and prepare the lunch.

In a week, the place where they toiled will be filled with children, laughing, playing, their joys of laughter floating through the window to where I presently sit. None of them will think about the workers that toiled this day, neither will their parents. But this is the place where they will hear of Jesus’ love for them, where they will learn the songs that will praise Him, where some will be baptized. It is here where souls will be given life, and hope, where they will come to know the love of God.

Yes, moving sand, literally tons of it, just like cleaning furniture and toys may seem unimportant in the eyes of the world. But the blessing to these children, to their parents will bring glory to God.  The faith, the trust in God which drives such action, is not always even a conscious decision.  It is simply what a community does, it comes together, it serves, alongside each other, in ways most will not ever see.  Just like a heart beating, unseen and powerful, bring blood and oxygen to give life.

The resulting light shining bright, and it  bring glory to God! The work the sweat and tears, lead to laughter and joy, and little ones coming to know Jesus.

This is the church, this is the Kingdom over which God reigns….

Come join us!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 407). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11. The Way (Kindle Locations 1950-1952). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

On Monday, Will Our Work Reveal our Love?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

2  We always thank God for you all and always mention you in our prayers. 3  For we remember before our God and Father how you put your faith into practice, how your love made you work so hard, and how your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm. 4  Our friends, we know that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 (TEV)

There are also statements about Thanksgiving, like the beautiful statement of Cyprian about the godly communicant, “Piety distinguishes between what is given and what is forgiven, and it gives thanks to the Giver of such a generous blessing,”4 That is, piety looks at what is given and what is forgiven; it compares the greatness of God’s blessings with the greatness of our ills, our sin and our death; and it gives thanks.”

It is part of the greeting of the letter, the opening words before Paul gets to the “serious” matters which caused him to write to the church in Thessalonika.  Maybe that is why we rush by them and don’t really hear what Paul is saying to the people of God.

I was asked by a friend if I had ever written on these three verses, any devotion, and as I looked at them, I realized their significance.   What Paul has seen revealed in these people, as he considers what drives them, why they work so diligently.

Work that was done work that the people put themselves into, not just a little, but with everything they were.

Not because the law said they had to, not our of a sense of obligation, or even pious obedience.

They did their work, and they put their faith into practice because of love.   Love is what drove them to do what they did, to serve and make visible that they were slaves, not of their own passions, but yoked with Christ to the passion of the Father.   A love born out because we see the incredible way in which God loves us, the love seen as we contemplate His work, His mercy, His forgiveness and His love for us.

A love that is born out of the hope given to us, as Jesus in revealed in our lives.  As the Holy Spirit testifies that the Father loves us and chose us to be His kids.  What an incredible thing!  We are God’s; He loves us!  Because of Christ’s promised work in our lives we have hope!

Knowing this strips away from us the anxieties, the fears, the sense of failure, freeing us to look on one another and love each other, not just with words, but with careful thought and action.  Christ’s presence in our lives causes us to replicate His love for us, as we love each other.  (Other being every member of humanity)  We see them as He sees us, broken and in need of healing, but still the people God desires to call His own.

And so we work, diligently, not for a reward, not because we have to, but because we have been loved…. and it has changed. us.

May others see in us, what Paul saw in the people of God who were gathered in Thessaloniki.  Seeing our faith put into practice, the love that makes us work so hard, and the hope we have is Jesus, may they come to glorify the Father as well.

Amen!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 263). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.


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