The Lord is With You? What you say matters….?


Devotional Thought of the Day:The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

45  A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45 (TEV)

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me.   9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7a,9 (TEV)

26      It is painful to see that after two thousand years there are so few people in the world who call themselves Christians and that of those who do call themselves Christians, so few practise the true teaching of Jesus Christ. It is worth while putting our whole life at stake!: working and suffering for Love, to accomplish God’s plans and co-redeem.(1)  

I hear people claiming they know God, that they invited Him into their heart, that respond, “and also with you” or “and with your Spirit.  I do as well, and yes, this blog is written at me, as well as many of you.

If this is true, an I read the first quote from St. Luke’s Gospel correctly, then what should flow out of our mouths should be Christ Jesus’s words.  Words that encourage, words that heal, words that forgive and reconcile, words that invite people on a journey with Christ, towards the Father, towards eternity.

But what comes out of our mouth more often is complaining, criticising, lofty words that extol theological treatises, but never point to Christ.  Words that are full of innuendo, cheaping the blessing that God gives in the intimate relationship between a man a woman that He has joined together in marriage.   Words that lie, or gossip (is there a difference?) the demean, or dominate.  Curses, swears, false oaths. Words dripping with sarcasm, not realizing the blood those words can draw. Words that not only judge, but condemn and call for death to those whose sins are different than us. Words that betray a heart that doesn’t trust in anything, nevermind praising God for the promises He is fulfilling in our lives.

When I was a younger pastor, I would suggest that we just need to be disciplined.  That we struggle to be righteous in our words by simply a force of will.  Except that I didn’t quite get that the words are but a symptom of a heart and soul issue.   We might be able to discipline our tongues in some things like word choice (though we will slip out now and then…) But what about our thoughts, our attitudes, and what we truly trust in?  Those still will betray us unless there is a change.

Unless our souls, our hearts, our minds find themselves being conformed to the mind of Christ. Unless we see the cross, and its suffering that Christ embraced as an example of His love and desire for us.  It is there, in awe of the Body of Christ broken, the blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of sins, that change begins to happen.  It is as we realize that God has marked us, claimed us, sealed us as His in Baptism, that He has reconciled and absolved us in sin.  That the Father in Heaven calls us His children, that Jesus will call us His brothers, that the Holy Spirit will reside in us; this is when this transformation, this metamorphosis happens.

it is them, like St Josemaria encourages, that we begin to desire to put our whole life on the line, and work and sacrifice in ways without even considering that it is work, that it is sacrificing our lives.  It is then, tired, weary, even burnt out, that what comes from our hearts, souls and minds are the words of God.  The miraculous words that bring to Him a people, who weren’t a people.

The Lord is with you always, dwell on that, recognize its truth, meditate on the blessing that is, a blessing revealed in God’s word, and delivered in the sacraments.

The Lord is with you…and He has brought you many gifts, the gift of faith, and the gift of repentance, the gift of reconciliation, the gift of life. ….

The Lord is with you, showing you the depth, the height, the width and breadth of God’s love you…. dwell on this, as often as you can……and then watch what happens to your words, and your thoughts.

The Lord is with you…

AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 329-333). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who Am I? Shaken, Broken, Shattered, It Doesn’t Matter, I am His!


Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Rose

28  “And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. 29  But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. 30  It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have! Matthew 6:28-30 (TEV)

13  You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. 14  I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart. 15  When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there— 16  you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began. 17  O God, how difficult I find your thoughts; how many of them there are! 18  If I counted them, they would be more than the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you!  Psalm 139:13-18 (TEV)

54      You enjoy an interior happiness and peace that you would not exchange for anything in the world. God is here. There is no better way than telling him our woes for them to cease being such.  (1)

This is a hard blog to write, but perhaps it will make a difference.

Sunday, I was watching a new television show I’ve waited a while to see.  It was pretty good, if a bit over the top at times.

But there was a scene that resonated to much with me.  Like a crystal goblet resonating with a soprano’s high tone, it shook me a little to much.  I’m still not sure if it shattered me, but it did come pretty close. It kept me awake most of Sunday night, and haunted me a bit since.   it brought back memories from some of my darker days, days when I wasn’t sure who I was, or whether I fit in this world.  Even more,it made me wonder how I adapted and changed to survive.  Is the adapted me, really me?

I’ve only been shaken that much a time or two in my life. My Cardiac Arrest didn’t shake me like this.  My heart valve replacement surgery did, but only for an hour.  This… struck deeper to home.  I know the other times, but even thinking of them… yeah – can’t go there.

The only consolation is that I remembered before that point in my life, I always wanted to be a pastor, (well back then, a priest )  I wanted to teach people about God, I wanted to give them the the Eucharist, the sacrament where Jesus gives us His Body, His Blood.

This morning, stiff and sore from working out, I got to my office.  Getting out of the car slowly, I spotted the rose pictured with this blog.  I took a picture of it, tweeted it, thinking of the Psalm I quoted above.  I thought of just quoting the 14th and 15th verse, and thinking of people who need to realize this.  Then I saw the end of verse 18, and found myself.  Or the me I need to know.

It resounded when I thought of the quote from St Matthew’s gospel, and then it slammed home when I read St. Josemaria’s words.  Resounded enough to make me forget the other stuff, until I started righting this.  And yet, like that rose, being right there, where I could focus on it while stretching after getting out the car, it took on a different tone.

God is here.

He made that rose, He listens to my cries. He cares for me, and each of us, far more than that incredibly beautiful rose.

it doesn’t matter whether I am an extrovert or an introvert.  Whether I am understood by the world or not.  Whether my thoughts, outside of those sharing Christ, are understood,

What matters is I am His people.  All who trust in Him are, and He is calling out to all of you who aren’t, yet.

And knowing this, giving our Heavenly and PRESENT father, that brings the peace and joy we need, even when we are shaken, broken, and shattered….

We are His people, He is our God!

It is more than enough.  It defines us better than anything else we could ever know.

God, ever present, ever loving, is here with us.

Be at peace, drop all the other stuff aside, and know He is here!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 420-422). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Worship Wars: What Both Sides Are Missing!


Discussion & Devotional Thought of the Day:10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_n

12  I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:12 (NLT)

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. 28  “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:25-28 (NLT)

9  Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10  There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)

1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Romans 12:1 (NLT)

43      We should offer the Lord the sacrifice of Abel. A sacrifice of young unblemished flesh, the best of the flock; of healthy and holy flesh; a sacrifice of hearts that have one love alone—you, my God. A sacrifice of minds, which have been shaped through deep study and will surrender to your Wisdom; of childlike souls who will think only of pleasing you. Lord, receive even now this sweet and fragrant sacrifice.

For forty to fifty years there has been a war raging in the church, transcending denominations, dividing churches, causing much pain, and without the sorrow which should be accompanied by such division.  It is known as “Worship Wars.”
It is often said to be about whether a church will use classic hymns, or contemporary praise music.  It is also defined as whether you use us a traditional liturgy, or a simper (yet often more complex) order of service. There is also the arguments over whether a worship service should be planned primarily for the believer, or for the seeker.

The final point of division is thought to be profound:

Is a worship service about man praising God, and the movement from earth to heaven?  Or is a worship service about God delivering gifts to men?

And the arguments go on, dividing the church.  People will actually be so defensive, so demanding, that they are willing to break apart what Christ died to bring together.

And both sides are missing the point.

Worship Services aren’t  primarily about God being served, or primarily about man being served. As one of my professors used to describe the liturgy,

“Worship and Liturgy is about the people of God being in the presence of God”  it is not all about God, and it is not all about man.  It is about the communion of God and Man.  It is about fellowship.  We are His people, He is our God, and He gathers us together to celebrate this reconciliation, this amazing miracle.

It is incarnational, as we find ourselves in the presence of a God who invaded the world 2000 years ago, and still invades and takes up residence in the lives of His people today.

That is what the worship service, the mass, the gathering,  the church service is about.  Nothing less than a feast that gives us a glimpse of the feast to come.  To recognize the truth that God is in our midst together, at work in our lives, giving us the power and desire to to do His will, to accomplish what pleases Him.

To only focus on God serving man leaves the people without a voice to praise Him, it becomes a one way monologue, where everyone becomes passive.  You see this when people can’t sing, where they are limited in serving, where the sermon and sacraments take on a uni-directional focus.  The same passivity is seen if the service focuses only on man serving God, as we start to assume He is silent, that we have to strive to make ourselves acceptable to Him.  This is seen where the sermon becomes a self help session, the worship is led, rather than facilitated.

it’s about God and man, together, as God has always desired, as He has always revealed to His people as His plan.

Receive His love with joy, offer Him your life to use, and go into the world knowing His presence, and His desire to see prodigals come home, and join in the celebration that they do.

Amen.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 387-391). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What is Salvation? It May Be More Than You Think!


Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:photo

32  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. John 12:32 (ASV)

24  But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. Acts 20:24 (NLT)

32      Coming closer to God means being ready to be converted anew, to change direction again, to listen attentively to his inspirations—those holy desires he places in our souls—and to put them into practice.   (1)
Too often in our messages, salvation is seen as one step, what theologians call justification.  God calling His people to Him, drawing them to the cross.  There He cleanses them from sin, frees them from bondage to Satan, and from the fear and anxiety that death causes.

There is nothing we can do, nothing we can say or think that makes this part happen.

Yet salvation is more than this, far more than this.

Salvation includes the life we have been given in Christ.  It is not just justification, but sanctification as well.  It is being made holy, being set apart to live a life God has designed. A life that gives us a hint of eternity, for in this life, we walk in Christ, and He lives and ministers to others through us.  It is a friendship, a partnership in achieving the will of God in this world, preparing people for eternity.

It is living a life that is amazing, and is costly.  We are called to bring the same message to the world that Paul did, as the Holy Spirit who drew us to Christ, draws others to Him by using us as their guides.  Bringing peace where there is no peace.  Watching people reconcile, to God, and then as that settles their souls, to each other.

As they join us in celebrating the wonderful mystery of God’s love and mercy for us, this incredible grace.  That He has placed in us holy desires which He empowers us to find satisfied, as we minister in the stead, by the command, and with Christ.

This is salvation, this is finding ourselves in the presence of God, of finding that He has come to us and transformed us.

AMEN.

 

  • Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 350-352). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

You Must Love… and Why That is Good News!


Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.
26  He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What is your reading of it?’ 27  He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’  28  Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered right, do this and life is yours. Luke 10:26-28 (NJB)

10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

37      When you love somebody very much, you want to know everything about him. Meditate on this: Do you feel a hunger to know Christ? Because…that is the measure of your love for him.  (1)

Maybe it is a politician, or maybe it is that star whose public acts would make you think she has absolutely no sense of morality.  Maybe it is your neighbor who infuriates you, or maybe someone at church, even your pastor.

We get frustrated by them, they prove they are unworthy of trust, and our language when we speak of them gets animated, and it becomes obvious that we are against them.  We might justify ourselves by saying we don’t hate them, but it is sure that we don’t love them.

For we wouldn’t treat them the way we do, in our thoughts, in words (both they heard and those we say to others) and in our deeds, if we loved them.

But we are called to love them, it is the way we are designed to live.

So how do we?

Not by our own strength of will, not by our own strength of character.

It can only happen as we love God, and more importantly, as we know we’ve been loved by God.  That is how we change, or more accurately, how God changes us.  For we are His work, a work that results in our works, our lives, our ability to love.

Remember, the command is to love God first! And Escriva’s words are correct, we need to have a hunger to know Christ, and the more we know Him (not just know of Him) the more we will know His love of us.  Being loved by Him will change us, and knowing that love enables us to love as He does.

Even those who are difficult to love.  Even for those whose lives require us to sacrifice greatly in order to love them.  Even those that require incredible sacrifice, whose lives may repel us. Or those whose hatred of us, causes us to struggle to love them.

Is it possible?  Look at Jesus on the cross, forgiving them.  Then look at Stephen, in the pit being stoned, loving those stoning him enough to ask God to forgive their debt.

Its possible, but only in Jesus.

So love them even as Christ loves you!

Oh yes, the reason that loving them is good news, gospel, and not the command of the law?  Here is the reason:

13  It is God who, for his own generous purpose, gives you the intention and the powers to act. Philippians 2:13 (NJB)

Amen!

Why Are We Here? Why are YOU here?


Discussion and Devotional Thought of the day:.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

15  But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)

19  God will bless you for this, if you endure the pain of undeserved suffering because you are conscious of his will. 20  For what credit is there if you endure the beatings you deserve for having done wrong? But if you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it. 21  It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:19-21 (TEV)

20      There are many people around you, and you have no right to be an obstacle to their spiritual good, to their eternal happiness. You are under an obligation to be a saint. You must not let God down for having chosen you. Neither must you let those around you down: they expect so much from your Christian life.  (1)

24    Many people ask with an air of self justification: Why should I get involved in the lives of others? Because it is your Christian duty to get involved in their lives, in order to serve them! Because Christ has got involved in your life and in mine!  (1)

Over the years, I have proposed a question to people, especially those who are struggling in life, or confused about what they should be doing.

“Why does God leave us on earth, once we’ve become His children?”

It is another way of asking what our individual purpose in life is.  Certainly it would be better for us to be in view of God as eternity will be.  To be free from the challenges, the suffering, and the anxieties of life.

So why do we remain?

For others.

Especially “those” people.

The ones who need our prayers, the ones who need us to give to them the hope we have, the very presence of Jesus Christ.   We don’t need to be here, but they need us here.  They need us to follow in the steps of Christ, even if that means sacrifice and suffering, even if that means we have to struggle with them.

As St. Josemaria says, we can’t be obstacles to them being drawn to Christ. Their eternal life or death does depend on us following Christ, of walking in His steps.

That sounds like a heavy burden, this living the life of a saint.  But that is because we don’t get what being a saint is, we have an image that is impossible to reach.  We think it means a life that is lived perfectly and without sin.

But being a saint is simply living a life with a purpose, to have a life focused on a goal.  In our case, it is living life in accord with God’s will.  Which makes the priority being patient, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

There is our purpose, whether we are a child, a retiree, a pastor, an engineer, or a fast food worker.  We are left here, to be God’s ministers, in a ministry of reconciliation.
May we be aware that God has given us the desire and the will to this.

AMEN!

Obeying God: Is it Necessary? Is it Required by His Law, or a Blessing of His Gospel?


Discussion/Devotional THought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

9  So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. 11  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, Colossians 1:9-11 (NLT)

1  Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2  Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Romans 6:1-2 (NLT)

18      Please echo these words for me: it is no “sacrifice” for parents when God asks them for their children. Neither, for those he calls, is it a sacrifice to follow him. It is, on the contrary, an immense honour, a reason for a great and holy pride, a mark of predilection, a very special affection that God has shown at a particular time, but which has been in his mind from all eternity.  (1)

There is a misunderstanding among many Christians about things like obedience and sacrifice and striving to overcome temptation and sin.  Some will demand other people the strictest levels of obedience, Others will say that even calling for people to obey is wrong, because we are not saved by our works, and they take that to mean they are not required of those who are saved. That they cannot be required, They would argue that to encourage people to live out their lives, trusting in God’s promises is somehow wrong.

Neither quite gets it,

Obedience doesn’t come about from a requirement, it comes about from love.  You don’t willingly sacrifice your life, you don’t set it apart our of obligation, but instead you do it because of knowing God’s love.  Obedience is an act of adoration, Sacrificing yourself, as a minister or missionary, or just the time you invest in teaching some junior highers isn’t an obligation, but rather a life lived in response to love.  It is the way the Holy Spirit transforms us, causing us to focus on Christ’s love for us, even as He changes and empowers us. The call to obedience is that which should naturally be drawn to, even as they are drawn to confess their sins when they fail. For they know and trust in God’s love, a love that will heal and cleanse, a love that will strengthen and assure.  A love which shares with us His desire, that as His children we may work alongside Him.

That is why there is such good fruit that cones from it, that is why serving God, obeying God, following God’s way, working to see His will complete is such a blessing.  For we often do not think of such things as sacrifices, such work is not a burden.

It is simply walking with our God, who considers us His beloved!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 300-303). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

That’s Not FAIR! Part II of “Backseat conversations on the way to Heaven”


Backseat Conversations on the Way to HeavenMy Church's Building - our goal - to see it restored and filled with people who find healing in Christ Jesus, while helping others heal

That’s not FAIR!!
Matthew 20:1-16

 IHS

 

As we journey together, may we know the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, the peace of Jesus Christ, and look forward to the feast with our Heavenly Father.

Two Candy Bars and some Chuckles
Last week we started on this path, a sermon series that will explore the journey of our lives.  It is a parable of sorts, comparing that journey, where we will end up in heaven, with our journey as children, on the way to an Aunt’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, or maybe our Grandfather’s for the party on Christmas Eve.

Last week we looked a little at the squabbles that can happen, as you jam three young children in the backseat of a 1970 Dodge Dart, and heard the conversation that would ensue when my dad would tell us to “get along back there.”

Well, today we continue that journey, hearing another conversation.

My dad had a lot of common sense.  He knew that If we were eating something, our mouths couldn’t open.  And on so many of these trips he had stashed our favorite candies in the car.  A Chocolate Charleston Chew for one of my siblings, a Chunky chocolate bar for the other, and because I was allergic to chocolate, I got a pack of chuckles.

This worked until one day, when one looked at other’s candy bar, and saw a long narrow bar – nearly 10 inches long!  She looked at my Chuckles and saw six pieces of candy, each about an inch long.  And she looked at her chunky bar, 3 inches by 3 inches and proceeded to yell out,

“It’s not fair!”

She didn’t see the weight of the candy bars as equal, or that hers was three times as thick and wide, or that all of the candy cost the same amount.  Explaining that to her, well, anyone ever try to point out such logic to an upset young child.

It wasn’t fair as she saw it, and when two brothers have to share and sacrifice their favorite candy, and they do understand the logic, well, now the journey becomes more complicated!

But we are often like little children, complaining that life isn’t fair.

We end up just like the crew who sweated all day in the hot sun, and didn’t get a larger payday than the guys who put in an hour.

We need to realize the blessing in that… we need to see God’s view of this, so we can rejoice in how God cares for His people.

Why did they cry it wasn’t fair?

If Jesus’ parable were told today, a number of us would probably be telling the employees who broke their back all day long to contact a lawyer, or to call Handel on the Law.  Certainly there is a law out there, that demands the same exact hourly wage for all employees.

Some of us might take the Master’s side, saying that he can do whatever he wants, after all it is his money.

The story might even go viral on Facebook, and there would be interviews on Youtube, and maybe even an appearance on some daytime talk show like Dr. Phil, or Dr. Oz, or Judge Judy.

After all, it’s not like it’s fair, what this employer did.

Unless…..

What did our Old Testament reading say?

His Ways aren’t our ways

8  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Could it be that this Master’s goal wasn’t about getting the vineyard harvested?

Could it be that he was more concerned about the people in his life, the people of his community, than he was about making money?

Think about this, he started at 6 am, then returned to hire workers at 9, 12, and 3 o’clock, each time he saw workers standing around, doing nothing.   The first time – he negotiated a wage that was fair and equitable – after that, the scriptures tell us he simply promised to be fair.

It is that last time, at five o’clock, which he didn’t just see some workers, the Greek word there is the root word from where we get heuristics.   Anybody here watch CSI, or NCIS?  Heuristics is the science of finding that which was hidden, not in sight.  He went to them, found them, and hear again the description of His action,

“6 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’ “

It was his desire, not to gain a harvest, but to provide for the people what they needed, to be part of His work, His life.

And so it is, with the kingdom of heaven.

God would provide for us what we need.

As a pastor, I’m often approached with the question of who will be in heaven. What about the people that come to know God’s love on their death bed, minutes before they pass away.  Do they get into heaven, or does God punish them for all the years they refused to follow Him, and they don’t get to go into heaven?

Usually the question involves the people most people would consider beyond any chance to be saved.  Would God let them into heaven, if they repented at the last moment?

If I answer in the affirmative, knowing that the power of God is so incredible to transform us, sometimes I hear those words, “But that’s not fair pastor!”

You mean that mass murdered could get the same blessing that those of us who’ve been in church every Sunday… ok one Sunday a month get?  They get the same size mansion as those of us who served as preschool teachers, or elders, or deacons?

Yes, and that is the incredible blessing of your working alongside God in His harvest.  They are blessed to come into our family, to have the grace and mercy and peace that God has desired for all of us.

Remember again – what the Old Testament said,

7  Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. 8  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 

There is God’s goal, to take all of us, who struggle with doing what is loving, what is merciful, what is right, and can’t.  There is His love, for He finds us, this Father/master who will bring us into His marvelous life’s work.

That is better than just being fair from a human perspective, it God being extravagant in his love.  This is what we call justification – God making us right, forgiving our sins, and sanctification, God setting us apart making us His co-workers in His work.  If God were fair, would He share with us His desires, His life?  Would He trust us enough to serve alongside Him?

God is more than just fair; He is extravagant beyond all measure.

God, bringing us into His ministry to the world, making us part of the family.

All this because Jesus Christ, true God, true man, didn’t give a rip about what was fair, and died that we could all become the children of God.

That’s what the kingdom of God is about; His love for us, making it known and seeing it transform us.

This is a love that brings mercy and peace into our lives, a peace beyond measure, the peace we know and celebrate here, together.  For we are His people.  AMEN?

The Sin Absolutely NO ONE Wants to Talk About


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28  Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29  Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30  They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31  They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. Romans 1:28-32 (NLT)

13  Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Matthew 9:13 (NLT)

28      Sometimes we hear love described (you’ll have heard me mention this more than once) as if it were a movement towards self-satisfaction, or merely a means of selfishly fulfilling one’s own personality. And I have always told you that it isn’t so. True love demands getting out of oneself, giving oneself. Genuine love brings joy in its wake, a joy that has its roots in the shape of the Cross.  (1)

In the first quote above, there is an incredible list of sins.  If you read the verses before the quote in Romans, there are more sins, more perversions of the relationships that God has blessed us with, in those He has brought in to our lives.

Some will talk of how horrible this sin is, how malignant that one, or that a specific one is an abomination.  Some of us will point out the entire list, indicating that gossip is as bad as any sexual sin, that breaking vows is as bad as murder.  We want sin confronted, the people chastised, preferably publicly!  We all have our pet peeves, those sins that need the full wrath of God poured out on them.  Often arguments are reduced to which sin is worse, which will receive the fullest wrath of God, even as each of us thinks our sin should even reduce the way our mansion in heaven is furnished.

In treating sin and those whose sin we condemn in such a way, we too sin.  I would draw your attention to the last sin in verse 31.  We have become people who are heartless (literally – we refuse to love our family) and we refuse to show mercy.

We refuse to forgive, we refuse to reconcile, we refuse to acknowledge each other as the adopted, cleansed, forgiven children of God whom have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In refusing to show mercy to others, we deny the will of God, which is patient because we aren’t willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance, all should be reconciled, all should be invited to know the mercy and filial love that Christ has shown us.

In not forgiving, we are asking God to not forgive them, to bind that sin to them and make them face the wrath of God. In not forgiving, in not showing mercy, that is exactly what we are asking. We are denying the very heart of God.

Is showing mercy easy?  No.

Does loving people like they are our family (and in Christ they are, or can be) take the kind of sacrifice, the getting out of oneself that Escriva encourages us to do?  Yes, and it is hard, very hard.

So what that it is hard?

Yes…. that doesn’t negate the need to be merciful, nor to show people love.

We are merciful, because it is God’s desire, and because He has shown us mercy…..

and when we struggle, the aid is just a short prayer…..

Lord, have mercy a sinner!

  • Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 339-343). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Ministry of the Church, a Shared Experience…


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4  There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. 5  There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. 6  There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. 7  The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (TEV)

11  It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14  Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15  Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16  Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)

Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.[1]

There is often a division in the church that is both unnecessary,

It is said in different ways, but it is the division between laity and clergy.  It has gotten so bad at times, that churches haa abandoned the idea of setting apart of people for service.  Or it has gotten to the other extreme, and the ideas of pastor as CEO (or the older idea of Herr Pastor) comes into play, where all the authority is vested in the clergy.

It’s not supposed to be this way, it is the work together that is the work of the kingdom, there are different role, though some are more visible, or have responsibilities that differ, but the work is done together.  The clergy and the laity are together holy and sacred.  Neither should Lord it over the other, or act condescendingly toward each other.

You see, we have the same goal, to mature in our trust in God, to have our faith “grow” in Christ.  We come to know His love and celebrate His love together, as we share in HIs word, as we are His community gathered around the sacred times where those promises are revealed and made known to be ours.  Theses sacraments require both, pastor and parish, priest and penitential people,

I love how CFW Walther, and early leader in my denomination, phrases it in blue above.

Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.

We are to regard all who serve in ministering to others as ecclesiastical and sacred – part of the church and those celebrated.  We all serve God in the church, we are all set apart to serve the Lord, and our actions are part of His work (see Eph. 2:10)

Do the actions differ?  Yes.  Do the responsibilities?  Of course. But we share in this ministry of reconciling people to God.  We share in bringing them to a place of healing, a place of grace. It is our ministry, not as individual, but as one church.

May we concentrate more on the work, and waste less time on power squabbles and condescension.

Lord Have mercy on us!

 

 

[1]Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Churhc and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.

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