Can You Hear Him Now?


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24  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26  But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)

364      When are you going to make up your mind! Many people around you live a life of sacrifice simply for human reasons. These poor people forget they are children of God and act the way they do perhaps only out of pride, or to excel, or to be more comfortably off later on in life. They give up all kinds of things! And you, who carry the sweet burden of the Church, of your family, your colleagues and friends, motives for which it is worthwhile sacrificing yourself, what are you doing about it? With what sense of responsibility are you reacting?

Maybe it is helping that guy who is begging, not just giving him five bucks, but actually offering real help, and the respect that befits a child of God.  Maybe it is going out of your way to bring someone to church, or staying for the Bible study, so they can as well.  Maybe it is giving up a saturday morning, or some event you were hoping for, or stepping aside so someone else can do that which you love to do. Maybe it is opening up your house to a missionary who needs a place to stay while in the states, or to someone you know – who can’t live where they did.

Maybe it is forgiving that person who hurt you last week, or 20 years ago.  Deciding to let God judge the situation, rather than seek revenge, or hold in that resentment.

Maybe it is simple, sacrificing a meal, or a movie a week or a month, and sending the money to help a missionary in Papua New Guinea, or a Syrrian or Iraqi refugee in Turkey, or a kid in Kosovo learn about Jesus, while learning to play baseball.  (btw – I know how to make all those happen – contact me if they strike a nerve) Maybe it is going on the mission field youself, or taking your family on the field for a year or 10.

May it is humbling yourself to go to that person you offended, giving up your pride, asking for forgiveness, intent on seeing one thing happen.  Reconciliation.

If you listen to Jesus’ call to follow Him, you will hear a call to sacrifice, a call to humility, a call to go beyond just going to church a sunday a month, or maybe a bible study.  You will hear a call to go, a call to be there as He calls people to faith (even at your work, or at a doctor’s office, or at Walmart, or in the Philippines)  You will look for people in need, and your heart will break, even as Christ’s broke when he saw the widow mourn the loss of her son, or as he looked out over the city of Jerusalem.

What are you willing to sacrifice?  That isn’t the question.

What is worth hanging onto, when Jesus is calling you to hear His word?  Will you hear Him calling, when He asks if you love him, not more than things, but with everything you are?  Will you hear Him, see Him, loving you that way?

Look to the cross…. hear, see, know His love…..

For as that happens, all you are, will become something you can demonstrate your love to Him with, as you love those around you….

Can you hear Him?  Listen…. and Love

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1434-1439). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Church’s Mission is NOT to Convert People


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 26  Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12:26 (NLT)

356      The first Apostles, when Our Lord called them, were by the side of an old boat busy mending the torn nets. Our Lord told them to follow him and statim—immediately—relictis omnibus—they left everything—everything! And followed him… And it does happen sometimes that we, who wish to imitate them, don’t quite leave everything, and there remains some attachment in our heart, something wrong in our life which we’re not willing to break with and offer up to God. Won’t you examine your heart in depth? Nothing should remain there except what is his. If not, we aren’t really loving him, neither you nor I. (1)

Every once in a while, I hear a financial appeal for finances from a mission group. While they may never use the word “heathen”, that is what they are really saying.  It may be to a inner city mission, or some foreign field in the middle of a desert, or swamp, or jungle.  But the idea is that we must convert them, win them to Christ.  Some may say they’ve had so many say a “sinner’s prayer”, or decisions for Christ. Others talk about the numbers of baptisms.

What they are focusing on is that moment when someone “becomes” a believer, the moment they were “saved”.

But the church isn’t in the business of converting people, of a one time moment that changes life, or at least gives us a guaranteed visa to heaven.

That isn’t what Jesus did, not is it what we are commissioned to do.

We are told to make disciples of all nations, not convert them.  

Jesus didn’t tell Peter and Andrew, or James and John to just believe in Him.  He didn’t ask Matthew the tax collector to do that either. 

What God is after, what He desires isn’t a nice photo album of those who repented of their sins at a crusade, or who were convinced by a logical apologetic speech or emotional appeal.. He wants a family, people who are His, who know He is theirs. A relationship where He can bless His children and care for them.  Where He can teach them and share His glory with them.

You might say, that’s what conversion does.  And yes, there is a quickening, a bringing to life.  A baptism, a prayer, a confession of trusting God.  But our transformation, that work of the Trinity in our lives takes a lifetime, the promised completion date is Christ’s return.

What does this matter?  Why am I saying our goal isn’t to make converts?  Why can’t conversion be our mission our goal?

Image a lady, who wants to become a mother. Has she achieved her goal the moment conception occurs?  Or is there 9 months of pregnancy, and then years of sacrifices and successes, of joy and sorrows?

Our journeys only begins at baptism, our life in Christ starts there, when we go from not knowing God, to finding Him revealed in our lives so clearly that we trust Him. Where a relationship occurs as we walk with Him, as we are taught by Him, as we enjoy this life He has brought us.

We don’t want to just convert people, we want to see them become our brothers and sisters, we want our Father in heaven to adopt them….. our mission is far longer, far deeper, far more important than winning a debate.

It’s helping them to walk with God….. to know His love and mercy. To realize that nothing else is important, compared to walking with God.

to know when we cry together, “Lord Have Mercy!”. He answers.

That is what being missional is about, about what the apostolate is about.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1406-1412). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Daily War of Renewal and Rebirth


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21  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 7:21-25 (NLT) 

344      For a son of God each day should be an opportunity for renewal, knowing for sure that with the help of grace he will reach the end of the road, which is Love. That is why if you begin and begin again, you are doing well. If you have a will to win, if you struggle, then, with God’s help, you will conquer! There will be no difficulty you cannot overcome!

I have read that Luther advised us to remember our baptism every morning as we prayed, and every evening as we prayed before sleep.  There is a reason for it, to strengthen our knowledge and trust in God, because each day has its own evil, because we will be tempted and fail.

Though some would deny it, the miserable battle Paul identifies above in the Christian goes on daily.  If we examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11)  We must deal with the misery of the guilt and shame we bring upon ourselves, as we fail, as we sin.  As I write this, I am listening to the music from Les Mis, and the song where Javert commits suicide.  Why? Because he knows the war between justice and mercy.  He can’t imagine a world where mercy trumps justice, where love and grace triumph over the law.  Such is Paul’s world – the misery he refers to, the danger to the journey towards love that Escriva mentions as well.

We remember our baptism at night so that we can est in peace, knowing God is merciful, and promised to forgive us.

We pray in the morning, remembering and being thankful as well, knowing that this rebirth and renewal will mark our day.  That we will expect to see God’s work in our day, in our lives, in our interactions.

For without such, our struggle becomes impossible, we forget that there is no condemnation when we are found in Christ.  Instead there is peace, and healing, and assuredness that the Holy Spirit is working there,  We would believe that sin or temptation could separate us from the love of God, that God is limited, and can’t make even the sin we repent of work out for good, for those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.

It is as Paul taught Titus:

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7  Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8  This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 (NLT)

But this is a truth we need throughout our days, the truth of being reborn in Christ, of being forgiven, of being shown grace.

that is the way to a victorious Christian life…. to realize our need for the gospel… in our lives, and the hope of it for those around us as well.

Lord have mercy on us sinners!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1356-1359). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s Commissioned Masterpiece: A Life of Obedience, and Grace.


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16  “Now come close to me and hear what I say. From the beginning I have spoken openly and have always made my words come true. (Now the Sovereign LORD has given me his power and sent me.) 17  The holy God of Israel, the LORD who saves you, says: I am the LORD your God, the one who wants to teach you for your own good and direct you in the way you should go. 18  “If only you had listened to my commands! Then blessings would have flowed for you like a stream that never goes dry. Victory would have come to you like the waves that roll on the shore. 19  Your descendants would be as numerous as grains of sand, and I would have made sure they were never destroyed.” 20  Go out from Babylon, go free! Shout the news gladly; make it known everywhere: The LORD has saved his servant Israel! Isaiah 48:16-20 (TEV)

Consequently this teaching concerning faith is not to be accused of forbidding good works but is rather to be praised for teaching that good works are to be done and for offering help as to how they may be done. For without faith and without Christ human nature and human strength are much too weak to do good works,call upon God, have patience in suffering, love one’s neighbor, diligently engage in callings which are commanded, render obedience, avoid evil lusts, etc. Such great and genuine works cannot be done without the help of Christ, (1) 

333      The best way of showing our gratitude to God is to be passionately in love with the fact that we are his children.  (1)
As I read the passage from Isaiah this morning, I was amazed to see the tension between obedience and grace.

God teaches very clearly that what we miss when we disobey Him are the blessings of a life lived in peace, a life lived full of blessings, a life lived content, and flourishing in ways beyond our imagination.

Instead, we treat His law with disdain.  Before we come to know His grace, we dismiss it as archaic.  We think it has no relevance to our lives.  We believe we know better, and we toss it aside the way in favor of what we think i right.  (and it seems that everyone of us has our pet sins to declare good, even as we have our pet sins to condemn)

But those that don’t follow Jesus aren’t the only ones to dismiss the life, the masterpiece God has in mind for us.  We see that in the blue quote above.  For some have been accused of forbidding good works, and some have denied that what God has commissioned should have any influence on the life of those who have been called into a relationship with God.  There are different ways this is done, a denial of the third use of the law is a technical way of describing it.  Others will talk about being free from the bondage of sin, the power of satan and the fear of death and God’s wrath as a freedom to do that which they want – for God in the New Testament is only a God of law, and not of judgment.  There are some who see the issue that we cannot earn or merit God’s coming to us meaning that we should just give up being good, or somehow we will automatically believe and do what is right.  (Those who say this ignore that Romans 7 discourse is part of the larger 6-8 discussion about the struggle with sin)

The Psalmist doesn’t leave us thinking of what could have been, if we obeyed.  He does hold that out, he does make it clear that the way of life God commissions is not for His benefit – but ours.  It is having realized this, that we can then hear the glorious news, God has been merciful, He has saved us.  He’s adopting us, cleansing us, claiming us.  He has delivered us, saved us, reconciled us, redeemed us, rescued us, loved us.

Obedience, what the lutheran confessions call “New Obedience” then comes from seeing what God commissions/commands as a son taking instruction from his Father, learning the family business and the tasks we work as we walk with Him.  Think of a dad teaching his son to play catch, or how to change a bicycle tire, or a mom teaching her daughter to cook (yes I know I am using old fashioned traditional types).  The instruction is beneficial, practical and present.  Not a Lord’s laws layed down, but a Father’s guidance, which can be heard and put into practice, for when it is heard, the heart receives it as well as the mind.

That’s what grace does. It teaches us that God is our Father, our caring, loving Father who desires the best for us, and is wise enough to know it.  Are we gong to screw up, disobey, struggle and even rebel?  Yes, but like the prodigal, we will remember Him, and His love.

Obedience, the fruit of grace and mercy, and dependent upon it.

Lord, thank you that you have mercy on us!.

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 46). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1320-1321). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Lessons of Nostalgia….and Thinking/Being Home


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1  Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2  Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. Psalm 90:1-2 (NLT)

331      Rest in divine filiation (the love between father and son). God is a Father—your Father!—full of warmth and infinite love. Call him Father frequently and tell him, when you are alone, that you love him, that you love him very much!, and that you feel proud and strong because you are his son.  (1)

I have spent this fall in an interesting sermon series, one that has made me go back and look at part of my youth.  In the middle of the series, I went home, driving the same roads that I’ve talked about in the series, walking the same paths my Dad and I trod with my son.  Re-living those conversations when I was sitting in the backseat – a young child with his siblings.

It has been painful along the way, my dad passed away last year, and many of the journeys, to my old elementary school, to Lake Ossipee, to the beaches at Salisbury, even to the old candlepin bowling alley, brought back many memories, some good, some challenging.  Lots of tears, and the odd reversal – now I was the dad, now I had a son.

All of this – there sermon series recounting backseat conversations of childhood, the trip, it all coalesces into a huge lesson of nostalgia, and a realization about God’s presence.

I overlooked – to an extent – the verse above in Sunday’s sermon.  There is a lot there – He is our home, or as we heard a couple of weeks ago, our refuge. But to hear God is our home, the place we come to be nourished, to be sae, to come when we are sick and find healing and rest.  There is a blessing there that goes beyond explanation.  To realize we are the children of our Heavenly Father, that we are on this journey to our home, is overwhelming.

It even overwhelms the overwhelming challenges of this life.

He is our Dad, our Father, the one in whom we trust.

With Him, we are Home.

And He is here… with us.

Amen

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1312-1315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven #10: This Trip Was So Fast!


 Backseat Conversationson the Way to Heaven:

This Trip Was So Fast!Featured image

Psalm 90:1-12

Jesus, Son, Savior

May your confidence in the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be strengthened, and enjoyed!

 

The Journey Continues as We Draw closer

As we’ve compared our life to a long car journey, often times the journeys included a little conflict as some of the sermons mentioned.  But there were times of great fun as well.  Times were we competed in quizzes, or saw the glorious surroundings, or just had great times talking or singing silly songs…..

Anyone remember 99 bottles of beer on the wall?

Did anyone ever finish it?  The song, not the beer!

There were times when we had so much fun in those journeys that we were disappointed when we arrived at Grampy’s house, or Auntie Lainey’s.  We would be so disappointed that we’d have to be dragged out of the car.

It is as if we forgot what was waiting for us when we got to where we were going.  The feast of incredible proportion

We would get to the door, and smell the sausages, or remember there were presents or French onion dip awaiting us, and of course the car was a faint memory.

We had forgotten the destination, we were so intent on the fun.

As we look at the psalm that was read earlier, we can see we aren’t the only ones who spend the journey forgetting about the destination.

We so need what the psalmist prays for, in verse 12 where he writes:

12  Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”

The Trip Is Too Fast to Get it Right!

Have you ever gotten to the end of the week and realized that all the things you meant to get done didn’t happen?  Then Friday comes, and as we come to think about the week, we realize all that we’ve done that wasted time, and all the important things that we didn’t accomplish.

Life can be like that, it flies by too fast.  One moment I am sitting in a favorite hiding place, reading a Hardy Boy’s book, the next moment I am approaching 50, watching my son read the same story.

Beneath this time issue is an ominous problem.  Like the servant with only one talent in the parable today, when the master returns, what will we have to show Him?

Will Jesus find that we did what He’s asked, giving others the message that God has given them the gift of reconciliation?  Will He find us making disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?  Will He see us confessing our sins to one another, that we would be healed?  Will He hear of us caring for the sick, the imprisoned, the lame, the widow and orphans?

Or will our lives be like the Psalmist describes?

3  You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals!” 4  For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours. 5  You sweep people away like dreams that disappear. They are like grass that springs up in the morning. 6  In the morning it blooms and flourishes, but by evening it is dry and withered. 7  We wither beneath your anger; we are overwhelmed by your fury. 8  You spread out our sins before you— our secret sins—and you see them all. 9  We live our lives beneath your wrath, ending our years with a groan.

In thinking about how short the time is, do we see a need for God’s desires, God’s will, God’s priorities to be out own?  Or do we do what we think is right in our own hearts? If we bother to think about time from God’s perspective, then what follows should be realizing how much of God’s wrath we deserve.

Yes, the wrath we deserve.

We admitted to it, if we meant the words we said during our confession and absolution. Or did you not really mean it when you said you deserve His temporal and eternal punishment?  We do.  You do, I do. The world does.

What if God, as the psalmist describes, spread out your sins before him, like a card dealer spreads out a deck of cards? Or a thousand decks of cards… or 100,000 decks of cards.

How would you react, if every sin you committed, with all the documentation, was laid out before God?

How would this time that we have been used?  Would it be well spent, or would we be in fear for our eternal lives?

That is the question the psalmist is asking,

And the very reason we have to be able to know how brief a time our journey is…..

The Verse of the Day      

I am not sure if it is because of time constraints, or why those who choose the length of readings shorten some of the psalms and the readings.  I mean I understand Psalm 119 being broken up.  But here, as in other places, the breaks don’t quite work.

We ended our reading today, with a prayer that God would teach us to realize that the is short, that life is very brief, so that we can gain wisdom, wisdom to spend our time well, and in a God pleasing way.  But how? When we deserve His wrath?

I put part of the psalm in the Alleluia and Verse today, it is a continuance of the prayer to realize how brief the time is…

13  O LORD, come back to us! How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! 14  Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.

It is a prayer, that was fulfilled at the cross, a prayer where God did come back, and lived among us., he didn’t delay any longer, but He heard the prayer of His people, and responded, and came to us, and died for us.

A prayer answered as He took pity on us, paying the debt for our sin, and even more, He satisfies us with His unfailing love.

A love that will cause us to sing His praises far into eternity, a prayer that is the result of our realizing the time is short, and spending this journey with God.  The psalm goes on, describing the reality of wisdom in prayer,

15  Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. 16  Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. 17  And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful.

This is what Moses meant by understanding the brevity of time when he wrote this Psalm, about the joy and good that God provides for us in our lives.  That is what redeeming the time as Paul the apostle calls it. It is about seeing God at work in us, walking with us, and leading us to do work bringing the message of His love, and reconciliation. This is how we fulfill His desire…as we share our lives with Him, trusting Him,

It is then, knowing the value of our time spent with Him, trusting in Him, that we know His peace, and may that peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN?  AMEN!

When Will Hand Over the Reins of our Lives?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  LORD, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. 2  Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3  O Israel, put your hope in the LORD— now and always. Psalm 131:1-3 (NLT)

323      Jesus knows very well what is best… and I love his Will and will do so always. He it is who controls “the puppets” and so, provided it is a means to achieving our end, even if there are godless men who are determined to put obstacles in the way, he will grant what I am asking.  (1)

every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.
“Then how does one speak of God?”

“Through silence”
“Why then, do you speak in words?”
“At that, the Abba laughed uproariously.  He said, “when I speak, you must not listen to the words my dear.  Listen to the Silence.” (2)

It is the unspoken idol in all of our lives, it is idea that we must be working, we must be cleaning, we must be the sole defenders of the faith.  We want to be the heroes, we want our way to be the right way, and then be put in charge of correcting all who are wrong. ( and make them agree with our wisdom)  We een justify our Machiavellianism as being faithful to our call, being faithful to doctrine.    I am as guilty of it as any other, this idea that it is our responsibility to make life work, to make our denominations work.

As a result, we’ve forgotten God’s desire, we’ve forgotten the work we’ve been given, to proclaim the Kingdom of God is here, that God is in charge, and desires to reconcile all to Himself, to bring all to repentance, to bring all home.

The challenge is one of faith, one of trust.  Do I trust God enough to let HIm handle the big stuff, to move the church, and The Church, in the direction it needs to go.  Will I allow myself to be quiet, listening to Him speak.  Will I put my hope in Him, and not in the princes and leaders of the world. Will I allow Him to deal with those who put obstacles to grace in the way?

Will I encourage others to as well, to seek His face, to find rest in Jesus?

Will I find it myself?

Psalm 103 is a great prayer, may it be our desire to make it ours….

Lord Have Mercy…. 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1287-1290). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  FInian Reading for 11/15 from The Celtic Daily Prayer

We Are Agents of Reconciliation, not Division…


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18  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20  So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!21  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT)  2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)

319      My God, how easy it is to persevere when we know that You are the Good Shepherd, and that we—you and I…—are sheep belonging to your flock! For we know full well that the Good Shepherd gives his whole life for each one of his sheep.  (1)

Interesting thought, speaking the truth in love requires that you love the one you are speaking to….Which means it costs you as much as it costs them when they don’t hear you.  (a thought I etched on Facebook recently)

The church has been appointed to a task, chosen for a specific role and ministry in this world.  All of the vocations that exist, exist to see this work of God, accomplished in and through us.

Paul calls it the ministry of reconciliation, and it requires great sacrifice and great love.  It is one, when we do not see it fulfilled, should bring us to tears, even as Paul cried for his fellow Jews who turned their back on God, and refused God’s grace, refused God’s actions reconciling them to himself.

It’s odd, if anyone had the right to claim he was persecuted for righteousness sake, it was Paul.  Yet he wept over his persecutors. he wept over the division between them and God.  He even offered up his life, that God would reconcile them to Himself.

As Paul found out, there were times of division, both with those who abandoned God, and within the household of God.  Peter knew this as well, yet he would write

15  Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16  But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear.  1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)

Again, the focus isn’t just about being right – but how that is communicated, how we go to those we consider lacking in that hope, in the trust in that grace, in that knowledge.  Realizing that our goal isn’t to win an argument, or create more division, but to see all reconciled to Christ, and therefore to each other.

Such is the nature of our ministry, of our life in Christ.

That is where our joy is found… in seeing all united in Christ Jesus.

Lord have  such mercy on us…

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1276-1279). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

“Daddy, even my stuffed animals?”


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17  As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19  But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother. 20  “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21  Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. There is still one thing you haven’t done, he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. 22  At this the man’s face fell, and he went away very sad, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:17-22 (NLT)

11  When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:11 (NLT)

299      If there is sacrifice when you sow Love, you will also reap Love.

The other night my 7 year old son and I were doing our devotions and came to the reading above. It was a defining moment for him I think. As we talked about the rich young man, I asked my son what he would be asked to sell.

He thought for a moment, and tears began to fall from his eyes, as he included his beloved stuffed animals, his “friends”.

Three of them, “brown bear”, “blue bear” and “galoshes” have been with him since the day he was born.  Others he’s picked up along the way.  He even asked me to teach him microsoft access, so he could create his own database to record all of them, nearly 100 at this point in time.

They are his treasures, what makes him quite rich in his mind.  They are even more important to him than his electronics, for those are fun, these friends thought, provide great comfort, and a sense of peace.

But he quickly, even through the tears,  realized God was worth more to him than his stuffed friends.  Through the tears, and yet with a smile showing as well he said he would choose Jesus over his friends.   We talked about what idols are, and how things like riches got in the way of the rich young ruler’s relationship with God – given a choice he took them over walking with Jesus.

As a father, I couldn’t be more proud, and as a pastor the same thing is true, I am quite proud of a seven year old, who could process this concept, that the God who he cannot physically see is far more important that what He counts on in life.

I wonder about my own life, would I be as quick to decide to give up what hinders my life from God?  Would the people I pastor?  Can we find the strength to walk away, even with tears, and yet a smile breaking forth as we realize the glory that God has called us into, to be His kids?  Could we commit to giving up what brings us comfort and peace?  Can we give up the things that we run to when the world is too rough?

it is the lesson of Christ as well, who sacrificed for the love He had for us, and for the Father..To bring together that which was separated by sin. In the end, the satisfaction is far greater than any scar, any suffering, and sacrifice.

Can we learn a lesson from a seven year old, and treasure the Lord who sees us as His treasure?

Lord, have mercy upon us, and give us the faith of a child!

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1219-1220). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Blossoming of Faith


Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

4  “Israel, remember this! The LORD—and the LORD alone—is our God. 5  Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (TEV)

1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded, but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God. (1) 

296      Learn to praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Learn to have a special devotion to the Blessed Trinity: I believe in God the Father, I believe in God the Son, I believe in God the Holy Spirit; I hope in God the Father, I hope in God the Son, I hope in God the Holy Spirit; I love God the Father, I love God the Son, I love God the Holy Spirit. I believe, I hope and I love the most Holy Trinity. This devotion is much needed as a supernatural exercise for the soul, expressed by the movement of the heart, although not always in words.  (2) 

I wish there was a way to study the human soul, but there is not, at least from our perspective.

Simply put, there seems to be a movement away from intimacy with God that is becoming more and more apparent.  It reveals itself often in our attitude toward faith and works, as I’ve written about recently.

Some just want a list of behaviors to enforce, a way to measure righteousness that is completely divorced from the soul.  A list of publicly viewable sins (as opposed to the sins of our mind, or those we do in private) that can be used as a checklist.

Some want no accountability at all, and use theology to try and prove the behaviors prohibited in the Old Testament aren’t binding, and the behaviors commanded are not either.

In my branch of Christianity, in our basic doctrinal statement, note that works are the production of faith and such works we must do   The reason isn’t so God will approve of us, or that they merit God’s graces, we have that already because of Christ.  Nevertheless, the works need to blossom from our faith.  Obedience needs to come, not forced or coerced, but naturally.

How does this work?  I would say it comes from see the Bible passage in red above become our reality.  To love God with everything we are.   To desire His presence the way a couple desires to be In each others presence.   To adore, to be devoted to God, as He reveals Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, even as St Josemaria advises us.

It is from this love, that treasuring the words of God begins.  As we revel in His love, in His sharing His life and our lives, that good works can blossom and grow.   Good works don’t come from our own strength, they can only come from being in the presence of God, of knowing His love so well that it becomes our nature as well. The kind of closeness to God that makes us uncomfortable, that causes us to be distant at first….even as it did to those in the past. z

yet it is His intimate presence that changes everything, His love that creates in us the ability to love, and the desire to love beyond our ability.

Knowing this, it is no wonder that St. Paul prays,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

May it be so in all our lives today…..

Even in the lives of our enemies.

 

(1) [1] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 31–32). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  (Augsburg Confession Art. VI

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1201-1206). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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