That’s Tempting…..


Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image11  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:11 (NLT) 

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13 (NLT) 

1008      In the hour of temptation, practise the virtue of Hope, saying: For my rest and enjoyment I have the whole of eternity ahead of me. Here and now, full of Faith, I will earn my rest through work and win my joy through suffering. What will Love be like in Heaven? Better still, you should practise your Love by saying: What I want is to please my God, my Love, by doing his Will in all things, as though there were neither reward nor punishment—simply to please him.  (1)

We all have temptations.

Some involve things we desire.  Chocolate, desserts, alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex in any form other than marriage, gossip, slander (especially those people we don’t like).  We can even be tempted to whine and throw a pity party, confident that no one has ever been challenged with what we face.

There are also temptations to avoid things: confrontation, suffering, discomfort, having to sacrifice things that are important to us, even martyrdom.  We may not like reality as we perceive it, and the temptation is to believe that perception and hide from that which we cannot control or enjoy.

We pray to God that He would strengthen us against such things, but we fail for so many of them.  You aren’t alone in this dear reader, I fail as well, so does every priest and pastor you encounter.  Every saint was tempted, and of all History, only Jesus was tested in all points and never succumbed.

Does that mean we stop striving for it and give it up?  Do we just enjoy that which damages our bodies and souls?  Do we just find our cave, and hide from anyone who might do us harm, including ourselves?

For if we can’t overcome temptation, if we can’t live the perfect, holy life, then why try?

Does God really expect us to live miserably, failing over and again?

The answer is seen in the quotes above, in the description of our lives, found in the Book of Revelation.  Yes, the description of our lives, pictured as those who have overcome, (the word nike in Greek – we just did it!)  How?

By the blood of Christ – the promise of our being rescued from this life and the damage caused to it by sin.  We count on that; we have confidence that God is doing exactly that in this wearying life.

We trust in what God reveals! We know it so well that we are willing to testify to it, testify to it, even like the martyrs who died, rather than give up the hope that God instills in us…

The last comment is perhaps the hardest; we don’t cling to this life so much, that we face anxiety and fear in view of death.  This isn’t easy, to not know this life, the only life we know.  It is hard to focus on the future.  We have obligations and pressures.  We have to keep in balance so many different things.

I love Escriva’s two-step approach to this.  The first, to have the ultimate sense of delayed gratification.  To know what God awaits us, and press on like Paul – to reach that which God has already made it possible to enjoy.  That challenges our perceptions, which our sacrifices are complete, that our commitment goes over and above what should be expected.

The second phase is where Christian maturity is revealed, where we have started to understand the depth of God’s love, the blessings He pours out on us, by loving us like that.

To endure life, to work through temptation and trial, to sacrifice things in this life, because doing so frees us to do something that brings God joy!   When we got to the point where we don’t do things for the rewards of heaven, but simply because of love for God.

This attitude only occurs when we realize first His love.

Realizing His love puts this life with its trials, temptations and sacrifices into perspective.

I pray that as we deal with the trials and temptations of life, that first and foremost, we look to God and know His love and promises.

For then we know the Blood of Christ, we see it at work in our lives, we treat life in view of eternity, and because of God, we overcome.

AMEN.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3553-3557). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who Do You Call First?


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

10  We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! 11  But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God’s friends. Romans 5:10-11 (TEV)

A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God. (1)

1009      Whenever the worrying thought enters your head that you lack rectitude of intention—sometimes it may come like a flash of lightning, at other times like a filthy pestering fly which you brush off but which keeps coming back—always make acts of the opposite virtue straight away… and carry on working calmly for Him and with Him. At the same time, even though you might feel you are only pronouncing the words mechanically, say slowly: Lord, I want nothing for myself. May everything be for your glory and for your Love. (2)

My son and I, a couple of weeks ago, went to my college alma mater to watch a basketball game.

As we were about to leave, we passed a table offering raffle tickets to raise money for the girl’s team.  All four top prizes were computer tablets, so we bought a few tickets and walked away.

Yesterday, as I was working in my office, I got a phone call.  We won!  (this is the second tablet I’ve won… :-) ) Before I was off the phone, I was already walking to where my son was, eager to share with my techie son that we had another “screen” in the family. I had to let him know.  My wife found out later, and silly me, I forgot to

As I was reading the Large Catechism (the blue quote) this morning, I thought of that – who do we go to first?  When life just sucks, or the opposite when something extraordinary happens, when we are suffering or simply trying to endure.  Who do we call?  Who do we go to find sustenance?  Who do we praise and glorify?  ( I include both good and bad things on purpose)

Is it a person, a spouse or a parent?  Is it some item, such as a bottle or chocolate, or some drug?  Or do we choose to suffer alone?  Or do we tell the world by FB, Twitter, and text?  Do we ever bring it to God?  Have we set up an idol, even many idols?

Who do we cling to?  Who do we count on?

Do we ever think about our relationship with God in that way?  As the closest of friends?  Can we even conceive of a God, who is that interested in us, that desires to be given all we can’t handle, and yes, to be thanked when something special happens?

Do we realize that is what it means to pray without ceasing, to give God the good, the bad, the challenged?

As we walk through this Lent. As we walk with Christ to the cross, may we share it all with Him! May we depend upon Him so much, may we adore Him so much, that it is His name we call first, in prayer and praise!

May we call Him first, and always!
AMEN

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3558-3562). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Benefit of Endurance Part 1


 

The Benefit of Endurance

James 1:12-18
I.H.S.

May you recognize the presence of God so clearly, and His attitude toward you, which you simply endure with patience all that is on your journey towards home.
How do you?

Her words, words of one who endured the greatest of hardships, echo through our souls.  Hear them, as reported in an interview with her son.

Asked by host Maher Fayez what he would say if he were asked to forgive ISIS, he related what his mother said she would do if she saw one of the men who killed her son. “My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven.”  (1)

There is a lady who knows how to endure, because of her faith in Christ.

Her desire is not revenge, it is not to cause pain, it is to see the mercy of God be revealed as clearly as it was at the cross.  A mother of a martyr, inviting her son’s murderer’s to come into her house?  An invitation of hospitality that guaranteed them of her love, and that no harm would come to them.

How could she endure the pain, the suffering and relive it with ISIS militants in her home?

She knew the benefit that endurance brings.  She could revel in it, knowing the goodness of God.  She would have no problems with the words from our epistle today.  She would understand well verse 12,

12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him!

The Temptation

There is no way to compare the lives we endure to hers.  But the testing we endure has the similar out, the similar temptation.

To cry out to God, with pain and doubt, “God, why did You allow this to happen?  Why would You allow evil to flourish on this day?”

Hear the words of James again,

13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.

 

These trials, these temptations to abandon God are not His work.  These sins committed against us, as well as the sins we commit, are not His fault, nor His work.

They develop from our own desire, our inability to look past what benefits us and our own.  It is easy to see in the violence of groups like ISIS, or the groups in our country who promote death as a solution to inconveniences like pregnancy or old age.

It is that same narcissism, that same self-centeredness that is at the heart of all sin.  Whether it be envy, gossip, disobedience and disrespect to parents and authorities or the sexual sins, that seem to head often up such lists.
Sin is sin, whether in thought, word or deed, originates in the desire to serve ourselves, to put ourselves in God’s place.  In order to get that which we think we would like, we would have to be in charge. Such is the nature of revenge, which Paul says in Romans 13 belongs to God alone.  Desire to make our lives something, to value them, lies at the heart of all sin.
Sin, which takes hold of our life, and snuffs it out.  Sin that suffocates us, destroying relationships, eventually crushing us and leaving us in hell.

So  where does a lady find the strength to endure, to entrust not only her son to God, but to embrace his killers, with the hope they would see God’s love revealed to them?

Really?  His Prized Possession?

it is trusting words like these, 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

There is our key, understanding that what God does give us is good.  Trusting Him to know what is perfect for us, not just for the moment, not just to satisfy a desire, but to give us far more than we could ever desire.

That uneducated Coptic lady, she was able to endure because she knew the good and perfect gift of God, something so incredible, she wanted it even for those who killed her son.

She trusted God, and the answer is how?

She knew His heart, His love, His mercy, from the gift He had given her, of His Son. The Son who would die that we could be born again in baptism.  The Son, who was the Word of God made flesh and living with us.  A God who  comes to people, imperfect, sinful people and transforms them into saints.

Who would become His prized possession.

Think of that – out of all of creation, what God prizes most is His relationship with His people, you and I and those who died, and maybe, those who killed them, who were touched by the faith of martyrs, and those who respond with God’s love.

What an incredible miracle, what a blessing.

This message, like the series that follows, is all about the benefits of endurance.  The benefit of endurance is not just our heavenly crowns that God has promised.  The benefit of endurance is found in the only way we can find the way to endure.

In being found in Christ, in knowing His forgiving mercy, in knowing His love, in living in the peace of Christ that is yours…..

The benefit of endurance is found in our relationship with Him being revealed.  For in Him we live and breath and endure…

AMEN

  • “Brother of slain Coptic Christians thanks ISIS for including …” ttp://christiantoday.com/article/brother.of.slain.coptic.christians.thanks.isis.for.including.their.words.of.faith.in.murder.video/48412.htm_br

A Tough Question….. Will We Answer it? Do We Hate Sin?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15  These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. James 1:14-15 (NLT)

20  But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21  Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22  throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:20-24 (NLT)

1002      To save mankind, Lord, you died on the Cross. And yet for one mortal sin you condemn a man to a hapless eternity of suffering. How much sin must offend you, and how much I ought to hate it!

For maybe 20 years, there has been a platitude circling around Christianity. It goes like this, “we should hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

It isn’t scriptural, in that it doesn’t come from the word of God.  We accept it because it seems logical, and it gets us out of sticky situations.  

I don’t think we hate sin anymore.  I think we tolerate it, welcome it, choose it, and count on God to take pity on us. 

If we’ve been brought up in the church, we know what the Bible says about sin.  We know that what it earns death and destruction.  Sin separates us from all that is good; it separates us from God and His love.

It deserves our hatred. It is something we should fear, as it seduces and enslaves people. It does such a thorough job, burying us deeper and deeper beneath its weight.   We excuse it, we claim that not sinning is an inconvenience, that living as God teaches isn’t possible anymore.  Theologians dismiss it with the very phrase that provides the title of my blog – that we are simply justified sinners, and that is all we will ever be in this life.

I think that we’ve come to a point where we don’t hate our sin anymore.   The sins of Isis, the sins of “those” people, the sins committed against us, yes, we still hate that sin.

Do we hate our sin?  Do we hate the sins of our friends?  Do we hate the sins of our children?  Do we fear the grip that sin can have over people, and the damage it can do to their lives?  Do we see it wrecking the relationships around us?

If we did, how glorious would the cross be?  How central to our lives would our baptism be?  what a celebration the Lord’s Supper would be, and the relief we would know as we heard the words, “you’re sins are forgiven!”

He broke the power of sin; he crushed it. He saved us from it.  He brings healing to our hearts and peace to weary souls.

During this Lent, we pause and take the time to not only love the sinner, but fear for them, and struggle to see them freed.  We look to Christ, setting that sin, that desire, that temptation aside… knowing He endured the cross so that we could be free.  Fr that to Him was His joy, to see us freed, cleansed and made holy.

Do we hate sin?  We need to…..


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3534-3535). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A True Test of Faith: Prayer


Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image2  Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. 3  You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:2-3 (NLT)

1  I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD’s mercy. 2  I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. 3  When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.  Psalm 142:1-3 (NLT)

990      Sanctity consists precisely in this: in struggling to be faithful throughout your life and in accepting joyfully the Will of God at the hour of death.

As I read the passages from Isaiah and Psalms that I placed at the beginning of this devotion, I wonder again about my faithfulness.

Not from the point of not sinning and doing everything right.  It is another issue of faithfulness.

I have often found it hard to pour out my complaints, I find it hard to give Him all my troubles. I don’t’ turn to God at first, when troubles overtake me. There are ways we avoid this.

One may bottle it up, just shove it own inside until the day when we just sob uncontrollably.  Our bodies are purging our soul of bottled up grief or anger, or sorrow, any and every.

Another option is to vent but in an inappropriate way.  Venting looking for some affirmation; someone to recognize our heroic endurance, our suffering under injustice, the strength of character that it takes to endure.

Please hear me, I am not saying we shouldn’t look for support from other brothers and sisters who know God’s love.   But I am saying that we can go to others for affirmation that would glorify us, even if that glory is someone noting our ability to survive the struggle.  If we are blessed, our friends won’t allow us to throw a pity party.  Instead, they will guide us to the cross, and the mercy and grace that will heal us.

What is faithfulness?  St. Josemaria talks of it as accepting the Will of God joyfully – even at the hour of death.  It is with Isaiah knowing that God keeps us in perfect peace, and we trust Him to keep that promise, and look to Him to do it!

That faithfulness is crying out to God like Jeremiah, (see Jeremiah 20:7) when we feel like life isn’t fair.  Or even if it is fair when we feel overwhelmed by it.  When we don’t hesitate to plead for Hi mercy, to pray with both the bluntness of sharing our despair, and trusting God, and only God, to make a difference.

That is the faithfulness we need to develop.  The faithfulness that results in holding nothing back from the God, who loves US.  To give Him our life, not just our willingness to serve Him wherever He leads, but to give him our shattered hearts, our bruised and broken souls.  We need to entrust to Him the things that we hate to face in our lives.

That is faithfulness; the prayer of the broken and needy.  The prayer of a child, calling out to his Father to rescue them from the darkness.

The prayer so easily said…but one that echoes to the deepest part of us, and finds that even there, God is with us.

The Prayer:  Lord, have mercy on me….

Let us pray…

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3490-3491). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Will We Hear An Inconvenient God? An Ash Wednesday Devotion


Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image

 Jesus also told them other parables. He said, 2  “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. 3  When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come! 4  “So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ 5  But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. 6  Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them. 7  “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. 8  And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. 9  Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ 10  So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests. 11  “But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. 12  ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply13  Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14  “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:1-14 (NLT)

Last night I heard of a practice that scared me, actually, it terrified me.
A pastor in a liturgical denomination was going to stand outside the post office today. As people drove through to drop off their mail, they were going to offer to put ashes on their forehead, in recognition of Ash Wednesday.

Several other situations have made me wonder whether we have lost the idea of mourning over the sins of the world and our sin.  Do we grieve anymore?  Does the idea of sin sicken our souls?  Has sin so ensnared us, that we don’t even recognize its existence?

I think we see this in the parable above.  People have gotten so caught up in their lives that will not tolerate being inconvenienced.  Even for something so great as a feast, the feast of their king celebrating the love between His Son, and the Bride for which He gave everything.

No, no time.  Look at their excuses!  Do they sound familiar?

Do we grieve over missing a church service or a Bible study?  Do we grieve when we overlooked  someone in need, knowing we could have, we should have helped?  Do we grieve when someone near us is broken and shattered by sin?  Do we grieve when there are people whose lives are shattered by addiction, or when marriages collapse do to unfaithfulness, or abuse?  Do we grieve with the lady, who convinced abortion is an acceptable option, later is haunted by what she has done? Do we grieve over the damage cause by gossip, or lieing?

Do we grieve over sin?

Or is it to inconvenient? Do we want a God who serves at our beck and call?  Instead of ashes signifying repentance and contrition, do we proudly wear ashes on our forehead, assured that people will identify us as those who are faithful?

Will we grieve over sin, only if we don’t have to be inconvenieced, or if it is the sin in Libya or the Ukraine, and as long as it isn’t inconvenient?  As long as it isn’t our sin?

Here is the reason this concerns me so….

If we don’t grieve, how can we be comforted in our grief?  If we don’t mourn, how can God dry those tears? If we aren’t willing to be inconvenienced, how will we know He is there when we need Him?  If we don’t confess our sins, our brokenness, how can we receive the freedom and relief that comes when Our Father’s words are spoken, “My beloved child, rise, you are forgiven…..”

Take the time to grieve… may those ashes be of repentance.  Take the time, even if inconvenient to hear and know the love of God for you!  And hear from God, something well worth the inconvenience!

(1))  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3474-3477). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Need Something to Sacrifice For Lent? Give up Your Isolation!


Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image19  And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20  so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20 (NLT)

933      Jesus, may my poor heart be filled from the ocean of your Love, with such big waves that can cleanse me and expel from me all my wretchedness. Pour those most pure and ardent waters of your Heart into mine, until my desires for loving you are fully satisfied and I can no longer hold back my response to your divine ardour. My heart shall surely break then, dying for Love, and pour out that Love of yours which, in irresistible and most fertile, life-giving torrents, will reach other hearts that will beat through contact with these living waters, with the pulsating force of Faith and Charity. (1)

At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears Him and does what is right. God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness. He therefore chose the race of Israel as a people unto Himself. (2) 

For many of us, this is the last day before the beginning of Lent.

I’ve already seen people posting on FaceBook and Twitter the things they are going to give up.  The usual list appears, chocolate, sugar, alcohol, they’ll read the Bible where they used to watch their favorite television shows, they’ll give up going to the movies, using the money to help those in homeless shelters.  Even some have dared say they will give up FB, or Instagram, ( maybe this explains snapchat invitations rising?

People are willing to give up things that do them damage, to attempt to control the cravings that so easily entice them,  To enter into a time of discipline, to make sacrifices.  Those that have been at it for a while also know they need to replace these things with better habits.  If they do not the temptation will rise, and failure will happen like it did with our New Year’s resolutions.

I have a suggestion if you are still looking for something.  Even if you have already decided on something, consider this as well.  It will be tough; it will be challenging.  It will cost you something you are not that willing to give up.

Give up your isolation, your individuality.  Give up your defensive walls that have been so carefully erected and protect your pride and self-esteem.  Get involved in people’s lives!  Let them into your life. Even those with whom you struggle to get along.  Talk to them, invite them to sit next to you at church, or go and sit near them. Find ways to let them into your life, and love them.

This isn’t easy, yet for those who trust in Jesus, it is His nature. It will take faith, not in your strength, not in the hope they will change, but in trusting in Jesus promise.  Remembering God is with you, right there in those moments, you can depend on His promise, that all will work for good.  He knows your love, He chose you, He will take care of you.

It is God’s design, it is how we are to live, not just loving God but loving His people, and all the people whom He would call His own.  The words from Vatican II struck me this morning, as did St. Josemaria Escriva’s.  The nature of being transformed by God’s love gives us a new heart, a heart from which His love pours out, to those around us.

So go and get involved in that Bible Study, even encourage someone to join you.  Take a step of faith and take on a new ministry at church. Buy that homeless guy lunch; talk to that lady sitting by herself at the table next to you as you eat dinner with your family at a restaurant. (Even invite her to join you!)

Trust in God’s love! Know He is with you! See Him in each of those you meet!  Then this sacrifice of you, will not seem like a sacrifice at all.  It will be a great joy!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3294-3298). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(1)   Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.


We Can See!

2 Cor. 3:12-4:6

 May the glorious gifts of mercy and peace you receive from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ shine into your world, as God transforms you into the image of Christ!

The Unnerving Glorious Mathematical Law

Featured imageAs we look at the incredible Transfiguration of Jesus, we need to understand it mathematically.

That is right; I said Mathematically.

We can show this mathematically, because of the of the epistle reading.  We can understand why the transfiguration is much more than what was revealed that day to the three terrified apostles.   As we see Christ revealed in all of His glory, we can make a connection from that event to our lives today, to our lives this week.

To what Paul talks about in Colossians 1,

27  For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)
Read that last sentence, this gives you the assurance of sharing His glory.

What a glorious promise, what an incredible truth!

So what about the math?

There is a mathematical axiom that dates back to the time before Christ.  It goes like this.

If A=B and B=C, then….

C=A.

Simple, right?

Now let’s apply it to scripture.

In verse 18 of our epistle reading from 2 Corinthians 3, it states this.

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

So the transition could look like  Our Image => Image of Christ

Jesus Christ is the exact likeness, the exact image of God,

Then we are being restored to what we were created to be, going all the way back to Genesis,

27  So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

This is amazing, glorious, that we would be undergoing a transfiguration that will leave us sharing in the glory of Christ.

That is the work of God in us!  This is true of you and me, for we are being remade in the image of God!

That Which obscures this in all of us

That is a heavy burden if you consider it for a moment.

Does God expect us to live, to speak, to think… like Jesus, to be like God, in whose image we are created?

Are we going to be judged based on how well we each resemble Jesus?  How our thoughts are His thoughts, whether we love others like He did?
I think that is the problem the Jews had, for they measured their righteousness against the Old Covenant law. Because of that, all they could see was failure, they missed the presence of God.  They hear the “you shall keep the Sabbath Day Holy” and miss the idea that we find rest in God’s presence, as He gathers us together, as His family.  They hear “you shall not bear false testimony,” and look around at all the evil and unrighteousness, not realizing the comfort and security we have, trusting Jesus to care for us as promised.

Legalism comes from looking at the rules, and trying to keep them, without realizing why we do so.  As we focus on the law, we are blinded to the God, who describes our life with Him in that law.

Because we are blinded, we miss Him!

If the Law is our focus, our lives our failures, for the burden is beyond anything anyone can accomplish.  Judged by that law, we know what scripture tells, we all fall short of His glory.  All have sinned, no one is good, no one but God!.

Even the reflection of God’s glory in the face of Moses would fade…as it did as Moses left the presence of God.

How this transformation occurs

This transformation then is not by our effort; it never could be!  We cannot keep the law perfectly.  That veil, that inability to look to God, to recognize His presence can only be removed by God.

Notice it says,

18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.

We’ve had that veiled removed; it is not something we’ve done. It is the work of Christ, on the cross, and pays for all our sin.  It is the Holy Spirit at work as well, who through word and sacraments like baptism and the Eucharist assures us that we are united to Jesus.  United to Him in death, and then that death, that veil removed as we rise with Him, cleansed and healed.  We’ve become adopted children of God our Father.

We are being transformed into His image, even as we see the glory of God in Christ, as we adore Him.  As we look to Him, as our focus moves off of our sins and failures, and off of those around us, we begin to reflect that glory, it becames more and more natural…

That is why Paul tells the church in Ephesus,

4  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
Ephesians 1:4-5 (NLT)

This transformation we are undergoing, it gives to God great pleasure!

This transformation, where the Spirit removes the veil in baptism, who keeps us close as we commune, as we hear that our sins are forgiven, that we can see God!

What this transformation looks like..

What an amazing change this is in life, to know God’s desire is fulfilled in reconciling us to Himself, in revealing His presence in every aspect of our life!  In securing us to Jesus.

The results?  Paul talks about this way of God giving us boldness, that we will never give up!  That as His mercy is revealed, as we know it is mercy and love towards us, we stand in that love.

Everything else fails away, for there is nothing that compares to it.  We do not have to force God’s love on people; we simply share the hope we have.  We do not have to put out false images of perfect lives, we can share the hope that comes from seeing God, and that image becomes imprinted on us.

It is why Paul can use the “image” idea as he tells the people in Corinth,

33  I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I do not just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved. 1  And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1 (NLT)

Going back to our math, and the A=B and B=C, we find ourselves, our eyes on Christ, running a race without thought of sin, just focusing on Him.  We see that image imprinted on Paul. Knowing His love, being transformed into His image.

We find ourselves doing what Christ did, inviting people into the presence of God, making the sacrifices that would remove that which blocks them from Him.  For that is what He did.

So look to Jesus, for you can see Him!  He is the author and perfector of your faith, who with joy gave it all, discounting the shame, the pain!  Who now waits for us at the right hand of the Father!

That is our destination; that is why the Spirit transforms us, readying us for that day.  Comforting, empowering, causing us to grow and transform, as we dwell in His amazing peace. AMEN!

The Greatest Victory of This Year… Who Will You Tell About It?


Devotional Thought on Monday:

Featured image15  I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ. 17  Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share the same loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:15-17 (TEV) 

938      Let us go to Jesus in the Tabernacle where we can get to know him and assimilate his teaching, and then be able to hand out this food to souls.

Yesterday, we celebrated an incredible victory. 

I wonder which of us will share the news of this victory today? 

Yesterday, we were invited to feast together, with a crowd far greater than any audience to watch any superbowl, any all star game.  A diverse and rowdy bunch for sure, as people not just across racial, cultural, and age gaps were gathered together.  Even across time were gathered in the presence of God to feast, to enjoy, to know God’s love. 

What a victory we celebrate!  What a victory we can share with others!

Our victory, for we share in it with Jesus.  We share in His Body, His Blood, together.  We share in praising Him with angels and archangels and all those host of Heaven. 

After a super bowl victory, the fans will relive the special moments of the game for weeks. I am still getting advertisements for Patriot gear.  People are still talking about it though it is slowing down quite a bit.

I wonder why we don’t talk about the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, with similar fervor?  Even among church folk – you rarely might hear how good a sermon was, or more likely the music, but how often do we hear about how incredible communion was?  

Is it too intimate?

Do we not comprehend what took place?

Do we not realize the promises, once guaranteed, now fulfilled as we take and eat, take and drink?

Do we not understand what it means to proclaim and celebrate His death, which intercepted our spiritual death, until He comes again? 

Celebrate my friends!  As you do, at that moment as you take the Body and Blood of Christ and are nourished by it, may you gain more insight into God’s love for you! May you know the incredible dimensions of that love, revealed in Christ Jesus being made a sacrifice, for you.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3316-3317). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Struggling with The Reality of One, Holy, Catholic/Christian and Apostolic Church


Featured imageDiscussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2  Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NLT)

932      God is right there in the centre of your soul, and mine, and in the soul of everyone who is in a state of grace. He is there for a purpose: so that our salt may increase, that we may acquire more light and that each one of us from his place may know how to distribute those gifts of God. And how can we share out these gifts from God? With humility and piety, and by being very united to our Mother the Church. Do you not recall the vine and the branches? How fruitful is each branch when united to the vine! What large bunches of grapes! And how sterile the broken-off branch that dries up and becomes lifeless! (1)

As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on, and, in the sacrament of the eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ  is both expressed and brought about. All men are called to this union with Christ, who is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and toward whom our whole life strains.(2)

When I was first installed as a Lutheran pastor, part of the service was my assent to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  i gave assurance that i believed in what the word of God teaches, and that i found the explanation of that found in the documents of the book of Concord to be a clear explanation of them. 

I did then, and I do now so believe.

Yet, I struggle with the dissonance between those documents and what is commonly held to today.  

One of those struggles is found in the words from the Nicene Creed, “and I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” (3)  I hold to those words, and find great comfort in them. I believe there is only one church, yet I see the fragmentation of it, and worse, I see pastors and people who rejoice over that fragmentation.

Yet that fragmentation is not something praised in scripture.  The Ephesians passage above makes this clear. We can add to the passage the 12-14th chapters of Romans and 1 Corinthians 12-14. We could also mention Philippians 2, not just the well known 5-10, but the verses that are the reason Paul includes 5-10; the call to unity, the call to serving other.  Add 1 John – the entire letter, but especially chapter 4.  

And yet we deny the church is one.

And in doing so, we deny the desire of Christ Jesus.  We deny the unity we find in Christ Jesus, who draws us all to Himself, and who unites us to Himself, as we are united together in His death, and in His resurrection.  It is the unity we see, as we kneel and commune together, a family feast with not just the congregation we gather with, but the whole church, including all the company of heaven. 

I am not saying that we should compromise on our doctrine!  However, the Una Sancta (that there is one group of holy people – those who trust in Christ Jesus) is part of that doctrine; what we discern because it has been revealed to us in scripture.  To deny this does what St. Josemaria states, it causes us to wither and die, 

I love what Vatican 2 describes, the very nature of the Lord’s Supper brings about and reveals that unity. Luther does an excellent job, although with many more words, in the Large Catechism’s explanation of the Creed.

The challenge i see is that we continue to think unity comes about by studying doctrine, debating over who is correct.  Yet the church has often claimed what we pray determines what we believe.  Why is that not true here? Unity is found at the altar, at the baptismal font, as we together have the grace and peace of God abundantly poured out upon us.  Unity comes from the Spirit, given to each of us in baptism – gathers us together into one family of God. 

Yes, there will be arguments, but those need to boil down to being discussions, with the end result acknowledging the presence of Christ.  Yes there will be those who wander away, but we are called to work to reconcile and restore them, rather than vilifying and condemning them. Yes, we have to identify false teaching, but we need to do it with the idea of reconciliation, and with the attitude of love that Christ demonstrated, dying for us.

Unity in a church of unperfected saints isn’t easy, but it isn’t optional.  We are one, holy catholic and apostolic church!

Maybe it’s time that was more clearly revealed in our lives, and how we treat each other.  Maybe it’s time to meet in prayer, and ask God to make His reality, ours.

Kyrie Eleison!


(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3287-3293). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)    Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

(3)  The original translations of the Creed use the word Catholic, which means universal.  However, Lutheran churches often substitute the word Christian in instead.  I have been told that there was no word for catholic in german at the time the Creed was translated into german.  While I cannot confirm that, I still prefer to use in my writings Catholic and explain its meaning, rather than change the creed. 

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