Are We There Yet?
Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven!
† IHS †
May the grace and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ be what sustains you on this journey, until we are before His throne.
Are We There Yet?
If you have ever been on a long journey with children, you will have heard words like this before, perhaps multiple times on one journey.
“Are we there yet?”
You might here the question every 5 or 10 minutes at some point in the journey. The person beside you might even utter those words a time or two.
That is the nature of a long journey, and we are on one.
For the one knowing the way, there is no question about how long the journey is. There signs are there, the progress is known. There is no panic, no question, there is jus the journey. He knows the road, the signs, and the distance…
Even though the questions are asked, over and over. Even those who ask the question from the back seat aren’t sure, He is.
In our journey on the way to heaven, there are a number of reasons we would ask the question. It might be because the journey is rough, because of the health issues we have, because of the struggles in life, because of anxieties over ebola, or taxes or just life in general.
In our gospel reading this morning, we heard the answer to whether we are there yet…
Whose picture and inscription is visible upon you?
Is it the image of an idol, or is it the image of God?
Can you say with Paul the apostle, “Imitate Me as I Imitate Christ?”
Do You Bear The Image of God?
Consider this, when you look in the mirror, do you see the image of God?
Do you find yourself doing things you would be sure Christ would do, the things that bring glory to God the Father?
Or do you continue to find yourself doing the things you know you shouldn’t be doing?
Do you find yourself looking at your day, regretting the times you acted sinfully, that you weren’t loving the people God has brought into your life? Do you trust in Him? Does it show in your life as clearly as the image of Caesar on a denarius, as clearly as Lincoln on a penny, or George Washington of a quarter?
Do people looking at you recognize God’s image?
How would your life look, if you did bear a resemblance to Jesus?
Or does the idea that you should be able to say to those on the journey to heaven, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” cause a moment of anxiety?
If Jesus asked those around you, “Whose image do you see imprinted on Albert/Tom/Chuck/Bob?” what would they say? Would they identify us with Jesus?
Would you be afraid to ask?
That is why the Pharisees were so amazed, this trap they hoped to catch Jesus in, required them to evaluate themselves.
But what about us, are we there yet?
Have we grown in our trust of God enough, that He is visible in our actions, in our words, in our thoughts? Or does something else rule over us? Do we love all people the way Jesus does, or do we hold back, because of resentment or fear?
Paul and the image of God
If we are going to evaluate our own lives by whether people see Christ, we need to remember the sermon in this series where Paul handed over the trash, all of the reasons that he used to think he could claim being righteous.
He once though he could justify himself by his family connections, or by how long he went to synagogue. He thought because he knew the Old Testament so thoroughly, and he followed God’s law as closely as anyone could.
Yet when he evaluated himself compared to Jesus, he saw all of those reasons he used to think himself good and righteous, as what was holding him back. They were trash.
In fact, in his letter to the church in Rome, he wrote,
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. Romans 7:18-20 (NLT)
As he evaluated himself, to see how close he was to being there, honestly, he couldn’t say he was.
He had to confess that he had no right to claiming he was close to his goal, the calling we have in Christ Jesus.
If looking in a mirror, you cannot see Jesus, it isn’t the end of the world. Because it isn’t the end of the journey.
It is why I announced to you this morning, that all of the trash in your life, God has removed, He’s forgiven.
As Paul says, for those in Christ, there is no condemnation,
This isn’t a justification for not acting like Christ, Paul said we shouldn’t sin all the more so that God would get more praise.
Rather, we should strive to follow God, and honestly repent when we fail.
So how do we know we are getting closer!
So, are you getting there? Are you bearing the image of God more today than yesterday? How can you tell? How about the people around you? Are they?
How can we encourage each other to live in ways that others see us, and know we are the Lord’s?
It all starts with trusting God, just like children trust their parents to get them where they are supposed to go! That when God promises this work is being done it is, and we simply rely on Him to give us the will and desire to do as He does. We trust and depend on Him, accepting the way He would have us go, the rules by which we live.
We spend more time with Him, just as kids would in the car with who is driving them!
That is the point, knowing Who we travel with, spending the time with God, listening and talking to Him. That results in the image of God becoming clearer and clear in our lives. It isn’t what we do that makes us faithful, it is found in knowing Him, and understanding what He will be faithful to do in us.
He forms us, He teaches us, Knowing He is taking us there, He is, as Hebrews says, the author and the one who perfects our faith. Who brings us home…. And until then, keeps us in the faith!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 And I have been made a servant of the church by God, who gave me this task to perform for your good. It is the task of fully proclaiming his message, 26 which is the secret he hid through all past ages from all human beings but has now revealed to his people. 27 God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. Colossians 1:25-28 (TEV)
Recognizing time as a reality made holy by a loving God, the Celtic saints valued the daily, the routine, the ordinary. They believed God is found, not so much at the end of time when the reign of God finally comes, but now,where the reign ous already being lived by God’s faithful people. Theirs was a spirituality characterized by gratitude, and in our stories,we find them worshipping God in their daily work and very ordinary chores. (1)
140 Live your Christian life with naturalness! Let me stress this: make Christ known through your behaviour, just as an ordinary mirror reproduces an image without distorting it or turning it into a caricature. If, like the mirror, you are normal, you will reflect Christ’s life, and show it to others.
It is rare, but every once in a while people ask me why this blog quotes a Catholic saint by the name of Josemaria Escriva so often. After all he is the founder of what seem to think is a radical catholic movement called Opus Dei. I am a Lutheran pastor, a spiritual descendant of one who didn’t quite get along with the Catholic hierarchy of his day.
So what are you thinking pastor? ( Some might even think I am some kind of radical infiltrator, a sheep in wolves clothing, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing! ( I guess mot only would Lutherans be suspicious, maybe some Catholics might be as well?)
An explanation is in order, and my thoughts this morning, looking on the lake near where I grew up got me thinking about this.
I want, no, I need a practical faith. Like the quote in green above, like the Celts had. A relationship with God who is Immanuel, that is God with us! A daily relationship with jesus – whose names is literally Yhwh (the name of God in Hebrew) and saves,
I don’t want a God who is locked in libraries, or only found in the sanctuaries where He does gather His people. I need one who bakes bread with bakers (I highly suggest Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of Christ) , and is with kids and collegians in classrooms, and with maudlin 50 year old pastors, going back to where they grew up.
I need, no, we need, a God who is closer to our hearts than our skin. Who brings peace where there was anxiety, where broken hearts find healing. A God who ensures we are not, whether in Los Angeles or a small New England town, or a city of 15 million in China. that we are never, never alone.
A God who not only shares our lives, but His own, Not just His death, but His glory.
A God who I am grateful to know.
All of my favorite Christian writers talk of such, find rest and sanctuary in this God. St Escriva and Martin Luther perhaps more than any, but also Gene Edwards, or Martyn Lloyd Jones, Brother Lawrence, or Robert Webber and William Willimon. In Escriva’s books, it is boiled down simply, naturally, Christ is here… we just need to realize it.
We need a God whom we can worship, because He is here…
And praise and glorify Him, for He is here…. we don’t have to find Him, He found us, even at great cost… and is bringing us home!
(1) From Celtic Daily Prayer, for October 18: Original from EC Sellner, Wisdom of Celtic Saints. .
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 690-693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Editi
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! 5 Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. 7 And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9 (TEV)
116 Fill yourself with good desires, which is a holy thing, praised by God. But don’t leave it at that! You have to be a soul—a man, a woman—who deals in realities. To carry out those good desires, you have to formulate clear and precise resolutions. And then, my child, you have to fight to put them into practice, with God’s grace. (1)
Since Adam and Eve left the garden it seems, there have been discussions about doing good works, about purity of thought, about living a life that would please God.
I realized something about such conversations, they are rarely practical.
They can be theological, discussing how faith and works interact. Or how works and salvation are related. Most say that works aren’t necessary for salvation, but the arguments occur after that seemingly go on forever. The same can be said about the laws of God, and the Law of God. How does it impact believers, are we bound to first use of the law, or is there a third use.
Nice academic exercises.
One of my parishioners recently hit me hard with a comment, showing what conversations we don’t have. She mentioned that I explained the what well, and the why well, but often leave out the how. I thought about it, and I think she has a major point. It reminds me of one of my greatest fears. Trying to teach my wife, or my son, how to drive a stick shift, a manual transmission. It is about sensing, not thinking, and therefore it is hard to explain. Well, that is my excuse, and I won’t stick to it.
So here goes…. how to accomplish good works
When it comes to works, the first step has to be internal. You can’t do what is right, if our minds are always focused on what is not.
Which is why Paul tells us to fill our minds with things that deserve praise, the good things in life. Think on these things, On God’s love, on mercy, on His presence and peace. Don’t just think about them for thirty seconds, but often dwell on them. Think of Christ’s example, or that of apostles or those who’ve gone before us in the faith.
From dwelling on these things – to the point of desiring them in your life, desire them. Think of the good you can do, and for everyone this is different. It might be holding the hand of someone who is stressed and anxious. It is always praying for people, not just saying that you will keep them in prayer. It may be offering help, physical, financial, more often emotional. POinting them to that which will help their anxiety fade, pointing them to what will strengthen their faith. (An example – asking them why we commune, or what their baptism means – and reminding them that God is in their life..reminding them of passages like Romans 8:28-38)
Desiring to spend more time walking with God is the key, hearing Him, knowing Him, realizing the peace He brings, That is the key to doing good works, and yes, in Christ we can… for our lives, our souls are God’s good work, as He transforms us and guides us in doing what He has planned….
So think on Christ’s love, often… let it dwell in you richly… so much you sing about it unconsciously…..
Oh and the necessity of doing this? Try it for a while, then you will understand….for what happens is beyond our understanding….
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 610-613). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
17 But it is in that way faith comes, from hearing, and that means hearing the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (NJB)
24 Some of them were convinced by his words, but others would not believe. 25 So they left, disagreeing among themselves, after Paul had said this one thing: “How well the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your ancestors! 26 For he said, ‘Go and say to this people: You will listen and listen, but not understand; you will look and look, but not see, 27 because this people’s minds are dull, and they have stopped up their ears and closed their eyes. Otherwise, their eyes would see, their ears would hear, their minds would understand, and they would turn to me, says God, and I would heal them.’ “ 28 And Paul concluded: “You are to know, then, that God’s message of salvation has been sent to the Gentiles. They will listen!” Acts 28:24-28 (TEV)
123 Meus es tu—you are mine, the Lord has declared to you. To think that God, who is all beauty and all wisdom, all splendour and all goodness, should say to you that you are his…! and then, after all this, you can’t bring yourself to respond to him!
His name is Paul, but most people in the USA who would quickly recognize his voice, have no idea of who he is, or what he does outside of five words.
But say those five words, and they will picture him, his glasses, his short hair cut, the blue jumpsuit and the arm which is glued to a cell phone, which is glued to his ear.
He is always asking, “Can you hear me now?” Over and over and over again.
But he isn’t the only one.
The quote from Acts above is replicated in the gospels, it is retold in Paul’s writings, and some would say it originates in the Isaiah. But the first people to hear it, dwelt in a garden, and daily, physically, walked with God. Can you hear me know Adam? Eve, are you listening?
They weren’t. The people of God in the time of Moses didn’t hear Him that well, in fact, they asked not to hear Him, for to hear God is a scary, intimidating thing. We are afraid of what we will hear. We are afraid of what he says, and like children or teenagers, we become good at hearing what God tells us, is beloved children. We busy ourselves with things, some of which we believe will earn His favor, but which simply exist to keep us from listening from being still and knowing that He is God.
We hear Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” and want to make it the anthem of a church at war with evil in the world, rather than the cry of one who is broken, abused, neglected and oppressed, who finds rest and sanctuary in Christ. ( Remember, Luther writes that based on Psalm 46, not Revelation)
Will we listen when Jesus calls us to His side, to unite with Him in death, to come to Him because we are weary and burdened, so we can find rest and healing? Will we listen to the Holy Spirit, not described as a Warrior General, as a spiritual Chuck Norris/Bruce Lee/Yoda, but as the Comforter and Consoler. Will we listen to a God who attributes are love and mercy? (cHesed, Ellios, agape)
Will we listen and hear, and let the word of Christ dwell in us,
Or will we claim there was a bad connection, that the email was lost, that we didn’t get the Lord’s message, or understand His desire?
Will we here Him say,
1 “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (TEV)
Hear Him, dear people of God… and live!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 635-638). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another (in) psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Ephesians 5:18-20 (NAB)
16 Christ’s message in all its richness must live in your hearts. Teach and instruct one another with all wisdom. Sing psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing to God with thanksgiving in your hearts. 17 Everything you do or say, then, should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:16-17 (TEV)
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ. (1)
16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray. (1)
Recently, there has been an attack on worship, articles that have challenged it having a prominent role. Some have demeaned it, and denigrated the role of those entrusted to lead and facilitate our praise of God.
Some of the criticisms need to be heard, there are times worship leaders of all styles act like entertainers, deserving to be heard. But I believe most of the criticisms are based in a irrational fear of the emotions we have, which need to be admitted before God. More on that after some basic thoughts
There is a real need for worship, an the role of a worship leader/cantor/praise team/choir and the church (while worshipping and praising God) is at its very core, as much of a means of grace and as sacramental as a sermon, as the readings. Here is why I say that;
There are two “kinds” of lyrics, though in some songs you might have both.
1. Horizontal Lyrics teach
Here the role of the music is to teach, encourage, catechize and reveal the glory and grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The very same goal as a sermon, as the people hearing and singing the words realize their absolute need for Jesus Christ, and they share with each other their sorrows, and their joy when Christ is revealed to them.
This is the word of God, being proclaimed in words accompanied by music, but it is the word of God. Look at how it fits into the passage in Colossians, it is part of the teaching and instruction, the mutual building up of the people of God. Melancthon does exclude worship in his words in the Augsburg Confession – the role of the worship service is to gie to people, to teach them, what they know of Christ.
2. Vertical Lyrics Pray…
Worship that is vertical, that is directed to God is either prayer or praise, “Lord, come do what you promised”, “Lord you have rescued me!”, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”. This is second commandment work, the proper use of the Name of God, which He has given to us to talk to Him, to sing to Him. Again, the Lutheran Confession talk of such prayer as a sacrament, as being sacramental, even if only because of that we pray more! We need to seek God more, we need to be found like Isaiah, and the 70 elders, we desperately need to experience the fact that we live in the presence of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That is a scary thought, for to be in the presence of God means that all of our fears, all of our anxieties, all of our emotions, are laid bare. They are known. We can’t hide our hearts or our souls from God. We can’t hide our jealousies, our lusts, our anger, our desire to be in control. Music, singing these biblical lyrics, have a way of doing that, of sneaking in through our (arts/emotion) right brain, while distracting us by occupying our left brain (knowledge, logic) and ministering to our complete brokenness.
We don’t like that, it scares us. And any kind of worship can do this, from 4 or 5 guys singing the doxology on a retreat, to a choir putting voice to O Sacred Head, or A Mighty Fortress, to a praise team simply singing Amazing Grace- My Chains are Gone, or a classical guitarist plucking out the Lord’s Prayer. The music opens our souls, letting out that which poisons them, as the Love of God inherent in the words of scripture rush in and cleanse us.
The music moves us…. and sometimes that is scary, but it is a incredible blessing as well.
This is why as we prepare for worship, it needs to be done in prayer, meditating on the word. This is why the instrumentalists and singers need to practice so well, that they can lose themselves in the worship, even as they lead others in it. Any style can be done poorly, to loud, to erratic, to performance driven. When leading the prayers and praises of God’s people is done poorly, it robs them of their voice, it robs them as well of that which can facilitate their prayers, focus their praises, distract them from being in the presence of God…..
But worship leading, done right? It is as beneficial as a well crafted and delivered sermon. For it is the gospel proclaimed, and because it is prayer, it is sacramental.
And to quote our confessions, if we realize it is such, maybe we will engage in it all the more!
(And remember to pray for those who serve you, the people of God, in this ministry, just as you pray for your pastors)
Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy!)
Alleluia (Praise God!)
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 56). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. AC XXIV
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. AAC XIII
Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven:
Where are We Going?
† IHS †
As we journey through this life, may we keep in sight the destination, the place where we realize completely the love and mercy of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Other Destination Options:
Have you ever been tempted to play hookey from a family gathering? You’re on your way to your grandparent’s house, and you see how beautiful a day it is, and you think, we could just spend a little while at the park, or maybe the beach?
Or maybe you are working on a project, sewing that new whatever it is people sew and just another twenty minutes and you will finish it! Or the ball game is on, and you will leave a little later…and make up for it by driving a little faster?
Back when we were kids, and we were about to be stuffed in the back seat together, I bet many of us had a way to stall. Maybe we didn’t want to get dressed up, Or we blamed our sister for taking too much time in the bathroom. For me, it usually was – just let me finish the book I am reading!
It’s not that we didn’t know about the feast that awaited us, Grampy’s sausage, or Uncle Wally’s fireworks, or the French Onion Dip and carved turkey? There were just other things….that seemed important for that moment.
If you did this, and arrived two hours late, were you upset when they didn’t keep everyone waiting for dinner?
Do we play the same game with God?
Do we miss His invitations to spend time with Him, to share the feasts He has prepared, because we have other things to do before we continue on our journey to heaven?
Why Didn’t God wait for Us?
Patient, we hear God is patient.
Abraham and Moses count on it for their people. Joseph comforts his brothers with the thought of God’s patience. David praises God for God’s patience with him. Job depends on it, even when he doesn’t have the answers. Peter tells us why God is so patient, because God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but all to be transformed and made holy. Set apart to a relationship with God.
An interesting thought, this patience of God.
Curious, has anyone here ever had someone take advantage of their patience?
How did it feel?
Ever plan and cook a dinner, like the king in the parable, only to have the people choose to do something else?
What if their excuse, like the excuses in the parable, is somewhat weak? I heard one yesterday, for example, that was that we miss church sometimes because we know church and Bible studies will be here next week, but that other thing, that game, is today. I need to make this abundantly clear: this parable isn’t just about our church life.
How often do we fail to talk to God, to put our trust in Him for the things we are struggling with? How often do we think we have to find another solution for our problems, a different road to take? How often will we pass by the opportunity to think and meditate on His love. Do we find something else, rather than being still, and knowing He is God?
Does being patient cost you something? Does it ever tear at you, frustrate you, even sadden you?
Have we ever wondered what God’s patience costs Him?
We know being patient costs us, we know the levels of frustration, even pain, as we see people we love do the wrong things.
Things that would so concern God, that He sent Jesus, to live life, to suffer and die on the cross, to make it right…
To bring all who would come, to His feast, to be His family.
The good and bad alike…..all are welcome, all are offered the opportunity to be made ready. Matter of fact, we are sent out to bring them here; to celebrate, to enjoy, to know His peace.
But what are we missing?
If I can go back to the original illustration, we know that there are some things that we miss, when we divert from the original journey, we realize we are going to miss some things.
if we were diverted on our way to Grampy DeLuca’s house, it would mean we would miss Grampy’s incredible Italian sausages. Even some 34 years later, I can remember walking down the stairs into his basement, where they would be in the oven. We’d miss Grampy and Uncle Bill, Uncle Butchie and my dad singing. (I’ll actually get to play the piano that I played for them this week. ) we’d miss everyone at peace, the one day when all family fights were given a reprieve, a truce.
I would have us ask what we miss, when we forgo our times with God, whether here at church, or whether it is the time we could set aside for prayer, for spending time meditating on His word, and on the gifts He gives us? What do we give up?
You see my friends, this is about doing things because we have to do them or we won’t be good. It’s about doing them for the same reason we go to our family gatherings, a friend’s birthday party, or make time to go to a wedding. No, Don, it’s not because of the food, its’ because of the love of family, and there is no family closer to us than God.
What we are missing is our time with Him, our time realizing the depth of His love. Our time where He assures us that it will all be okay, that He has forgiven us and made everything right. We’d miss the people He surrounds us with to bless us, to help us grow, to give us a hug because they are glad to see us, or to bring us comfort.
When we forgo our time with Him, we miss Him, and all He brings to our life.
These things Paul called the fruit of the Spirit,
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
These things aren’t the reason to feast with God, but they are what happens when we do. The reason is simple… to be in the presence of the One who loves us, who gives us life, who gives us Himself, who makes our lives right…..who feeds and nourishes our Spirit, who lifts us up like no other.
Enough so our souls shout His praises, our hearts trust and depend on His healing and restoration, our minds are transformed, and we begin to see reality differently, His way. And we hear his voice calling to us, encouraging more people to come to the feast, for it is ready!
Devotional/Discussion THought of the Day:
23 ‘Everything is permissible'; maybe so, but not everything does good. True, everything is permissible, but not everything builds people up. 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NJB)
11 Some of you used to be of that kind: but you have been washed clean, you have been sanctified, and you have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God. 12 ‘For me everything is permissible'; maybe, but not everything does good. True, for me everything is permissible, but I am determined not to be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:11-12 (NJB)
117 “What do I have to do to maintain my love for God and make it increase?” you asked me, fired with enthusiasm. Leave the “old man” behind, my son, and cheerfully give up things which are good in themselves but hinder your detachment from your ego… You have to repeat constantly and with deeds, “Here I am, Lord, ready to do whatever you want.” (1)
For those unfamiliar with the terms in this devotion, please feel free to ask me to define them, if I don’t do so enough to explain them. This topic is a valuable one… and I would hope I explain it okay.
In regards to God’s law, there are basically three ways it is active in this world.
The First Use of God’s Law is what we call “civil use”, that is, the law of God which is seen in natural revelation, and is seen in its basic form in all cultures, and in all religions and a-religions. Example, pre-meditated murder is wrong in almost every culture. Some cultures make exceptions like abortion, euthanasia or the killing of enemies can be seen, but the basic idea, “Thou Shall Not Murder” is universally recognized.
The Second Use of God’s Law is found in both general (natural) revelation and specific revelation. It shows us that breaking these laws results in brokenness that is beyond our scope to heal. We need a deliverer, a savior, a healer, a Way out of the debt we have got into, a way to make reparation. God’s revelation of Himself, what we call the Bible, provides that way to freedom.
It is the Third Use of God’s law that confuses people. How does God’s law work in regards to those who have been washed cleaned, made holy, counted as right in the eyes of God? does it have any force, any effect? It was fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and St. Paul tells us it cannot be used to condemn us. So how does God’s law apply to the people of God? How should a Christian think of it? Or maybe more simply, how does someone who is God’s child behave?
Some would have us pay it no heed, since it’s power over us was broken at the cross. Some would have us enslaved to it again, mandating that we fulfill every single letter, if we are to be completely “faithful”. The latter would allow people to sin at will, the others create a system filled with guilt and shame. Both lead to hypocrisy and condescending pharisaical attitudes. Often these two options go against each other, theological treatises point out the other’s errors.
It isn’t rocket science folks.
Scripture is pretty clear about it. Look at the two Bible passages in red above. They set a pretty simple standard, even as they recognize the freedom we have, having been cleansed by Jesus.
Look at what will benefit your life? Look at what builds up, what does good.
Which means we have to have some standard of determining what is good, what is beneficial, what builds people up.
Look to Christ, there is your answer. Look to the love He shows you, the course He reveals in the scriptures that reveal Him. Look deeply into how He fulfilled the law, by loving YOU. By sacrificing all He was, so that you could be God’s child. Look at the kind of life you would live, if you followed Him, if you sought Him in every relationship, in every moment. he’s defined that in His law of love, in the example of His life which fulfilled it.
That is how to have a good life. Simply do what is best… and ask God to help you see that as you walk with Him.
His law? It helps draw a picture of it, but it isn’t the life. The law indicates what a life lived in a relationship to God would look like…..it maps the journey we walk with the Spirit dwelling with us.
So walk with Him… and enjoy the journey!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 614-617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether – the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new. All this is God’s doing, for he has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ; and he has made us agents of the reconciliation. God was in Christ personally reconciling the world to himself – not counting their sins against them – and has commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. We are now Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were appealing direct to you through us. As his personal representatives we say, “Make your peace with God.” For God caused Christ, who himself knew nothing of sin, actually to be sin for our sakes, so that in Christ we might be made good with the goodness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16 (Phillips NT)
103 Your life, your work, should never be negative, nor anti anything. It is—it must be!—positive, optimistic, youthful, cheerful and peaceful.
As I write this blog, a movie I’e longed to see id playing on my television. It is called Monuments Men, A bunch 0f artists and aficionados who have a mission. Some give all they have, their very lives to accomplish the mission. Some find a sense of redemption, a sense of meaning in the life that is given in pursuit of mission.
How much more should we be driven to focus on our mission? How much more should our love for God drive our mission, we should be willing to sacrifice for our mission, the way soldiers did, for the stakes are the same.
The mission, the raison d’etre, of the church.
In truth, there is only one ministry. There is one mission God has given His people. One work He has commissioned for us, the work He hs planned for us to be part of since before the foundation of the world.
The mission, the ministry of reconciling the world to Himself.
We are to be the agents of such reconciliation.
That is our only ministry, it is our mission, it is the work He has given to us, that He has gifted us.
It is our hope, it is our life, walking with the Lord, fulfilling His will.
And there are times where it gets to pessimistic, to depressing, to negative.
Yet it is too easy. We are effected by what goes on around us. The seemingly impossible task of reconciling people together. The seemingly impossible task of seeing what God so desires to come to fruition. We here of church politics, or we see brothers fighting each other without mercy, without recognizing the unity we have, because we are reconciled together in Christ. We see brothers dismiss each other, questioning each other, avoiding actual discussion, hiding behind defenses created to avoid any real conversation.
It is too easy to get caught up in the negativity, in the political machiavellianism. In the lack of reconciliation.
But what were we expecting? That this ministry, which required Jesus to die on the cross would be easy? THat we would snap our fingers and relationships would be reconciled and healed?
Even knowing the cost, we have a God who asks us in fulfilling His dream, of seeing Him call people to be His people, to see them healed, counted righteous.
it’s what we are called to do.
Nothing else. though we will do this in all we do……every vocation, in every place, in every moment we have. Especially in the midst of our sin…our sin, the sins of the people God calls, so that He can cleanse the of that sin.
So let’s get back to our service, let us work hard to diligently do what God has called us to do…..
and realize this…
13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
Rejoice… He will complete this work in you! in us!
He has promised this. so trust Him!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 575-576). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the day:
34 I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. 35 It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples. John 13:34-35 (NJB)
95 Think what would happen if we Christians chose not to behave as such… and then rectify your behaviour. (1)
As I read this verse this morning, and came across the words in my devotional book, the Forge, I couldn’t help but wonder if those who don’t know I am a believer in Christ, would recognize me as such.
It’s a sobering thought.
Note what is not said.
I am not recognised as a believer because of my expertise in theology. (some might question that anyway)
I am not recognised as a believer because I have a “Rev.” in front of my name.
I am not recognised as a believer because I am a member of the best congregation in all of California.
I am not to be recognised as a believer because of anything I am, save that there is a miracle that has occured in my life.
I have been made able to love others, I have been given the desire to as well, even those I struggle to love.
It isn’t easy, it isn’t natural to me prior to Christ, and I struggle with it now.
But we are recognised as Christ’s brothers, sisters, friends, as children of God, simply because we can love one another. Because that means we know He loves us.
We are encouraged to rectify our behavior, but that doesn’t come because we force our will to, our behavior changes as we think about Chirst, as we receive His love, as we let the Holy Spirit transform us as 2 Corinthians 3 discusses.
We don’t love because we are great people. We love because we are loved.
So let God love you… really love you….
Then, humbly realise when people say somethings hanged, that it has happened because of God’s work.
Go in peace!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 551-552). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven:
#4 Hand Me all Your Trash
† IHS †
May you always be quick to remember the grace, the mercy, love and peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, as we journey to seeing them face to face!
A Pleasant Journey!
We have been looking at the largest Pastor Parker Parable. That the Journey Home to Heaven is like one of those long journeys of our youth, when we were crowded into the backseat of the family car.
We’ve overheard some of those conversations, remembering when we were urged “to get along back there,” and “That’s Not fair!’. And last week Deacon Michael urged us to consider what happens on those journeys, as we grow up, and eventually get to ride in the front seat.
Today, as we look at Paul describing His life in Christ, I want you to think back to those trips in the car. To remember pulling into the gas stations, where men would pump your gas, clean your windows, check your oil.
When that happened on our trips, as we stopped and Ray Child’s Esso, there was something my dad would always say to us……
No, not, “who has to go to the bathroom” No one would ever want kids or ladies to go into the restroom at that place….
What dad said was….
“Hand Me All your trash!”
It was time to clean the car, getting rid of all the trash, all the candy-wrappers, all the napkins, all the masterpieces colored in crayon, all the broken cheap toys,
Stopping for gas was the time to get the car taken care of, and for us, that meant emptying the backseat of all our trash.
The question is, when our Heavenly Father asks us to hand to Him all our trash…. Will we?
in order to answer that, we have to understand two things…what the trash is, and why it is a benefit to get all that crap out of our lives….
What’s in the Backseat!
It is amazing what we thought were treasures as children. Remember the little 2 piece balsa wood gliders? Or those growing up after me, the happy meal toys that would break before you ever made it home? The baseball cards and the gum that came in the packages. The Pez dispensers with the heads broken off them…
They would end up on the floor, forgotten, smashed, even cried over.
Until Dad asked for them, because they were trash.
Then they were worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox. And we would make a fuss and a fit when our dad’s wanted to throw them out. We counted them as our treasures, irreplaceable things that just cluttered up the backseat.
In today’s epistle, Paul reveals that he saw things that he once thought were invaluable as the trash he needed to stop carrying around. Things that he would understand were trash, which needed to be tossed to the side.
Looking at the list, they don’t really seem all that trashy.
Wait, I need to clarify something. The translators got to the back seat before we did. It wasn’t trash that Paul considered this stuff. Anybody remember the old cloth diapers and what they would be filled with, when they were in the dirty diaper bag? Anybody remember what that bag was like, kept in the back seat on a hot day like we’ve been having? Yeah – that is what Paul called these things he had been so attached to in life
The translators use nicer words, refuse, trash, the old KJV had it more accurate when it said dung.
If I told you the stuff God would take away from you in life, most of you would come up with the idea of sin, or with the old Catechism answer, God removed “sin, satan and death” from our lives.
I am not sure we understand that Paul is talking about sin, when he mentioned that used to count on being born into the right family, into the right race. That he had all the boxes checked off that would see the community think he was a perfect kid. He went to the right schools, go incredible grades. Paul thought, without boasting, that he was living the perfect life. That he did what he was supposed to, even religiously did it.
Sounds like good stuff to me.
Then again, so did the now in 8 pieces balsa wood glider!
The reason these things were trash, or the filling of a diaper, wasn’t because they had no value. It is that they have absolutely no value if you trust in them. They are worthless to trust in, and too often, we do. When we say we can’t do without them, or that these things make us who we are, we have turned them into an idol.
Luther said it this way,
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
All Paul was doing in counting these things as trash, was confessing that they had become idols, things in his life he trusted in, especially that he was good enough. He swore he was going to get to heaven because he was a good person, because he had all the boxes checked off, and he trusted in his own work.
Which is why, when Paul heard the gospel from Stephen, it was hard. All that he believed in, all that he trusted in,
We do the same thing. We find our value in all sorts of things. It might be in our bank account, or our financial status. We find our meaning in our job, the awards and diplomas and certificates we receive. We find what defines becoming our roles as parents, or grandparents, even our citizenship. These are the equivalents to what Paul found to be trash, because we allow them to define us, rather than God defining us.
That’s the key, we aren’t who we think we are,…..
We are who God knows we are.
Nothing in our Way!
Getting rid of the trash in our lives is about learning to see each other, and indeed ourselves, as God sees us.
As those who died with Jesus in baptism, and have been raised from the dead with Him. This is what Paul talks about, when he says,
For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
He goes on to say,
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Paul is crying out for a level of intimacy with God that leaves everything in the dust. To be so united with Christ that we become indistinguishable from Him. He lives in us, He shines through us, we are one with Him, as He promised we would be! Paul says this again, when he says,
“But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”
Compared to knowing Jesus, well, the other stuff belongs in the used diaper bag. Our relationship with Jesus defines everything we are, and what we can be. It has eternal value, there is nothing that will make life better now, and nothing else, no one else gives us a future and hope that is eternal.
He is the one in whom we find hope, it is in Him we find life, it is in Him we find the peace that passes all understanding, as He guards and protects our Hearts and Minds….
So when you come up, and feast with Him, let go of everything else, and realize that He holds on to you… so hold on to Him.