Monday, October 28, 2013

Competing Well

Friends of Faith:
I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. 2 Tm 4: 7
I will start where I left off a week ago: “it must be okay, because everyone else is doing it.”

If I am obeying a law, because it is the law and everyone else is doing it, but not because it is right by God, then maybe the law is unjust. Maybe I am not competing as well as I should.
Or maybe I am looking at the wrong finish line—social status, the number of “friends” I have, wealth or even health...

Maybe the law is one I shouldn’t be obeying—maybe the law was made by man (myself, a friend or a politician) and not by God.
When I finish, will I be at the true finish line? Will I have kept true to the one God, the one faith?

The way to know whether the law is God’s or man’s is to pray, read scripture, and to ask for God’s will (to listen to and be aware of the Spirit of God within us), and then to seek the advice and guidance of the Church’s interpretation. How does the Church of God speak about the “law” in question?
For he is a God who always repays and will give back to you sevenfold.  But offer no bribes; these he does not accept! Do not trust in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion. For he is a God of justice, who shows no partiality.  He shows no partiality to the weak but hears the grievance of the oppressed. ....  Those who serve God to please him are accepted; their petition reaches the clouds. Sir 35: 13-16, 20

To compete well—but not to bribe or be part of the pity party:  don’t do just what is required (a job for pay), or serve on a committee because it is a part of the job (obligation), or obey just because the law/commandments say we should or shouldn’t (to avoid punishment).  Compete Well—Serve  instead because it is right to visit a shut-in you don’t know (someone besides your grandma)....the thankful smile and warm hug are a well won competition.
To finish the race—to be rewarded not because we did the right thing, but because we did the right thing  for the right reason. It is not about the “how” we did it, but the “why” we did it.

To keep the faith—to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him—because it is the right way, not because it is the way we will get what we want. To pray for God’s will and then to trust that God knows what is best for us—even if it means we will have to be patient,  do without, suffer, or give up what we have “earned.”
After all, everything we have is a blessing from him—nothing is really ours, he is not showing us partiality because we have “done” nothing extraordinary.

In yesterday’s gospel:  Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.  "Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity -- greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Lk 18: 9-14
Is the competition to win justification here on earth (health or wealth or friendships), or is it to win justification in heaven?

Am I the Pharisee who thinks he is impressing God by doing better than everyone else? Or am I the tax collector willing to admit my wrongs, praying with my heart and soul to know God’s will, doing what he asks of me, and asking for God’s mercy and compassion when I fail?
Heavenly Father: You have promised to rescue me from every evil threat and to bring me safely to your heavenly kingdom. (2 Tm 4: 18) Help me to open my heart and listen to the Spirit within so that I may not “just” finish, but that I may compete wisely and keep the faith always. To Him be the glory, forever and ever, Amen.

I want my finish to be by thanking God for the blessings He pours out on me; offering Him any suffering with acceptance and true sacrifice; holding true to HIS truth even when it is unpopular with conventional wisdom; and unselfishly giving to the beggar, the “least,” the lonely and the broken hearted my earthly riches (time and talents).
Compete well, Finish strong, and Keep the faith,

Monday, October 21, 2013

What is a Friend?

Friends of Faith:

"Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom." (Psalm 145:10-12)

My best friend is my husband, Stan. He keeps me on the straight and narrow, filling me with the joy and the motivation to keep me moving forward and up. For the two of us this means that his sense of humor will make me smile (even when I resist) and even when I am the most frustrated, disgusted or disappointed. He knows how to make me laugh through my tears and many times helps me see the other side of the situation. Generally he reminds me of the many things I have to be thankful for when so many others are suffering or sacrificing or left wanting or in need.

God’s job description of a spouse’s role is “to help his/her mate get to heaven.” That means making the person you have committed your life to smile and find joy; pulling them up when they get weary by gently reminding them to keep going and to be thankful that they can. For a spouse this friendship is a 24-7 lifelong commitment.

The truth of being Christian friends is that we are a team. Just as a smile can be contagious, so too does it become contagious when we work together to helpthe other see the "glorious splendor of the Kingdom" by being Good Samaritan’s to both neighbors and enemies; using our time and treasures for the good of others; persevering in prayer for each other; and trusting that we are truly faithful Christian missionaries working towards that same goal.

Paul speaks of his own loneliness when his friends desert him: “Try to join me soon, for Demas, enamored of the present world, deserted me and went to Thessalonica, Crescens to Galatia,and Titus to Dalmatia. Luke is the only one with me.... Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. You too be on guard against him, for he has strongly resisted our preaching. At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them! 2 Tm 4: 10-11, 14-16

Not only did they desert him, but one did him harm, and one resisted the truth he was teaching. They were definitely lacking in their loyalty as best friends. And yet, despite this, Paul asked that it not be held against them AND he continued to pray for them.

As Christian friends we are each others’ constant support. Praying for, listening to and serving each other in many possible ways. We all have talents and gifts to share and are called as true friends never do anything to harm the other or desert them when things get tough.

Being a friend is a tremendous responsibility and can be an awesome joy when shared together—especially amongst a family.

What type of friend am I? Am I a friend who is there only in good times, rich times and healthy times? Or am a “spousal” friend, committed to getting the ones I love to heaven 24-7, in good times AND in bad, for richer AND for poorer and healthy AND sick times to bring them to the glorious splendor of the kingdom?

Do I lead my friends on the narrow path Jesus taught on the cross through his own service and humility? Or do I lead them astray with taunting words that say “it’s okay, everyone else is doing it.”

Heavenly Father, You are my greatest friend. Thank you for all the friends you have given me here on earth, especially my best friend, Stan (insert your own spouses name). Help us each to be good friends to another, loyal, honest, trustworthy and compassionate. And help us to make each other smile. Amen.
Appear (be there) for your friends; learn the truth so you can teach in honesty and truth, especially by your own actions; and exhibit honor and respect for those who are sent by God to guide you on the straight and narrow path to righteousness.

Be a great friend!

Monday, October 14, 2013


Women of Faith:

“It isn't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Mark Twain
I am “bothered”—not anxious, worried or upset—more like energized, eyes opened, and complacency ruffled—called to action—because of what I understand as I listen to God’s word and relate the message to my personal choices.

Mk 8:34 says Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
The gift of understanding comes to us from the Holy Scripture who speaks to us in different ways at different times, not because God’s message says something different or has different truths, but because we hear it based on our own differing life experiences. The Spirit opens our hearts to hear what we need to hear, when we need to hear it—when it applies to our current situation.

It is what I sometimes think of as “being spoken to in tongues.” God’s message is forever the same—but I don’t always hear it in the same way; sometimes because I just don’t “get it” and sometimes because I just don’t “want to get it.” Understanding the message “bothers” me into seeing my imperfections and changing my heart. Understanding means I have to make a choice—to obey God’s message or to deny Him.
God’s message of service to others and forgiveness of others speaks a not so popular truth. In this understanding I am called to give up my own selfish wants and desires (what might make me feel good) to work towards His perfection (which is much greater than my own perfection).

I am very thankful that I also realize His Word includes a message of mercy and forgiveness—tolerance of my short comings.
And I am thankful for the faith which helps me to trust both parts of His message—both His commands and His promises—as long as I don’t deny the truths I understand.

“But the word of God is not chained….. This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Tm 2: 8-13
It “bothers” me to persevere in praying for a society who does not appear to be listening and a society where believers live life taking forgiveness for granted (saying they can do whatever they want because He will grant mercy regardless of the wrongs we do) instead of as a gift He given at His death on the cross, and for which only He can judge our worthiness in the end.

If I don’t understand the message because my heart is hard, then God is knocking at my door and will wait for me forever, until I am ready to open my heart to understanding the redeeming love he offers.
If I don’t understand the message because I am not catechized, then it is my responsibility to look to the Church for interpretation and education: to learn more about the faith I profess.

And if I understand the message, then it is my responsibility to be “bothered,” to not ignore, but to be moved to action—to  pray about and live the message to the fullest extent possible, to trust His word and to do His will—to follow Christ’s example.
Understanding Scripture doesn’t mean I get to pick it apart or to search for what I want it to say but to hear it with my heart from God’s point of view, to listen to His plan and to live by His design.

For me, it is easiest to understand (and be bothered) by those parts of the message that are simply repeated in God’s message thru the example of Christ’s life—forgiveness, caring, and serving of my neighbor, AND being in God’s presence at church. The commandments of love, (Jn 13: 34) of forgiving each other as we would wish to be forgiven ourselves (Mt 18:35) and of keeping Holy the Sabbath (Dt 5: 12). I am “bothered” (called to action) to remain in His presence and to forgo the selfishness it takes to serve and forgive others—to follow Christ’s example.
Heavenly Father, You are a good and gracious God. Even when we are bound by the chains of sin, you are always present to assist us. You gave us the gift of Your son, Jesus, to free us. Give me the patience and perseverance to do what it is You ask of me. Thank you for the gift of understanding that “bothers” me into action. Help me to live what I believe: within the boundaries of Your truth and love. Amen.

Are you “bothered” into action by what you understand? Does your daily life reflect or work towards living the beliefs of the gift of your understanding?
Be “bothered” by the Spirit, released from the chains that bind, and perfected in His name….

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gift of Faith

Friends of Faith:

Faith is a Gift.
And if you are reading this you have already been given a seed of the gift of faith.

Are you growing that seed?
It is up to each of us to nourish it with prayer and through the continual enrichment of education about Christ and His Church; to spread it truthfully to others; and to water it with tears of suffering and joy so that it stays fresh and energized.

"The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." The Lord replied, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. "Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table'? Would he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished'? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'" Lk 17:5-10
Reacting to faith is Work. And working because of my faith makes me yearn to see others grow in their own faith.  "So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Jm 2:17

Increasing faith, increases faith: so the more I believe, the more convicted I am to work in my belief. But the more I believe, the more likely I am to be tested by storm in that belief. (This is in part because it is easier to see the lack of others faith, which saddens and can discourage me, and partly because God will allow me to be tested to see if I can withstand stronger and stronger storms.) And so the greater my faith, the greater the challenges become in doing the work of living in that faith.
Faith, in the example of Jesus, requires us to do more than just get by, and more than just enough. We shouldn’t just expect to come in from the field (to go to church for a one hour obligation, or to say we’ve been saved) and take our place at table (heaven.) Jesus gave His all, in hope that we will give Him our all.

Faith requires us to trust and to have courage. It invites us to stand up and not be ashamed of speaking God’s truth. It challenges us to bear hardship and suffer when the truth creates a division between those who believe and those who do not, even when that division is with someone we love (a friend, sister or brother, or a parent).
“Beloved: I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.
“Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.” 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14

We want to see God—but in our own time. We complain that working in and through our faith is not bearing the fruit we want. So we grow impatient, forgetting that God will never disappoint us.
How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord. Then the LORD answered me and said: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live. Hb 1: 2-3, 2: 2-4

Ignoring or rejecting faith can cause sin, and causes us to weaken. BUT the Reward of Faith is Heaven—IF we wait and IF we trust, if we sow and grow. If we will only believe in that faith that God is in charge and that prayer, patience and perseverance always bear fruit. His Love will never fail.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever. Amen.

In the words of Fr. Larry Richards…Faith…”Got it! Get it! Gonna do it?”
Have Faith!