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The Legacy of St. Patrick

Around this time of the year, we typically celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately, many people only observe this holiday, by drinking themselves silly, which is totally contrary to the spirit of the man who Christianized Ireland.

St. Patrick’s day is the date of his death and is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is a holy day of obligation; and it is also a celebration of Ireland itself.

St. Patrick was known as the “Apostle of Ireland.”  And I would like to read a prayer of St. Patrick titled “I Rise Today,”

“I bind unto myself today the strong name of the trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three. I bind this day to me forever by power of faith in Christ’s incarnation, His baptism in the Jordan river, His death on the cross for my salvation; His bursting from the spiced tomb, His riding up the heavenly way… I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to harken to my need, the wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward, the Word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard. Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me; Christ to comfort and restore me…”

When Patrick was about 16, he was captured from his home in Great Britain, and taken as a slave to Ireland. Patrick says in his Confession that he discovered God during this time of captivity, and took to praying a 100x a day. And after 6 years, Patrick managed to escape from captivity, he walked 200 miles to the east coast and managed to negotiate passage aboard a trading ship to France. There, in France he trained to be Priest.

And it was then that he began to hear a word in his heart that he should go back to Ireland and to minister to those people and to teach them about God.

Patrick asked, “Am I willing and able to forgive those who have caused pain in my life? Am I willing to follow the call of God and even give my life to those who enslaved me?”

In faith, Patrick sold all of his possessions, including the land he had inherited from his father, to fund his missionary journey to Ireland. He worked as a part-time preacher and paid large sums of money to various tribal chiefs to ensure he could travel safely through Irish lands and preach the gospel. He then travelled back to Ireland as a missionary around the year 460, and tradition says that he never left.

Patrick gave his life to the people who had enslaved him and he died at the age of 77. He had seen untold thousands of people converted. Of the 150 tribes, 30-40 of them became significantly Christian. He had trained 1,000 pastors, planted 700 churches, and was one of the first noted people in history to take a strong public stand against slavery.”

And you know, there had been others who had tried to bring Christianity to Ireland, but the Irish people could not grasp the concept of the Trinity—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are all said to be God.

To them it sounded like nonsense. While other missionaries had struggled to explain the concept of the Trinity, Patrick relied on a simple illustration—he used the shamrock,  which is the symbol of national pride in Ireland. Each leaf on a clover is separate and distinct, yet it is part of a whole. It’s just one clover, yet with three individual leaves.

And it was by making that simple comparison, that countless Irish men and women were able to accept the basic concept of God. Thus, Saint Patrick’s Day is supposed to be a celebration of the life of Saint Patrick himself, who died on March 17, as well as a celebration of the birth of Christianity in Ireland.

In the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye and his neighbors have been informed that the Tsar has evicted all the Jews from their village and confiscated all their land. There is a great upheaval and anger in the community, and there is talk of an uprising. One of the villagers says to Tevye, “We should defend ourselves. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth!”

“Very good,” mutters Tevye. “That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.”

Tevye’s insight is the same as Jesus’ reinterpretation of the Old Testament law. They knew the law was good, as far as it went, but it was inadequate because it perpetuated a cycle of violence and revenge.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-44

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

So what do we learn from St. Patrick today?

First, Patrick practiced forgiveness. Instead of training to be a minister he could have trained to be a solider. He could have built an army and gone back to Ireland to seek revenge – an eye for an eye - for what was done to him. But he didn’t. Patrick chose to retaliate with love and kindness and to minister to the people of Ireland.

Second we learn that Patrick modeled God’s character.

Jesus finished his statement about loving your enemies this way….

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…. 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,  what more are you doing than others?

Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Being a person of grace, mercy and forgiveness is to take on the loving nature of God. As Jesus said, God does not just bless those who are good, he blesses even those who are not. And we are to model that same character of God, if God indeed lives in us.

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor …. act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

We pray for our enemies and we love our enemies because that’s what God does.  We take on His character when we seek to be people of grace and forgiveness.  And you know I am sure that St Patrick using the shamrock to teach the Irish will always be his fame, but I think it was his willingness to return to the place of his captivity and to love his enemies that will always be his legacy.

I leave you with an Irish blessing,

May God be with you and bless you.

May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortunes and rich in blessings.
(and) May you know nothing but happiness
from this day forward.

 

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Wresting for my Life

You might remember Shawn Michaels, as an American professional wrestling personality “the heartbreak kid” with the WWE, or his times as a television presenter. Currently Shawn is retired from wrestling and has recently teamed up with Zondervan publishers to release his new book “Wrestling for My Life.”

Shawn’s book is a look behind the scenes of both his wrestling career and his personal life. His book is full of testosterone driven stories that involve his love for hunting and his wrestling career. The book also take a more personal side by examining stories of his family.

In addition, like many tales of celebrity and fame, early on, Shawn discovered that there was still something missing in his life and overtime he discovered that the missing element  was a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Shawn has an earlier book; Heartbreak and Triumph and from what I understand, it is a book that appeals more to Shawn’s wrestling fan base. Whereas this book is targeted more at Main stream Christians who want a “glimpse” of the Wrestling world.

Wrestling for My Life is primarily focused on Shawn’s testimony as a Christian. The book has a full color insert in the middle that takes a look at Shawn’s life and career. The book is on the smaller-side at 160 pages and is a quick and easy read.

This is not a “deep” book, nor is it an exhaustive memoir. I don’t think this book goes too far beneath the surface in any direction. My only complaint was this being a book that fans of Michaels might pick up, it would have been nice to have a portion of the book dedicated to presenting the gospel message and a print out of the sinner’s prayer.

Thank you to Zondervan for this review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Turning Faith into Action

So let me give you a few starters. If you want to turn faith into deeds, and belief into actions I think we have to understand a few things. And the first thing is…

1. Actions realize risk

Turning faith into deeds is risky business. Living out your faith is scary. No martyr was ever killed for their beliefs, it was something they did that exposed their faith out into the open that brought attention to them.  My guess is that most of us a pretty conservative people. Even if you think you are spontaneous, you probably still stay within certain boundaries.

Proverbs 3:5 says Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

I know I tend to be very shy and cautious. I may not have to see the whole path ahead of me, but I really like to be able to see at least a few steps before I put my foot out there.

But that’s why they call it a “leap of faith” and not a hesitant tip toe of faith.

You realize there is risk and you jump – but we don’t jump blindly, we jump knowing that God will catch us.

George Muller said… “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where (our) power ends.”

Faith in action is scary because it feels like we are jumping without a parachute. That’s why it is so vitally important that we stay connected to God every step of the way.

2. Actions reach out and stay connected.

Through this series, we’ve talked about the necessity of being plugged in to the source. Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus told us flat out – the main ingredient of a Christian – is Christ himself!” Right? So knowing that, our actions won’t add up to much if we aren’t daily plugging in.

Psalm 119:108 Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules.

I would argue that it’s pretty hard to have an active faith that manifests itself in word and deed without first taking the action to reach out to God. If you find that you don’t have confidence, or bravery or strength – I would tell you those things are found in your King. God goes ahead of you, so draw near to Him. And that’s when you arrive and begin rolling up your sleeves to get to work.

3. Actions respond with work.

God has gifted each of us with abilities and passions and so God has a job for each and every one of us. Sure, we might not be the star on the stage or the brightest light in the strand, but all of us have a talent, and our purposes are all important to the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

If you are a husband or a father your work is to be the spiritual leader of your family. I know there is a strong temptation among men to leave the roll of teaching kids to women, but the Bible says the man is the head of the household.

Of course women are important and I am not saying they have a lesser role, but what I am saying, is if you’re the Father don’t leave it all on her shoulders.

Your wife shouldn’t have to drag you to church, husbands are you doing what it takes to lead your family? Are you putting in the work that God expects from you?

Proverbs 14:1 The wisest of women builds her house

For you wives and mothers… are your doing the work that God has for you to do? Are you loving and supporting your husbands? Are you teaching and training up your kids?

When I was a youth pastor one of the biggest things we learned was that kids don’t learn about God and faith from their Sunday school teachers, they learn it from their parents. It’s simple math. Your Sunday School teachers have your kids for a few hours a week, but you have them for all the rest. Who are your kids going to learn about faith and morality from? Whoever takes the biggest interest in their lives. Hopefully it’s you.

Ephesians 4:11-13 He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, (and) for building up the body of Christ

There is work for all of us isn’t there? Within this church right now there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers… you know how I know, because the “….Bible told me so.” But it’s possible you just haven’t tapped into that.

You have not stepped up and claimed that work. God’s been pushing you, nudging you, urging you and you’ve put it off.

Remember it all starts with risk. It’s when you walk into the Sunday School class room for the first time and 6 tiny sets of eyes stare back at you. But don’t worry, you’re not doing this alone; and that’s not to say that it first won’t require a plan. In fact…

4. Actions require wise planning

Even though taking a leap of faith can be very scary, and even risky, it shouldn’t be foolish. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t allowed to have a plan.

It doesn’t show a lack of faith when we make a plan, rather it shows a lack of faith when we make a plan and it doesn’t include God.  Think about how you go about making plans now. Do you fly by the seat of your pants? Do you just do what feels good at the time? Do you just do whatever the people on TV are doing?

Hopefully not.

Proverbs 16:3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Just as God has given you talents, he has also given you tools.  God doesn’t put you to work without tools. Prayer being a HUGE one of them. Hey, before you make that leap of faith, why don’t you pray about it? I know I would.  I’d commit a lot of prayer to that.

And you know what? Even though I just got through trying to encourage you and reassure you, the bottom line is even after all of that… you could still fail. It might still not work. You could plan through prayer, leap in faith, work hard and take risks and still….. end up with nothing. Fall on your face…. have nothing to show for it.

Not all actions succeed.

5 Actions result in set backs.

As much as God’s love is powerful and the message of the gospel is truth, our world still has it’s own vices, things like greed, and selfishness and anger and pride. And when you take a message out into the world that tries to show that there is a loving God at the center of it all, some people might not like that.

Remember, faith in action is a risk. And one of the risks is disappointment.  There isn’t any guarantee of instant success in ministry, and there certainly isn’t any guarantee that we won’t face our own share of trials. But faith in action trusts that God will work out all of those details. Faith shouldn’t be shaken when we are faced with setbacks. Rather true faith, gets back up, dusts itself off and gets right back in there.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Growing up, and learning to swim was one of the most difficult things I ever did. I was terrified, I spent hours crying to my parents how I didn’t want to do it, and do you know why? For the most part you’re pushed into the water alone while your coach yells at you from the surface. Your mind says, “sink or swim” and it’s a reactionary response. Your body learns to swim because the alternative is terrifying.

I think some of us are afraid to take that leap of faith because we think we’re alone. But see that’s the thing. That’s why we take the risk, take the leap, roll up our sleeves and get right back up when we fall… because Christianity means we are never alone.

Not only is the church always there, but God is always there.

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Love is an action word

For a long time we’ve been asking the question “what would Jesus do?” you remember the bracelets? it was real big a hundred years ago when I was in college. the premise was you’d come into a situation and ask the question, “what would Jesus do?” You know what he’d do? The answer is easy. He’d love. He’d love in every situation. “Well, when would he stop?”

Never. He’d never stop.

And every person is different and every person has a different story, but in each of those situations we should be asking, “What does love require of me?”

I tell you, if you want to influence someone’s life and make a difference in their life you have two choices – you can hurt them or you can love them.

I can tell you – it won’t be your beliefs that influence others – Jesus said, “by this… by loving others…. all people will know that you are my follows in how you LOVE one another.”

Love is an action word. Just like I wanted to show my wife I loved her before I told her, Christians have a responsibility to show the world love. And I think the church does a great job talking about theology, and orthodoxy and doctrine, but how do we take our belief, how do we take our knowledge and turn it into action?

James was the flesh and blood brother of Jesus. He was Jesus’ little brother, and James writes some often over looked passages. He says,

James 2:14-20

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?  Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.  How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

And you know what, I understand this is a tough passage, I am human just like you, I still get it wrong, I still fail to show people love and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but you know…. we’ve been talking about the ingredients of a Christian and they are there on the front of your handout.

A Christian is a DISCIPLE

Someone who LOVES others

ABIDES in Christ

WINS the lost

SALT & LIGHT

GRACE & TRUTH

Missionary field by COMPASSION

and AUTHENTIC

Well, if those are all ingredients, what are  you supposed to do with ingredients? Bake em! Cook em! Why? Otherwise you can’t eat!  You can’t eat plain baking powder, or salt can you? No, you have to mix them and back them otherwise you can’t have cookies.

Otherwise you can’t have pancakes!

James says, you have ingredients?

Great!

You have the recipe memorized?

Even better?

BAKE SOMETHING!

Get cooking!

Show me some food!

You have the essentials now FEED the world!

A recipe does you no good sitting on your bookshelf.

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Tiny Bear’s Bible

As a father and a pastor, I am always looking for books and bibles for my two boys. My family already has The Jesus Storybook Bible and Thought to Make your Heart Sing from Sally Lloyd-Jones, so picking up the Tiny Bear’s Bible for my 1 year old was a no brainer.

This “Bible” is really a Story book/board book containing 11 stories from the Bible. Most of the stories are cute little 6 lined poems accompanied by a single picture.

As a side note, I always get a little worried with “adult themed” stories being included, especially for young eyes and ears, but I think Sally has done a great job with her content. That said, the story of the cross is NOT included, but the resurrection is.

Each story comes back around to “Tiny Bear” who is listening to the story being told. My son loves the fuzzy cover and often wants to close the book before I have finished reading so he can rub the bear’s fur.

Thank you to Zondervan for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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