Mondays, Faith, and Encountering the Face of God

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

It is God’s will and express command that believers should do good works which the Holy Spirit works in them, and God is willing to be pleased with them for Christ’s sake and he promises to reward them gloriously in this and in the future life. (1)  

Our faith is not for ourselves alone; it is also for others. Faith wants to be shared. Consequently, it always involves a going out to others, going with the steps of a heart enlightened by the name of Jesus.  (2)

It is another Monday.
We’ve left our sanctuaries, and re-entered the harsh “reality” of the world.(3)
We’ve left behind the peace and joy and restoration we encountered at our churches.
We’ve left behind the security and love that surrounds our homes.

Now, in our workplaces, in our classrooms, in our doctor’s offices, we realize it is Monday.  The day we claim to dread, the day were frustrations forgotten for a brief moment called “the weekend” come back to hammer us.

It is now time we get to do God’s work, to see how the praises we sang and said yesterday turn into worship today.  For today is our day of worship, the day to praise God with our lives.  It is the day to see our faith become more than what we think, but to be what we know, what we rejoice in, to be what we share.

It is time to see God turn us into His masterpiece; It is time to encounter Jesus in the faces of the least of these.  Those broken, those beaten and harassed.  Those so destroyed by their own sin, those so crushed by the sins of others, that they don’t know how to do anything but strike out in frustration.  Those so broken that in pain they cause us pain and frustration. They may not look like the least, but God knows their need, and you’ve been sent, so go…to the least…

This is where worship proves the transformation that God is causing in our lives.  As we embrace those who antagonize us, who would hurt us,  who strike out with words, and yes sometimes with violence. As we go to them, as we trust in God’s guidance, we worship Him by embracing them.  We worship God by knowing He can change them, calm them, transform them. Even those that need a miracle to change.  In Christ, we find the strength to imitate Him, and bear our crosses, for them, because He bore a cross for us.

It’s a Monday; it is time to worship… let nothing distract you from His love, or the least of these.


(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 557). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 317). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(3)  I would contend that we confuse reality, for reality is best determined by God’s perspective, not our own.

Traveling Companions of the Cross. Lesson 3: YOU Are Created for Companionship

Travelling Companions of the Cross

Lesson 3: You Are Created for Companionship

Genesis 2:18–25


 May you become more constantly aware of the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, for they are the proof of His presence.

It’s not good…

If you read the first chapter of Genesis, you would hear God talking to Himself as He created the heavens, the earth, seas and all the creatures.

Then as He creates man and woman, He notes, this is very good!

But there is more to it than that, between the last “this is good” and the “this is very good”, there is one more phrase, the phrase that we hear in chapter two.  When the Lord God notes there is something that is wrong in creation.  Something that is not good.

Hear the words again,

“It is not good for the man to be alone.

Not good at all, but there is a solution

“I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

A Helper, a companion, the one who works alongside….

Remember that one, the one who works alongside.

For it is not good that we live life alone.  We need to have companionship, without it, creation is screwed up.

A simple summary, everything was good, then man had no companionship and it was not good, then man did, and it was very good.
They knew no barriers… and there was no guilt/shame

As we look at the end result, what chapter 1 calls very good, we see why in chapter 2.

23 “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’ ”

24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. 25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

What an incredible blessing, the fact that there was no guilt, no shame that divided them.  No embarrassment, no division, nothing that created a barrier between them.  Of course, they didn’t have a toilet seat to leave up, or trash to forget taking out.

Seriously, the Hebrew word there for naked meant there were absolutely no barriers between them, there was nothing that stopped them from seeing each other the way they truly were.

Sin of course, created those barriers, and the need for something to cover, to hide, a defensive mechanism. It is there because we don’t want to see people the way they really are, and we don’t necessarily want them to see us.

You are probably thinking just in the physical sense, but it is true for most of who we really are.

They lived perfect, sinless lives for that time, and it was very good.


There is a old theological thought, is Exitus-Reditus – that which leaves, returns.  Theologically speaking, what returns is always that which completes, and by God’s power, it is more than what left.

A rib is taken out and it returns a helper, a companion, That action made what was not good, very good.   The fellowship, the communion, the companionship that was formed ws greater than the loneliness that preceded it.  That is the power of reconciliation, the power of God’s mercy, forgiveness and healing, the power of God drawing back together that which is supposed to be one.

It’s more than just the couple – they were representative of all humanity

This is true more than in the sense of husband and wife, for example that same kind of language is used as men join David’s army

1  All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said: “Here we are, your bone and your flesh. 2 Samuel 5:1 (NAB)

Though it is a different bond than that between husband and wife, all od God’s creation was meant to live together, companions of God, companions formed at the cross, when Christ’s side was opened…and because of the blood that was spilt, a new relationship – the companionship of Jesus and His bride the church was formed.

At the pastor’s conference, our district president made mention of this when he was talking about the church.  One of his major points was this, “Servant leaders live in Intimate Community He was teaching pastors that in order to be effective pastors, we can’t be apart from our people, shepherds are companions, He even used the idea that we have to know each other in a way that sounds scary, Intimately.

Not intimate as in husband and wife, but intimate because there is no division, not barriers, no shame that divides us.  That we work together because we realize that God has brought us back to each other.

Another speaker made mention of it this way, The idea of the nuclear family being the cornerstone of society has become a 100 year failed experiment”  What he meant is that society is more than a dad, mom and children.  That prior to 100 years ago, the extended family, that included blood relations an even long term neighbors was the cornerstone of the family.  Not less intimate relationships in depth, but deeper relationships and more numerous ones.  That writer noted the amount of young people striving to live in micro-communities, what we in the church sometimes refer to as small groups.  But groups that live like in Acts, where the group survives together.  The broken world is looking for something they can’t find, yet it is what we know so well.

It is not good that man should live alone….

Followed by God saying, “I got this, you will not be”

Adam was given Eve, and humanity was born, and one day, the ultimate Companion for each of us was born, as Mary would give birth to Jesus.

So how do we get reconcile?

Not long after that, and ever since, most of us have put up barriers that frustrate our desire for companionship.  We drive away those we are called to love in Christ,  As we have come alive in Christ, that doesn’t have to happen anymore.  Reconciliation is not just a good idea, it is how God desires we live.  Reconciled to Him, reconciled as a family.

I kind of wish it could be like Adam, where God caused sleep to fall on him, and then took the bone away from him.  He then woke up, and knew the person standing before him, who would stand beside him was literally, part of him.

He recognized the work of God, that what was taken was return to make him complete, but in a way far beyond anything ever expected. 

Adam was complete – he had his helper, he had the one who completed Him.

When our companion died and rose on the cross, He took away the barriers, He destroyed the things we stop us from seeing each other.  Not the physical barriers, not the clothes.  But God destroyed the sin, and gave us a new life, made us a new creation.  He forgave all sin.  The sins we’ve committed against Him and each other. And He reminds us of that each time we remember our baptism, or commune at the altar as His family, or hear those words, your sins are forgiven.

Because of Christ our companion. Because of the cross, where our companionship was forged in His blood. For He reconciles us to God, and the in Christ, we are reconciled to each other.

That is why there is peace, a peace that passes all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!

Blood, Sweat and Tears – A Way of Prayer and Devotion

Featured imageNot exactly the devotional thought of the day….

For the last three days, another pastor and I have been leading a prayer and devotion time over breakfast. It’s been a good time, and I was asked to share the theory behind the study. So this blog is about devotion, not a devotion.

The theory is basic; it is about learning to let Scripture guide our prayer. It is a method that works great with a brother or sister in Christ, with others who are leaders in the church, for example with elders, or other pastors.  It is a little harder to do alone, but it is possible. It is a very loose adaption of an old method, called Lectio Divina.   In this, it works from the outside in, from how we pray for others to how we minister to how we live.  I call it blood, sweat, and tears.

It starts simple, with acknowledging God’s presence, which He’s called us into a relationship with us.  He is our Father, our Lord, our Savior, our Brother, our Friend.  A prayer desiring His presence, to build our desire for that presence.  It seems odd, for shouldn’t most of us want this, this intimate relationship with our Creator, the one who loves us?  We need to pray for this, even as the man confessing his trust in Jesus also prayed that God would increase his trust.

People familiar with Lectio Divina’s methods may be wanting to move on, to get to the Oration, Meditatio, Tentatio.  You cannot jump this point.  It is this prayer, this time to slow down, this time to realize our priority is His presence that makes this style of prayer and devotion work. It seems odd, but we need to pray that God would help us make our relationship with Him not a priority, but the priority.

So we start there… I usually end this time with a simple creedal statement….Peter’s creed of faith, of dependence.

Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. And now we believe and know that you are the Holy One, who has come from God. John 6:68-69 (TEV)

We need to know this!  He is the Holy One, who has come to us!

Now we are ready for looking at a passage, knowing that this is His message to us.  For the pastor’s conference, we used the same passage for three days.  Different translations each day, (with some intent by the leaders who set it up) Here is the last version we used.

16  No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 17  Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18  All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19  Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 20  Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21  Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (TEV)

Great passage – the other translations were the ESV and NLT – but this one we saved for last.  And here is what we did with it.

BLOOD – ORATIO  (Prayer)
Discuss with another this question.  How can you pray that your congregation learns the truths in this passage?

Not what they will learn from it, not considering how they will learn it If you aren’t a pastor, replace that word with family, or friends, small group, whoever you minister to among family in friends.  Consider just one thought how will you pray for them, that they learn the truth about Jesus from that passage.
How will you pray for this….

Then pray for them – pray that they would learn about Christ.

I called this “blood,” thinking about Jesus sweating blood in the Garden.  As we think about those people, we influence, directly as shepherds, or indirectly as friends.  But our prayer is that of a servant leader, about bringing our ministry, our service to them, even embracing the pain and sacrifice of being someone who loves and cares, in this case pleads with them to be reconciled.

Though this is the first area of prayer, it is by no means simple, or easy.  It may include significant grieving over the people we will praying for and interceding with them when done for more than brief moments as we did during this conference.


So the second stage of meditating is one where we re-read the passage again, but this time spending some time prayer meditation (and if in a group discussion)  on how the passage will affect our prayer for our own ministry.  Not just meditating on how the ministry will change, but how we pray for God’s leading and being aware of His presence as we minister.  Here is how we worded it for this retreat and this passage.

After the passage is read again, discuss with another how will you pray about this ministry you have been given, pleading with people to let Him transform them from enemies into friends.

I am not sure how much time we pray for and about ministry.  Whether we are in the office of ministry, or whether part of it ha been delegated to those who minister/serve (as one of our Lutheran forefathers talked) as deacons, elders, teachers, deaconesses, or within our vocations as neighbors, do we pray?.  I believe we need to, and that may take very challenging forms.  We may pray for the strength to obey, to dare, for the humility.  It may include praying that God would show you the priority (in that case – pleading with people to God transform them)

I call this one SWEAT, because this is both examining your ministry against the what happens in scripture (which can be nerve-wracking – especially if this is done with another brother or small group) and because what might come out of the prayer is some sweating. Sweating as you realize the need to keep conversing with God in this midst of serving others.

And again, even as we consider our prayer life – we pray for ourselves and each other, laying before God that which His word brought out in its reading.


The last section, TEARS, is named such because we are going to struggle the most.  The battle has snuck up on us, and now the passage hits us right between the eyes as we apply it to our core.  Not just to our ministry, but we allow its law to crucify us, and its gospel to lift us, to revive us.  In this particular passage with this translation, it looked like this,

One final time the passage will be read, instead of looking out to minister, spend a few moments meditating on those areas of your life where you need to let God transform your life.

If you are a pastor – applying God’s law to your people or the world may be second nature. But we need to apply it to ourselves.  Our old sinful nature, which is no longer part of our essence in Christ Jesus,  Conversion is both an instant and life, it is passive in that the Holy Spirit does the transformation, yet we can hinder it.

But we need to, and you may find that you need a brother minister to provide absolution.  In our groups, that absolution was heard in the re-reading of the passage a fourth time.  Re-reading it with this modification – applying it personally to each person there. I would suggest that those who try this alone, and not in a small group, would have what we call a father-confessor, or a spiritual director, to help address that which comes to the surface.

But this is a struggle, it is designed to get deep into us, in this case to allow God to reconcile the parts we try to hide from Him. Or that we are afraid to think even of, for the anxiety, fear, guilt and shame.   We need to deal with those things, even pastors.  No, especially pastors.

We need to struggle with what some would call our “old Adam”, our proclivity to sin, doubt, despair. We need to struggle with it, and if we open ourselves up to the Scripture, we will struggle with it.  That struggle is good, if we realize what we started out praying about, that we would desire God’s presence.  That is why this came last, though some might put it first.  By the time we get to the struggle, the passage has already been heard and our hearts considered how to apply it, first to those we are to love, then to our pragmatic application.  It becomes very difficult to avoid hearing ti speak to our souls…having done that.

After hearing the passage a fourth time, we prayed for others, then summed up all we couldn’t bring ourselves to pray for, using the Lord’s prayer.

We then left, with the benediction from Hebrews….and as I sum up what we did, and why, may these words bless you as well.

Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with His blood— may He equip you with all you need for doing his will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to Him forever and ever! Amen!

(ps – feel free to sk me questions about it – or for copies of the actual bulletin guides we used.  )

Struggling in Life? Will You Let It Be A Blessing?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

6  Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. 7  Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8  You love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him. So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express, 9  because you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in him. 1 Peter 1:6-9 (TEV)

10  “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” 11  The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:10-11 (TEV)

70         You asked me if I had a cross to bear. And I answered, “Yes, we always have to bear the Cross.” But it is a glorious Cross, a divine seal, the authentic guarantee of our being children of God. That is why we always walk along happily with the Cross. (1)

I have been “suffering” with a head cold for about a week.  I loathe such things because I can not take medicines that would reverse the symptoms.  It’s not really suffering persay, but it is discomforting, it wrecks my normal patterns, it destroys the idea I have control.

All suffering, minor like my cold, or the real suffering people go through have that effect.  Suffering wrecks the normal nature of our world.  Even when we embrace suffering and sacrifice out of love for someone else, it can become something that robs us of our joy.

It doesn’t have to.

For in or suffering, whether forced upon us or chosen, whether great or small, can reveal something to us.  We aren’t alone.  For we get through such times knowing the presence of God.  We find out our faith is real, that it is not hollow words.  Because we find out the Lord in whom we trust, in whom we depend, in whom we have faith, is real.  And He is with us.

As we slow down, as we tire of the agitation and anxiety, we find ourselves kept in Christ, treasured by his love. We find ourselves in peace, one we can’t explain, one that is impossible, one that comes from God being our refuge, our sanctuary.

It is from that point we find our joy exploding, the love of God so overwhelming and transforming that it resonates within us, and causes others to know that joy as well.

The suffering isn’t the blessing, yet it is a source of the blessing, as it drives us to God.

Such is our life in Christ.

For we know His mercy, and His love, and His peace….

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 514-517). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Companions of the Cross – Lesson 2 Mark 9:38-50

Companions of the Cross – Lesson II

Don’t Cause others to Stumble

Mark 9:38-50


In Jesus Name

 May You so grow to treasure the grace and mercy of God that you diligently strive to make it known, reminding yourself and those around you to depend upon it in all times.

Being Christ’s Companion is Like a Treasured Cup of Coffee 

Dr. Anthony Campolo told a story about one of his aha moments, where his faith became real.

He was on his way to an important board meeting in Philadelphia.  One of the ministries he headed up was being considered for an extremely generous grant, the kind that allows for incredible expansion of ministry.

With that in mind, he was walking from the parking garage to the office building when he spotted a man.  A man with dirty hands and filthy clothes. A man whose torn old clothing could have barely protected him from the bitter cold of a Philadelphia winter.  A man with a cup in his hand held out as if hoping for a coin or two to be dropped into the cup.  He was coming right at Dr. Campolo.

The guilt and shame became proactive; Tony knew he should try to help the man – after all, helping others is what he trained college students to do.  As the man came closer, the cup held out.  The nerves rose – there would be no way to avoid the man, he would be late for his meeting, and this guy so looked like he needed the kind of help that Christ would judge Tony for not providing.

As the man approached, he said, “Mister, Mister, here, have this cup of coffee!”  As Tony looked him in stunned disbelief, as this poor broken man tried to serve him, the professor and leader, the man continued, “No I don’t want anything, I just had a cup, and it is such an incredible thing on a day like this, I had to share one with someone else”

As Tony brought the cup to his lips, indeed, it was the best coffee he had ever had. An incredible gift from the least expected person in the world. And he would share with the businessmen that morning, not his prepared notes.  But the story of a man who just had to share what he’d been given.

Such a lesson is the key to this morning, to these passages that seem confusing, until you realize they are about the same thing.

Being a companion of the cross with Jesus. A treasure so incredible, that you have to share it, that you have to help others know it, that it is worth more than life itself.

A Treasure too great to Insulate

We see that in the first few verses.  Last week we heard the disciples getting chewed out because they all want to be the primary disciple, the one who would take over when Jesus died.  Now content to serve each other, Jesus opens the gates a little wider.

The disciples get jealous; they want to protect the only man in history who had no need, and no desire to be protected.  They wanted permission to shut this man down, Tony could have been happy with some security team member intercepting the man he perceived to be a beggar, but would actually offer a hot cup of coffee instead of a cup of water.

We don’t have to protect the gospel; we don’t need to play god and protect God.   Yes, He will call people to trust in Him through the ministry here.  And for others we will simply plant the seeds.  Allowing others to plant the seeds.

We can’t insulate the gospel, we can’t protect it, it is bigger than us.  As one pastor said this week,

“The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into élites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy.

So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ.  (Pope Francis)
Being a companion of Christ is too good not to share, and so why should we be concerned, when others try to share it?  We can help them, together become more consistent with Jesus teachings, but to just stop them?

I am not talking about some required “you must tell your friends and family and force them here.”  But a relationship with God is too incredible to stop us from sharing it, so why should we stop someone else?

A treasure too great to not help protect

The same kind of thing goes for Jesus next point, the one this sermon is titled about.

If we know the value of this relationship with God, then we aren’t going to intentionally case someone to stop trusting in God.  It would be better for those 1000 pounds millstone to be chained to us, and Lal to drop us off on the way out on his next fishing trip.

The more we value God’s call, the more we will want others to know it, and the more we will want those who know it to treasure it, to value their relationship with Jesus  more than any other.  If that is true, how would we feel to cause them to be so scandalized that they fall out of the relationship?

As we grow in our understanding of the dimensions of God’s love, our attitude will change, and we will realize that the little children Jesus is talking about include the atheist, the adherent of Islam, the person’s who sins turn your stomach, and it includes you and I.

As we grow in knowing God’s love, it would cause us great distress to think we drove someone away from the relationship with God we treasure!

A Treasure too Great to Love Other – including ourselves.

The section about cutting off hands and feet, of gouging out eyes was always too much for me.  Seriously first it seemed a bit over the top.  Second, most of us would be crawling around here, for us all too quickly sin.

But the relationship with God is so incredible, that which He offers us is so overwhelming, that we would rather do those things rather than risk it.  We would realize that the first commandment is right – as we know what God has done, it doesn’t make sense to have other gods, it doesn’t make sense to put our trust in idols, even in the idol of ourselves.

That is what this is all about – the love of a God who would come to u because He desires us to be His people.  Who would rather than overlook our sins, decide to take on their burden and die so that we could be free of them.  Who would rise, so that we have the hope of everlasting life, and who would send the gift of the Holy Spirit to us in baptism, so we could know that hope, so we could have a glimpse of it.

A treasure so incredible, so amazing, that we simply can’t help but want others to know it. We would encourage each other to rejoice in it, and guard against causing people to give up on God or His people, and we would rather lose ourselves than lose the relationship.

This is what God gives us… to all.  The professor and the homeless guy, the businessman and the child, the pastor and the shut-in.

The hope we preach, that Christ is in you, and, therefore, you have the hope of sharing in His glory.  And until that hope is seen, you dwell, guarded by Him, in His peace.


Can Christianity Be More than Simple?

Featured imagedevotional thought of the day

  And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.  I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.  Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten.  No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began.  But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:4-8 (NLT)

The model of enlightened reason cannot assimilate the structure of faith. That is our problem today. But faith, for its part, is comprehensive enough to assimilate the intellectual offer of the Enlightenment and give it a task that is meaningful also for faith. That is our opportunity. We must make the effort to accept it. (1)

24 But before man is illuminated, converted, reborn, renewed, and drawn by the Holy Spirit, he can do nothing in spiritual things of himself and by his own powers. In his own conversion or regeneration he can as little begin, effect, or cooperate in anything as a stone, a block, or a lump of clay could. (2) 

Despite it’s occasional plunge into the depths, this blog is entitled ASimpleChristian for a reason.

Being a follower of Jesus, trusting in Him and depending on Him for the love, mercy and peace that form our relationship is simple.

I’ve seen it as the deepest faith has been shown me by those with Alzheimer’s, who can’t remember their name or their love one. They show me that faith, that dependence as their anxiety is overwhelmed by peace as they hear the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm, or the Apostles Creed.   The faith given them in their youth sustains them.

This despite not being able to parse adequately Greek, or discuss the communication of Magestial attributes, or define the difference between transubstantiation or consubstantiation as they receive Christ’s Body and Blood.  They know and respond to the words, for you.

You see the depth of such faith in children, and those who have an intellectual handicap but are spiritual giants, causing many with Ph.D.’s and Th.D.’s to look like spiritual dwarfs.

Part of this, I firmly believe has to do with conversion, and bringing everything subject to the will and work of God.  Including our intellect.  To allow it to be renewed, regenerated, born again in the waters of baptism along with our heart and soul.   That is why Paul speaks plainly, as do evangelists and those preachers who understand that conversion doesn’t happen because we are logical or reasonable enough.  For that can’t be.

Reason can’t enslave faith, it can’t analyze it, it can’t conquer it. (GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy makes this point painfully simple!)  Pope Benedict XVI’s quote above makes this clear.  One of our challenges since the enlightenment is that we’ve traded training our pastors in meditating on scripture for analyzing it through either historical-grammatical or historical-critical frameworks.   We give them systems without allowing the word to transform them;  We overlook the sweat and tears that conversion (tentatio) often brings.

We want to enslave Scripture like a rat in a cage, rather than let the Holy Spirit transform us as we hear it.  We create elaborate systems, and fancy definitions and terms to explain that which scriptue doesn’t explain.

Rather than meditating on it, hearing it, letting it absorb into us and transform us, as the love of God, which is beyond our capability to fully know, is revealed to us. As the depth to which He will descend to come to us, and heal and cleanse us becomes known, for he comes to where we are. That is what the Lutheran reformers were discussing in the blue quote above. Before the Holy Spirit heals our blindness to the truth, we can’t know it.

It is like the child who wants to figure out how to use their Christmas present, based on the die of the box, but who does not know what it contains. So is it with those who base their philosophy of life, the universe, and everything without considering God’s purpose.   Or who determine that God’s revelation is subject to their own critical framework, simply because it is a mystery, a sacred thing beyond comprehension.

We have to start simple – with what God reveals to us  What He reveals too us in mechanics of this world, and in what He very specifically reveals to us in Scripture. This is what makes up the faith of those who have lost all, and those who we think can’t gain much.   Whose faith is extraordinary.  Whose faith, whose trust in God is simply there.

It is then, informed by that, with horizons set by that revelation, that we can plunge into and explore His love. It is then we, as His little children learn to enjoy the presence of our Father.

Such is a spiritual life, a simple one… sitting at His feet, letting the Spirit bring us to will and do the Father’s will.

Lord Have mercy on us sinners.



(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 307). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. Meditation for 9/26

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 525–526). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.  Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration part II.II Free Will

Why a Lutheran Pastor Would Quote the Catholic Pope about the Church’s Mission…

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day –

For God’s Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives.  And when you serve Christ in this way, you please God and are approved by others.   Romans 14:17-18 (TEV)

 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man who was driving out demons in your name, and we told him to stop, because he doesn’t belong to our group.”  “Do not try to stop him,” Jesus told them, “because no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say evil things about me.  For whoever is not against us is for us.  Mark 9:38-40 (TEV)

 Of course some of them preach Christ because they are jealous and quarrelsome, but others from genuine good will.  These do so from love, because they know that God has given me the work of defending the gospel.  The others do not proclaim Christ sincerely, but from a spirit of selfish ambition; they think that they will make more trouble for me while I am in prison.  It does not matter! I am happy about it—just so Christ is preached in every way possible, whether from wrong or right motives. And I will continue to be happy,  because I know that by means of your prayers and the help which comes from the Spirit of Jesus Christ I shall be set free.    Philippians 1:15-19 (TEV)

“The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into élites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy.

So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). The People of God can embrace everyone because we are the disciples of the One who knelt before his own to wash their feet (ibid., 24) ” (1)

If you haven’t heard, Pope Francis is visiting the USA.  In green, you see one of my favorite quotes from him, one that hasn’t been pushed much on Twitter, or quoted on FB.   It is both this lack of attention AND the truth of it, that makes it possibly my favorite quote of his.

Some people are excited, some people are worried, some people are mad, and want everyone to know that the visit of the one they think is “the” anti-christ, in combination with a harvest moon, in combination with the green stuff growing in their refrigerator resembling the hairstyle of a prominent presidential candidate means the means to the end is near.

I do think it providential though, that the gospel reading this week contains the middle quote from scripture. The one that has Jesus crying out, “do not try to stop him!”

Let me start out with this,  According to the doctrines of the Catholic Church, some of what I preach is anathema.  And likewise, some, repeat, some of the things that are doctrines the are to hold to are heterodox and even heretical.  One could do several Ph.D. thesis outlining these things.   And several more outlining the things upon which we agree. Those need to be discussed not hidden.

But therein is the rub.  To dismiss each other entirely it is to dismiss where we agree as if it were as false.  For example, the truths found in the three Creeds.  Or the promises that God is faithful to the promises He makes to us, including the promises attached to the proclaiming of the Gospel, the promises attached to Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the forgiveness given us in Confession.  We can never dismiss each other entirely, because the core of our creed, we share in common.  We share a hope found in Christ Jesus.  For me to presumptuously say everything the Roman Catholic Church teaches is wrong is to dismiss the Christ in whom I find hope, and the mission, the apostolic mission given to the Church.

With this particular Pope, Pope Francis, what resonates of his message is what is found in 1 Peter, that God doesn’t desire any person to be lost, but that all would come to repentance, that all would be reconciled, that all would know the love of God, and the mercy poured out on us because of the death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection.

That message of his won’t make the evening news often, nor will it make the conservative or liberal blogospheres in either of our church bodies. That won’t get attention, because it won’t cause hits to come in large numbers.  Controversy does that.  It draws us in; it creates elitists, groups that will become, as Francis points out – apathetic.  They will become apathetic to the real ministry, to the real mission, to the real apostolate. Their focus will go from that to their own personal crusade, and the Missio Dei will become a distant memory for them.  Not for all, for God has promised that as well.   That Missio Dei is our mission,  the reason we are sent to this world, which is the reason Christ was sent,

as Francis says,

“to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ.”

May we bring that life to all,

A life in which Jesus guards our hearts and our minds, a life of peace the world cannot give, a life of incomparable peace which the Father in Heaven desires to share with us. The peace that is the answer to our prayer,

Lord have mercy on us sinners… AMEN!

(1)  From the Homily given by Pope Francis on 9/24 found here

We Talk of Winning Souls, but Do We Protect them?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.Ro 13:11–14NLT

64         What a wonderful thing to convert unbelievers, to gain souls!… Well, it is as pleasing, and even more pleasing to God, to avoid their being lost.

This week, as I prepare to preach on Mark 9, this theme keeps coming back in my devotions.

This idea of the Church, its pastors, and its people, not caring whether we cause others to walk away from the church.  Whether we, with all of our theological studies, with all of our systems and programs, do not have a pastor’s heart, a brother or sister’s care to encourage people like Paul does above.

Do we encourage people to live lives that will bring God glory?  Not because of their perfection, but because of the love we show others?  Because we don’t look out for #1 but look out for the one, who isn’t in line?  Who is starting to wander off, who is choosing the darkness, or just being tempted by it?

I am not, by any means, talking about a forced life of purity.  For such doesn’t exist.

But I am talking about a life that recognizes the love of God and treasures it more than the pleasures of the moment.  That knows the promises and blessings, the love and mercy of God who comes to us.  A life that journeys close to the cross,

And we allow too many not even to know that is possible.

It is simple in theory to change, as we encourage each other to hear God, not just a verse here and there.  But time spent understanding the breadth and depth, the width and height of God’s love.  To share in that word, not just study it in a closet, to rejoice and point out the blessings confirmed to us as they flow through the sacraments.  To make sure that the old who know the story best hear it alongside those who haven’t heard it, so they may all rejoice together in God’s presence.

All of us, those who have been in the church for all our lives, and those who are just coming to hear of His love.

That’s the way it has been, that is what we even see at the dedication of Solomon’s temple.  All come to pray, all come to know His love. 

The family, acting like a family, the people of God, gathered around Him.

Bringing others, ensuring everyone has a place, helping others continue to focus on Jesus.

May our lives be lived in Him, and may they draw others to reconcile with God and encourage

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 487-489). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


There is no “them”, there is only “us”

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
  Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good.  Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another.  Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion.  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers.  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse.  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep.  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)

1. The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.  (1)

26         It is sad to see what some people understand by almsgiving: a few pennies or some old clothes. They seem not to have read the Gospel. Don’t be over-cautious: help people to acquire sufficient faith and fortitude to be ready to deny themselves generously, in this life, what they need. And to those who lag behind, explain that it is neither very noble nor very graceful, even from an earthly point of view, to wait for the last moment, when they will be obliged to take nothing with them.

In yesterday’s Gospel reading, Jesus made it clear that whoever would be first must be the servant of all.  Note the period after the word “all”.  He didn’t say all ‘of our friends”, or “all Americans”, or “all – insert your ethnicity – ”  He said “all” and then the period makes it clear, He meant all.   In last week’s reading from James, it was made clear as well, there is no priority based on wealth, power, or prestige.  In God’s way of thinking, the president of a country (whether you like him or not) and a toddler are equal.  The richest of businessmen is no greater than a 97-year-old shut-in, or the homeless guy.

As part of that family descended from Adam we are a family.  One family.  As believers, and I love the way Vatican II puts this, the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of everyone, we have a share in.  It is from St. Paul we read these words originate – for He encourages us to share in the joy and sorrow of all – even those whom we count as our enemies and our adversaries. Our hearts need to break when we realize that people don’t know the love of God.  Our hearts need to rejoice, even soar with joy as someone is brought to life and will abide in the presence of Christ.

We need to, as St. Josemaria says, to help people learn to deny themselves generously, to help those around them, to truly help them.  Whether it is the family of refugees that we assist or the neighbor grieving,  it doesn’t matter whether they are long-time believers, or of another religion, or anti-religious.

They need what every human needs.  The love and mercy of God, shown through the people who know this mercy and love.  Who know it because in their brokenness this love is shown to them.

Simply put, there is no “them”, there is only “us”.

Realize this – that when Christ said we are to serve all – He meant all of “us”.  Go out and love with abandon.  Rejoice with those rejoicing, weep with those weeping, and serve one another.

Lord be merciful to us!

(1)   Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 340-346). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Traveling Companions of the Cross – Lesson 1 Become Okay with being Last

Travelling Companions of the Cross

Lesson 1: Become Okay with Being Last….

Mark 9:30–37

 In Jesus Name

As we travel through life, may you be aware of God’s grace, of His mercy and love that rubs off on you, transforming your life, and the lives of your family.

The Theory

For the next 10 weeks, the lessons in our sermons are going to work on a theme.

It is based on the truth, that the longer you spend with someone, the more they rub off on you.  You parent of our preschoolers will notice this over the next 10-15 years, as your children will pick up behaviors they observe.  You might have already seen this, if they watch one particular show a lot and pick up on the verbal phrases of their favorite character.  It’s one of the reasons you will have to get used to handy many, doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer, and movies like CARS, UP, and Frozen as the kids watch them 475 times each!

Part of our role as a school is to help you help them pick up the good behaviors, attitudes and phrases and discard those not so good.

Picking up behaviors, phrases, and attitudes is something we will do all of our lives.  To put it simply – we rub off on each other!  Without realizing it, we begin to act like those we admire, those we care about, and sometimes, those who antagonize us!

That’s the nature of the sermon series, the behaviors we pick up – as Christ’s companions In life.

The First Lesson – The First Lesson

In our second reading, we are going to see the first lesson, that we can be okay with being last, with being the servant of all.  Jesus gets the disciples – basically a term for apprentice or people who master something through on-the-job training, Jesus gets them alone for a while.  He knows his crucifixion is near, so he wants to explain to them again what will happen.  This is what he taught them

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.”

there is a problem, though, as we keep reading

32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

He couldn’t get to the point where he would explain to them that caring about people means this is the length you go to, to show them, love. That is part of His lesson for them throughout scripture.  Paul does a great explanation of that in Philippians 2, and in Romans and 1 Corinthians 12.  It is what he means by, imitate me, as I imitate Jesus.

They don’t understand yet that He has to die, or that He has to die so that they can live, so they can be free of the punishment their sins deserve.

Rather than ask, they keep quiet – they decide the lesson is too overwhelming… but they will learn, as will we

The First Quiz

The second part of the lesson occurs as the disciples argue who is the top student, the assistant to the rabbi-master.  That is what they are asking, “Jesus, who is in authority if you leave?”  For the greatest student always succeeded the master in that day.

As they are arguing about it, Jesus gives them the lesson again,

“Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

And Jesus will show them what that means, as He heads to the cross, to die for them, and for us.  He does it because He is the greatest example of God’s love we have ever known.  He does it because the love of God drives him to do something no one else ever could.  He dies, as Isaiah prophesied said he would, 700 years before the cross,

5  But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)
The Refresher

Which brings us to the third lesson, as Jesus takes time for the youngest, the weakest, those that society would think aren’t worth the time of a master teacher.

Imagine a seminary president, taking the time to show an unknown preschooler around a university.  Not with television crews and thousands following him, but just the child and a few friends.  Or think of computer CEO, playing some chutes and ladders with the 4-year-old daughter of one of his stockroom clerks.  Again, not in the limelight, but because he valued them. Or a superstar taking the time to visit a senior home, or a President or international religious leader, who would spend time, without the cameras with someone in the hospital, or a forgotten convict in prison.

The lesson is to love the least, and that is what the disciples of Jesus need to learn.

Note I didn’t say they learned it – for we are disciples as well.

That is the example Jesus gives the disciples, and yet takes it even deeper with these words,

37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf* welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Here is the key to learning this lesson.  It is found in welcoming Christ, in welcoming the Father’s presence in their life.  Because Christ did exactly what He is teaching us, as He comes to us.  He loves those who everyone else says are not worth the time.  When we hear that by His authority, our sins are forgiven.  When He invites us to pray to the Father, and gives us the words for when we don’t have the words.

We show we’ve learned not just the lesson of not being first, and the value of serving others because we’ve realized that He is how He loves us.  As we realize that love for us, it changes us, to use a modern phrase, His character rubs off on us. We reflect the nature of God, the God who loves us, who comes to us, who put our salvation, our eternity before his own pleasure, and served us by dying for us.

It is because of this, that we know the peace of God that goes beyond all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Helping People Navigate the Intersection Between Theology, Technology & Popular Culture

Julian Stockwin

action-adventure historical fiction

Lynette Noni

Embrace The Wonder

Kosovo Baseball Initiative

Bringing Baseball to Kosovo

Annalisa Drew

The Ski Adventures of Annalisa Drew

Everyone Loves Sex: So Why Wait?

A Discussion in Sexual Faithfulness


Just another site

A Good Life

Leaving Cancer Behind

Do Not Fear but Believe

Jesus tells us to be not afraid, so choose wisely

W.onderful W.orld of W.adholms

Random Reflections on Life, Theology, and the Bible

Good Morning Jesus

Let's have a daily conversation with Jesus!

46 Psalm

Be still and know that I am God

Christy Rawls :: Encouraging, Equipping, Empowering Others

E3 Ministries Director, Non-Profit Director, Teacher, Speaker, Encourager

A Peculiar Prophet

The Blog of Will Willimon


I wanted to die (I thought), but thankfully God showed me a better way...

Public Catholic

Catholic in the Public Square

The Liturgy Fellowship

-- a group blog of Cardiphonia


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 311 other followers

%d bloggers like this: