Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NLT)
27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 (NLT)
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
6 What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. (1)
For fifteen years or so, I’ve been hearing that we are in a post-modern world, and along with that, a post-Christian society.
Instinctually, I have questioned both claims. Especially the claim that the church, that Christianity is somehow past its course, that it no longer appeals to people. I would contend that it is not the church people have gone beyond, but the presentation of the church that is dependent solely on reason, that appeals to a logical and systematic view of our beliefs.
Nearly a generation after Dobson’s popular book suggesting that we can’t trust our emotions, a new generation is realizing what Luther taught so long ago, that we can’t trust our reason either. We hear it when they talk of not wanting religion but a relationship. We see it when they say they love our Jesus, but not his church. We see it when books like the Case fo Christ doesn’t have the appeal that it had 10 years ago, or Evidence that demands a verdict had 25 years ago.
A generation that bashes an emotional appeal to “come to Christ” is finding out the logical presentation doesn’t create a deeper faith, but often a rather hollow one. Holiness doesn’t come because of reason, or because of emotion. Nor can righteousness be measured by either one. (Maybe we should stop with our generalizations condemning or applauding those options?)
Holiness comes as both our emotions/feeling and reason/logic are sanctified. It is not a Venn diagram of where they intersect, but the entirety of both, as God comes to us, cleanses us of sin and all that is not right, and sets us apart to walk with Him, as He guides us. He is both our majestic Lord, and our loving Father.
It is He who keeps us, guards us, our hearts and minds, in this relationship that is completely dependent, even at the most intimate levels, at the most broken points of our lives, where we realize that both our emotions and reason fail, and are nailed to the cross.
Thye both have to be killed off, and they both have to be raised from the dead, with Christ, in Christ, focused on Christ, in awe of His love, dependent upon Him, cleansed by Him and humbly guided by Him.
It is then that our prayers are alive, that our desire to worship grows, that we aren’t focused on religious things as tasks or obligations, but rather as blessings, opportunities to see what really matters. It is here where revival happens, where brokenness is healed. It is this place where sin is set aside, because we begin to see the glory of God, not just as something distant, but something that we are drawn into by the Holy Spirit. This is repentance and renewal.
This is life in Christ.
Our life. TO love Him with our reason and emotions, with our heart, soul, mind and strength, because He came and loved us.
This is the work of God!
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional thought of a Monday
And this is what he (John the baptist/cleanser) proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8 I have cleansed you with water; he will cleanse you with the holy Spirit.” Mark 1:7-8 – my paraphrase
Faith, hope, and charity will come into play in your professional work done for God. The incidents, the problems, the friendships which your work brings with it will give you food for prayer. The effort to improve your own daily occupation will give you the chance to experience the cross which is essential for a Christian. When you feel your weakness, the failures which arise even in human undertakings, you will gain in objectivity, in humility, and in understanding for others. Successes and joys will prompt you to thanksgiving and to realize that you do not live for yourself, but for the service of others and of God. (1)
It’s Monday, and many of us on Monday’s are suffering from the toxicity of life.
Maybe it is because we overdid it on the weekends. Some have a tendency to enjoy some things a little too much, and what is good in moderation affects us when we move past the line of moderation into levels of excess. It can become toxic.
Others aren’t enjoying their weekends, the dynamics of what might be called their “home life” is the source of the toxicity. Broken families, broken relationships, broken lives. Or maybe those we love, are suffering from this, and we spend our free time anxious on their behalf. Our inability to do anything we consider tangible leads to a toxicity that is paralyzing.
Or maybe the toxicity is what we spend our weekends dreading, the return of Monday and the toxicity of our workplaces. Maybe our work situation forces us to be too competitive, to unethical, or to take on burdens and scars we are tired of facing.
I have a bunch of people who are into various cleansing diets. They purge the bad stuff from their system with shakes or drinks that basically cleanse their digestive tracts, and maybe their bloodstream as well.
I think we see our baptism as such – a spiritual cleansing – a purging of all the sin and unrighteousness that oppresses us. Confession and Communion, as sacraments, have a similar effect.
Oddly enough, my devotional reading this morning lead me to believe a similar blessing is found in that dreadful thing known as Monday. For in the suffering, in the toxicity, we find the cross, we find a reason for prayer, we find the need to depend on the Holy Spirit’s presence. For the Holy Spirit, often through the oddest people, brings comfort and cleansing to the toxicity. The Spirit enables us to know peace, unexplainable peace, that comes from being assured of the presence of God, and His cleansing, the power of His blood poured out for us in death, and his body, in which we are raised to life. Abundant life.
This is the work of the Spirit in our various vocations, the roles we take on, often just for physical survival, yet which the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, uses to bless us, and those around us. For in exercising our faith our trust in God, we come to hope, to expect, that His love sustains us, even on Monday.
For if in the midst of all the toxicity that surrounds such a day, we can know peace, then we realize His presence is with us, not just in church on Sunday, but in the moments of every day.
So rejoice, it is Monday! God is with you! The Holy Spirit is drawing yo into the glory of God, intoHolinesss, into that moment of peace!
And remember – when you are given food for prayer because of the incidents and problems, when the suffering helps you be aware of the cross, and the need for Christ’s love, cry out Lord Have Mercy on Us!
Know He will!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1477-1481). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Matt 26:44 NAB-RE
And, moreover, since Christ took it into his hands, work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man’s life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies. (1)
2. We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the law is to be diligently applied not only to unbelievers and the impenitent but also to people who are genuinely believing, truly converted, regenerated, and justified through faith.
4 3. For although they are indeed reborn and have been renewed in the spirit of their mind, such regeneration and renewal is incomplete in this world. In fact, it has only begun, and in the spirit of their mind the believers are in a constant war against their flesh (that is, their corrupt nature and kind), which clings to them until death. (2)
As I read this passage from St. Matthew’s gospel this morning, I was struck with an odd thought.
Why is Jesus praying again for the same thing, for the third time even?
I understand why I will pray often for the same thing, for the same people. But why did Jesus, in the Garden, pray in agony that the cross would be rendered unnecessary? The very moment the Father and He planned for, he prayed would be removed?
And why would the Holy Spirit determine that you and I needed to see this agony, to see this cry of desperation to our Father? Three times he would cry out, and twice in His agony, He found us asleep. (It is ironic that they could sleep while he is in agony, considering the lesson with the storm, when He was asleep in the back of the boat. They only thought death was imminent. He knew it, felt it stalking Him!)
I don’t believe it was only to give us a lesson, or a model how to handle stress, anxiety, and despair. It may serve that purpose, and serve it very very well. But ost of us aren’t facing death in a few hours, and our death won’t include the weight of the sins of all history.
It is also not because of unbelief. Far often we use this prayer as our “out”. If it isn’t answered then we can dismiss our pain (yeah, sure!) by saying it wasn’t God’s will that He would address this situation, or provide that healing. It surely cannot be that God isn’t listening either, for that means He isn’t God, and His promises are simply frauds.
I think the lesson is far deeper than that, for Jesus, and as we realize why He prayed, you and I.will find a desire to pray.
The obvious – prayer is commanded, or perhaps it is better described to be urged by God. It is one of those “works” that flows because we take God at His word. We believe His promises, we count upon His mercy and we depend upon His love. There is no other option, even as there wasn’t as Jesus cried tears of blood in the garden. Obi-wan isn’t our only hope, Jesus is. It is not just law, but the law helps us see the necessity, as the Holy Spirit reminds us, we need God. We can’t live life in a vacuum where He doesn’t exist.
And prayer, like the other sacraments (see Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII) reminds us that not only did Jesus command it, but there is a blessing attached to it, a promise.
He will listen.
He does listen.
He is listening, right now!
And this prayer, this action is on God uses in us to work out our salvation, to remind us we are being regenerated, we are being renewed. This work, as the Vatican II pastors wrote, is a work that is a redeemed and redemptive reality.
As we pray, as we give up our burdens, our fears, our anxieties and our sins, there is a growth that occurs, a communion with God that leaves us in peace. That leaves us able to bear a cross, that leaves us assured of His presence, His support, His love. As Jesus prayed to the Father, as He knew the Father was listening, that comfort of the Father’s love sustained Him. That moment of surrender, to say this is yours Father, I can’t deal with it, makes our being His children ever more real.
And we become sure His kingdom will happen right here, right now. It becomes redeemed and redemptive, holy and right, it floods us with His presence, and even through the tears, we know His love.We know it in a way we can depend upon, no matter if what is next is the cross, or the resurrection… or both.
Pray, cast your cares, your burdens upon Him, and know His peace…and if you need to do so again and even a third time.. and depend upon Him, for He is listening..AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1453-1454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 480). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
13 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven* before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. NABRE Matt 23:13-15
I have loved thy beauty, and the place of the habitation of the glory of my Lord, thy builder and possessor. Let my wayfaring sigh after thee, and I say to Him that made thee, let Him take possession of me also in thee, seeing He hath made me likewise. I have gone astray like a lost sheep: yet upon the shoulders of my Shepherd, thy builder, hope I to be brought back to thee. (1)
As I come to Matthew 23 in my devotions, I feel the necessity to guard my heart. It is all too easy as Jesus begins to challenge Pharisees and Sadducees to begin to name their modern counterparts.
I know them, as they sit on either end of the spectrum, trying to create a system out of the covenant relationship God calls us into being , as His children, His beloved. As they create rules and rubrics, best practices and by-laws, assuring others that doing so is faithful and proper, missional and confessional.
I see them as either throwing out the baby with the baptismal water or drowning the baby in it, oblivious to the baby, for the sake of the holy water.
And this is exactly why I have to guard my heart, for Jesus words aren’t just calling them to repentance, but they are calling me to repentance. For I can lock the door on these Pharisees and Sadducees as quickly as they do for those I find myself akin to, those who are broken, lost and trying desperately to hear His voice of hope. What is worse, my cynical and sarcastic response to the Pharisee or Sadducee sets a horrid example for those I am leading, those who I am discipling. An example which doesn’t shepherd them into the presence of Christ who would heal them, but away from Him, into the desert where they will trust no one, eventually including me.
So where is my hope, how can I allow my inner Pharisee to be called to repentance, and see God deal with those who would drive people to a place outside the church?
I think Augustine in his simple brilliance showed me an answer this morning.
Focus on the presence of God! Let him carry you broken back tot he Father. We have to abandon yourself into His care, His guidance, join Him on the cross, and let Him heal us, including killing off our inner pharisee, or at preferably, purifying that devoted pharisee in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We need to let the Father remind us that we are in the presence of God, in His dwelling place, and call our mind back from the pigpens where our brothers were living large.
There is hope for Pharisees, and Sadduccees and so many others…
In the cross, in being carried back, physically or spiritually, into the presence of God’s glory, God’s mercy, God’s love.
And that is where we belong…. AMEN!
(1) Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
38 *“You have heard that it was said,x ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 yBut I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. 40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile,* go with him for two miles.z 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.a
Love of Enemies.* 43 b“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’c 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?* 48 So be perfect,* just as your heavenly Father is perfect. NABRE – Matt 5:38-48
24. Yet man must respond to God Who calls, and that in such a way, that without taking counsel with flesh and blood (Gal. 1:16), he devotes himself wholly to the work of the Gospel. This response, however can only be given when the Holy Spirit gives His inspiration and His power. For he who is sent enters upon the life and mission of Him Who “emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave” (Phil. 2:7). Therefore, he must be ready to stay at his vocation for an entire lifetime, and to renounce himself and all those whom he thus far considered as his own, and instead to “make himself all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22)
This Christ calls all sinners to himself and promises them refreshment. He earnestly desires that all men should come to him and let themselves be helped (2)
I have heard many people define holiness over the years. Some confuse it with purity, a lack of sinlessness and being completely remote from the world. But those who promote this view do not know how to deal with Jesus eating with whores and tax collectors, filthy sinners and fisherman.
Others would discuss holiness in view of martyrdom, the peaceful testimony of Christ in the presence of persecution and death. But most of us will only be inconvenienced because of our faith; if that is the real reason for people taking a dislike to us.
Others will look upon great acts, the work of those who are steadfast in the faith, who have this or that gift, who spend hours locked away in prayer, or tending to the poor and needy. As if holiness is some kind of heroic virtue, instead of a life we are called to live.
The last group treats holiness with little concern at all, saying in reaction to those above, that holiness is a virtual impossibility, that no one can attain holiness, that it is impossible by our own strength or power, and that God doesn’t really care, as long as we depend on Him to forgive our lack of holiness.
This last view is the most dangerous. It steals from us our hope in this life, and it convinces us that how we live, what salvation is about, isn’t living dependent upon God. It denies, faith, hope, and love. And it justifies our self-centeredness, our Machiavellian-inspired theology and practice, and our apathy towards evangelism and service.
In one of the greatest calls to holiness – in the Gospel reading above, Jesus tells us we need to be perfect, (other translations use “holy” here ) even as God is perfect and holy.
It is not an impossibility. If so, Jesus wouldn’t have commanded it, nor would the Father hold us to that standard.
The context provides the measurement of such holiness as well, the love The love of our enemies, and the love of those who you aren’t connected to, recognizing the fact that in Christ Jesus you are connected.
Those who would do evil to you, those who would demand more than is their “right” of you, those who you would say are your enemies.
Holiness is loving them.
Holiness is caring for them.
Vatican II notes this with the call to work in the vocation of the gospel – without thought or cost – even if it means a lifetime of service. It means living this way at the cost of renouncing yourself, or the people who are “yours”, serving instead “all men”, yes, including those aren’t “ours”
That they aren’t our religion, our countrymen, out ethnicity, our race, our culture, our family, or our friends; even so, we are to love them as if they are! We are to love them because they are.
This is having the attitude of Jesus, the attitude Philippians 2 tells us to have – as described in the great hymn that we love in verses 5-10. The preceding verses tell us we are to have this mind, this attitude, this same servant’s heart, and love those who are different from us.
NO option. This is what the people of God are to do.
By now – you are tempted to stop reading this – to write me off as naive, or pelagian, or some kind of fanatic. A blogger who obviously is so heavenly minded he can’t be of benefit.
We think we aren’t capable of that kind of holiness. We cannot possibly love like that, can we? Can we actually care more about our enemies and adversaries as much as those like us? Can God expect us to love our enemies and lay down our lives for them? WOuld any many?
Well, any man not nailed to a cross and who rose again three days later?
If we say we cannot, we miss the work of God. For He calls us, inspires us, and empowers us. This si the refreshment and help that the Lutheran Confessions describe as well, ad walking with God that is daily and practical, and incredibly effective. I
Holiness isn’t walking alone, it is walking with God, moving with Him. Loving as He loves, serving as He serves, bringing healing and trust as He brings it to us. Such is our calling, and such is our life
(1) Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 495). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought for the Day
17 For though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit appears on the vine, Though the yield of the olive fails and the terraces produce no nourishment, Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls,
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God. 19 GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.* NABRE – Hab 3:17-19
Anything done out of love is important, however small it might appear. God has come to us, even though we are miserable creatures, and he has told us that he loves us: “My delight is to be among the sons of men.”10 Our Lord tells us that everything is valuable—those actions which from a human point of view we regard as extraordinary and those which seem unimportant. Nothing is wasted. No man is worthless to God. All of us are called to share the kingdom of Heaven—each with his own vocation: in his home, his work, his civic duties, and the exercise of his rights.
Nothing is wasted! What marvelous words are uttered by St Josemaria!
Words that resonate with the Habbakuk’s conclusion of his book. Let me paraphrase!
“Life Sucks! YET I will rejoice in the Lord! YET I will exult in my saving God!
For as our souls, our very lives are entrusted to Him (something the Holy Spirit does, because Jesus paid the price to make it happen on the cross!) everything has meaning, and we begin to see how all things can indeed work for good, for those who love God.
That’s a hard thing to trust God for, especially when we think of him as the deists did in the centuries following the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. Because they couldn’t trust the God they couldn’t see, they reasoned he left town, Because they couldn’t understand that God was there in darkest points of history, they assumed he wasn’t there, and that He didn’t care and abandoned those He promised to walk with, those He promised to support, and heal, and strengthen.
Nothing is wasted.
Man is that hard to hear! For there has been much that I can’t count as beneficial without coming to the same conclusions. Where are you, my God? Why did You abandon me? Why did I have to go through this? Why do I see it repeated?
Nothing is wasted.
Not even the times of emptiness.
Not even the times where I cry out in anger, in pain, in fear.
Those words talk of dependence, of the greatest level of what we call faith. The point where rock bottom we realize He is hear, and just go, “Lord, I can’t anymore, all I have to cling to are Your promises, the promsies I can’t believe are true for me.
Yet, I abandon myself to you, I will depend on what I can’t see, what may be beyond my logic, but what you promise is real.
You are here… I can see that today…when I couldn’t last week, and may struggle next month to see it.
You are here!
So I will praise You, So I will rejoice in a God who wrote those promsies through prophets, and etched them in the hands of His Son.
Yet… a powerful word.
One I need to pull out and use… often.
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1394-1399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
† In the Name of Jesus †
May you be blessed by truly grasping that the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ Jesus is indeed yours, even as it was Job’s!
A Questioned answered, with a Question
I know it is very valid educational method, but it still irritates me. It is called the Socratic Method, and it can be very effective, in both teaching and in counseling. You simply make the student process the information by only responding to them with a series of questions, based on their answers.
As I said, it can be very effective, because it makes the person you are teaching or counseling think. Instead of giving them the answers, you guide them in finding the answer. It does wear on the student a little, as they struggle with the process. But because they come to the conclusion, they understand the answer far better.
25 years ago, this month, I was a freshman at a Bible College, and my first class in Ephesians had a professor who taught in this manner. It was great, and he was excellent at this style of teaching. I still remember some of the discussions in that course. The next semester though, he used the same educational theory. The only problem was the course was elementary Greek! So Mr. Parker, what do you really think the 2nd person aorist passive verb “pistis” means! Socratic teaching doesn’t work for things like ancient Greek, or Algebra. But it has its place.
Like when someone like Job is looking for an answer, an answer they already have. It is then far more beneficial to have them answer the questions, moving ever towards the answer that they already know.
When Job asks why? God doesn’t answer directly, but starts Job on a series of questions, that will lead Job back to what is essential, not only for Job, but indeed, for us.
What the question isn’t asking
How dare you?
Why do we hear it that way?
We are attuned to the Law, to the Wind and Waves
Hear again, the first verses of our reading,
1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding Job 38:1-4 (ESV)
A bit attention getting? I think so! Out in Anza, we had a lot of dust devils – miniature tornadoes which spiraled dirt a hundred feet in the air. They made a lot of noise when they hit the church, and if you drove through one, the dirt will come flying through the A/C vents! I can’t even imagine the whirlwind that hits job, both the one out of which God answers, and the one his life was in. He lost everything, he had friend doubting his faith, and as he sits there, crushed and broken, Godfinally answers. “Get up, and answer me…”
I have to wonder, if when we read this passage, we read it as God criticizing Job, as God putting Job in his place. Hey Job, don’t you realize that you are nothing, that you can’t measure up to me, that you are insignificant in my eyes? After all you’ve never done anything, and you won’t measure up to what I can do. Come on Job, be a man, put up your dukes and let’s rumble! Winner takes all, and I, Almighty Sovereign, Everlasting God will challenge you to a fight of 10 rounds. Ready?
Except can’t be that. We know from the rest of the book that God favors Job, that He loves him. That God counted Job as His. That God said that Job would not stop entrusting himself to the God that love him, because the love is beyond the stuff of the world.
So why do we hear these questions of God in this way? Why do we not question the way this sounds? Does it seem to be the God you would want to follow? To be that petty, that mean, that self-serving? Yet, how often do the people of this world see God, and indeed, His church, as that kind of God? How many think that God and the church only exist to condemn, and brutally use guilt and shame to control them? Do we give them that expectation? Do we expect it ourselves? Why?
Is it perhaps because we are afraid that God would be that way? That we hear God’s law questioning our lives, and we automatically assume that the reason He is questioning us, is to prosecute us? So we are afraid to admit that we have failed, that we gossiped, or lied, or lusted or wanted to kill someone, or betrayed someone’s trust, or didn’t love that person.
How many of us are afraid of the voice that would answer us, out of the storms that are our lives? We fear being blown over by that wind, or maybe we are afraid of what God will ask of us, and that as sinners, we will be called to do something incredible, like Peter’s walking on water.
The danger of not getting the Entire story!
But Peter didn’t drown in his storm, and neither did Job. We know that Jesus reached down and saved Peter, and if we read three more chapters of Job, we would know that God also redeemed his life. The issu
You see, God is asking these questions in a Socratic form. The answer to each of them, “No, I wasn’t there Lord”, “no, I didn’t do that”, is not to humiliate Job, but to get him to think. The questions are asked with a goal in mind for Job. That he would understand that it is okay for mankind to struggle with life, and the heavy questions of suffering and why things happen. That we don’t have the answers to why, but that we can answer who is the One who determined the measurements of the world. Then we know the answer to whom controls the waters and who the morning stars, and the angels shouted for joy to see!
A few chapters after these questions, God says if Job can only answer him, 14 Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.” Job 40:14(ESV)I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want God to think, is that I can save myself. I cannot, for I will screw it up. I don’t want God to applaud my efforts, I want Him to reach out and save us, to make us His, to redeem us.
That is what the questions lead to, and what Job remembers, when in chapter 42 we find this. “1 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:1-2 (ESV)
Job is back, back to where he was in the beginning, when all was going well. He remembered that his trusting God was based, not on his holiness, but on God’s faithfulness, on God’s character and strength. That is where the questioning leads, to the very relationship that God assured satan was unshakeable. Not because Job was perfect, but because Job knew whom to trust.
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! Job 19:25-27 (ESV)
Job knew, in the midst of his suffering, that God would redeem him. That somehow, even though he were to die, that he would then live to see God. That is the voice speaking of someone who knows they are God’s, that is assured that God is one their side, that their redeemer will come. In God’s answer to Job’s complaint here is a far better answer. You are not God – I am.
I am.. I am your God. I am the one who will save an redeem, and answer.
In Christ’s death, centuries after Job’s life ended, the answer was seen in its fullness.
That is where God was leading Job in the questioning, not to self-suffiency, or humiliation, but to call on Him, trusting in the His love. Love so strong, that it would pay the highest cost, the Body and Blood of Jesus, to redeem us, to save us from our sins, and the sin of the world.
I have a son, a cute little pain in the neck. As I leave in the morning, I call out to Him and ask, do you love me? He runs and hides, or says no, with a great big smile on his face. I long to hear him say I love you dad, or to reach out His arms to me. Patience will get me the hug I want – and God is more patient with me – waiting for me to remember He is God. The God who asks me to call upon Him,.
That is the nature of God and Job, it’s not about the suffering, it’s not about the challenges, it’s not about humiliation. It is about a God, and one of His people. The One who promised to redeem, and the one who would be redeemed.
My friends, we are the redeemed. Redeemed not by our own works, but called to redemption by God, and made to be His people.
May you live in God’s peace, knowing this. Peace that surpasses all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.
Be at peace.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry over the gourd plant?” Jonah answered, “I have a right to be angry—angry enough to die.” 10 Then the LORD said, “You are concerned* over the gourd plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. 11 And should I not be concerned over the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot know their right hand from their left, not to mention all the animals?” NABRE Jonah 4:9-11
Missionary activity is nothing else and nothing less than an epiphany, or a manifesting of God’s decree, and its fulfillment in the world and in world history, in the course of which God, by means of mission, manifestly works out the history of salvation. By the preaching of the word and by the celebration of the sacraments, the center and summit of which is the most holy Eucharist, He brings about the presence of Christ, the author of salvation. (1)
“I have learnt with sadness of the killing this morning at the Church of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray. The three victims: the priest, Father Jacques Hamel, 84, and the authors of the assassination. Three other people were injured, one very seriously. I cry out to God with all men of good will. I would invite non-believers to join in the cry! “ (2)
A lot of people focus on the fish (some call it a whale) in the story of the prophet Jonah. To be honest, the controversy there is silly, a game played to avoid what is truly controversial. The sin that is challenged there, and not met with repentance, the sin of Jonah.
Imagine today if an evangelical leader was called to go to Iraq or Syria, to preach repentance to the cadres of ISIL, or to AAfghanistanand preach to ISIL’s history enemy, Al Quaeda. Would they look for the nearest beach, rather than taking a ship to the location of their new ministry? Would they and their friends get mad if they saw their enemies repent, throwing a tantrum as Jonah did?
There is the controversy, there is the place where ministry could occur, and those who know the grace of God are tempted to turn their back on not only the people God would have heard their gospel, but on the mission of God, and really on the heart of God.
God calling you on not loving your enemies? God calling you on loving a “thing” ( in his case a plant, of for us, our way of living ) more than you love the people. That’s controversial. There is a conversation that will hurt, that may drive us from the room, or perhaps to our knees in repentance.
Look at the quote of the ArchBishop of the priest who became a martyr. He prays for the two assassins – and calls them victims! That is controversial! Even more controversial than Pope Francis reminding the cChurch that Christians can be very violent as well.
We are all sinners, we are all victims of unrighteousness as well. The unrighteousness of sins committed against us, the unrighteousness that springs from our being led into sin by those who should be carrying us to the cross. From those who should help us see our epiphany, who should help us see Jesus revealed as the one who cleanse all people of all sin, and all unrighteousness. Who desires that so much, that he is even patient with us as He waits for us to get our act together, to live as Christ lived, to love our enemies even as Christ loved us.
Jonah was pissed at God, for he couldn’t see why God would let a plant die. Yet Jonah was willing to write off a city, and was ticked at their repentance. God called him on that…
And perhaps now, or perhaps as we head forward to communion this weekend, we need to examine ourselves, confess our sins, our time of acting like Jonah. To get past the little miracle to the big issue of Jonah.
God loves our enemies as much as He loves us.
It’s time to rejoice over that fact… and realize those who like us, were enemies of God, are our brothers and sisters. Whether they are Muslim, or Sikh, Jewish by faith, or simply genetically, atheist or agnostic, Lutheran or Catholic. God is calling them, and calling us to deliver that message.
Lord have mercy on us ALL!
(1) Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
(2) Archbishop LeBrun http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/general/press-release-of-the-archbishop-of-rouen-following-hostage-situation-at-church-of-saint-etienne-du-rouvray
10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)
In describing the spirit of the association to which I have devoted my life, Opus Dei, I have said that it hinges upon ordinary work, professional work carried out in the midst of the world. God’s calling gives us a mission: it invites us to share in the unique task of the Church, to bear witness to Christ before our fellow men and so draw all things toward God. Our calling discloses to us the meaning of our existence. It means being convinced, through faith, of the reason for our life on earth. Our life, the present, past, and future, acquires a new dimension, a depth we did not perceive before. All happenings and events now fall within their true perspective: we understand where God is leading us, and we feel ourselves borne along by this task entrusted to us. God draws us from the shadows of our ignorance, our groping through history, and, no matter what our occupation in the world, he calls us with a strong voice, as he once called Peter and Andrew: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”11 He who lives by faith may meet with difficulty and struggle, suffering and even bitterness, but never depression or anguish, because he knows that his life is worthwhile, he knows why he has been born. “I am the light of the world,” Christ exclaimed. “He who follows me does not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” (1)
It is challenging to me to think of myself as a work of art, never mind God’s work of art.
And it is hard to see what I am doing as ‘good works”, in fact, I sometimes wonder if I am the opposite to King Midas, everything he touched turned to gold and everything I touch collapses, or breaks, or needs to have toilet paper applied.
I understand all too well St Josemaria’s description of groping through history, dwelling in the shadows of ignorance. Even as He draws me, there is a reluctance to enter the brilliance of His glory, the glory He would share with all of His people.
But I have to realize that He is more reliable than I am, that His will is being accomplished, and should I humbly focus on my journey with Him, the very places we go together, the people we talk to, are part of His making my life a work of art. Walking with Him means having the challenge and pain of loving people – including those who consider themselves unlovable I know their pain, as does about every person I have met in life.
That’s why, as we are transformed, faith also accepts that what we can perceive is not all there is to the story. That God is doing something very special in our lives, giving us a meaning we can’t see, because the artwork isn’t finished yet.
Knowing that means that I can accept that the potter knows what He is doing – that His vision for my life, my vocation can be vastly different from His. But he is the designer, the architect, the Creator, and I am but His creation.
A creation so beautiful in His eyes, that He would share HIs glory with me, and will all who are His people. That is what I have to remember as I skirt in and out of the shadows, as I wonder what He has in mind, and what He is doing. I even come to realize the reason I am allowed to hang out in these shadows, is to reflect His glory into the dark places, where other masterpieces lurk, afraid to come into the light, afraid to be seen, unaware that they are meant to be His people and He, their God.
In baptism – He cleansed me of all my sin and the unrighteousness of the world, and the struggle to see my life from His perspective is a challenge. Even so, the work is His, the promise to see it through is His. I’ve learned to trust Him, will learn it some more.
it is an interesting life… challenging.. and yet with Him? Incredible. For He heals the broken, and uses them to bring healing to others!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1411-1423). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 (TEV)
9 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12 Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13 Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 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)
Love has certain standard features. Sometimes we speak o love as if it were an impulse to self-satisfaction or a mere means to selfish fulfillment of one’s own personality. But that’s not love. True love means going out of oneself, giving oneself. Love brings joy, but a joy whose roots are in the shape of a cross. As long as we are on earth and have not yet arrived at the fullness of the future life, we can never have true love without sacrifice and pain. This pain becomes sweet and lovable; it is a source of interior joy. But it is an authentic pain, for it involves overcoming one’s own selfishness and taking Love as the rule of each and every thing we do.
As my son, moments after being born, was laid on my wife’s chest, I witnessed a sense of profound joy. Despite the pain, despite the discomfort, despite the complete lack of privacy, there was great joy! (Enough so that i didn’t realize my mask was on backward and I was about to pass out from breathing my CO2!)
I thought of that scene as I read the words of St. Josemaria. They are correct, to love people can hurt, it can disappoint, it can demand that we make sacrifices, or embrace situations where our dignity is cast aside. It is not the one who is our beloved that demands this, but love itself means we take action, we sacrifice, and we embrace the pain.
And yet, I think about the smile on my wife’s face, and realize this dear priest is right again – the pain is no less sharp, the tears no less real, and yet the joy given in the sacrifice is wonderful. .There is no one, in the midst of loving another, that would say the love isn’t worth it, that they would rather go without the one they love. ( again I remind you – the beloved does no, should not demand the sacrifice, or require the pain – that doesn’t love)
This involves us, as St. Paul notes, in the joy and tears of those we love. When one hurts, we all hurt. When one is enjoying life, that sparks joy in us all. In every way, the community of faith is affected alongside those who are loved by God together. Who are united in that love, and therefore begin to truly love each other. We truly embrace the costs of loving, just as Jesus did, know the joy that comes from this love, not only in heaven, but now in reconciliation, and in sharing in the blessings of God.
It even makes those who believe they are our enemies, our beloved. Just as Christ loves us when we were His enemies.
This is love.
While it is unmerited by the beloved, it costs the one who loves.
But the joy, in inexpressible, beautiful awe-inspiring.
You are the beloved, and because of that, you also love.
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1387-1392). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.