Monthly Archives: October 2019
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 “How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you? Could I ever destroy you as I did Admah, or treat you as I did Zeboiim? My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong. 9 I will not punish you in my anger; I will not destroy Israel again. For I am God and not a mere human being. I, the Holy One, am with you. I will not come to you in anger. Hosea 11:8-9 (TEV)
386 Don’t forget, my son, that for you there is but one evil on earth: sin. You must fear it and avoid it with the grace of God.
I recently started taking my son ot the gym. His first day, the trainer started working with him and talked about working on his core – and if he takes care of that (unlike Dad has) everything else he does would benefit him far more.
The thought was in the back of my mind as I wrote a paper last week on the Biblical theological foundations of worship. There had to be a core thought that threaded through scripture. FOr while the form may change a little from Adam’s sons times, through Abraham and Moses, through the Kingdom and into the New Testament, the core doesn’t change.
It cannot change.
That core is our struggle with sin, and more importantly, the ability to know God’s heart, and instead of fearing wrath, responding in confession, and the desire to be forgiven and healed.
A theologian would talk of this as the primacy of the Doctrine of Justification. I think, pastorally, we should talk of it as our core. Not core doctrine – but core as the place where our strength health comes from, the place that if it is swell exercised and strengthened, the rest of our spiritual nature will follow. If it is breaking down, if it is ignored, then the rest of our spiritual formation will crumble, and we will struggle, and even let our faith be minimalized and maybe disappear.
If however, we remember God’s heart, His determination and His unwillingness to give up on His people, that trust grows. If we understand the strength and power of His love, the love that raised Jesus from the dead, then we begin to trust Him, and trust Him with our brokenness.
There are exercises in the gym to strengthen our physical core. Crunches, working on certain machines, doing certain stretches. Spiritually there are exercises as well, all of them based on interacting with the love and mercy of God. Bible Study can be, as can prayer. But those things can often be focused on something other and our relationship with God, and our relationship with others. The sacraments are great core practices, as they cause us to encounter this heart of God.
Specifically, I want to address Confession and Absolution. For there we encounter God’s command to those serving you, and the power in hearing the words, “Your sins are forgiven”
You need to hear that. I do as well. We need to desire to hear that as well, so that when we do sin, we run to God, knowing how He won’t give up on us, and how He is there to heal and forgive, even to strength against temptation.
This is our core, this relationship where broken sinners can trust God enough to let Him deal with their brokenness.
So come, confess your sins. Hear you are forgiven, and strengthen your ability to depend on the God who loves you…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 976-977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this
fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable!
You don’t know where he comes from,
yet he opened my eyes.”John 9:29-30
The respectable side of religion can generate dangerous responses to hearing God…..
And I prayed earnestly to the Lord God, pleading with him, fasting, wearing sackcloth, and sitting in ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed the sins of my people.
I said, “Lord God, you are great, and we honor you. You are faithful to your covenant and show constant love to those who love you and do what you command.
5 “We have sinned, we have been evil, we have done wrong. We have rejected what you commanded us to do and have turned away from what you showed us was right. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our rulers, our ancestors, and our whole nation. Daniel 9:3-6 GNT
As I got to my devotional reading this morning, and read the section of Dallas Willard’s devotional book I thought, “AHA! a perfect passage to deal with in my devotional writings this morning. I know the kind of legalistic, self righteous condescending jackasses that would have treated the one Jesus healed this way!
And then I got to my second reading, and Daniel’s confession on behalf of God’s people, and it got me to look in the mirror, and realize that at times, the self-righteous, condescending, legalistic jerk is most clearly pictured there.
I am the one that needs to listen to God, as do those I shepherd. We need to seek to trust in God enough that He will lead us through the transformation that is repentance. It is not easy, it will take the kind of faith that David had, when he wrote,
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT2)
That is a prayer that requires trust in God, more than just mere belief. This is the way we experience the love of God in way that is astonishing, when we allow Him to see as we are, broken, sinful, hiding behind masks that point out the worst in others.
This is the trust, the dependance on the work of Christ at the cross that defines the Christian faith. To allow God in to allow Him to heal us, to allow Him to eradicate the sin and darkness that haunts us, that we try to hide deep within. And freed from the brokenness, the need to be condescending, the need to be self-righteous, the need to be legalistic disappears. WHat we want to do is share in the healing we have received.
Trust Him, let Him see you… let Him heal you as he did the blind man, as He has so many others… and pray I will allow Him to do the same for me.
Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson, Hearing God through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2015).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 Then King Darius wrote to the people of all nations, races, and languages on earth: “Greetings! 26 I command that throughout my empire everyone should fear and respect Daniel’s God. “He is a living God, and he will rule forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his power will never come to an end. 27 He saves and rescues; he performs wonders and miracles in heaven and on earth. He saved Daniel from being killed by the lions.” 28 Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:25-28 (TEV)
Let us follow Jesus, knowing that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joyful hope that we must bring to this world. Please do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope that Jesus gives us!
There are times in life where we don’t know. Even the strongest Christian (whatever that means) throws their hands up and cannot explain what God is doing, and to be honest, we wonder if he is still there. Health issues, work issues family issues, even issues at church can get so complicated, so overwhelming, we forget that God is God. That God is our God..
And we drift into agnosticism.
We know there is a God, we know the data, but for the moment we can’t recognize Him, or His presence. We just don’t know!
We made try to hide it, ignore it, repress it, but we need to deal with it.We need to get past that stage, we need to rediscover the hope that we once had, as we realized the Lord is with us.
Except we cannot, unless we encounter the Daniel in our lives.
The one who God sends, whose faith is strong in that moment, who is able to speak for God, the one we need to hear, the One we need to be able to be in awe of, the One we need to be able to respect, the One we need to know will save and rescue us, Who will perform wonders and miracles in order to make us His own, to restore our broken faith.
We need to cry out with the boy’s father, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief!”
This is why in Hebrews 10 it tells us to always meet together, to encourage each other. For while some are Christ’s hands and feet, surely others are His shoulders, upon which we are carried, by Jesus. We need each other for this, for there are days we are Daniel, and there are other times we are the Darius of the world, testifying to the goodness of God, even though we see it second hand…
He is with us.. yet in our brokenness, we need someone else to help us see it.
God provides them!
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 325.
Let us Ever Walk With Jesus!
Walking with Jesus means
Our faith grows!
May the grace, the mercy and love God the Father and the Lord Jesus Chris show you, enable your dependence on them to grow strong as the Holy Spirit sustains you!
The oddest question (and perhaps craziest? 😊 )
The question the disciples ask in the Gospel reading today must be one of two things. It must be ignorant, or if not, it is completely, without doubt, insane.
Let me explain the first. If by “increase our faith” they are asking Jesus to increase their knowledge of the faith as in the doctrines and understanding of religious ordinances, then they are ignorant.
Faith is not our doctrine, faith is not a belief statement, or even all the teachings found in, or taken from scripture. Though we use the word as a noun in these days to describe what people believe doctrinally, it wasn’t so then. So if they were asking God to increase their knowledge of doctrine, of theology, then their question was simply ignorant.
But faith means to trust and depend on something or someone. Let’s say I decided during the week that there was too much dust on the lights up there. So, I decided to clean them myself. I would need to have faith in the ladder’s ability to hold me up, I would depend on it, and that the warning that it can only support 225 pounds was somehow… wrong.
So for the disciples to ask Jesus to increase their faith, what they are really asking is, “Lord, give us the opportunities to depend on You and nothing else” Or to put it another way, “Lord, get rid of all the things that we can’t depend on in our life, so that we only depend on you!”
Any ideas of what you are asking God to take away there?
Any one ready to pray that?
The challenges of Faith – Sin in its various forms
If we look at why the disciples ask the question, you see there in the gospel the conversation that occurs before the question, and you see it deals with sin. Specifically, it talks about the sin we encourage in others, or passively encourage by not confronting it, by not rebuking it.
Talk about something that requires the greatest level of faith.
I mean, how easy would it be for Bob to pull me aside and talk to me about my sin? To confront it, to challenge it, to remind me that he can run with me to God, and it can be forgiven?
Or is it a lot easier for our deacon to simply say, “Well pastor is mostly a good guy, except for being a Pats fan, and he lets me have fun preaching and teaching, so I will just ignore the sins he committed, or the heresy he teaches, after all, he’s a good guy…”
How much faith would he need to depend on God to bring up the sin, and encourage me to seek God’s forgiveness?
And yet to not do so, to allow people to linger in sin, to give into temptation, to remained trap there, is sin for us.
So whether the sin is gossip or unrighteous anger, whether it is using God’s name in vain, or being jealous to the point where it dominates, we need to trust God enough to be the one God uses to start the redemption process, and the wisdom to listen to God as to what is necessary at this point in time.
You see, “rebuking” isn’t going up to people and wagging your finger in their face. It is working for the repentance and redemption that can only come by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is placing a value on the sin – realizing something has to be done for the person, because of the damage sin will do!
Rebuking them is going to them in love, and caring for them enough to address the issue
The answer – recognizing the Master
So back to the
question – how do we increase our faith?
Jesus answer is, uhm… really? If you had any…then…. everything is possible.
Not quite the answer I would expect from Him, really.
And then He goes into this parable about the servant and the master. The Master gives instructions and the servant simply does it. It’s about that nasty word “obedience”. To do what we are supposed to do, because our master is here.
Or as we say it around here, “The Lord is with you!”
This isn’t doing what we are told to do, as Jesus leaves us on our own, it is our responding to His wisdom, to the fact He has responsibility over us, to ensure we get to be with the Father in heaven. It is listening to Him here, and now, hearing His concern for those who get caught in sin, or who are convinced what they are doing is right, because people of God haven’t confronted them.
It’s about faith and trusting and depending on the God who is here. About talking to Him and hearing His voice. About realizing His love for us is so complete that He won’t lead us astray.
Depending on God is
easier, when you know He is here, when you know He is in charge, when you
realize that our Lord is the one who loves us.
When we realize He will make all things work for our good, even the
tough stuff, then we are able to craft what He has called us to do…
Faith is found, not in your will, not in your strength, but in the fact of God’s presence in your life. You can trust Him, He is here, with you… you can depend on Him, He loves you and is working for your best.
Faith isn’t something that is increased, it is simply something realized… I can trust God, because He loves me! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The priests have the priesthood as their share of what I have given Israel to be handed down from one generation to another. They are not to hold property in Israel; I am all they need Ezekiel 44:28 GNT
God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 2:1-3 GNT
363 You’re disheartened, crestfallen. Men have just taught you a lesson! They thought you didn’t really need their help and so they made you plenty of empty promises. The possibility that they might have to help you with hard cash— just a few pennies—turned their friendship into indifference. Trust only in God and those united with you through him.
There is a part of me that doesn’t want to write this blog. Partly because I know pastors who are well described in the words of St Josemaria. Ministers who needed a few pennies, and were turned down by congregations whose people drove new luxury cars, and lived in more than moderately priced homes. And there are pastors whose people are just as poor and financially desperate as they are.
And the words disheartened and crestfallen are descriptions that are blunt and accurate. Depressed and anxiety laden could be added.
I won’t say I’ve always had a solid salary to work on in ministry, Twenty-one years after I started serving “full-time” I am about where I was before I entered the ministry. My wife has had to work all the time, and there have been times where I worked a second or third job, but when push comes to shove, we’ve not gone without a meal, or been late on the rent. God’s people have been there. For which I am grateful
I know guys who haven’t had their church there. Pastors whose families are on welfare, who receive assistance from the government. Or who are too proud for that.
And then I come to passages like the two in my Bible readings this morning. Odd they come up on the same day, on a day I am writing a sermon about the disciples asking Jesus to “increase our faith”. Are these passages just talking about the days of old? Does the LORD still provide all that those in full-time service to him need? Do we have everything we need to live a truly religious life?
Yes, but we don’t often see it, and our lack of vision causes us to stumble, and fall into despair.
Yeah there are times we are stretched thin, and times where our people don’t see our need and doubt. Some of that is our fault, not helping them see what is going on. ( One church wasn’t aware how much their pastor’s rent was – they all owned homes, and hadn’t reconsidered the housing allowance for 30 years!) Sometimes it is necessary that we look somewhere else, as God is opening up doors for ministry. ( I know of two pastors who planted a church while working for a large hardware store – they built it from their regular customers whom they got to know. Similarly, my first church grew from the students I taught computer science to, and the families of the hospice patients I served as their chaplain).
The challenge is seeing what comes, the good and the bad, the time of wealth and the time of great need as something where God is. Being transparent about that, all the while investing in people the one treasure we have in abundance, the presence of God. Of realizing there are times where God’s provision is in the few pennies, or the bag of groceries (ot supermarket gift card) that appears on your desk. Other times it is in the opportunity you find to provide for yourself and your family. Other times it is found in going to your people and saying. can someone help us with food, or pay for our meds, or… and all the time trusting in God for your needs. And in the process, watch your people’s dependence on God grow as well…and that, my friend, my brother in ministry, is worth all our trials. It is why we do what we do… to see our people walk with God
Above all, remember how God fills our greatest needs, the need for peace, for mercy and love found in His presence. For that is our greatest treasure… one that doesn’t get used up, or go into the red. God is with your there…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 924-927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 Be alert, be on watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that other believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings. 10 But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation. 11 To him be the power forever! Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11 GNT
Nineteenth, let no one presume to perform such things by his own power, but humbly ask God to create and preserve such faith in and such understanding of his holy sacraments in him. He must practice awe and humility in all this, lest he ascribe these works to himself instead of allowing God the glory. To this end he must call upon the holy angels, particularly his own angel,13 the Mother of God, and all the apostles and saints,14 especially since God has granted him exceptional zeal for this. However, he dare not doubt, but must believe that his prayer will be heard. He has two reasons for this. The first one is that he has just heard from the Scriptures how God commanded the angels to give love and help to all who believe and how the sacrament conveys this. We must hold this before them and remind them of it, not that the angels do not know this, or would otherwise not do it, but to make our faith and trust in them, and through them in God, stronger and bolder as we face death. The other reason is that God has enjoined us firmly to believe in the fulfilment of our prayer [Mark 11:24] and that it is truly an Amen.
Today, in the Roman Catholic Church, they celebrate the Memorial of the Guardian Angels, and as I started my devotional reading, that sat in the back of my mind. Not as a major thing, but I had seen on facebook for or five references to it.
Given some of the things I am dealing with, the idea of a heavenly warrior having my back is quite… comforting. But I dismissed it, until I got to my reading in 1 Peter 5, and the warning that Satan is still out there, trying to drag us away from Jesus.
That isn’t myth, that is reality.
And as Satan exists and demons exist, so do angels. Not as heavenly beings to worship, but rather as servants of God who minister to us. Reading the Book of Daniel you see this as Gabriel and Michael do battle on his behalf.
The key is found in what Peter says after , that as we endure, God himself perfects us. That is what Martin Luther points out in his sermon on preparing for death above as well, as we look to God for the strength, and ask for intercession in our ability to grow in faith, to depend on God’s work, and give glory for what is being done.
The end game is sure, God’s work guaranteeing it, His command to those He sends to serve confirm it, as they point us to Jesus, to the promises the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of, as we dwell united to Christ’s and to His death and resurrection.
This is something to take serious, this spiritual battle we are involved in, to recognize it for what it is, and yet, to have confidence in our endurance, which God provides.
Heavenly Father, help us to realize that we are no in this life alone, but that you surround us with Your people, the church, and with the angels you send to protect us, to point us to Christ. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 113.