Monthly Archives: October 2020

I Didn’t Want to Write Today…yet needed to

Devotional Thought for the Day:

No longer will the Philistines eat meat with blood in it or any unclean food. They will become part of the people of our God from the tribe of Judah. And God will accept the people of Ekron, as he did the Jebusites. Zechariah 9:7

To bless God for mercies received is also the way to benefit our fellow-men; “the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.” Others who have been in like circumstances shall take comfort if we can say, “Oh! magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together; this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” Weak hearts will be strengthened, and drooping saints will be revived as they listen to our “songs of deliverance.” Their doubts and fears will be rebuked, as we teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. They too shall “sing in the ways of the Lord,” when they hear us magnify his holy name.

I didn’t want to write today, matter of fact, I didn’t want to even do my devotional reading. I realized as I did that I missed yesterday, and that may be part of the problem.

Another part was the serious prayer requests I’ve recevied over the last few days, people I long to help, but cannot visit them, cannot commune them, only just talk over the phone and pray with them. It doesn’t seem “enough”.

There are many things wearing me down as well – for example – receiving a note that I shouldn’t vote on election day, in order to protect me and my loved ones. Looking at the vanity of agendas all around me.

And in the midst of this funk, I come across this quote from Spurgeon, and again my heart looks forward to Sunday. When weak hearts like mine will be strengthened, when drooping saints will experience God’s revival… even as we sing of God’s rescuing us, even as we praise Him together.

Amidst this funk, the words of a little read prophet remind me of God’s care for every one of us, even us “gentiles”. For God will accept us, He will cleanse us, He has made us part of His people. He did this at the cross, and in the resurrection, as we died with Christ, so that we can be raised with Him.

One thing I have learned over this life, such times of despair are relatively short lived – at most the times in between gathering with others, seeing and hearing of how God is at work in their lives.

Sunday, my congregation will sing the following words, of a new version of the Sanctus…. “For you are Holy Lord… so PLEASE, save us Lord.” The “please save us” is the cry normally said this way, Hosanna! When I hear those words, along with the praises of Holy, I shall be lifted up, my heart will be strengthen, and revival will be there….

even as it is now….

When you hit bottom emotionally, spiritually, even physically, it is such a cry, recognizing God’s holiness, and our need for being rescued, that helps us remember His promise… and then gives us the endurance we need in such times….as we wait on Him, and know that He is Lord.

For that is enough…for this day.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Why Religion is the Relationship: A Call to Something Deeper than a Meme or Tweet

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

20  We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. 21  In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22  Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.
Psalm 33:20-22 (NLT2)

Among all worldviews it is the gospel alone that produces the beauty of the saints. Nothing else does. They are deeply converted, and therefore utterly in love with triune Beauty. Even though our surefire program is cast in contemporary thought patterns and terminology, it is pure gospel. As we have noted, this plan contains no gimmicks, no pop psychology. Clever phrases and shallow ideas do not, and cannot produce the splendor of profound intimacy with anyone, least of all with the radiance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit—our eternal enthrallment.

I have seen it on tweets, and on memes. Cute and clever sayings that are not unpacked, that do not consider the unintended consequences that actually considering what is said, means.

None more dangerous than the, “relationship not religion” concept that has been floating around for years…

If you have ever heard me teach or preach, you know how I refer to not just a relationship with God, but an intimate relationship with Him. Enough that with some folk, i just mention the I.R. because they don’t like that word intimate.

What leads us from just knowing God exists, to believing in Him, to being a disciple, the point where the relationship is becoming ever more and more intimate? Well that is where religion comes into play, that is where God’s revelation to us, the covenant with its blessings and curses, with its promised intimacy and its discipline come into play.

That is where we get to know (another IR word!) Him. It is where we find we can trust Him, where His faithful devotion to us becomes our hope, and our joy. It is in the midst of the religious frame of reference that we understand His love for us, the mercy and comfort He will show us.

This can’t be understood in a meme, or a tweet, or even in this WordPress post. Because it is more than the words on the screen. It is revealed in meditating (not reading or studying) His word. Letting the thoughts of God, revealed to us, sink beyond our mind into our heart, into our soul. Into the depth of our being, where the Spirit transforms us.

And as it does, those places that we once feared to go, the depth of our being, are converted by the Spirit, and it is there we begin to realize the splendour of having a God who wants to know us at the very depths of our being. And He wants us to know Him there, to know His faithfulness, His mercy, His comfort, His healing and His love.

That kind of work takes time, and sometimes, it is scary, and it hurts, for He cuts away what is not good and holy and right. So be patient with the process, and ask God to keep working, even as He comofrts you in the mist of it.

Have a relationship far deeper than a cute saying… have one based in the framework, the religion that is more intimate than anything else we know. For this is what God designed and created you for… to walk with Him!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 121.

Why is God here, with Us

How is the church doing?

Devotional Thought of the Day

Does anyone remember how glorious this temple used to be? Now it looks like nothing. 4 But cheer up! Because I, the LORD All-Powerful, will be here to help you with the work, 5 just as I promised your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt. Don’t worry. My Spirit is right here with you. Haggai 2:3-5 CEV

The Trappist monk Thomas Merton, writing on the spiritual life, completed the diagnosis: “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.” That just about says it all in one sentence.

7  Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. Philippians 4:7 (CEV)

As I look at the Church in America I see people wondering why the church in dying, as it did in Europe. Books and seminars and coaches exist to help you stop this from happening in your church abound. ( We should ask them if it happened in theirs, or whether they count the number of clients as a success) How much the sales tactics of these coaches and seminar leaders affect out outlook is concerning.

Yet, without such coaches, without the seminars, the fancy computer tools, the church in the 10-40 window is growing – often faster than it can disciple those who would be leaders.

I am going to be blunt, I think it is because they realize the promise of Haggai in a way our spiritual clutter doesn’t allow us to experience the Holy Spirit. The key to restoring the church is letting God help!

That is where Kreeft’s quote of Merton resonates, as well as Paul’s words to the church in Philippi. We get so nervous and so anxious about restoring and rebuilding the church now, that we forget about the Holy Spirit being at work, side by side with us! That anxiety loops around on us, driving our decisions, how we invest our time and talent, which drives people away.

And rather than have a vision that is God, we create them to be God-like.

Because we can’t manage this, we can’t love people, because we aren’t basking in God’s peace

Time to take a step away, to take some deep breaths (spiritually, because the air in California today with the fires is unhealthy!) and to be still, and let God help you with your work…

Well actually it is His work, and we are His people.

Which is where the passage from Philippians comes into play. Because we are His, because the work is His, when we realize this, the blessing of peace that is ours becomes more real, even if we cannot understand it. And in that peace, Christ’s work in our hearts and minds becomes evident…

And God’s work is done, in our midst and through us.

So don’t worry, don’t be anxious, His Spirit is here!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 176.

It doesn’t matter if this is the End Times… and here is why!

Not even death can separate you from God! So why worry?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

2 Our Lord, how long must I beg for your help before you listen? How long before you save us from all this violence? 3 Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice? Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty to spread everywhere? 4 Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser; criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around. Habakkuk 1:2–4 (CEV)

12 God’s people must learn to endure. They must also obey his commands and have faith in Jesus. 13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Put this in writing. From now on, the Lord will bless everyone who has faith in him when they die.” The Spirit answered, “Yes, they will rest from their hard work, and they will be rewarded for what they have done.” Revelation 14:12-13 CEV

Again, Paul presents this in a most comforting manner when he points out that before the world began God ordained in his counsel through which specific cross and affliction he would conform each of his elect to “the image of his Son,” and that in each case the afflictions should and must “work together for good” since they are “called according to his purpose.” From this Paul draws the certain and indubitable conclusion that neither “tribulation nor anguish, neither death nor life, etc. can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:28, 29, 35, 38, 39).

The quote from the Prophet Habbabuk precedes prophecies that are extremely harsh toward sinners, toward those who do evil. But the prayer doesn’t recognize God’s work, it begs for His help because of violence being done, and a lack of any form of justice.

It would seem we are in those days again, where cruelty dominates more than mercy. Where neither side are innocent, but both are willing to sacrifice others. Where people are willing to be brutal, and narcissism is applauded and even envied.

I’ve heard to many people refer to this as the last days, that Biden or Trump is the anti-Christ, (and some think they work together!) I’ve heard people scared of the day, and spend their time warning people that they have to fear having their life and salvation stolen from them by some demonic deceit.

To believe that is to say that God has changed, that the God is less faithful to you and I than he was to the Old Testament prophets and those who depended on God. It also denies the prophecy of Revelation for the rest of those who trust in God, who live in Christ.

The early Lutherans understood this as well. That is why they were assured that God would use their suffering, even their deaths for good. They were facing death often, or imprisonment – and they were able to stay the course, because those who went before them God sustained – and they determined God would sustain them as well!

And that is why it doesn’t matter to a disciple if this is the last days. We look to Jesus, we see what He has promised for us, as He promised to every believer throughout time. He will keep those promises. And He guarantees nothing – no plan of Satan, no scam of mankind, nothing can separate us from God and his deliverance.

That isn’t my word, that is God’s promise. Whether these troubled times are the end of time, or whether we are just another group who struggle and are sustained by God, He is here, with you. And He has promised to guard your heart and mind, for you dwell in Christ Jesus. AMEN! (Phil. 4:7)

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 624.

Christian, Heaven is NOT your reward!

This is your God!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
23  I will establish my people in the land and make them prosper. I will show love to those who were called “Unloved,” and to those who were called “Not-My-People” I will say, “You are my people,” and they will answer, “You are our God.” Hosea 2:23 (TEV)

1030      My God, when will I love you for yourself? Although when we think about it, Lord, to desire an everlasting reward is to desire you, for you give yourself as our reward.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the church, and its message recently.

Part of that is do to people challenging the church, saying that its message, or the way it shares that message has become irrelevant. That we have progressed even deeper into the irrelevancy, and if the church doesn’t change, it will die.

I think the church needs to be careful as it hears these voices. It must continue to answer the questions of life and death, good and evil (and its partners guilt and shame). And it must answer them with God, with Jesus, hung on the cross to introduce us to the Father who loves us, and would heal the brokenness caused by our sin, and the sin of the world.

The challenge there is that we hold out heaven and rewards for living a good life, and when we do not, turning to God for forgiveness, so the hope of heaven is restored. As if the place with St. Peter’s gate and clouds and angels playing keyboards, and the streets of gold is our reward.

It isn’t.

Your reward is the presence of God. To see Him face to face, to hear Him welcome you, His child, into His presence, into His peace. That is why St. Josemaria talks of our loving God for Himself. To desire to spend time with Him.

That is why prayer and meditating on scripture, and spending time receiving Christ’s Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper are critical in our lives. They are how God keeps us realizing His promised presence in our lives. These times should not be entered because we have to, because we want some reward from Daddy.

It is about being there, with God, in His presence, with your Creator, who loves you enough to set up all of creation to then show you off, His greatest treasure…

If we realize this, if we realize the love of God. How could we not want to spend any time we could, in any way we could….

He is your reward, He is your God…



Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Know Someone Struggling with Sin? Are You? Here is something to think through….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

8 My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. 9 I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. Micah 7:8–9 (CEV)

11 Our people defeated Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and the message of God. They were willing to give up their lives. Revelation 12:11 (CEV)

It is comparatively easy for most of us to do something difficult for a day or two, but it is less likely that we will be faithful to our resolution for a month or two. And very few indeed will sacrifice comfort and ease for years on end—unless they are deeply in love, real love.

It is the herd of elephants that are in the room.

It is the sin in our lives, the sin that so easily ensnares us, breaks us down, isolates us from people.

We know that God is our light, but yet sin still has a grip on us. We are afraid to admit it, afraid to tell our pastor/priest, afraid to tell them, even though we know they are there to help us realize we are forgiven.

We would rather bury it, deny it, act as if it wasn’t there. Pastors make this easier, when we talk about “their” sin, rather than yours (never mind ours) And in this false comfort, we will glide along, oblivious to the crap we surround ourselves with, and praying, not for forgiveness, but that it never comes to light.

In the midst of this, we have Micah’s words that will encourage us to face the discipline of God. Words that encourage us to endure His anger, the pain our betrayal caused. To do so, knowing it is temporary, to endure knowing that the One who is angry WILL COME TO OUR DEFENSE!

He will make things right! He will declare us righteous. His anger will pass, (it was at the cross) and He is making us new.

The Blood has been spilled, poured out for us to take and drink, as we eat His Body. We have His word, His promises that tell us how the Spirit is the guarantee of His dealing with our sin, and restoring us.

This is our hope… if you are struggling with sin, even you are feeling God’s discipline, know He is dealing with it. Know He loves you, and the proof is that discipline that precedes the healing.

And dwell in His peace.

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 105.

Heaven or Hell is not about Pleasure or Pain…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Each generation will announce to the next your wonderful and powerful deeds. I will keep thinking about your marvelous glory and your mighty miracles. Everyone will talk about your fearsome deeds, and I will tell all nations how great you are. Psalm 145: 5-6

1029      With your whole heart, ask for death, and a thousand deaths, rather than offend your God. And not because of the punishment due to sin, which we deserve so much, but because Jesus has been and is so good to you.

In other words, loving neighbor means not only coming under God’s law but coming into God’s life.

Growing up, often the motivation for behaving (or appearing to!) was nothing more than avoiding a swat, or being sent to one’s room, or some other form of punishment. In other words, behave or experience pain!

That concept bled over into church, where we were told of the pain of hell, the place where people who misbehaved were sent to be punished for all eternity. Church, for those who went, became more about modifying behavior. As the churches changed in the 80’s and 90’s, the withholding of wrath as the motivation was replaced with the positive reinforcement of a heaven where everything was perfect, tear free, a reward for those who had “done good”. Sermons became about training up people to do good, to look good, to have the perfect family, etc. Pleasure, ultimate pleasure, replaced pain as the motivating factor for behavior.

Both methods of behavior modification have failed me….

Both have used the law incorrectly, making the destination and its pleasure/pain more important than Jesus. Yes, there are promised places, and we all deserve hell, but heaven is a gift, not because of the stuff it comes with, but because it is life with a God who has proven that He loves us.

It is beyond logic or reason that He does. It contradicts karma and our sense of what justice is supposed to be.

That is why it is so incredible, so wonderful, so miraculous.

It is from that love, being in so awe of that love, that we find the ability to love in return. Being enveloped in that love, we find the ability to love others, it becomes more natural, and it doesn’t have to be as forced. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, not behavior modified by pressures to avoid pain or pursue pleasure.

It is life in Christ.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 170.

The Church Can Endure this as it does ALL Challenges.

Nothing else mattered! Just being with Jesus, and knowing His love

Devotional Thought of the Day

7  If your servant comes in from plowing or from taking care of the sheep, would you say, “Welcome! Come on in and have something to eat”? 8  No, you wouldn’t say that. You would say, “Fix me something to eat. Get ready to serve me, so I can have my meal. Then later on you can eat and drink.” 9  Servants don’t deserve special thanks for doing what they are supposed to do. 10  And that’s how it should be with you. When you’ve done all you should, then say, “We are merely servants, and we have simply done our duty.” Luke 17:7-10 (CEV)

We come now to the taproot of our surefire program: intimacy with the indwelling Trinity. To put it simply: the main source of deep conversion is to fall in love with endless Beauty. A genuine person will gladly sacrifice for real love. Christic martyrs are in love. Jesus tortured to death on the Cross is the icon of perfect love, unconditional, selfless love. All the saints imitate him in their heroic virtue because they too are in love. Their concern, determination, and motivation are rooted in and arise from their intimacy with triune Beauty who is purest and endless love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8).

1025 You will have as much sanctity, as you have mortification done for Love.

When you love someone, truly love someone, you are willing to embrace pain and suffering if you know it will help them. I know a husband who gave a kidney to his wife, or couples who have endured hardship to stay together. I don’t know if children of any age ever realize what their parents give up, so that they can have things the parents never had at their age.

That is what love is!

It is the same as the servants, who have cared well for their master. It is just the way things are supposed to be. We are just who we are – nothing special here… just doing what we do….

We need to grow in this as the church. Whether it is in trying to help the poor, or train up more people to serve in ministry, here or abroad, whether it is in giving of time or treasure, or letting someone else learn to serve in our place and coaching them in it, we need to learn to sacrifice our preferences in view of the love we have for God, and the people He’s created.

It may be even sacrificing our preferences, in order to work with the government during times like this. ( I hate saying this… but hey – gotta preach to myself as well as to you!)

The key to this is the cross, to being drawn to where Jesus is lifted up, not just as an observer, but being transformed into His image, as we are united to Him on the cross there. There everything is so based in a love so incredible, so deep, that everything else, including the work to help others be drawn there… is nothing.

Being loved by Him becomes everything. – other challenges… – what challenges… God is with us!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 99.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Church will not die in America.

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for the Day”

7  Please hurry, LORD, and answer my prayer. I feel hopeless. Don’t turn away and leave me here to die. 8  Each morning let me learn more about your love because I trust you. I come to you in prayer, asking for your guidance. Psalm 143:7-8 (CEV)

To bring people closer to God, competency and clarity are important, but they are not enough. Of themselves they do not touch hearts deeply. Personal sanctity and goodness do. It is the saints who light fires. There is a direct correlation between the beauty of holiness and the fruitfulness of our work and interpersonal relationships.

When we believe God is something other than a lover, it is inevitable that we will sin.

As I look at some of my more competent friends in ministry, to those who are skilled communicators, who sermons hit all the right points, I grow concerned for them, and for the church.

Even before COVID hit, they were scrambling. There was concern first about us being in the post -modern age, and how do ou communicate to millennials. (Of course, that originated in not being able to communicate to GenXer’s, or trying all sorts of things to communicate to Baby-boomers (see the Seeker movement)

I even heard one such friend, a man in ministry for nearly 40 years, write “I just don’t know how to do this!” This written for all to see in a on-line training session with one of the latest book writing gurus, who found a theory on how to survive in these times.

If these experts don’t have the answers, if they are getting to the point where ministry must be completely re-thought… what hope does the church have in America?

As I read the despair in the voice of the Psalmist this morning, I found great hope, and a model for revival.

It is to do what I’ve done many times in ministry, cry out in despair, and realize my hope in ministry is not found in what I do. I am competent, but that is often set aside because of the tyranny of the moment. I am not always clear… (I’ve had people lovingly tell me so, and their body language in the church helps keep me focused )

Our hope must be in learning, in experiencing the love of God.

That is what is needed for the church to revive in the midst of this time, a dedication ot spend more time getting to experience the love of God than simply reading about it. More time spent rejoicing His promises delivered through word and sacrament than trying to find the latest thoughts on making the church relevant, or faithful to our traditions.

We NEED Jesus in our lives, we need to know God is love, we desperately need to experience that love, poured out through His word, and with the sacraments He ordained to deliver us what we need to revive…

We need to let Him transform us, to covert us, and we need to pour out to Him our frustration, our despair, our brokenness, assured of His love and desire to heal us.

This is the hope for the church… to dwell in Christ…anything else is simply a manmade patch on a sinking ship.. and will leave us in even greater despair.

And that is true whether our church is 50 people or 5000…..it was true in first century Ephesus, or 21st century Los Angeles, or Lawrence, Massachusetts…

Cry out to Him, and then spend time experiencing the love of God.


Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 97.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 166.

Revival: Realized! The Power of Imagination

Revival: Realized!
The Power of Imagination
Matthew – 22:15-22


† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ revive and renew you, as it did on the day you were baptized! And may you see what God has image’ined you to be!

The Hot Sauce Experiment

I am not sure who tried the experiment first, but it was all the rage in high school, a long, long time ago. ( Maybe before Danny was born?)

You took a penny… and old penny you could not determine which side had Lincoln’s image, and which was the  and put it in Del Taco hot sauce, and a day later… it was shinier than brand new!  (Results of current test if possible)

The reason I bring this up, is that God has a vivid imagination…..

And He does an even better job that Del Taco in creating us to be that image… not matter how we have been aged by sin, and the brokenness of this world. He imagines us clean, revived, and an image of us that we might not even recognize, were we to see our lives the way He does!

And we get to see that imagination at work today, as Noelle is baptized!

The Image corrupted….

As the Pharisees and followers of Herod plot to trick Jesus, they thought they had him. One, the conservative religious folks, with the a-religious secular leaders of the day. They had the question that would trap him, one answer would lead him to be condemned by one, the only other answer they thought of would lead him to be condemned by the other.

They had him! 

And he flipped the question around, and if they heard the answer, they would realize they were both caught….

Give to God what belongs to God.

Give what to God what is made in His image!

Did you know we were made in God’s image? 

All of us.

From the youngest of us, to the oldest.  Does not matter if we are retired, work, or go to school. Doesn’t matter the color of our skin, or how many tattoos or scars are on our Body. Nothing matters, for what God will reveal us to be is in His image.

Doesn’t even matter how much that image has been obscured by sin. Idolators, those who use Jesus name like a cuss word, those who don’t take time for God, those who dishonor their parents, those who murder, have been unfaithful to their spouse, or unfaithful to who they will be are cleansed. Those who cheat and steal, those who gossip, and those who are jealous and try to get what others are given, all of them…

Forgiven, cleansed, Revived and made alive in Christ!

God is far more effective than hot sauce!

Give to God…what is made in His image.

One of the things that I realized as I read through this, this time, is that Jesus is speaking to the leaders – and He is telling them to give to Him all they are responsible for, who were made in the image.

In this case, this is what Danny and Christy, and this church is doing today, as we baptize Noelle! We are testifying that Noelle is made in the image of Jesus, that God created her, and in His imagination, she would be His perfect child. Nate and Nicky – you are as well! Christy – you were once baptized here, and Danny.

Each one of you – each one here who believe and is baptized will be in heaven, every single sin forgiven, because Jesus died on the cross to restore the image we were created in… who God, with all His glorious imagination, created us to be…

His children.

May Noelle, and every one of us remember that… every day when we think of our baptism, and look in the mirror, and realize we are God’s kids!

AMEN!

Now lets get to the good part!

The Baptism of Noelle

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