Author Archives: justifiedandsinner

Last Thoughts of 2020… that lead us to life in 2021

Devotional thought for 2020

19  “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. 20  Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. 21  It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Matthew 6:19-21 (MSG)

O my beloved Jesus, since Thou wilt feed me this morning with Thine own blood in the Holy Communion, it is but reasonable that I should willingly renounce all the delights and pleasures which the world might give me. Yes, I give them all up; I protest that I choose rather to suffer all evils united to Thee, than to enjoy all the goods of the world away from Thee. It is sufficient happiness for me to please Thee, who art worthy of all that we can do to please Thee. I will say, then, with St. Ignatius of Loyola, give me, I pray Thee, but Thy love and Thy grace; that is sufficient for me, and I am contented.

As Jesus was filled with joy in the Holy Spirit, may our joy by the power
of the same Spirit make us set our sight on the things of God’s kingdom.


If the world’s foundations crumble we still have God, and in Him we have everything essential to our ransomed beings forever.
We [also] have Christ, who … died for us and who now sits at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens making constant and effective intercession for us.
We have the Scriptures, which can never fail.
We have the Holy Spirit to interpret the Scriptures to our inner lives and to be to us a Guide and a Comforter.
We have prayer and we have faith, and these bring heaven to earth and turn even bitter Marah sweet.
And if worse comes to worst here below, we have our Father’s house and our Father’s welcome.

One of my favorite slogans addresses the picture that accompanies this blog, “do your job/” A slogan of the New England Patriots for a season, I think it it a key to life.

Do what you are called to do… and leave the rest to God.

Not the job you get pay from, nor your job as father, mother, child. NOr any other vocation, but the vocation that enables them all, being a child of God. For on God, for Tozer seems prophetic in his statement about the world’s foundations crumbling. Yet God is still there..

We have the assurance that the absolute worst thing that could happen in the world’s eyes, is that which will see us receive the most tremendous of welcomes. The welcome into our Father’s house.

Thinking like that is why deLigouri could pray (and recount the prayer ) the way he does, a prayer that I long to be able to honestly pray, if I could but give up everything that has occured in 2020, the horrible, the bad, that which grieves me to the deepest point, and those things that bring equally incredible joy.

We need to rely on the Spirit’s ministry to us, and through us. That is our greatest job… this dance with God. This is our greatest treasure, this is our reason for existence. This is our vocation…to partner and work in fellowship with God.

That is what 2020 freed us to do in 2021… to dance with God, as we have realized the vanity of anything else….

Heavenly Father, You and our Lord Jesus have sent us the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, to free us from the cares of this world, to help us dance with You… Help us to do this in 2021, more than we ever have in our lives. AMEN!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 88.

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), 406.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

How Should the Church Position Itself in These Days?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

And today the LORD has affirmed that you are his own possession as he promised you, that you are to keep all his commands, 19 that he will elevate you to praise, fame, and glory above all the nations he has made, and that you will be a holy people to the LORD your God as he promised.” Deuteronomy 26:18-19 CSB

27 The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 (CSB)

We will never be where we ought to be until we go back to those old paths and learn to find God. [Then] we will cease to be bored with God.…[W]e will center our affections upon God and Christ … and become specialists and experts in the realm of the spiritual life.
It is amazing how little outside stimulus we need if we have that inward stimulus. It is amazing how much God will meet our needs. It will not be God and something else. It will be God everything.

My soul, why art thou so timid and fearful at the sight of the goodness and infinite love of thy Lord? why such distrust? Now that thou art made worthy to receive within thee Jesus Christ, let thy sentiments correspond to this grace, by confiding in that goodness of God, who gives thee all himself. Truly his judgments are terrible, but they are terrible only to the proud and to the obstinate; but to the humble and penitent, who desire to love and please him, his judgments are all mercy and love, emanating from a heart full of compassion and kindness.

Tozer’s words struck me this morning.

There is a lot of talk about how the church needs to position itself, what it needs to do to survive and grow in these days of crisis.

I think Tozer is on to something in these words. What are the old paths where God was found? He wrote this not long after the time some think was the “golden age” of the church in America – the 1950’s, so he didn’t mean then.

There have been similar calls throughout history: Barton Stone, John Smith, and Alexander and Thomas Campbell in the 1800s. The work of the Wesley’s before that. Luther and some in the Counter-Reformation. Francis, Augustine, and Anthony, and Athanasius. All sought God and turned ot the times when people did walk with Him.

The time of the gospels, the time of Acts. The good times in Jewish history. The places where they found “the God of Old.” The God who didn’t have to be searched for long, for He made himself apparent to His people.

The times where He comforted them. The times where He rescued them from enemies, or the times He rescued them from idolatry. The times the Lord confronted their sin and healed them of it.

We need to come across, in our own words, the feelings de Ligouri speaks of, where we see God’s compassion and kindness.

This is a time where humility is the only option. We don’t know which doctors to believe; we don’t know which politicians or news media to believe. The pressures caused by trauma are becoming more and more intense.

There is one place the church needs to position itself in this time. In the arms of God, in His presence, for He is our Fortress, our refuge, our strength. We need to find those altars where He has placed His name, where He feeds His people His Body and Blood. The altars from which the declaration that our sin is forgiven comes.

That is what makes us the church… let’s get back to it.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 85–86.

About that $20 you found on the ground…Love Your Neighbor

stack of american paper money on black background
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day

If you see your brother Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it; make sure you return it to your brother. 2 If your brother does not live near you or you don’t know him, you are to bring the animal to your home to remain with you until your brother comes looking for it; then you can return it to him. 3 Do the same for his donkey, his garment, or anything your brother has lost and you have found. You must not ignore it.a 4 If you see your brother’s donkey or ox fallen down on the road, do not ignore it; help him lift it up. Deuteronomy 22:1-4 CSB

Along with mortification of our character, this “laying down one’s life for others,” this imitation of the Lord, and transformation of all our relationships with others into opportunities to live charity, implies a spirit of service. Turn your gaze constantly to Jesus who, without ceasing to be God, humbled himself and took the nature of a slave, in order to serve us. Only by following in his direction will we find ideals that are worthwhile. Love seeks union, identification with the beloved. United to Christ, we will be drawn to imitate his life of dedication, his unlimited love, and his sacrifice unto death. Christ brings us face to face with the ultimate choice: either we spend our lives in selfish isolation, or we devote ourselves and all our energies to the service of others.

You probably won’t see your neighbor’s ox or sheep walk into your yard this afternoon (unless you are my friend Tara), but you might see a $20 bill on the ground.

What do you do? Does it depend on whether anyone is there? Do you try and justify keeping it, saying you need it just as much as anyone else?

Do you turn it in, hoping that no one claims it in 10 days?

What if it’s $100, or a wallet with $5000?

Does it make a difference?

Deuteronomy would have you look for your brother/neighbor or wait for them to return. Some might say that seems unreasonable for $20, but it might not for a more considerable amount.

Dare we ask what Jesus would do in this situation? Or what someone like St. Josemaria would do? Would we want to face the question of what would be the “loving” thing to do? What would be that which sets aside our own self-serving nature? What looks to the best of our neighbor, to the best for others?

We have to learn to consider ourselves again as part of a community, part of a family, and a group that cares for each other. It is not a closed group either, but a group that brings us all together; a group, a community that is willing to do what it takes, embrace the hardship, embrace the challenges, sacrifice saying what we want to say what they need.

This is not because we have to go to heaven. It is something far more of an intimate need than that. This is who we were created to be, men and women made in the image of Jesus. This is when we find the true self, this is where we become genuinely self-actualized, as Maslow described it. This is where life begins, as our identity is so clearly reflective of our Lord.

What do you do with the twenty doesn’t matter as much as how you process being responsible for it.

God’s peace in the process…

dt



Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (pp. 144-145). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Stop Enslaving God to Man’s Logic!

A Painting of Jesus and Mary by my friend Mark Jennings. You can find all his art (and order copies) at http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/mark-jennings.html

1  When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2  For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3  I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4  And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5  I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NLT2)

With the acids of modernity washing over them, Enlightenment preachers were in a quandary. In a world in which people sought empirical confirmation as the definitive sign of trustworthiness, what could the preacher commend that the community could believe, especially since so much of the Bible and of Christian doctrine asserted things that cannot be investigated by the usual empirical or philosophical means?

The Holy Spirit is not enthusiasm. I have found enthusiasm that hummed with excitement, and the Holy Spirit was nowhere to be found there at all; and I have found the Holy Ghost when there has not been much of what we call enthusiasm present.
Neither is the Holy Spirit another name for genius. We talk about the spirit of Beethoven and say, “This or that artist played with great spirit. He interpreted the spirit of the master,” The Holy Spirit is none of these things. Now what is He?
He is a Person. Put that down in capital letters … He is Himself a Person, with all the qualities and powers of personality

I have seen caricatures of pastors and priests who seem befuddled by the science of the day, and are either overwhelmed or disgusted by modern philosophy and the science it interprets.

The battle over COVID is one example – as pastors and priests are like tennis balls – be whacked between caring for their people’s physical and spiritual/mental health. There is a real threat to physcial health, one that is easily documented as the numbers of those hospitalized due to COVID is 10 times what it was 6 weeks ago. Yet visiting those locked in, shows a trauma just as real, if not documentable.

You see it as people bypass what scripture teaches about the star that guided the wise men to Jesus, that guided them for years, no mere days. Yet that too is someothing that modern astronomers scoff at, so the conjunction of a couple planets, barely visible with the naked eye, is tosssed in as an example.

There is this ideae that a religion must be reasonable, logical, documentable. How many books and lectures are out there, searching for the historical Jesus? How many more progressive theologians want to explain away the miraculous, and focus only on the teaching of Jesus. (Well not ALL the teachings of Jesus)

The reaction to this is just as ludicrous – the idea that God has set no boundaries, that everything must make us happy, even to the point of ecstasy. We look for manifestations, or more like interpret what we see and experience as if such ecstasy is what reveals God’s presence. COVID becomes less of a disease, and more of a sign of the second coming. The convergence of stars is not something that astonomers and mathematicians predicted as much as the Sign of the Second Coming ( even though it shows up every 20 years or so)

I see the Apostle Paul finding the third option between meansuirng God by our logic or emotion. He simply focuses in on Chirst crucified.THat is what matters, that is what makes the difference, that is what is going to make a difference. We must trust in the power of God over the wisdom of man. ut we need to do so without enslaving God to our emotional neesds.

That kind of faith, that kind of dependence on God comes in the midst of a relationship that is born in intimacy. That comes as Christ invades our lives, just as He did 2000 years ago. As the Holy Spirit cicumcises our heart, cutting away the desire to be equl with God intellecutally, and yet also cutting away our desire to get our way.

Tozer explains this as he notes the Holy Spirit is neither enthusiasm or genius! We interact with Him daily, as He reveals the love of the Father, shown through Jesus, the Son of God whos is the “reason”(logos/word) of God in flesh.

Far deeper than mere philosophy, far more stable than emotional reactions, this is the greatest thing we can know.

God with us… Immanuel.

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 19.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Why We Need to See Jesus in the Manger

Devotional Thought of the Day:

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul?b13 Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. 14 The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the LORD your God, as does the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD had his heart set on your ancestors and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Deuteronomy 10:12=15 CSB

Ah, my Jesus, my love, my infinite good, my all, be ever welcome in the poor dwelling of my soul! Ah, my Lord, where art thou! to what a place art Thou come! Thou hast entered my heart, which is far worse than the stable in which Thou wast born; it is full of earthly affections, of self-love, and of inordinate desires. And how couldst Thou come to dwell there? I would address Thee with St. Peter: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.1 Yes, depart from me, O Lord, for I am indeed unworthy to receive a God of infinite goodness; go and find repose in those pure souls who serve Thee with so much love. But no, my Redeemer; what do I say? Leave me not; for if Thou departest, I am lost. I embrace Thee, my life; I cling to Thee. Mad indeed have I been in having separated myself from Thee for the love of creatures; and in my ingratitude I drove Thee from me. But now I will never more separate myself from Thee, my treasure; I desire to live and die ever united to Thee.

“It’s very difficult for a man to believe that God is gracious to him. The human heart can’t grasp this. What happened in my case? I was once terrified by the sacrament which Dr. Staupitz carried in a procession in Eisleben on the feast of Corpus Christi.47 I went along in the procession and wore the dress of a priest. Afterward I made confession to Dr. Staupitz, and he said to me, ‘Your thought is not of Christ.’ With this word he comforted me well.
This is the way we are. Christ offers himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, and yet we flee from his face.

Ours is a joy not born from having many possessions, but from having encountered in our midst a Person: Jesus who never leaves us alone in difficult moments, and is all the more present when problems seem unbearable and obstacles insurmountable.

It is Christmas Eve.

It is 2020, and we are amid a pandemic that has caused further division. In the days after a political free- for all that has divided us further.

This world is so broken! Even Christianity has become more about a “personal” belief than a communal relationship with God.

It is Christmas Eve.

I look at the world and then look in the mirror and wonder why God would bother with us, why He would bother with me. Luther was correct; it is hard for man to believe that God is truly gracious, that God desires to cleanse us, heal us, help us in the midst of all the crap in which we live. Ligouri echoes the same sentiment when realizing God is here, that God is invading our lives. Ligouri’s reaction is to drive our Lord away…. as if the pollution in our lives could poison God.

I know that struggle; I wonder how God could even dare to descend into my world… I want Him here; I know I need Him here.

This is Christmas Eve.

This is Christmas Eve…

And in a few hours, the babe will go in the manger in nativity sets around the world.

I need to see Jesus there, in all His innocence, in all the simplicity, in that place were holiness and the crap of this world. I need to see, as the filthy shepherds did, God incarnate, the one the angels sang about, reveling in His glory.

I need to see Him there… We need to see Him there.

For there, we can approach Him and realize the incredible love and devotion of God. To realize His faithfulness, to realize His desire to dwell with us…not just in Israel 2000 years ago… but today in Cerritos, or wherever you are….. and then, maybe, we can see His desire for eternity with us…

But it starts there… where He can be approached…reverently for sure, but without the terror that comes as we realize His holiness and purity and realize the difference between man and God.

Seeing Him there, may we never desire to flee from Him again… but stay by Him… until eternity draws nigh…

It is Christmas Eve…

It is Christmas Eve!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 77–78.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 19–20.

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), 406.

The Missing Part of Worship…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Do not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey, any of your livestock, or the resident alien who lives within your city gates, so that your male and female slaves may rest as you do. Deuteronomy 5:12-14 CSB

For this reason, holy souls endeavor to remain as long as possible in prayer after Communion. The Venerable Father Avila, even when he was given his missions, used to remain for at least two hours in prayer. Father Balthasar Alvarez used to say, that we should set great value on the time after Communion, imagining that we hear from the lips of Jesus Christ himself the words that he addressed to his disciples: But Me you have not always with you.
It is not advisable, as many do, to begin to read immediately after Communion: it is then better to spend at least a short time in producing holy affections, and in conversing with Jesus, who is then within us, and in repeating many times words of tenderness, or some feeling prayer.

We are living out the joy of walking with Jesus, of being with Him, of carrying his cross with love, with a spirit that is always young!

For a few months now, we have worshipped as a church outside. At first, the hot summer temperatures were a challenge. Those have been replaced by the challenges posed by the cool Southern California winter. There have been challenges with smoke from fires, and a couple of rainstorms.

But what I think is the greatest challenge is the missing altar rail.

Outside, there is a parade by the pastor, the deacon who serve the people of God the body and blood of Christ. A spiriutal conveyor belt without time to pause, to contempalte, to let the presence of Christ’s body and blood be appreciated, reveled in, amazed at.

We go through the line, return to our seats and wait for the service to continue….

Especially during advent, where we left the altar open for peopel to stay as long as they needed. To find in that pause of time, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the amazing mercy of Christ. The chance to pour out our broken lives, to be made complete as God comes to us, and dwells in us.

Not that having a rail to kneel at does all this. BUt it provides the opportunity for the pause that we need, the de Ligouri talks about so enthusiastically. The rest that we need, that was created for us by God, that was part of the Ten Commandments. Something so important that we are commanded to share it with those who work for us, who work with us, even providing it to those among us who are alien and foreigners. This is what people need!

This is a time we need to provide – but how… and how long….and how do we help people spend that time in awe of what has been given them in the sacrament. All questions – but none that prceclude giving people a few moments to ponder, to be in awe, to feel the relief that flows through us, as we experience the love of God.

God is with us… He gives Himself for us…

God read that last sentence again, and again…

We need to take time to process this, not just continue on with the service…

Something to ponder… so that others can ponder this gift of God’s love…. and then celebrate it…

btw – if you like this topic – consider this song by Bob Bennet,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtcCXq0lFMA

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 75–76.

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), 406.

The False Dichotomy Paralyzing the Church

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:
In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. 2  People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. 3  The LORD will mediate between peoples and will settle disputes between strong nations far away. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Micah 4:1-3 (NLT2)

After getting the heart filled with the Holy Ghost, it is well to get the head filled with the very facts and truth that should be there. The Bible speaks of grace and knowledge. They go well together.

In particular I should like to concentrate on the phrase “he went on his travels.” I come immediately to the conclusion that we Christians must not abandon the vineyard where God has placed us. We must direct our energies to the work before us, within these walls, toiling in the winepress. And then taking our rest in the tower when our day’s work is over. If we were to give in to comfort, it would be like telling Jesus, “Look, my time is mine, not yours. I don’t want to tie myself down to looking after your vineyard.”

500 years ago, the Church was torn apart because it wouldn’t take the time
to discuss the relationship between faith and works. Each side demonized the other, and rather than working it out, they polarized, and the Church was torn in two, and then into a thousand pieces.

These days, I am not sure the Church is being torn asunder, as much as the
arguments are paralyzing it. False dichotomies appear or are accidentally
generated. The discussion over the dichotomy distracts the Church from being who She was created to be.

I experienced that this morning, as a friend put up a meme talking about
mission and method. One was to be loved more than another, or else the Church would die. I heard it as an exclusion, and I know there are those in our brotherhood who would say the inverse is true, that exclude the
“other” and mission is worthless – because the Church is already
dead.

And for 20 years as a Lutheran and 16 with another denomination ( technically a non=denominational movement), I have watched people make this argument.

Mission versus method. We gotta being doing stuff, or the Church dies. If we do stuff the wrong way, the Church is dead. We have to be preaching the gospel, not doctrine. If we don’t teach our people, our gospel may be false.

All the time, we are discussing this, writing books about this, fighting for
power in our denomination so we can make sure everyone else gets it right… we are not being the Church.

And we end up without a mission or a method.

Look at the passage of Micah – it ignores the dichotomy. People will be drawn to God (mission) and walk in HIS paths (method). The Lord settles their disputes. The blogs, youtube videos, and other weapons become tools to use in the harvest, for the Lord has ended the disputes.

It is not one or the other; it is them working together in Christ. Mission and
Method, Grace, and Knowledge.

Our role, our vocation is not to be found in arguing this, but in working the
vineyard, in sharing the reason we have hope.

Immanuel – Christ with us. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Guiding us in
righteousness.

both. and…

Because of His promise, hell cannot withstand the onslaught of a church guided by the Spirit has His mission and His method.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


The Challenge of Finding Joy…on Mondays, During Covid.

The Patriots Play football,
I do this…
I got the better gig!

Devotional Thought for this Day:
9  Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10  And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11  And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12  So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)

“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.

Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.

Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.

It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.

It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.

It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.

Preach on Joy! That was our call…

Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.

That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.

The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.

Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.

THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…

My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 12–13.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 64.

The Vision of Joy! A sermon on Isaiah

The Vision of Joy
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11


Jesus, Son, and Savior

May you enjoy the grace and glory of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

What was Going Through His Mind?

The Old Testament Reading this morning was the basis for a sermon before. In fact, the sermon was one of the shortest sermons in history.

It is recording in Luke’s gospel, chapter 4.  And after reading the first two verses from Isaiah, the preacher said this,

“The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Luke 4:17-21 (NLT2)

I would have thought this would have caused great joy… but it did not that day.  They decided to kill the person who read the passage from Isaiah….who dared to give them a Vision of Joy…

I wonder what was going through Jesus’ mind as He looked forward to that sermon, knowing the joy that He set before Him. Was there a massive smile on His face, knowing He came to do was now, finally going to happen?

Imagine if a scientist had to break the news that he had discovered a simple, easy cure for COVID.  Imagine the smile he would have on his face as he approached the microphone that all the challenges it has caused were over!

Yeah, what Jesus had come to do… was a billion times better.

And I get to show you that today!

What He Had Observed

Consider what God looked down upon, that Isiah describes,

There were the poor,
There were those whose hearts were shattered
There were people who could not leave the horrid situation they found themselves in…
There were people who lived, prisoners of their own choices, of their own sin, which was crushing them.
There were people mourning,
There were people in despair,
There were people living in lives lived in ruins

Sounds like 2020, doesn’t it?

One of the points we have to understand is that when we are crushed like in this time, by what is going on around us and what is going on inside us, God knows…

That is why the Apostle Paul says,

8  We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT2)

Been there, done that.

And then I forget it and start the process all over.

I need to hear Jesus calling; I need to hear Him describe what He will do again.

The Vision of what was coming

Usually, I focus on the bringing good news, the comforting the brokenhearted, the release of those locked in and the freeing for those imprisoned, and the other ways our salvation is shown.

But today, I want to look at a specific one of the changes that happen because Jesus said that this prophecy is full.

Everyone will realize that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” 10  I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me in the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.


This is the greatest thing ever.

To realize that we are the people the Lord has blessed! What an incredible realization –  we are the people the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, has blessed! 

Even more than that – look at the excitement of Jesus’s words,


He’s overwhelmed with joy because of what God the Father has caused to happen.


Jesus is as happy as the groom; he awaits the wedding and life that is to come with his bride.

Kevin – you are the most recent groom around here… how did you feel in the moments before the doors opened, and you saw Susan there? 

That is how Jesus felt as He preached that day… as the relationship that He had been waiting for since the worlds were created through Him finally was here.

No wonder Jesus was looking forward to the crucifixion for the joy set before him

As he was handed the scroll..the anticipation began to build, as He red the words, oh my the joy that began to spread, and continued to, until that point, when nailed to the cross, Jesus would say…

It is done… it is finished …..

the same thing that he said that day in Galilee….will be said at the cross. 

And He says that to us today… today hear the good news, you are free from whatever crushes you, for you can see God, and you are free and blessed, for He is your God. It is done this day – to you.

Rejoice! He is your God, the God who blesses you… Today, He has done this… AMEN!

How Do I Communicate THIS?

such wonder!

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22  After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:21-23 (CSBBible)

Jesus, breathe Thy spirit on me,
Teach me how to breathe Thee in,
Help me pour into Thy bosom
All my life of self and sin.[1]

Pious Exercise to acquire the Proper Disposition for making a good Confession
Preparation
To prepare ourselves well for confession, we should retire from every external source of distraction, go either to a church or an oratory, place ourselves in the presence of God, and make the following act:
Act of Adoration
Supreme and adorable Majesty, God of heaven and earth, I firmly believe that Thou art present, and that Thou seest me and knowest the dispositions of my heart. I adore Thee and render Thee my humble homage, acknowledging Thee for my God, my Creator, and my Sovereign Redeemer. In testimony of this my faith, I prostrate my soul and body before the throne of Thy Infinite Majesty, and offer Thee the adoration which is due to Thee alone.
[2]

For Tillich, the realities to which the biblical and traditional symbols pointed are still present today. Over time, however, the biblical and historic language of the Christian community has lost much of its power to evoke the living experience that it had in earlier times.[3]

O EVERLASTING, Merciful God, Heavenly Father, I beseech Thee to grant Thy Holy Spirit unto all who are entrusted to my ministry. Give them grace to know Thee and Jesus Christ, Thy Son whom Thou hast sent; enable them to remain steadfast in the true faith, to grow in grace and love, and to serve Thee with humble and penitent lives. And grant unto me, O Lord, grace to teach them Thy Word in truth, and to set before them an example of godly living.[4]

Tillich was correct, the reality of Scripture is not lost in this time. Andyet, the arning about language is concerning. The Spirit is able to work, still cutting open people’s hearts, cleansing them out, dwelling within them, even as the Spirit did in the Apostles.

Do my words, or the way I speak them, get in the way? I pray it is not so, even as Loehe – a Lutheran pastor from the 1800’s did. There are times when I wonder if I miss this or that, and I fear that somehow I’ve missed that which revives their hearts and souls, breathing life into them.

How precious it is, to see the Holy Spirit, the Breathe of God swirl inside someone, cleansing them, as God has longed to do! To see someone’s faith come alive, to see their desire to know God, to have the same experience of God, that His word has always evoked.

That is why I love the way Ligouri teaches the Believer about returning to God, to examine one’s life, to confess sin and be forgiven. He urges us to start, not by confessing our sins, but by adoring God! Preparing to be cleansed by adoring the God who offers that, who desires to do that which we need, knowing how we will be, when healed of our sin! As Tozer says, once again pouring ourselves in Christ Jesus, assured of His love and mercy!

This is what Loehe meant about knowing God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, to grow in grace and love! To realize we are in Christ, that is the reality that we need, to understand it better than anything we can ever imagine! As Paul said, quoting Isaiah, it is more beautiful that anything we have ever seen, more wonderful than anything we can imagine, more than our hearts can ever dream up… ( 1 Cor. 2:9)

This is what our people need to see revealed to them, to be able to picture themselves so love by God, to see Him looking into their eyes iwth love that assured them all will be… so much more….

This is what I need to communicate – and I pray you hear…


[1] A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

[2] Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 61.

[3] Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 29.

[4] William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 12–13.

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