Author Archives: justifiedandsinner

Joy out of sorrow… the only way to truly experience it!

Devotional Thought of the Day

10 Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. 4 When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow someone else; instead, they will run away from such a person, because they do not know his voice.” GNT John 10:1-5

This word is expressed with great fervor and overwhelming joy, in which her soul and life lift themselves from within in the Spirit. Therefore, she does not say, “I magnify God,” but “My soul magnifies the Lord.” As if she wished to say, “My life and my whole understanding soar in the love, praise, and sheer joy of God, such that I am no longer in control of myself; I am exalted, more than I exalt myself to praise the Lord.” Thus it happens to all in whom godly sweetness and God’s spirit has poured, that they experience more than they can describe. It is not a human work to praise God with joy. It is a joyful suffering and God’s work alone and cannot be taught with words but only by personal experience. As David says in Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.” David puts tasting before seeing because this sweetness cannot be comprehended unless one has experienced it for oneself. No one attains this experience without trusting God with one’s whole heart in the depths and in the distresses of life. Therefore, David adds, “Happy are those who trust the Lord.” They will experience God’s work and will obtain God’s sensible sweetness and, through it all, understanding and knowledge.

Some may resolve not to speak for the Lord, but like Jeremiah, they find they must: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9 NRSV).
J. B. Phillips said somewhere that, while he was doing his well-known translation of the New Testament, he often felt like an electrician working on the wiring of a house with the power on.

The first thing that struck me today in my devotions was this line from the middle quote, “ No one attains this experience (joy) without trusting God with one’s whole heart in the depths and in the distresses of life.”

That sounds counter-intuitive at first. And at second glance as well!

But Luther notes why in the sentences beforehand. That we have to discover the refuge God is for us, that coming to realize that He is good. To understand that though, there has to be something to compare to experiencing God.

God doesn’t have to prepare those times of being deep in sorrow, or being caught in distress. The brokenness of the world will provide it, and the brokenness we choose compounds it.

From the brokenness, we find something extraordinary. We find Jesus there, and He is there with only one intention. To deliver us, to rescue us, to bring us home to the Father. ( He is so different from the older brother in the story of the prodigal son!) Jesus knows the Father’s heart, a heart that is restless until His wandering children come home to be rescued.

That is why Luther holds Mary up, as he explains the words of the Magnificat (it is a letter to a prince explaining the Magnificat – Mary’s song of praise in Luke 2) That this comes. True Worship, praise, adoration is not possible without God, and without the experience of God rescuing us from the midst of brokenness.

We have to learn to hear our Shepherd’s voice, to trust it more and more, to rely on what He has promised to us, mercy, forgiveness, love and His presence in the most intimate ways we can imagine. His body and blood given to us, His Holy Spirit dwelling with us, His presence with us in the midst of darkness, even the dark valleys where death’s threat can seemingly suffocate. He is there, calming us, consoling us, helping us dwell in the peace that goes beyond understanding

That’s why Jeremiah, broken, threatened with death, scared, scarred and broken cannot keep silent about the goodness of God! Matter of fact, trying to do so exhausts Him! The power that is experienced when we encounter God. It is undeniable, it is incredible, it is the feeling that comes from knowing you are loved so much by God, that He will go to extremes to bring you into His peace.

And there, in the midst of peace, there is joy. Abundant, unexplainable, mind-blowing joy…found in His presence…

For into the darkness shines His marvelous light, a light that shined for them, for us. AMEN!



Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 97–98). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Dare We Pray this….how dare we not?

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

Devotional Thought of the day:

“I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.* 17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.* 18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.*”
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God
. 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 NLT

2  But who will be able to endure the day when he comes? Who will be able to survive when he appears? He will be like strong soap, like a fire that refines metal. 3  He will come to judge like one who refines and purifies silver. As a metalworker refines silver and gold, so the LORD’S messenger will purify the priests, so that they will bring to the LORD the right kind of offerings. 4  Then the offerings which the people of Judah and Jerusalem bring to the LORD will be pleasing to him, as they used to be in the past.
Malachi 3:2-4 (TEV)

814         Ask Jesus to grant you a Love like a purifying furnace, where your poor flesh —your poor heart—may be consumed and cleansed of all earthly miseries. Pray that it may be emptied of self and filled with him. Ask him to grant you a deep-seated aversion to all that is worldly so that you may be sustained only by Love.

There is a part of me that fears to pray as St. Josemaria suggests.

There is so much to lose, so many things I cannot see apart from myself. Yes, those things include not only what I perceive as the pleasures of life (and are not) and the miseries of my existence.

Could I deal with that radical of a change in me? Could I allow myself to be defined not by broken heart (in my case, both physically and figuratively) but spiritually as well? How can I allow God to take the scar, many of which I find a perverse pleasure in, knowing I somewhat survived them, and not just remove them, but heal the damage they have done?

St Josemaria describes it well as a furnace, for the heat and pain it will take to separate us from these things which haunt us is intense. How do I let Him remove all this, and the sin which so easily ensnares me?(and you as well)

How do I find the strength to pray this?

How dare I?

What if he doesn’t answer the prayer? What if He does?

As Malachi points out – how will we endure it?

I think St Paul has the answer, it is not found in us, but in the promises God has made to us, promises He stands behind, promises that are coming true in our lives, even if we do not see it.

It is in those promises, in His making us holy, that we find comfort and learn to trust Him. In those promises, we find the strength to work, to hear Him in a way our soul resonates with what He is doing, to nor fight against His purifying our lives.

You and I, we need this, we can’t continue to live in our brokenness, even if we have gotten used to its stench. The life that God provides, cleansed, purified, holy, is beyond our comprehension. We see it here and there, our souls thrive on it in the moments we experience it, at the communion rail, deep in lament, in the middle of serving others, As God purifies us, as He applies the heat and we cling to Him, these moments we are aware of Him grow… and we begin to desire them more.

So pray for God to refine you and purify you. Pray for me as well, and I pray we all will realize the blessing of walking with God. AMEN!




Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3357-3360). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Living “in the moment” on Mondays!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31  “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT2)

Hurry is an unpleasant thing in itself, but also very unpleasant for whoever is around it. Some people came into my room and rushed in and rushed out and even when they were there they were not there – they were in the moment ahead or the moment behind. Some people who came in just for a moment were all there, completely in that moment.
Live from day to day, just from day to day. If you do so, you worry less and live more richly. If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

I don’t know about you, but there is a challenge to get focused on Monday.

Even after a good, productive Sunday! ( good day in worship, good Bible study, bills paid, taxes are done, errands taken care of..even got some rest!)

I usually leave one task for Mondays, to do the sermon study for the next Sunday. But some weeks, it is a challenge to get that focused on it. People have issues that weren’t dealt with last week. There was a crisis over the weekend, and of course today, I have to wonder who will try and play and April Fool’s joke on me.

How do I get focused? I also start to worry about the rest of the week, about the meetings Wednesday and Thursday, about the coverage on Wednesday night, about a million and one other things. So getting started on preparing for the sermon… doesn’t get the focus it needs.

I am like the person in purple, who is there but isn’t there. I am not “in the moment. And this isn’t just as I approach the “work” I do. The text alarm that goes off during my devotional, the phone call from that person I know is suffering… it is so hard to stay in the moment…

especially on Mondays!

Yet the need to be “in the moment” is so strong!. The need to hear God and not just rush through my reading. The time to let trickle into my soul the names I need to pray for, the ability to focus on the passage I am studying, not just academically, but with a heart focused on God and my people.

But this isn’t just a “pastor” thing. Matthew’s gospel makes that clear. Living in the moment is about letting worry and distractions go, and realizing that this moment is one where you dwell in the Kingdom of God. That you are in His presence, that you are loved by Him.

To live righteously means to live in His forgiveness. For no one can live a perfect life, but we can hand over our sin and the temptations we struggle with to God, asking His help to do better.

It is from such a place of peace that we truly live, that we are truly in the moment, attuned to the Lord for whom time is simply a creation. of His.

God is with you… make that the center of you Mondays, even as you might have yesterday between 9 and 10:30…..and rejoice!

Anne Lindberg from morninging devotion 4/1 https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/

Why Can’t They Learn From Our Mistakes? (The difference between instruction and discipling)

We must all come to the place like Peter, where we let Jesus wash our feet….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  So Moses wrote down God’s Law and gave it to the levitical priests, who were in charge of the LORD’S Covenant Box, and to the leaders of Israel. 10  He commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, when the year that debts are canceled comes around, read this aloud at the Festival of Shelters. 11  Read it to the people of Israel when they come to worship the LORD your God at the one place of worship. 12  Call together all the men, women, and children, and the foreigners who live in your towns, so that everyone may hear it and learn to honor the LORD your God and to obey his teachings faithfully. 13  In this way your descendants who have never heard the Law of the LORD your God will hear it. And so they will learn to obey him as long as they live in the land that you are about to occupy across the Jordan.”
Deuteronomy 31:9-13 (TEV)

The word of God is creative; and the Word he said, once and for all,
to human beings couldn’t be other but the Word made flesh, his Son, Jesus Christ. However only those who hear the Word made flesh from their experience of personal sinfulness and weakness will receive his saving power. This is the reason why the Lord says he has come for the sick, not the healthy.

Our lives are long enough to learn what we need to learn, but not long enough to change anything. That is our flaw. Each age must learn everything afresh. Such waste!
Such waste – making all the mistakes once and again, each generation making the same mistakes, fumbling in ignorance and darkness.
This oak was already old when I was born. Now I am old and soon to die, and this tree grows strong still.
We are small creatures. Our lives are not long, but long enough to learn.

There are times that preaching and teaching becomes tedious. It seems like we do the same thing, over and over, year in and year out. Sure, we use different words, but the story is the same.

But there is a time where you wish people would learn the lesson, internalizing it. making it part of who they are. There is also a time where those who teach wish that each succeeding generation would be able to hear and learn from those who went before them, not having to watch them make the same mistake generation after generation.

Or deal with the same issues.

Lawhead’s comments in green above brought me back to that thought. My generation struggled with extremes. Topics like the role of women in the church, or what is appropriate in worship (from music to dress), struggles theologically, it was so easy to become blown this way or that depending on who was teaching.

It seems vain, and without impact, as we didn’t see all that much change possible in the world. We could learn, or we could help, but neither left an impact on us, what hope do we have to pas this down to the next generation.

Which brings me to Pope Francis’s words, and the amazing insight in them. We give the same lesson over and over because the place where it is best learned is that place of brokenness we all inhabit. The valley of tears, where guilt and shame haunt us, and we need God to intervene in our lives.

Why does each generation have to deal with the same arguments, the same battles, the same sins over and over? BEcause it is in those paradoxical places, being blown about, struggling, we find out He is our rock, He is our anchor, He is our peace.

And that is the difference between a sermon that instructs your people and a message to those you are discipling. One promises hope, the other guides them into discovering it, and seeing God reveal it to them. The result is that their voices praise Him from the soul, and their hearing and the reaction of obedience is something natural, not something forced.

The people that we guide through life, each and every generation have to deal with the same issues, the same struggles, the same questions that plunge the paradoxes of our faith.

But we need to know the paradoxes are not the final issue and not the final battle. We need to discover the Lord who is deeper, the Lord who is greater, the Lord whose love goes beyond the dimensions we can explore. But exploring those dimension, that is where life is found.

And that is a trip you can only take from the point of brokenness… and each person, and each generation must deal with that brokenness…

Lord, help those on the journey be patient with those who are beginning it. Lord, help us see the struggles that we have, not as something to deny or hide, but help us look for those who will point to You, and remind us of that which is greater than our struggle. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 113). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Stephen Lawhead,
https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ (for this day March 30

The Church must live in the midst of controversy

In the midst of perscution and darkness, the church is still the place of mercy

Devotional thought of the Day

When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she answered.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”
John 8:9-11 GNT

The Church will be persecuted in the measure of her fidelity to the gospel.
The testimony to this fidelity bothers and enrages the world, making it kill and destroy, as it happened in the case of Stephen, the first among the disciples to shed his life for Christ.

Pope Francis’s words sound ominous, and they should.

But not because of the promise of persecution. That is something promised in scripture. We will be persecuted (see Mark 10:30, 2 Thes 1:4, 2 Titus 3:11-12, John 15:20) What is ominous to me is the idea that if we are not persecuted, than perhaps our fidelity, our faithfulness needs to be examined.

In other words, does the inverse of Pope Francis’s words hold true. Is the lack of persecution a testimony that we are not enraging the world, that something is missing in our lives given to Christ Jesus?

The story of the woman caught in adultery is a great example of the rage the Church, when She is the Church, can create in those who observe here.

Jesus causes controversy in forgiving the lady everyone knew was guilty. He did this by pointing out their sin, confronting them on the very evil that lurked within their hearts. Unable to face the confrontation, their wander off, leaving her with the God who loves her, who would restore her.

Rather than rejoice that someone is shown God’s mercy, rather than celebrate the love of God revealed to someone who thought they were too broken, the world walks away. (and yes, the church is often more like the world)

Such mercy could be shown to the terrorist (the apostle Simon the Zealot and the government lacky, Matthew the tax collector), it can be shown to the prostitute, the murderer, even to the one who kills the pastors and leaders of the church (St. Paul)

You don’t like Trump? Christ died for him. You don’t like those who are “pro-choice”? God is calling them into a relationship where He will forgive their sins. You don’t like the person who is Muslim, Jewish, White Supremacist, the gang-banger, the alien, the rapid right wing republican?

So what? Love them or realize this:

As you judge and condemn them, for the sins you think you’ve caught them in, remember this story of the woman caught in adultery. And wonder, who are you in the story. The ones crying our for murder, the lady, or are you to be like the Lord, who pronounces forgiveness.

Imitate Jesus… even if it means dying to reveal to them that God loves them, that He desires to show them mercy, to forgive their sins.

And if your friends, neighbors and fellow church members want to kill you, or just cut you off from them for being merciful, remember these words,

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom!Matthew 5:10 (MSG)

So go in peace, serve the Lord, bring mercy to those the world says don’t deserve it…because God says He desires them to come to repentance, even as He drew you to this blessed place! AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 112). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

In Need of a Spiritual Tune-up? What if I told you that was impossible?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  “At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there were ten young women who took their oil lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2  Five of them were foolish, and the other five were wise. 3  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any extra oil with them, 4  while the wise ones took containers full of oil for their lamps. 5  The bridegroom was late in coming, so they began to nod and fall asleep. 6  “It was already midnight when the cry rang out, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come and meet him!’ 7  The ten young women woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8  Then the foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Let us have some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 9  ‘No, indeed,’ the wise ones answered, ‘there is not enough for you and for us. Go to the store and buy some for yourselves.’ 10  So the foolish ones went off to buy some oil; and while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was closed. 11  “Later the others arrived. ‘Sir, sir! Let us in!’ they cried out. 12  ‘Certainly not! I don’t know you,’ the bridegroom answered.” 13  And Jesus concluded, “Watch out, then, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Matthew 25:1-13 (TEV)

24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (TEV)

788         Have you seen how water is stored in reservoirs against a time of drought…? In the same way, to achieve the even character that you need in times of difficulty, you have to store up cheerfulness, clear insights and the light which the Lord sends you.

There used to be a group of people that came to church on Christmas and Easter. They would make their annual trek to church, sit through service, say all the right things, and say they would return, and soon.

It was if they were coming for a “spiritual tune-up”, making sure God was still there, making sure grace was still available, that there was still a little spark in their lives. And we would plan for them a special brunch and an egg hunt for the kids. A lot of regulars are grateful for their showing up, yet cynical, thinking they will never become a regular part of the church.

But they aren’t the only ones who treat church this way. Some who are here every Sunday see it as their spiritual tune up – a necessity given the hellacious life they are living. We feed into this when we talk about the Sabbath rest as if this was the only moment they could rest in the presence of God. As if this was the only place to walk with Him, and we’ll be back next week, same time, same channel.

And while the church service and bible studies are important aspects of our lives, they aren’t spiritual tune-ups or fill-ups. God doesn’t abandon us when we leave church and enter the mission field.

We need to walk with God, moment by moment. To realize He is there, in each and every moment. We need to remember these things, so that when we are struggling, or when our brother or sister is, we can point to God’s presence and encourage each other.

Treating church like it is a spiritual tune-up, necessary only when we aren’t
able to cope is bad practice. It is harmful, extremely harmful, for where we have ignored God, we’ve not only damaged our relationship with Him, but we will damage our relationships with those around us. For we won’t be able to be there for them when they need to know God is there.

Should we neglect church (and our private time where our devotion to God grows) we will eventually beomce the foolish virgins, whom miss the wedding banquet. Our faith, our ability to depend on God will be replaced by idolatry, our ears will grow deaf, and our eyes won’t recognize His glory.

So be involved, spend time with God, realize His presence, His love, His mercy. Don’t treat church like a necessary obligation once a month or once a year, but make it part of your life, recognizing what God pours out on you through the people you gather with, share with, struggle with. Learn the treasure that is in your Bible, and drink it up, knowing it reveals how much you are loved, and that you dwell in the presence of God.


Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3267-3269). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Strength of the Church’s Influence is Not Where You Might Think

40  “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41  Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.” Matthew 10:40-42 (TEV)

The unrealistic demand that everything the Church teaches be lived completely and in all its fullness fails to take into account humanity as it actually is. There exists in every man a certain tension between that which the Church recognizes as what the Christian ought to be and do and that which the average Christian normally achieves. That is why penance and pardon are fundamental constants in the life of a Christian. In fact, the strength of the Church, the possibility of making her teachings more widely known to mankind, lies not so much in the extensive sphere of mass influence, but rather in the fact that she encounters people personally in the small communities in which they live. It is, indeed, precisely the personal word, the personal pastoral care, and a renewed catechesis that reaches out to the children and cooperates with the parents that are fundamental in making people realize that they are not to be treated as children, but that, on the contrary, it is actually their own survival as men that is at stake.

Out of all these things the conclusion follows that Christians do not live in themselves but in Christ and in their neighbor—in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Through faith one ascends above oneself into God. From God one descends through love again below oneself and yet always remains in God and God’s love. As Christ says in John 1:51, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”(37 footnore below)

The quote in green above is remarkable, not just because of what it says, but because of who says it.

Joseph Cardenal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was the leader of doctrine for the largest religious body in the world, the Roman Catholic Church. Yet he saw the power of the church, and the hope of the church not in its worldwide influence, but in the small community, in the personal small group communities, in the personal word from one to another.

It is found in the pastoral care that is given, as a pastor/priest encourages his people to seek pardon, to look at their sin in a penitential way, and in the grace he offers as he speaks on behalf of Jesus, commanded by Jesus to forgive the sins of people.

It is in the cup of water given to someone weak and in need, not in the halls of power. It is in ministering to those whose spiritual lives are on the line, not in schmoozing with those who have political or financial clout.

This is the same thing Luther is pointing out, that the response to being with God is to be with our neighbor. That this the blessing of any sacramental moment, the joy of knowing God’s work in our lives causes us to desire to see that work replicated in our own lives.

To reach out, in the midst of our own brokenness (that God is healing), and help someone realize that God will heal them as well – that is the greatest strength, the most powerful infleuce the church has.

In truth, it is the only infleunce we have.

To share with people simple words, knowing the difference they’ve made in our lives….

Words like, “The Lord is with You”


Heavenly Father, help Your church to reveal you to the nations, one person at a time. Help us teach them to desire your pardon, to seek the peace only You can offer, and to do so, confident that You will provide. AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 102). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(footnote 37) In the Latin version Luther uses the word raptus/rapi, meaning that by faith the Christian is enraptured into God: per fidem sursum rapitur supra se in deum. See Heiko A. Oberman, The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1986), 149–54.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Forgiving them for your sake? That is not Godly forgiveness!

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thoguht of the Day:

7 Go and preach, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8 Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid. Matthew 10:7-8 (TEV)

For if a work is not oriented toward serving others or toward suffering under another’s will (as long as one is not forced to act against God’s will), then it is not a good, Christian work

All good things flow into us from Christ, who accepted what we are into his life, as if he were what we are. These same things should flow from us into those who have need of them. In addition, I must place even my faith and righteousness before God for my neighbor, so that they cover my neighbor’s sin, and then take that sin upon myself, and act no differently than if it were my very own, even as Christ did for all of us. That, you see, is the nature of love when it is genuine.

Every once in a while, we pick up on sayings and make them our own. They resonate with us, and eventually, we give them the exalted status of being scriptural. Or at least we assume they are scriptural.

One of those sayings comes across this way.

You need to forgive them for your sake, if you don’t the only person you affect negatively is you.

The saying comes across in many forms, but it teaches that we forgive, not for the sake of the person that is indebted to us, but for our own sake.

Nice sentiment, and surely reconciliation blesses us as well as them, but forgiveness must be an act of love, an act of giving to the person who sinned against you.

Luther nails this when he talks of works not directed to the best interest of others not being “good Christian works”. As Jesus is quoted by Matthew, the point is made, – freely receive? Freely give! And as he hung on the cross, there wasn’t thought of his burdens being lifted by forgiving us. There was love, and the desire to minister to us and heal us.

This certainly makes forgiveness harder, relegating it to what it is, an act of love, an act that is Christlike, taking on the burden of sin, and releasing the person who committed it. It’s not going to be easy, it is not going to be full of warm fuzzies. It is a work that takes a dedicated decision to love.

Even our enemies.

Which means that is is an act of faith as well. Not trusting the sinner, but trusting that God can heal us of the pain caused by the sin, by the betrayal. It is going to take realizing the healing and love that God pours out on us, even as He forgives us a million times in our life,

And knowing we are loved, knowing He is healing us, knowing He is the righteous judge, we learn to forgive as He did. Forgiveness which testifies to a love greater than sin. It doesn’t happen as quickly or easily as we would wish.

But it can still happen. As w dwell in the peace of God which passes all understanding, guarding your hearts and minds as we dwell secured by Christ.

Heavenly Father, help us to forgive as Jesus did. Send your Spirit to comfort and empower us, and build in us the desire to love people enough that forgivness is a natural reaction, and the desire for reconciliation is our hope and prayer. AMEN!



Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 89). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

The Place Where God Put His Name Became our Home: A sermon at the closing of a church

The Place Where God Put His Name
      Became our Home

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you, as It has during His work here at St Paul’s for decades.  AMEN

Our Home

I would like to read one verse from our gospel reading from a different translation.

14  So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT2)

The New Living Translation uses the word home instead of “dwelt”, and I think the difference is important.  The word in Greek refers to setting up a residence in a community, it talks of establishing more than a house, it speaks of a home. It was used in the Greek Old Testament for the tabernacle, the place where God dwelt in the midst of His people.

More importantly, I believe it is why we are here today, and it is why this day is so hard.

You see, we call places like St. Paul’s Lutheran church our “church home” for a reason.  This is the place were people have come home to God for decades, for generations. It was here we learned to feel at home in the presence of God, it is here where we came to be baptized, to celebrate Christmas and Easter and Pentecost, it is from this place we buried those who left this church home for their heavenly home.

For here God made us feel at home with Him.

You may not have realized why this place became your church home, we may have never reflected upon it.  But it was a church home, and therefore leaving it is a moment of sadness, a moment of sorrow, a moment where we question what happened, what went wrong, why did this happen.

And today, as we move on from this home, we need to realize why this place was our home, where God made His home among His people.

The Place where God Has Put His name

In our Old Testament reading, we see Solomon addressing God at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. In that prayer, even as they dedicate this building, Solomon’s prayer includes the concept that God can’t live on earth.  Yet the temple was the place where he put His name, and people could pray, and know they could be at home with God,

Hear the words again,

 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive. 

This place where God put His name served the same purpose.  This is the place where God has made you at home in His presence.  He cleansed you, he brought healing to your souls, He forgave your sin and fed you the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

and then, for others, this place was where they found him, even as aliens found God at the temple…again from the Old Testament reading,

41  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42  for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do.1 Kings 8:41-43 (NLT2)

Over the years, the numbers of people baptized in this place is numerous, the number of people who discovered God because their prayers were answered has been significant.  That is why we are here today, to celebrate how God’s mercy has been poured out in this place.

To realize that it is a special place, that it has been a church home, a place where God has put His name.

It is in that name we find out the hope Paul worked diligently, with all he had to preach and teach.  The riches of the mystery of Christ in you! And in the end, Paul’s statement to another church will ring true about this church home, numerous people will be presented mature in Christ Jesus, because of the ministry that has happened here.

The Work Done Here, Has Honored His Name

The apostle Paul once said that the people he wrote to were the evidence of God’s work through Paul.  In the same way, those who came to faith here, and those people whose faith was sustained here throughout the years are proof that this place has been home to God and man, communing together. It is the place where He put His name,

In a couple of hours, after we commune together, after we share in the stories of God’s work in this place, the doors will close, the lights will be turn off, and we will move on.  It may take a while to get used to the new place where God draws you to Himself, these temporary homes on our pilgrimage to our eternal home with Him.

There will be some dissonance, just as when the red hymnal was changed out for the blue, and then the burgundy.  Or when the King James gave way to the RSV, then the NIV, then the ESV or NLT.  Yet the main thing does not change.  The main thing is this: God will continue to draw you to a place where His people can realize the gifts of grace, the forgiveness of sins that testifies that we are safe and at home in Christ.  And that others will pray there and find themselves at home as well.

And until we are all before the throne in heaven, we find ourselves drawn to where God has put His name, that we can come and pray and be forgiven, where unbelievers can pray and have God answer. In such places, we will know God’s peace, a peace beyond all understanding, For Christ will guard you there, keeping your hearts and minds safe in these earthly homes.
AMEN!

How are you investing your pastor’s time?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances. 3  So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4  We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching.” 5  The whole group was pleased with the apostles’ proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6  The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
Acts 6:1-6 (TEV)

The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.

From the earliest days of the church, there was a priority set upon the time of those who shepherd God’s people.

A priority on prayer, and being in the word of God, of preaching and teaching about the Christ who has come to make His home among us. (John 1:14 NLT) To train up people to serve each other, (Eph 4:12)

Those were the priorities of the early church –

A question I have today is that our priority still? Is this were we want them spending their time. Or have we turned them into visionaries and managers, men who are skilled in managing all the work of the church as an organization?

Yes, logistics and planning are necessary, being good stewards of what the church has been entrusted with temporally is important. But only as it sets the church up to do its actual ministry – and to walk with God.

The members of a church and its leadership need to take this seriously. Out of the fifty to sixty hours a week he works, how many are spent in prayer? How many are spent in teaching and preaching and preparing for it?

How many are spent in meetings covering the administration of the church, and/or its school? Is it possible to free him up of some of that, so whe can dedicate himself as the apostles do? Is it possible to have him train others to do the work of service? Is it possible to create an environment where the talents of people can be harnassed? How many of our pastors have to be property managers, business officers, plumbers, and a thousand other roles.

Give him time to pray and spend time meditating on God’s word. – serious amounts of time. Give him time to prepare to teach and preach as well. for this work is necessary. Invest his time in training people to know the word so well that they can serve others, and while doing it, share Christ’s love. And give him time to get used to this freedom!

Be a good steward of his life… and time.

The blessing will be yours!



Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 104). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

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