Category Archives: Augsburg and Trent

Can You Hear Him NOW? Can I?

Devotional Thought for this day:

Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 (CSBBible)

When Luther’s puppy116 happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he [Martin Luther] said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”

The workers in the marketplace had all day to spare. The one who buried his talent wanted to kill the passing hours. The one who should have been looking after the vineyard went off elsewhere. They all prove insensitive to the great task the Master has entrusted to each and every Christian, that of seeing ourselves as his instruments, and acting accordingly, so that we may co-redeem with him, and of offering up our entire lives in the joyful sacrifice of surrendering ourselves for the good of souls.

There was a commercial series that ran for a long time. It had a man walking around, in all sorts of places, asking someone on his cell phone, “can you hear me now?” In Deserts, forests, rain, sun, no matter where or how he was, he always made sure he was connected to someone. (we never did hear whether they could hear him)

As I read in 1 Samuel this morning, I realized that Saul’s issue was that kind of issue. He couldn’t hear God, and even when he could, too many things drowned out what he heard.

Saul was so unlike the dog who focused on the food forgetting everything else. He was more like the one who buried the treasure entrusted to him. Or the ones who abandoned the vineyard or the sheep because the wolves were near.

I am not any better, for just a moment ago, while writing this, an ad for a Can-Am Ryker caught my attention. I lost my focus on what God was trying to communicate to me. I lost track of this idea of focusing on Him so completely that His task becomes ours. So completely that we don’t think of the cost to us, but the blessing of others, as they come to know the God we say we love.

But how do we grow in our ability to pay attention to God? How do we mitigate the distractions? I do not believe it is something we force ourselves to do as if we simply whip our bodies into submission. It cannot be, for even the most disciplined people will eventually fail and give up.

I think Luther was on to something as he referenced the dog. The mongrel knows the meat’s taste, and it is beyond his power to not respond. He locks in on it, using every tool to make it his own; pleading eyes,  speed, power, all of the tools to try and gain that which their heart and stomach are focused.

The Psalms testify to this desire as well!

1  As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. 2  I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1-2 (CSBBible)

Some things cause us to respond, we don’t have to even think, because we have learned to treasure them.  The smell of coffee does it for some, the smell of bacon for others. It might be playing that perfect instrument or driving a particular car, being on a golf course, finding the perfect shoe; these things are triggers for us. Once we sampled it, we have to return to it.

Following God is like that if our focus is on Him. The more we’ve experienced His love, the more we can’t live without it.  The more we see Him work through us. The more we realize our role in redeeming this world, the more we want to see more people freed from the power of sin, Satan’s influence, and the fear of death, the more we want to see it happen and again.

Ministering to others becomes our meat that draws our attention, for there we know we are in God’s presence, we know He is there, and the transformation He has done in our lives…. A transformation that means He can work through us… as He ministers to others.

Lord, help us hunger for You and then satisfy that hunger by working in and thru us. We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son†, and the Holy Spirit!  AMEN!



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), 37–38.

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

Determination, at its absolute best.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

20 Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the LORD. Instead, worship the LORD with all your heart. 21 Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or rescue you; they are worthless. 22 The LORD will not abandon his people, because of his great name and because he has determined to make you his own people. 1 Sam 12:20-22 CSB

These theologians have wished to apprehend God through speculations and have paid no attention to the Word. I recommend that speculation be laid aside, and I should like to have this rule adhered to after my death.”

“The Confessio has an excellent signification; by means of the elevation the minister in a powerful manner calls attention to the words: “This is my body, etc.” as much as to say: “See, dear friends, this is the body which was broken for you.” The elevation is not a symbol of sacrifice, as the Papists foolishly affirm, but an exhortation to move the people to a hearty acceptance of the doctrine of the Real Presence. In this there is not a syllable concerning sacrifice.”

The only remedy for human nature is to destroy it and receive instead the divine nature. God does not improve man. He crucifies the natural life with Christ and creates the new man in Christ Jesus.

There is some brutality in these quotes this morning, Especially the words of Luther (in blue) and Tozer ( in green) I have seen far to often where the word of God is bypassed, if not dismissed, as the answers to life’s problems are sought. I have seen us desire to live the way we want, rather than accept that we have died and risen in Christ’s death and resurrection.

Some will say this situation isn’t addressed in scripture, that what we need to good God has given us common sense to do. The speculation insists that Christ would do something like what they want to do, justifying it with this action, (clearing the temple is a common one) or giving part of the answer (“neither do I condemn you”- omitting “go and sin no more!”

Such speculation needs to be laid aside. Sin is sin, evil is still evil.

It still needs to be dealt with, not the symptom – the sin itself, but the nature of the sin. That requires the killing off of the “old Adam”. A complete change of our heart and mind, replacing our broken, sinful selkf with Jesus’s heart, His mind and soul.

Samuel encourages us in these moments, where our sinful nature and the Spirit of God wage war in us. We are told God isn’t going to abandon us becauese we did evil . Instead focus on Jesus, worship the God who loved you enough to die, that you might live.

We have to take this seriously, you and I. We can’t, as Hebrews notes, “neglect this great salvation.” We have to realize the love of God which calls us to Him. He is determined to make you His child, to remake you in His image.

That is why Loehe would back the lifting of the Bread and Wine, the Body and blood of Christ. To help us see the presence of God in our midst, under the bread and wine… to realize His presence in us, as we commune with Him. As deLigouri would write, “OUR holy faith teaches us, and we are bound to believe, that in the consecrated Host Jesus Christ is really present under the species of bread.

And therefore present in us…

For even as we need to realize we must die, and rise united in Jesus, so to we have to realize that unity, and God’s desire to see it happen.

Heavenly Father, help us to drop everything else in life, even for a few moments, and hear Your voice. May we hear of Your great desire and determination…. to see us as Yours. We ask this in Jesus’ name, who died for us, and even more lives with us. AMEN!

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), 35.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 45.

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), 113.

“Lord, I can’t do this anymore” and other prayers the prevent burnout

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15  May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16  Let that man be like the cities the Lord demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17  because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18  Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame? Jeremiah 20:14-18 (CSBBible)

It can’t be otherwise. It’s annoying when one has the best of intentions but things don’t turn out well. Surely this is murmuring. I do the same, and I can’t banish the thought from my mind when I wish that I had never started [this business].88 So likewise when I wish I were dead rather than witness such contempt [for the Word of God and his faithful servants].89 Accordingly it is only speculative theologians who condemn such impatience and recommend patience. If they get down to the realm of practice, they will be aware of this. Cases of this kind are exceedingly important. One should not dispute about them in a speculative way.

14         “It’s very difficult”, you exclaim, disheartened. Listen, if you make an effort, with the grace of God that is enough. Put your own interests to one side, you will serve others for God, and you will come to the aid of the Church in the field where the battles are being fought today: in the street, in the factory, in the workshop, in the university, in the office, in your own surroundings, amongst your family and friends.

I resonate with Luther’s words in purple far more than I want to admit. When he questions his very life because of what he observed, his writings hit hard to things I dare not admit. (for friends readings this – not today)

He’s not the only one – Jeremiah 20:7 is a favorite passage, and has been for over 30 years. Yet, only over the last decade have I learned to give voice to that without feeling guilty and ashamed.

It is good to know at least Jeremiah and Martin Luther understand this – and were able to give voice to it… and still trust in God.

You see, it takes more faith to pray in this way, to be this honest, this transparent. To depend on God to be with us in the places where we are exhausted, the places we don’t have the answers, or the answers are not pleasant to consider. The points where God calls us to action in the ways we can’t imagine.

Once we give voice to it, once you’ve come to trust God in that moment, then the wisdom of Escriva’s comments make sense. Depending on that grace, we find the abiltity to set aside our own pain, and minister to those around us.

This isnt to deny it, but to trust God with it. Embrancing and moving past it, we find those scars a critical element in our ability to serve, in our ability to praise God.

Jeremiah would do that – continuing his prophetic ministry through the rest of this book and Lamentations as well. Luther would move forward in minsitry, even more resolved to help people understand the grace of God. He would come to the point of taking action, finding it was the time for impatience, not patience. It was time to act, knowing the presence of God meant He would be sustained.

That’s the key in these things – find your refuge in Jesus…find your rest in Him and you will find yourself ministering to others.

That is the miracle and the paradox….

That is walking with Jesus.

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), 30–31.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 294-298). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Did You Mean It, When You Gave Yourself to Jesus?

God, who am I?

9 The Israelites cried out to the LORD. So the LORD raised up... Judges 3:9 CSB

Then the Israelites cried oute to the LORD.. Judges 4:3 CSB

6 So Israel became poverty-stricken because of Midian, and the Israelites cried out to the LORD. Judges 6:6 CSB

Barth says, poignantly, that the situation “went right into [Jesus’] heart … so that their whole plight was now His own, and as such He saw and suffered it far more keenly than they did.” Jesus “took their misery upon Himself, taking it away from them and making it His own.”

Whom shall I fear, if Thou, O God omnipotent, art my light and my salvation? I give myself all to Thee. Accept me, and then do with me what Thou wilt; chastise me, show Thine indignation towards me when Thou wilt; kill me, destroy me, and I will say always, with Job: Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him.3 Whilst I am Thine, and Thou lovest me, I am content to be treated by Thee with every hardship; to be even annihilated, if it so pleases Thee.

Romans 12:1-3 is pretty clear about our reaction to the grace and work of Jesus Christ. Without restraint, we are to give our bodies to Jesus, a living sacrifice.

One of the aspects of that offering we see in the readings above. Are we willing to give God our lives in a way that allows Him to work in our lives? Does that mean we accept His discipline, discipline to the point of our need to call out for help, in the midst of despair. Israel, who needed that correction, and they experienced God’s faitfulness. For he didn’t allow them to go any further away…but used the consequences to bring them back.

Are we willing to do that?

de Ligouri’s prayer is to that very point. Setting aside fear and anxiety because we know God’s presence is here… we can accept that discpline? Can we accept God allowing us to suffer, that we might realie our need for Him to remove our sin from our lives?

That is why we need to hear Barth’s input. We need to see Jesus taking on our suffering, living in our misery. He made our sin His own, and welcomed a discipline that we deserved….

Why do we still need to cry out? As we do today?

I would assume no one would deny we need what Bard descrived with these words, “Through Jesus, God confronts the situation in Nain when the “alien will and unknown power invaded the general course of things” and actualized an aspect of the realm of God in the very presence of the people.”

We need to cry out because we forget God is there, we forget Jesus took on the consequences of our sin, and we forget to confess our sins, sure of our forgiveness.

And He is here… always here.. always raising up those who cry out, always preparing those who are there to minister to us…

This is our God, who willinging takes on our brokenness… that we would be made whole… for we are His.




Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 52.

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), 100.

Where is the Church, When it Matters?

The Church, stands as darkness is shattered

Devotional Thought of the Day:
18  “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19  The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20  The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22  The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23  The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Matthew 13:18-23 (NLT2)

Ambrose: “There is the church of God in which God reveals Himself and speaks with His servants”

We place a piece of iron in a fire and blow up the coals. At first we have two distinct substances, iron and fire. When we insert the iron in the fire we achieve the penetration of the iron and we have not only the iron in the fire but the fire in the iron as well.… Two distinct substances … have co-mingled and interpenetrated to a point where the two have become one.
In some such manner does the Holy Spirit penetrate our spirits. In the whole experience we remain our very selves. There is no destruction of substance. Each remains a separate being as before; the difference is that now the Spirit penetrates and fills our personalities and we are experientially one with God.

This is precisely what Jesus does when he comes to a soul in the Holy Communion. He sees that she is a wall too weak to be able to resist the assaults of hell; therefore, by the virtue of the sacrament, he fortifies her with bulwarks of silver, that is, with his divine light. He sees that she is a door inclined easily to be corrupted, and he renews it, adjusting her with planks of strength and perseverance, as is signified by cedar, which is a strong and incorruptible wood; that is, with the gifts of holy fear, with detachment from creatures, with the love of prayer, with supplications, with holy desires, and still more with the gift of divine love, which are the support of holy perseverance: Bread strengthens man’s heart

As I’ve looked at the events of not just the last few days, but the last year, I keep on struggling with a question. “Where is the church in all of this?”

I know God’s there; if I didn’t, the little hope that remains would be gone, and life would be without any meaning.

But where is the church? Where are the people that are focused on God?  Where are the people to whom He reveals Himself? Where are the ones who hear His voice and are in dialogue with Him?

I hear many monologues from pastors and other Christians.  They speak from both sides of the political spectrum, eager to cast judgment on those whose sins are simply more visible than their own. Some of them have even “switched sides,” echoing the word they challenged 6 months ago and cast judgment on their former ways. The amount of angst they are dealing with leads them to speak out of that pain, that emptiness, and I do not fault them for it.

The answer will come in the way Tozer pictures when we are iron glow as the fire of the Holy Spirit penetrates our spirit. When the Holy Spirit tempers and forges, purifies, and marks us.

de Ligouri uses the illustrations of the wall and the door. We are too weak to resist the assaults of hell; we are even challenged by the assaults of our times. This is where we are at, this brokenness that only God can address.

We need to become like the ground prepared for the seed, that has seen enough fertilizer that has been tilled and turned over, that the word of God can dwell in us richly. That will allow us to detach from that which offers no support and cling to Christ and the hope offered by Him. That seeks Him out, finding how He reveals Himself through His word and through the Sacraments. This is how He has always revealed Himself to His people. God always speaks to them. He always infuses them and prepared them, even as He has prepared us and walks in us through these days.

And at this time, we need to encourage that to happen. We need to pray for each other, as Paul did…

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. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)

Here is the answer to where the church is, where it must be in these times. The church, you and I, must be in the presence of God, in awe of His love and mercy, for then it will bear fruit from its broken, tilled and fertilized ground.

Lord, in this time, before we speak our peace, before we react, help us return to You, and find refuge and sanctuary there. Help us see You revealed, and give us the patience ot hear Your voice. Even as we do Lord, be at work in us, healing those who are likewise broken, and drawing them to dwell with us, in Your glory. AMEN!

C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 75.

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), 96–97.

The Interrupted Devotional Time

Devotional Thought of the Day:

33  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35  Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36  Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37  Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38  They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39  All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. Hebrews 11:33-40 (NLT2)

To them the Spirit was One to be loved and fellowshiped the same as the Lord Jesus Himself. They would have been lost completely in any metaphysical discussion of the nature of the Spirit, but they had no trouble in claiming the power of the Spirit for holy living and fruitful service.
This is as it should be.

While the neoorthodox theologians were diverse, the movement as a whole believed that preaching is key for people to encounter the Word of God.

Jesus awakens great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human suffering, he shows the face of God’s mercy and always bends down to heal body and soul.

As the prayer requests were called and texted into the church’s office today, my devotions were interrupted. It happens.

As I finally got around to them, the readings that I highlighted seemed even more important! It was the faith of the people I was praying for, from a 10 year old boy to a 94 year old man, described in these quotes above.

Like the saints in the scriptures and their contemporaries, it was a dependence on God that made the difference. They were in love with God, not trying to determine which member of the Trinity- they just reveled in His presence. Therefore they did things that only those who know God Almighty loves them are capable of doing.  Pope Francis is right; they know God’s mercy and realize His presence, His coming into their lives because they know Jesus. I guess that is what concerns me today, as people hear sermons designed to know about the word of God, the scriptures, rather than the Word of God – that is, to know Jesus. And it is something I need to be aware of and ask myself – how did this sermon, these songs, this Bible Study help people to know Jesus.

How will it help them to someday be part of that great group of witnesses to God’s glory, who found their dependence on God fully justified? How will it encourage a Kurt or a Sam? How will it help them walk with Him, in His light, in His glory?

Weighty questions for eleven o’clock!  But ones that need to start affecting me more… and more. I pray you to benefit from them – as my congregation does.



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

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 49.

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), 23.

The Greatest Theologians Did Not Study God!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  Then John’s disciples came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
15  Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
Matthew 9:14-15 (CSBBible)

Peter Lombard was adequate as a theologian; none has been his equal. He read Hilary, Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory, and also all the councils. He was a great man. If he had by chance come upon the Bible he would no doubt have been the greatest.”

If I read aright the record of Christian experience through the years, those who most enjoyed the power of the Spirit have had the least to say about Him by way of attempted definition. The Bible saints who walked in the Spirit never tried to explain Him.

Thou dost promise to come with the Father and the Holy Spirit to abide forever in their souls: He who loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, … and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.3 And what more hast Thou to promise and to give, to entice men to love Thee? My dearest Lord, I see how it is; Thou dost wish also to be loved by me: yes, I love Thee with all my heart; and if I do not love Thee, do Thou teach me to love Thee; make me to love Thee, and to love Thee above all things: “Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt.”

I have to admit, I snickered when I read Luther’s words about Peter Lombard. Immediately came to mind some self-proclaimed theologians I know, men who have little time for worship or devotions. As I carefully stored away this little insult, I realized my need for repentance…

But then, I do not believe Luther was just snarky. I believe he was onto something and perhaps needed to go farther.

Tozer makes that point with more clarity, as he describes saints who walked with God, who could not, and did not spend time trying to explain the Holy Spirit; they experienced Him.

I am not saying we become seekers of experience, to be driven for emotional highs and lows. There is a difference between experiencing God and seeking experiences. The former is the earnest prayer of de Ligouri, as he begs God to teach him to love God, to make him love God. That is what Luther is getting at, what is missing from Lombard.

I am not saying we shouldn’t study, but it has to have its proper place. In fact, without time in prayer and meditation, without sacramental time, without worship, such study is simply an academic exercise.

The Lord is with you! The Spirit dwells in you…

Rejoice and enjoy the presence and work in your life!



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), 92.

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), 26.

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 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.

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