Category Archives: Dallas Willard

Why I Don’t Consider Myself a “Confessional” Lutheran…

Devotional Thought of the Day

16  You do not want sacrifices, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt offerings. 17  My sacrifice is a humble spirit, O God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart. Psalm 51:16-17 (TEV)

Legalism claims that overt actions in conforming to rules for explicit behavior make us right and pleasing to God. It’s as if we believe that power resides in the words or in the rituals themselves. Jesus called legalism the “righteousness . . . of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20 NRSV).
Legalism and superstition are closely joined by their emphasis on controlling people and events through little rules, bypassing the realities of the heart and soul from which life really flows. That is why Jesus tells us we must go beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees to heart-and-soul transformation if we are truly to enter into life.

Disclaimer – if you aren’t a Lutheran, some of this may not make sense. But other groups have modifiers as well, Examples of this are “Evangelcial” Christian, or “Conservative” Baptist, or “Orthodox” Presbyterian, or “King James Only” Believers, or Traditional Catholics. Consider what words modify or assist to “truly” define your trust in God.

There are a lot of denominations out there, and some have taken their denomination name out of the name of their church. You don’t know what they believe, or what their history is, because they have hidden it from plain sight.

I am a Lutheran, the theology and practice that has been passed down I find consistent with scripture and the early church. The somewhat simple way Luther and his peers dealt with being severed from the Roman Catholic Church was not perfect, and yet, what they laid out in documents like the Augsburg Confession clearly reveal the love of God, poured out on us through the word and sacraments by the Holy Spirit.

So, here I stand, and until proven otherwise I don’t have much of an option!

Yet in my brotherhood/denomination which we call a Synod (which means, ironically – to walk together) there are those who would modify the term Lutheran with different words. Confessional is one of those terms, one that is used as a badge of honor, and which draws a vague line in the sand. There are others, that take a further stand, and I would list them as well, and those inside my little section of the family of God know them well enough.

The problems with these labels, no matter where they are on the spectrum is that they divide us based on legalistic standards, rather than on how Christ defines us, they separate us from those that cling to the Lord just as we do. They attempt to clone the people of God, rather than realize the diversity that comes within a family or within a body.

The idea is the line in the sand becomes a sense of pride, a sense where I can say, “my sacrifice is more appropriate than yours, and therefore I am more blessed, more holy,”

And that is where I struggle, with this idea that any label (including our denomination labels) make us “more holy” or that our worship of God is more acceptable (more Orthodox) is about as close to heresy as you can get. I am not saying we shouldn’t seek to refine our beliefs and practicesi to make them more consistent with scripture, but to claim our position is more holy, our worship more acceptable is wrong, dead wrong.

We need to approach God in a way that is both humble, recognzing our brokenness and yet bold, depending on His invitation and HIs making us acceptable and welcome. We need to recognize our brokeness, and rely on His transformation of our heart and soul and mind, rather than parade around, touting that we are the best of His chosen people.

So I am Lutheran – using that title to describe the beliefs I have, that I hold to, that I teach…. that I depend on only because they reveal to me and help me explore the breadth and width, the height and depth of God’s love, and through God’s word, and the sacraments, I experience that love, which is too great to understand.

You have a different label? Let’s sit down and talk, praying and relying on the guidance of God, who loves us, to make His will known, and His love revealed. But let us depend on Him for that journey, and never boast of our own reason or strength.

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

What Deep Faith Looks Like:

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. 10 So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? 11 No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” Acts 15:9-11 GNT

Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by how easily it works. Most of what we call a struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.

Imagine a jacket lying on the ground. If someone picks up the garment holding it from the end of one of its sleeves, or from one of its pockets, the result would be a considerable mess. You have to take the jacket from the shoulders to hang it properly.
Something similar happens with worship: to adore is to take life by the shoulders and not by the sleeve. Anyone who puts God at the top of the values of their existence, notes that ‘everything else’ happens to occupy the place it should. By worshiping God one learns to relativize all things which, although important, should not be at the centre, that do not relate to it.

I recently was told I was “a man of great faith.” I am not sure what the person meant by that, but to be honest, in my understanding of it, I am not.

That is not saying I don’t aspire ot be a man of great faith, o how I wish I was. But I am like the father, who told Jesus, “I believe! Help me in my lack of belief.”

This morning, I came to the three readings I copied and pasted above, and it reinfoces the need to discuss what great faith is, or even having faith.

The middle one resonates as true – faith – a deep dependence of God, is so much of who we are that to operate depending on God is easy, it is natural. If I am questioning my faith, and asking if I have enough, then what I really need to be doing is asking God to strengthen my faith, to undergird it, to help me depend on the Holy Spirit more than I depend on my own reason, my own will, my own power.

Deep faith means we act in prayer, knowing that God has answered Paul’s prayer in 2 Thes 1:11 – giving us the desire and completing the the He causes us to do, by faith. It happens, and we even sometimes act without realizing it, as we minister to those people who are the least of these.

That kind of deep faith is taking the God at His word, at what He’s promised to do, and depending on it. That is what the final quote discusses, hanging up the jacket the right way. When we worship God because of what He’s revealed at the cross, at the altar, in the word, everything else takes its place relative to it. Life comes together, like a plan in the old ATeam series – though it often doesn’t come together in the manner we think it should. But as our faith deepens, as we come to depend on God more and more, the more that becomes a cause for joy.

You see this in the quote from Acts, the apostles and early church, struggling with what the Gentiles beocming part of the church meant, kept God’s work at their focus. They joy was not in the agreement they “brokered” but in the very knowledge that God had worked in others, bringing them to the greatest challenge of faith.

Depending that God has saved us, that He has forgiven us sll of our sins. There is faith at it hardest challenge, the most illogical thing, even the most foolish thing that we believe in as His people. (see Proverbs 17:18) Yet, that is where faith begins.

To know that God loves us enough to do something foolish – to be responsible for all of our debt, all of our sin. To depend on Him to restore us from the brokeness that sin creates in our lives.

This is where faith struggles the most, right at the beginning, To truly live life knowing and depending on our sin being forgiven, depending on the renewal and reconciliation that happens as God does this miracle, is life changing. To know that my sins, my thoughts, words and deeds of which I am ashamed (or should be ashamed) are taken care of by God.

It is at that moment, as we realize this, that our faith soars, that our praises rise, that we are in awe of God. It is there we find the Holy Spirit revealing to us through word and sacrament this wonderful, glorious, marvelous love of God.

And it is then that we can dive deeply into this relationship, not fully understanding why God would do this..

This is the deepest moment of dependence of God, and the moment when HIs love for us overwhelms us.

Lord God, even as we have to depend on You in the daily struggles of our lives, help us depend on the acts in which You draw us into Jesus Christ, cleanse us of sin, and restore and heal us. Help us know that love which does all this – and then walks us through each day. We pray this in Jesus Name! AMEN!

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

Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 109). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

God? What Are You Thinking/Doing?

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. 2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.
1 John 3:1-2 (NLT2)

8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT2)

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

God often speaks to us in obscure ways to allow us the room and time we need to respond. He lets us know he is speaking to us but also that we need to stretch out in growth in order to receive the message. Perhaps we think, “God, why don’t you just say it? Tell me in detail how to live.” But we are usually full of mistaken ideas about what that would actually mean. If it actually happened, it would probably kill us or unbalance us. So God in his mercy continues to approach us obliquely. Our minds and values have to be restructured, but God speaks anyway because he appreciates our interests. As we mature, this is less so, until that time when we can safely know him as he knows us

I’ve known many people who ask, “what in the world is God thinking?”

Some are doing so because they don’t understand the trauma and testing the are going through.

Some are trying to figure out what it is God is calling them to do, what “God’s will is for their life” This is something we do need to consider, yet to often we do not hear God, and we wonder why He seems… silent.

Some just can’t comprehend that God would love someone like them, or that God could love “those people.”

As the prophet Isaiah says, God thinks differently than we do. He works differently than we do, even to the extent He may work through us in ways that we would not expect, that we would never do if it was left up to our own choice.

We don’t get it, we struggle with our knowledge of God, and His thoughts and ways. The above scriptures indicate that part of that struggle is that we struggle with our knowledge of our own lives. We don’t know ourselves well enough to see what God is always doing in our lives. Remember Socrates’ one key goal? “know thyself?” We do not.

And because we know neither God’s own thoughts, (or His thoughts about us) nor who we truly are, we have a dissonance, a confusion that exists in our lives. This dissonance, this difference between what is real and what we perceive is more than challenging. Sometimes, it causes us great stress.

Dallas’ Willard’s words in purple above give an explanation that makes a good deal of sense. (We have to add in the stipulation that God would not communicate with us in a way that is contrary to His being revealed in word and Sacrament.) But the idea that God would communicate to us obliquely, in such indirect ways, is a measure of His love and care for us.

An example, He might have a specific mission or apostolate for us, a call and commission to reach out to a certain group, or help certain people. Let’s say you a 16th-century monk/priest/professor named Martin, how would you react when God told you not only would you become a priest, but an outlaw, revolutionary and cause the fracturing of the church? If Martin had the foresight of what God intended – he might have stayed a simple lawyer.

So God takes His time, He is patient and wise in how He reveals His will, He surrounds us with others when we are going to struggle with it. He loving and with great care shepherds us through life.

There are times where the Holy Spirit does make it clear, times that become easier ot recognize the more we are spending time with Jesus, meditating on His promises, hearing and exploring the dimensions of His love ( especially as it is delivered in His sacraments)

The more we understand of His mercy, the more we experience His love (which is also to great to understand) the more we grow comfortable with what He asks of us. The more we become comfortable with His desire that no one should perish, but all come to repentance, the transformation that the Holy Spirit effects in our lives.

That is why the Lord’s invitation to us to come and dialogue with Him, to come and reason with Him has the context of cleansing us from sin. It all starts there, as God justifies us, as God declares us free of sin, having laid that sin on Jesus.

But cleansed from sin, able to move into the presence of God with confidence, and swell there, that changes everything. We become less concerned with the “why’s?” and “what’s next?” We are more attuned to focusing on Christ, adoring Him, hearing Him through word and sacrament, and experiencing His love that wherever we are led happens. We become free of the anxiety caused by the unknown because we believe in Him, and trust His care for us.

Dear Father in heaven, knowing your love and care for us, we ask that the Holy Spirit help us focus on knowing You, on experiencing the Your love for us revealed in Christ Jesus, through word and Sacraments, helping us to be at peace with what we may not, or cannot understand. Rather Lord, help us to rest, knowing we are secure because we are yours. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!

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


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.

How Do You Lead? How Are You Teaching People to Lead?

Leadership is like waiting tables

Devotional Thought of the Day:

22 After that, the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler—you and your descendants after you. You have saved us from the Midianites.”
23 Gideon answered, “I will not be your ruler, nor will my son. The LORD will be your ruler.”
Judges 8:22-23

With those we lead in any way (sometimes we lead by simply asking the right questions), we are to be “the servant of all” (Mark 9:35), “eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you” (1 Peter 5:2-3). Redemptive mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21) is achieved in this way.
So much current religious work is not lined up with these scriptural injunctions. This is bound to be if those who lead try to control the flock through their own abilities to organize and drive, yet clothed in a spiritual terminology. They do not rely on Christ’s power. As their faith is, so shall their leadership be. It will be “my group,” “my ministry” and “my children”—and those who follow will never experience how completely God is Lord of each person.

Leadership is a tricky thing.

Especialy for those who serve Christ by serving the people of God as leaders.

Once upon a time, I was in management. Went to the seminars, did all the team building excercises. Especially loved the idea of the inverted triangle, that a leader is not at the top, but rather at the bottom of the structure. Learned about different styles and tempraments of leadership and had some excellent leaders who had authority over me, but saw it as responsibility for my work.

Dallas Willard’s comments are striking in this, that a leader that leads based in their own ability to organize and drive those that follow is not truly doing their job. They are neglecting the very reason for their being in leadership.

Willard describes what is missing as “those who follow will never experience how completely God is the Lord of each person.”

This is not about questioning the sincerity of those in leadership. Many of us sincerly want to do the best we can, and train and learn to be leaders of the people of God. We try to adapt what we know, but sometimes it falls short, simply because we forget that we aren’t leadiing to success, or to a short term goal. As a result, we often find ourselves manipulating people rather than guiding them. We get them to “do” rather than experience.

We need to remember that LORD is the way the Jewish people respectfully used a title instead of God’s name. The name, YHWH, simply means I AM. (rememer Moses and the burning bush?) That is what our people need to experience, that is what we are tasked with revealing to them, shepherding them in experiencing the love of God who is present.

My job as a pastor, the job of the elders and board members is to help people experience God’s mercy, His care, His presence in their lives. That is the role of every Christian leader.

And that is why so much of secular leadership strategy is challenging. Because if relies on us, because it doesn’t tale the attitude of Gideon, who points to them to the Lord (even though he was the most effective of the Judges)

“No, not me… look to God…” the same kind of leadership that John the Baptist, that the Apostle Paul and so many others have modeled for us.

So this day, I have a challenge for you who lead.

Your challenge is this, find someone to guide, and the place you need to guide them to is a place of stillness, a place of peace, a place where they know God is present, (and that you are not God!)

Go in His peace, and I pray you experience your LORD’s presence, and so in awe of that, help others know that He is with them!


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

What incredible things God has promised to do in YOUR life!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

37  None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. 38  I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, 39  high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:37-39 (MSG)

20  God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)

The working of God’s Spirit produces disproportionate results that do not make sense humanly. The outcome is beyond human logic to understand or natural powers to accomplish. Such humanly unaccountable effects fit into, and even certify, the principles and purposes of the rule of God in human history, as manifested in the works of Christ.

Thus she came to understand Chesterton when he described men and women who, signed with Christ’s Cross, cheerfully walk through darkness. Finding this hidden life means releasing the sources of this world’s energy, linking the world to the power that can save it, giving it the resources for which it seeks in vain within itself. It means digging for and uncovering the wellspring of joy which can save and transform things and people and which has the power to undo and make good past suffering. Seek the things that are above! This is not a mere clutching at a straw but a setting-out on the great Easter journey into the region of genuine reality.

Often times, we think of God doing “immeasurably more” in regards to His doing something incredible in our lives. As if each one of us would become the next Mother Theresa or Billy Graham. As if what we do will receive blessings that are worldly, fame, riches, health, pleasure. That we will slay giants, or shatter the minions of evil that oppress those we love.

After all, God can do anything, and promises to do amazing things!

I think Pope Benedict makes a good point in this point highlighted in green, what God does that is beyond belief, beyond our ability to measure is to make good past suffering, to reach into our brokenness; and flood it with so much joy that we count as a blessing what we once complained was a curse.

This isn’t about calling evil good and good evil, make no mistake, but it is about God redeeming the time. It is about the memories now longer haunting us but instead leaving us in awe of God’s love that sustained us in the darkness.

It is about seeing the little things that God sets up, the 10 minutes with a friend there, the prayer said last night, the determination to just rely on God, even as we can’t see where we are going. It is about the peace we feel, as our sins are washed away, as we trust in the words God desires us to see. This abundant blessing is seen in how a little round peace of bread and sip of wine bring us peace as we recognize we are sharing in the body and blood of Jesus.

in those moments, the world can fall apart (or at least we believe it is!) and we are sure God is with us. He has revealed Himself to us in those moments, and we will never forget it. As we focus on Him, the Spirit is turning us into God’s work of art (Eph. 2:10) which again, is more than we could ever expect, ever hope.

God is with you, doing more in you than you could ever imagine…so rejoice, and as you realize you dwell in His presence, be at peace! AMEN!

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

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. 26). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.


Are We Really Listening to God?

We are on a mission from God! Really!

Devotional Thought of the day:

5  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and with hope I wait for his word. 6  My soul waits for the LORD more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6 (GW)

When God speaks to us it does not prove that we are right or even that we are good. In fact we may have misunderstood what God said. The infallibility of God the speaker does not guarantee our infallible reception. However, phrases such as “God told me” or “the Lord led me” are commonly used to prove that “I am right,” “My ideas are right” or “you should follow me.” No such claim is automatically justified.
So if a conversational walk with God does not guarantee my always being right, what is the use of it? Why should we attempt to hear God if it won’t ensure that we’re on the right track?

34† But they would not answer him, because on the road they had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. 35† Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all.” Mark 9:34-35 GNT

As i look over social media this morning, I again find myself distraught over what I see. People trying to justify their views, much as Dallas Willard indicates they do in the green quote above.

It is tempting to reply to each, to show them how their claim to the higher moral position is failing, and actually doing harm to their position.

Everyone claims that they speak for God, whether they believe or not. They do so when they appeal to logic, or what is just (in their eyes) or what a right. Their claim to an absolute is a claim to speak for God, their judgment that something is good, or evil, again is a claim to speak absolutely, and therefore is a claim to speak as God.

Please, stop nodding your head, thinking of people you know I am speaking about – for I am speaking about you, and me.

We try to speak for God all the time, speaking at people, speaking about their sin, judging and condemning that which we don’t approve. Surely, there sins we need to confront, brokeness and even things attitudes so warped that good becomes evil, and evil becomes good.

But the purpose of speaking out about them must be reconcilliation to God, not condemnation to hell. Our attitude should be that of a servant, helping his Master’s children grow and develop.

That requires that we listen to God, more than we speak for Him. It takes knowing and sharing His heart, His attitude for them, rather than just drawing a line in the sand.

So how do we know when we are hearing God accurately? When what is being said aligns with what He desires, when our heart is filled with both love and the pain that comes from seeing those we love, captured in bondange, unable to free themselves.

When we are willing to go them, and share in their pain, waiting patiently for that moment when we can reveal to them the grace of God, the mercy He will show them. When we can take them to the cross, embracing the struggle for the joy set before us.. the joy of welcoming our fellow prodicgal home.

So listen, and run to those He would have you stand by.

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


The Secret to a Blessed, Peace-filled New Year!

God, who am I?

Devotional Thoughts to start the year:

12  How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13  Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. 14  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:12-14 (NLT2)

If God’s conversational walk with us makes us think we are people of great importance, his guidance will certainly be withdrawn. For we cannot be trusted with it. In the kingdom of God, those who exalt themselves will be abased, and pride comes before a fall. If God speaks to us, he does so to help us become a part of what he is doing in the world to care for and guide others

We lack the simplicity that would enable us to stammer “Abba”. In fact, there is, in us, a resistance to saying “Father” that springs from our longing to come of age. The Father no longer seems to us, as he did to Saint Paul, the guarantor of our freedom, but rather the opposite. What we want is a partner; “father” is too suggestive of “authority”. We are like the younger son who claims his inheritance and no longer wants a father, but only a future that he creates for himself

The Year of our Lord, 2018 is finally over. It was, in so many ways, a tiring, draining, traumatic year.

You might call it the “year of faith” because so many things occured that all that is left, is to depend on God. A lot of people lost people close to them, a mother, a brother, a good friend, a husband. Others had to deal with their sin, no longer able to hide it. People struggled in their marriages, in their workplaces, with their health.

And God was there, crying with us, laughing with us, reminding us that we aren’t equal partners with God, but His people, those His covenant promises bless, because we need it.

Even as the psalmist points out, someo of our sin is unkown to us, yet it affects us greatly. We can’t see it, because sometimes we are too self-centered, and our very focus on ourselves becomes our sin. Sometimes we don’t see it, because we’ve convinced ourselves it isn’t really sin, just a weakness, or perhaps the way God made us.

There is also the sin we know about, that we deliberately commit. As God’s children we can ask HIm to free us from them, To break the bondage of those sins over us, as was done when they were nailed to the cross.

This is how we need to start the year, even as we ended it, depending on God, trusting Him to do what is good and right and necessary to help us live in His peace.

And so, the prayer of the pastor/priest before we beging to preach needs to be our prayer this morning, as our lives begin to preach in this new year.

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, YHWH, my ROCK and my REDEEMER! AMEN!

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

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. 9). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.


Is God hidden in plain sight?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue. Many people were there; and when they heard him, they were all amazed. “Where did he get all this?” they asked. “What wisdom is this that has been given him? How does he perform miracles? 3 Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters living here?” And so they rejected him. Mark 6:2-3 Good News Translation

6  I felt secure and said to myself, “I will never be defeated.” 7  You were good to me, LORD; you protected me like a mountain fortress. But then you hid yourself from me, and I was afraid. 8  I called to you, LORD; I begged for your help: 9  “What will you gain from my death? What profit from my going to the grave? Are dead people able to praise you? Can they proclaim your unfailing goodness? 10  Hear me, LORD, and be merciful! Help me, LORD!” 11  You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy. 12  So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. LORD, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever.
Psalm 30:6-12 (TEV)

In the movie Gandhi, the young Indian lawyer and a white clergyman are walking together on a boardwalk in South Africa, contrary to its laws at the time. Some brutish-looking young white men threaten to harm them, but the ringleader’s mother calls from a window and commands him to go about his business.
When the clergyman exclaims over their good luck, Gandhi comments, “I thought you were a man of God.” The clergyman replies, “I am, but I don’t believe he plans his day around me!”
A cute point, but beneath it lie beliefs that make it difficult to take seriously the possibility of divine guidance. One of those beliefs is that we are not important to God. But we were important enough for God to give his Son’s life for us and to choose to inhabit us as living temples. Obviously, then, we are important enough for God to guide us and speak to us whenever it’s appropriate. 

There he was, in the village, doing things that boggled the mind of those who knew Him. Teaching in ways that were simple, yet profound. The reports of the miracles that He had done were overwhelming, there was too much evidence to deny that this man who grew up in their midst was a divinely empowered prophet, and perhaps more.

But they rejected Him, their unbelief robbing Him of the opportunity to do something, anything in their presence. The one who drove out demons, the Lord who healed so many, who raised people from the dead, was tuned out, turned away, unable to help the people He loved.

It is the same thing in David’s psalm, as David describes being safe in God’s presence, too terrified because he couldn’t find God, no matter how hard he looked. And the pastor walking with Gandhi, who failed to see God’s intervention, which even the lawyer/philosopher was able to discern.

This is far more common in the church that we think. We know so much about God, that we reject Him from being our God. We are familiar with Jesus, but we fail to be united to Him, we fail to interact with Him in a way that is, for lack of better word, intimate, We fail to have the communion with Him, we fail to depend on Him, and we think He is hidden from us.

He is not hidden, or if He is, He is hidden in plain sight.

So how do we end this rollercoaster ride that David describes? How do we grow in our discernment of God’s presence, of His love and mercy being poured out on us, as He promises it will be? How do we constantly stay aware of God, seeing Him as He reveals Himself to us?

warning: this answer may piss you off 

You cannot. You are as human as David, or the pastor Gandhi encountered.

This is not something we can accomplish by the force of our will, just as we cannot live a life that is not impacted by our sin. Trying to do so will only result in feelings of guilt and shame, and even more lack of awareness.

I am not saying that we cannot grow in awareness, and more importantly, grow in our ability to trust in God when we can’t see Him. We can learn to search Him out, knowing where we can find Him, rather than just dwelling in the moment we lost track of Him.

This we can do, especially if we have friends around us, able to encourage us when we struggle. For that is part of what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

But even more, we have to learn from the story of the prodigal, we have to trust that God wants us home, we have to know we will be welcomed home. God wants us to realize His presence in our lives, not just as an observer, but as an active participant, empowering us, encouraging us, correcting us, and yes, comforting us.

He’s promised to do all that and more, and in our weakness, we realize how great that promise and that strength is.

So relax, look around, and realize He is your God.

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

While We Wander… where is GOD?

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the day:

38 During all their wanderings they could see the cloud of the LORD’s presence over the Tent during the day and a fire burning above it during the night. Exodus 40:38 Good News Translation

13  Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? 14  All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
Isaiah 7:13-14 (NLT2)

The humanity of Moses, David and Elijah, of Paul, Peter and Jesus Christ himself and of other riotously human women and men in the Bible and throughout church history teaches us a vital lesson: our humanity will not by itself prevent us from knowing and interacting with God just as they did.

I have encountered several people thismonth, who are best consdiered to be “spiritually wnadering”. They are struggling with God, or better to say, they are struggling within themselves, with their own brokeness, with the damage caused by the sin, theirs or the worlds.

They are wandering, bouncing from here to there, unable to come to rest, unable to be be still and realize they are in the presence of God. ANd for the moment, unable to hear the voice that calls to them, that draws them to Him.

In that time, we often wonder where is God. We may get very angry, trying to determine why God would abandon us, why He would let us fall to the side of the road, and wander off of the path.

It is then that we need to realize what Israel had going for them, while they wandered through the desert for 40 years because of their own brokenness, their own self-determinatio,n, their own sin.

Scripture tells us that even in the midst of their wandering, God was present, and made that presence known theough the smoke and the fire. As evil as some of the things they did were, He didn’t abandon them. He cared for these spiritual descendants of Abraham,

God will do the same for us, He has promised to, in places like Matthew 28:20 (and in v.16 it said some of them doubted – even having seen the risen Lord with wounds still fresh) to the very promises of the Messiah in the Old Testament. He is still there, He is still able to be found, and seen in those signs He has ordained for us. His word and sacraments, through those He has placed in our lives, that speak of His love and mercy, He is there for you!

He is there..even as we wander

And will bring to us His peace.

If you are wandering at this time, look around, listen to the music of the season, Hear about this one who came to set us free.  And rejoice, for the Lord is with you!

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


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