Category Archives: Devotional

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord! (even when it is near impossible!)

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31 But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are! Numbers 13:11 NLT

27  On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28  But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.Mark 14:27-28 (NLT2)

Thus the saintly Job said after he had lost his children and all his property, “The Lord gave it, and the Lord has taken it away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Job, indeed, was a just man from whom no one could take anything because he had nothing that he called his own. God declares in Job 41 [:11], “Whatever is under the heaven is mine; I created it.” Why, then, do you boast about your possessions and wail about an injustice done you? If anyone touches your honor, your reputation, your possessions, or anything else that you have, he is encroaching not upon what is yours, but what is Christ’s! (Martin Luther)

Twice men believed they had lost it all, that they were capable of nothing.

The first time, they were going against giants. They forgot about the promises of God and HIs very presence at the tabernacle. They were not ready to take on the challenge, and they would choose to enter 40 years of trials rather
than recognize that God was there…

The second time is similar and even prophesied. The apostles would see Jesus taken – and even before the cross they ran away, they denied him; they could not stand beside Jesus, as they believed they should. They wanted to be there,
to stand with Him, even against the threat of death. They, too, failed, overwhelmed by their lack of strength and the conviction to hold to the One they trusted in…

So why do we think we shall be any better?

Actually, I think we can do better, but not by the strength of our conviction. Instead, we need to acknowledge not only our weakness but God’s wisdom.

Notice that I did not write God’s strength?

In our weakness, as Luther notes, everything is actually God’s. What He gives, what He takes away, He does out of His love and care for us. He makes a decision – in our favor! That we don’t understand that is challenging, very challenging.
Too many times in my life, I have second-guessed God, complained to Him (and to some others), and struggled with what has happened. Have a situation or two (or five!) like that going on right now! There is nothing I can do to change the situation except turn to God.

I wish I could say that is my first reaction, but like Israel and Peter, my faith in God, my trust in His wisdom waivers. Eventually, I will, as Israel would enter the Holy Land, as Peter would respond to Jesus’s love. At this point in my life, I know how things will end… that I will remember God is God, and He loves me. That doesn’t make the present battle more palatable – I just now have to depend on God’s love to endure… for I don’t walk alone. It may feel like I
do, but that feeling is one I have learned by experience is false. He is here… I’ve seen it too often in the past. 

He is here… He is far greater than what oppresses and opposes me. Romans 8:28 and 8:38 are still promised….

If you are struggling in the darkness, I pray for you –that you don’t beat yourself up for not being faithful enough to shatter the darkness by yourself. Look to Jesus, remember the cross – where you were united to Him…where He claimed you as the Father’s child. Breathe deeply of His peace, let His love wash over you. And know there is a morning coming… where you will be able to see God’s love clearly – and how He cared for you through the night.

He is with you… and also with me.

So whatever happens, let us learn to say with Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 42. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

The Church Militant… may not be what you think?

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. 20  You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. 21  Praise the LORD, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack. Psalm 31:19-21 (NLT2)

Contemplative prayer is a process of interior transformation, a conversation initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union. One’s way of seeing reality changes in this process. A restructuring of consciousness takes place which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that exists.

So then, effective and faithful pastoral ministry in each succeeding era must remain intimately connected with its essential core—the divinely given presence of Christ Jesus and the truth of his word by which alone we live.

Now more than at any other time in generations, the believer is in a position to go on the offensive. The world is lost on a wide sea, and Christians alone know the way to the desired haven. While things were going well, the world scorned them with their Bible and hymns, but now the world needs them desperately, and it needs that despised Bible, too.

When one studies Theology, there is a division of the church. The first section is called the Church Triumphant; it is all those who have gone to be with the Lord at death. The second is the Church Militant, the people of the church still alive and engaged in the spiritual battles that make up everyday life.

The problem is the word militant; it brings up pictures of a great Christian army dressed for battle against the heathen, against the cults, against atheists and agnostics. We see this as if the salvation of the church depended on making others submit to the church. We are to go on the offensive – and passages like Matthew 16 and Ephesians 6 are used to cheer on those preparing for WAR!

Too often, the church has become offensive rather than going on the offensive. We have forgotten our mission is the same as our Lord’s – to see the sinner find the rest that Tozer calls a haven. That is why he talks of the church on the offensive. Those who seem to despise the church are the ones who need us the most. Hose who scorn us and think us ridiculous are the ones we are placed in the midst, for God knows their needs.

That need is described in Psalm 31, as God is praised for providing shelter, the haven. It is finding the unfailing love, the intimate care which God is revealed, even as we are drawn into His presence. Senkbeil refers to this intimate presence as the essential core of ministry. Without it, our lives are not being lived; what instead happens is akin to the life of the shadows.

The church militant is aggressive, but not in the attack against unbelievers. It pursues its connection with the Father. As the words about contemplative prayer describe, it is the transformation initiated and guided by God. It is the time in His presence where we are changed. Paul talks about pressing for this in Philippians. 

Simply put, the more we are aware of His presence, the more we see Him working through us, reaching the very people that God will gather. The mroe time we spend basking in and in awe of His florious love, the more we are changed, the more we love Him, and

You want to win the world for Christ – seek how He is revealing Himself to you through the Gospel and the Sacraments. Rejoice as He provides for you, and then lovingly invite others into these intimate moments where God is…. with us.

Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers. Entry for January 1st

Even this? Even now?

Something to help you learn to adore Jesus….

20  And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20 (NLT2)

The Venerable John of Avila wrote as follows to a priest who so complained to him: “My friend, busy not yourself with what you would do if you were well, but be content to remain ill as long as God thinks fit. If you seek the will of God, what matters it to you whether you be well or ill?”

de Ligouri’s comments hit me hard this morning.

I should be grateful that I can do what I can do… I have friends that both temporarily and permanently are more restricted by issues of health, both physical and mental health.

But de Ligouri goes beyond just being grateful for what we can do, suggesting that we should be grateful for the suffering that stops us, that stops us from living – as least living as we want to live.

I can try to justify my limitations, but rejoicing in them? Rejoicing in the pain, the weariness, the grief, the tears? Rejoice?

That is beyond my ability…..

There has been too much, there is too much..

Until I find myself at the altar, or at the table, or in the bed, and share a prayer with another believer. Or even better, share Christ’s body and blood with another. Until the peace that follows such a moment, where the presence of God is so clearly revealed.

God is surely with those in bed, and has promised to make those moments good for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. I’ve seen it so many times, that I know it will happen.

It is simple – in those moments, one needs to be encoruaged by God’s faithful, comforting presence. For those there, it is what they have to trust in as well, and encourage the stricken with,

God is here, revel in HIs presence, find your hope, eternal hope in that presence.

There is a point you get too, in the midst of the trial, where God’s presence becomes so real, so true, so comforting… that everything else grows strangely dim, as the hymn tells us, in light of His glory and grace.

If you need someone to sit with you, until that time – that is what pastors and chaplains are for…. and if yours won’t… give me a call.. or message me. You aren’t alone, but sometimes a familiar face helps that reality become revealed.

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), 417.

The Biggest Struggle in our Lives…isn’t ours!

Only one freed from sin, would cling to Christ like this. May this be who you and I are, as the Spirit draws us to Jesus!

Thoughts to cause us to adore our Lord and God.

15  The Lord has removed your punishment; he has turned back your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is among you; you need no longer fear harm. 16  On that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, do not let your hands grow weak. 17  The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing.Zephaniah 3:15-17 (CSBBible)

We Christians must stop apologizing for our moral position and start making our voices heard, exposing sin for the enemy of the human race which it surely is, and setting forth righteousness and true holiness as the only worthy pursuits for moral beings.

We must overcome all, renounce all, in order to gain all. St. Teresa said: “Because we do not come to the conclusion of giving all our affection to God, so neither does he give all his love to us.”3 Oh, God, how little is all that is given to Jesus Christ, who has given his blood and his life for us!

Be this as it may, our life consists of the forgiveness of sins. Otherwise it’s no good.

Tozer begs the people of God to expose sin for what it is – the enemy of the human race. deLigouri tells us we have to renouce all, basically referring to what we desire, so that we gain all.

I think they understand the result, but they still are trusting in human willpower to choose what is right. That is where they make their mistake. For you and I aren’t capable of living a perfect, sinless life. If we were, why would we need Jesus? Why would we need the cross?

Yet we must come to the place they both desire. But we have to realize that perfection comes from without,

Well, sort of.

THat kind of holiness occurs only through the presence oof Jesus in our lives.

That is why Luther notes that our life is centered in the forgiveness of sins. That we have to live there, in the place where Jesus’ death pays the price, and endures the consequences. Aware of that, the power of sin to haunt us, disolves. We are forgiven, we are the people whom the prophet Zephaniah speaks,

Jesus has done this, it is why He died, so that you and I could be free form sin, how it haunts us, and how it would steal our present, our future, our eternity.

Sin isn’t about morality, it is about true freedom. When we reduce sin to a moral competition, we have lost. God doesn’t want us to be moral so He can declare us good! Rather, morality is what happens to us, when we are looking to Jesus. It is a passive transformaiton on our part, not an active choice. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the work of our heart and mind.

THerefore we cannot claim superior morals, as if it is our victory. It is Jesus’ victory, at the cross….

We just get to live in it..

Jesus gave His life, so that the Holy Spirit could work in ours, setting us apart, declaring us righteous and His people. Rejoice in that, and live in its truth.

Sin is our enemy… God’s taken care of sin, and Satan, and the threat of death… AMEN!

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), 341.

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), 150.

When Failure is Good!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  When that day comes,” says the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.Hosea 2:16 (NLT2)

If I miss God’s great salvation, has this life been worth the struggle? Personally, I think not!

The Prophet Aggeus says, that whoever labors for anything else than to please God, puts his reward in a sack full of holes, which, when he comes to open, he finds entirely empty: And he that hath earned wages, put them into a bag with holes.4 And hence it is that such persons, in the event of their not gaining the object for which they entered on some undertaking, are thrown into great trouble. This is a sign that they had not in view the glory of God alone. He that undertakes a thing solely for the glory of God, is not troubled at all, though his undertaking may fail of success; for, in truth, by working with a pure intention, he has already gained his object, which was to please Almighty God.
The following are the signs which indicate whether we work solely for God in any spiritual undertaking. 1. If we are not disturbed at the failure of our plans, because when we see it is not God’s will, neither is it any longer our will. 2. If we rejoice at the good done by others, as heartily as if we ourselves had done it. 3. If we have no preference for one charge more than for another, but willingly accept that which obedience to Superiors enjoins us. 4. If after our actions we do not seek the thanks or approbation of others, nor are in any way affected if we be found fault with or scolded, being satisfied with having pleased God

I often joke with a certain friend of mine by humming or stating the words to “It’s a Small World.” For the rest of the day, despite the fact they state they hate the son, they will be humming it, without realizing it.

Some things are like that, they stick in your mind.

The passages above were actually from my devotions last Thursday. But the passage from Hosea stuck in my mind, and I kept coming back to it.

Josea’s wife Gomer had only had relationships that were, to be blunt, a business transaction. That was her background, and she struggled being in a relationship with Hosea, because she couldn’t get the fact that he loved her. She would run back to her own life several times. She struggled to realize she could be the object of love, rather than a slave of lust.

And so she missed the love that would bring her back, clean her up, isolate her, and work with her again.

She is the perfect example of Tozer’s warning about missing salvation, of being unable to appreciate it. Life become worthless…

deLigouri’s words also start to describe the one who misses God, who lives for things other than God. But then he moves on, and describes the person focused on God. How radical a change it is. Failure become not just acceptable, but something that might be worth praising God for, as we discover how it turns to blessing. Other’s success, even at our cost, become a cause for joy.

It all becomes like the two people in love, where all else is minimized, in order that they love each other.

This is our hope, this is our joy, this love of God that so cares for us, that we adore Him to exclusion of all else. THis is when we stop seeing ourselves as God’s slaves, and realize we are His beloved. This is the day Hosea dreamed of for Gomer, and that is the will of God for His people. The day when the relationship became real.

Lord Jesus, help us to move past the “Gomer” stage, help us to oreceive Your love, to share in Your glory, as we see revealed to us the love of the Father. AMEN!

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), 325–326.

He chose His pain-filled Life, with you in mind!

Devotional Thought for our days…

(The LORD says.) “This is my servant; I strengthen him, this is my chosen one; I delight in him. I have put my Spirit on him; he will bring justice to the nations. 2  He will not cry out or shout or make his voice heard in the streets. 3  He will not break a bruised reed, and he will not put out a smoldering wick; he will faithfully bring justice. 4  He will not grow weak or be discouraged until he has established justice on earth.Isaiah 42:1-4 (CSBBible)

But what is more astonishing still is, that he could very well have saved us without dying and without suffering at all; but no: he chose a life of sorrow and contempt, and a death of bitterness and ignominy even to the expiring on a cross,—the gibbet of infamy, the award of vilest criminals: He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.1 But why, if he could have ransomed us without suffering, why should he choose to die, and to die on a cross? To show us how he loved us. He loved us, and delivered Himself for us. He loved us, and because he loved us, he delivered himself up to sorrows, and ignominies, and to a death more cruel than ever any man endured in this world.

There is one line in the Isaiah passage that really gets me to think. It is that Jesus would not, did not, grow weak or discouraged. Surely he was tried, surely he faced exhaustion, Yet He remained focused on His desire to save us.

Notice i said desire there, not just mission. All of us have missions, and visions, and goals that we strive for in ecery aspect of life. de Ligouri makes a great point – that Jesus could have chosen a different way to save us. He could have even created us in such a way that we didn’t have the choice to sin. He could have done the inverse of the MCU Characther Thanos, and snapped His finger and all sin would be forgiven, and we could be restored.

Jesus didn’t. He chose to love us, and he chose to reveal that love through his incarnation, his life, his death and the cross. He endured His mission – to gain what He desired, our love, lived out for eternity.

Think on this throughout your day….

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), 266–267.

Am I a Hypocrite? What if I feel like I am?

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
(Jesus said) “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18  so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.   Matthew 6:16-18 (CSBBible)

8  Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking: Who will I send? Who will go for us? I said: Here I am. Send me. 9  And he replied: Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. 10  Make the minds of these people dull; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed. Isaiah 6:8-10 (CSBBible)

I do not deny that, over the years, people have come to me and have told me with real sorrow: “Father, I don’t know what’s come over me, but I find I am tired and cold. My piety used to be so solid and straightforward, but now it feels like play acting …” Well, for those who are going through such a phase, and for all of you, I answer: “Play acting? Wonderful! The Lord is playing with us as a father does with his children.” (a few paragraphs on…)
“But, Father,” you ask me, “can one put on an act for God? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?” Don’t worry: for you the moment has arrived to play out a human comedy before a divine spectator. Persevere, for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are contemplating your act; do it all for love of God, to please him, although you find it hard. How beautiful it is to be God’s jester! How beautiful to act out such a role for Love, with a spirit of sacrifice, not seeking any personal satisfaction, but just to please our Father God, who is playing with us! Turn to our Lord with confidence and say to him: “I don’t feel like doing this at all, but I will offer it up for you.” And then put your heart into the job you are doing, even though you think you are just play acting. Blessed play acting! I assure you it isn’t hypocrisy, because hypocrites need a public for their pantomimes, whereas the spectators of our play, let me repeat, are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;

Since i was a little child, Jesus’s words above in red bothered me. I thought it was somewhat hypocritical, and even a lie to pretend what was going on wasn’t going on.

If you are fasting or suffering, why should you hide it?

I get the part of offering it up to God, but to pretend things are different than they are? Isn’t that being a hypocrite?

I have not only heard peopel ask how to deal with the “dry spells” of their faith, I have had them myself, and I am not talking about my childhood, or my time studying to be a pastor. I feel like giving up somedays, and other wonder why Isaiah didn’t! I mean – he walked into the gig – knowing he would have little or no effect! He did it anyway!

I had to read St. Josemaria’s words a few times over to get into the idea of “acting” differently than I am. To persevere in my acts of faith, of searching for the Lord’s pleasure and presence – knowing that I would not always get the satisfaction, at least cognitively.

And not getting the satisfaction cognitively….doesn’t mean it is not there!

And it certainly means that we are not hypocrites, we are not doing this for praise, we aren’t showing off our holiness, we are trying to love God, the God who loves us. We are trying to reach out to the One who came and reached out on a cross to show us His love. It isn’t acting – it is trying to do what we have done, where we have known HIs grace. He knows our hearts better than we, He is the one who empowers our faith as well as our will, and the very desire to keep moving, there is something that pleases Him.

Simply put, if you are worried about being a hypocrite, the odds are you are not. Continue to trust in Him, continue to do what you know will reveal His presence, and HIs grace… for even if you can’t feel it…

THE LORD IS WITH YOU!!


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

Thoughts to survive another monday…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. 13 When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear Gods and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.t 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil. Eccl. 12:12–14.

O LORD Jesus Christ, thou holy, precious spotless and innocent Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, we thank thee for thy most holy sufferings and death. Thy soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death, because our sorrows and iniquities, terrors and diseases were laid upon thee. We thank thee for thine anguish of heart and soul, for thy bloody sweat and dying agony, in which thou didst truly taste death for every man. We thank thee for thine agonizing prayer and for thy retirement into the garden, there to offer thyself to the Father as the willing Substitute from us. We thank thee for the bands which bound thee, for by them thou didst release us from the bands of everlasting death. We thank thee for the stripes which thou didst endure for our sakes, and for thy scourging, patience and humility by which thou didst offer a ransom for our disobedience, blindness and hardness of heart.

O eternal Father! I offer Thee the pure affections of the heart of Jesus. If Thou dost reject mine, Thou canst not reject those of Thy Son, who is sanctity itself; may they supply what is wanting in me, and may they render me pleasing in Thy eyes!

I only citred about 1/3rd of Pastor Loehe’s prayer (A 19th century Lutheran Pastor) that was part of my devotions this morning. I needed to re-read it several times, to soak in the attitude I need to have, if I am going to survive this day.

I need to realize the depth of His love, revealed at the cross, and at the altar as we receive His body and blood. It is there we see what de Ligouri (a Catholic saint) calls the pure affections of the heart – the incredible love for God and for our neighbor that we are commissioned to have.

THis is what the writer who ends Ecclestiases is talking about – to be in awe of God – for he brought every act into judgment at the cross – and there poured out His anger, at the pain that we have caused.

Jesus took it all, suffered for it all, loved us enough to do this….

knowing this gets me thorugh the evil and stress encountered on a Monday…..

nothing else will…

Jesus has done it all…

time to live in thanks………………………

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 135.

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), 256–257.

Have you tried this simple thing yet?

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

When I bring you home from the places where you are now scattered, I will be pleased with you, just as I am pleased with the smell of the smoke from your sacrifices. Every nation on earth will see that I am holy, 42 and you will know that I, the LORD, am the one who brought you back to Israel, the land I promised your ancestors. 43 Then you will remember your wicked sins, and you will hate yourselves for doing such horrible things. They have made you unacceptable to me, 44 so you deserve to be punished. But I will treat you in a way that will bring honor to my name, and you will know that I am the LORD God. Ezekiel 20:41-44 CEV

My friends, the blood of Jesus gives us courage to enter the most holy place 20 by a new way that leads to life! And this way takes us through the curtain that is Christ himself. Hebrews 10:19-20

I thought that continence (sexual self-control) arose from one’s own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know … that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you. (quoted from Augustine’s Confessions)

The prophets are not progressives advocating a new order. Like the Church—which formulates creeds only to distinguish old orthodoxy from new heresies—the prophets hold God’s Word against the stream of the spirit of the times, against the world, the reigning era, the new human fashion.

I, on occasion, get to help people in their struggle with sin. I believe, as we realize that we are in the midst of God reviving people, it will be come more frequent. Enough so that it didn’t surprise me when these readings all came up today in my devotional time.

We all struggle with sin, whether we dwell in guilt and shame, beating ourselves up as if we can beat it out of ourselves, or whether we deny the power of temptation and its ability to cause us to submit.

As well, Satan, that foe of ours, would love for us to believe this is our battle. That we have to overcome temptation by our own strength, or we will never qualify to be God’s “good” people. That is a lie, straight from the Hell that has been prepared for the Devil and His angels.

Look at Augustine’s revelation to himself, he cannot, on his own control his desires, and he reminds himself of the grace and love of God that he should cry out to in those times.

Kreeft reminds us of the prophetic message God has sent, to help us deal with sin, to call us back into the covenant where God promises forgiveness, mercy and comfort to those broken.

Even more authoritative, because it is God’s holy word, are the verses from Hebrews, we enter God’s presence, the place of mercy, the place of His defending us, our safe sanctuary and fortress, by the blood of Christ. We have to depend on that, in time of temptation, in time of struggle, and in times where we fail…

And that is where Ezekiel comes in… go back and re-read it, slowly and carefully. God brings us back and we deserve to be punished. We realize that, even as many of us do now. Read the promise again….

But I will treat you in a way that will bring honor to my name, and you will know that I am the LORD God.

This doesn’t give us the permission to sin more.. but it tells us of His love for us, and His promise of grace.

So cry out, even as Augustine suggested we should. Cry out for help when temptation draws close, when the world is assisting temptaiton by making it seem ok. Cry out to God… He will be there… and will help redeem and restore you… and He will overcome it…

Cry out to Him….

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 604.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 126.


 

God’s Awkward Love…. for us

woman wearing black shirt

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Devotional Thoughts for the Day

Please, LORD, remember, you have always been patient and kind. 7 Forget each wrong I did when I was young. Show how truly kind you are and remember me. 8 You are honest and merciful, and you teach sinners how to follow your path. Psalm 25:6-8  CEV

To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

In the second place, righteousness consists of this, that having known and judged ourselves, we do not despair before God’s judgment seat, before which we plead guilty in this petition, but that we seek refuge in God’s mercy and firmly trust that he will deliver us from our disobedience to his will

Yes, beloved believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has mounted to the topmost heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the bosom of our Lord, and we have no more questioned our Master’s affection to us than John did when in that blessed posture; nay, nor so much: for the dark question, “Lord, is it I that shall betray thee?” has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of his mouth, and killed our doubts by the closeness of his embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls.

I struggled with including the last sentence of the quote from Spurgeon.  It is awkward-sounding, extremely awkward-sounding to my ears, and I wondered how people would take it. But after delaying writing this devotion for an hour or so, I decided it needs to stay, but the journey towards it has to be taken, so be patient, and I will explain why.

First, let’s go up to the quote from the Roman Catholic Catechism and the definition of sin.  Sin isn’t about breaking the rules, not really.  As the Catechism points out, it can only be defined in view of the relationship between man and God.  It is a betrayal of the worse kind, a complete discounting of the relationship God desires with us. It calls to mind the pain of Judas’s kiss, that greeting when we calmly indicate God isn’t wanted in our lives, unless He plays by our rules, and takes on the form of the obedient servant.  (which we sometimes think is what He wants – but again – that isn’t what He set up!) Rome is right, we all to often embrace the weight of sin, and the misery it causes, and has caused throughout history.

Luther’s words provide a nice response to that. The first step, judge yourself and plead guilty of sins.  Second Step, do so with the vision of being cleansed clear in your mind, seeking refuge in God’s mercy.  Step three, depend on God that He will, no He has delivered us from this body, dead in sin.

But this is by no means a clinical process, a procedure that can be followed step by step, simply reciting some prayers we don’t hear the words of, as we’ve said them too many times. We need to think about the damage we’ve done, the pain we’ve caused, the grief, not to punish ourselves more, but to appreciate what God does, when He forgives those sins.  I like how the CEV translates Psalm 25, full of that confidence, yet with the childlike wonder that asks the impossible, knowing God our Father will make it happen.

WHich is where Spurgeon’s awkward passage comes in, where we are so distraught by our sin, that Jesus has to hold us and assure us that He is putting that sin far away from us, and the thoughts about it too.   Embracing us, not with sensuality, but with the intimate tenderness that puts an end to our distress.  Embracing us in a way that counter’s Judas’s kiss.

Yes it is awkwardly written, for us who live in a different time, and culture. Then again, it is awkward going up to someone you betrayed, and asking them if they can make it right, if they can forgive, and forget, and heal the brokenness that we caused.  Awkward, completely awkward.  Horribly awkward.

Confession has to be awkward, but even more awkward is the forgiveness that follows..And the assurance of God’s love, which we broken people need!.

And we need to hear His voice telling us we are forgiven, we are loved, and He will be with us… until He brings us home.

That’s awkward, and we need it… and He provides it.

To God be the glory, for great things He has done!

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 97.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 43.

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

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