Category Archives: Devotional

Why Faith Is More Than Just What We Believe…..

Featured imagedevotional thought of the day:
26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:26-28 (NLT)

9  Each time he said, My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)

127         The test, I don’t deny it, proves to be very hard: you have to go uphill, “against the grain”. What is my advice? That you must say: Omnia in bonum, everything that happens, “everything that happens to me”, is for my own good… Therefore do accept what seems so hard to you, as a sweet and pleasant reality.  (1)

We hear the passages, the plea that is the question,

“do you believe in Jesus?”

We nod our head, maybe even say a strong, gut level yes.  We proceed to talk about some aspect of doctrine, or some moment in the past where our “faith” became alive and meaningful.  We know we are going to heaven, (aren’t we?) but we struggle to understand what that really means.

We believe, which I think too often we define as “we know”.  We reinforce that when we talk of defending the faith as arguing about doctrine, or some theological principle or proof, such as the proof for the existence of God.  Or even our “new believer’s class, which can appropriately cover a catechism, but is all question and answers, including some interesting tangents. Such knowledge is necessary and beneficial, but it is not what our faith is, it is simply a description of it.

Faith is a level of trust, a level of dependance on God.  It is knowing that He will indeed keep His promises, the promises He has actually made to you and others who know Him.

It is knowing that all things will work together for good.  All things, yeah, even when that moment occurs when you are revealed to be broken to the entire world.  Yes, even those times you struggled with the brokenness of the world, and the inability of anyone to deal with it.  As St. Josemaria encourages us, we accept what happens, not liking it, but confident in God will prove Himself again worthy of your trust, caring for you, healing you, holding you.

Faith is an intimate relationship with God, on His terms, based in His love, by His standards.  It’s a non-negotiable relationship, what we call a religion.  After all, He is the One who created us, the One who is pure wisdom, pure love, pure reality, pure grace.  A grace, a charism, a gift of life that is beyond anything we can imagine.

The odd thing is, we find ourselves closest to comprehending it, not during mountaintop experiences, but in the midst of our brokenness.  In is in the depth our sorrow, our anxiety, our grief that the light of the Holy Spirit comes in the brightest.  It is the midst of those times we pray, and we depend, and trust, and find Him holding onto us.

Maybe you are there, in the middle of brokenness, in despair and need to know that God loves you.  I assure you that He does.  That He will pick you up, as He has picked me up. As He continues to minister to us all.

I’ll leave you with this, a video of Rich Mullins, whose brokenness…is as evident as his dependance, his trust, his faith in God

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 720-724). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

does how we view God affect our ministry?

Featured imagedevotional thought of the day;

18 You have not come to a physical mountain,* to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. 19 For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. 20 They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”* 21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”*
22 No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.   Heb 12:18–24 nlt

119         Those problems which used to overwhelm you—and seemed like enormous mountains—disappeared completely. They were solved in a divine way, as when Our Lord commanded the winds and the waters to be calm. And to think that you still doubted!

when i read the verses from Hebrews this morning, i knew i would be writing about them, though i didn’t know how until i read the passage from St. Josemaria.

for i think we would all say that we understand the scripture passage, that we all agree, we do not dwell in the presence of God in the way Moses perceived.  we live in grace, we live in a God who reveals His presence as the comforter, the paraclete, the refuge, the One in Whom we can trust, and upon Whom we depend.

if that is so, shouldn’t that be evident in our life?  we should live in a manner that reflects the joy of coming into the presence of God as one whose name is written in heaven. we should live without fear, for we depend upon the fact that Jesus mediated the new covenant, a covenant which cries out with mercy, that speaks of forgiveness.

we need to realize what this means for life now, here and now.  those mountains of fear that assail us, that challenged our desire to serve God, cannot cause us to fail, for forgiveness and mercy follow us, as David wrote. we may need to find our rest, our sanctuary, and a place to heal now and then, but God will guide us past the mountains, and through the storms. we don’t have to walk around on eggshells, as if failing God, He’s already proven what He does with our sins, would He somehow less merciful because we tried to love, care, and bring the gospel to others?

this means we can dream big – not of our fame, but of God’s glory.  we can try something that we might not have seen as possible, or possible for us. we can reach out in love, without fear of rejection. we can simply love, not to be loved in return, but because we know we already are.

walking into God’s presence is something that leaves us in awe.  yet it transforms us as well, freeing us to hear His voice, to realize we walk with Him.  as we heard yesterday in Mark 9, that means the impossible – of seeing God at work in our lives… is not just possible.  it is probable.

live in Christ Jesus my friends, for that is why you were born again. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 692-694). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

There is no “them”, there is only “us”

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
  Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good.  Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another.  Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion.  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers.  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse.  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep.  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)

1. The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.  (1)

26         It is sad to see what some people understand by almsgiving: a few pennies or some old clothes. They seem not to have read the Gospel. Don’t be over-cautious: help people to acquire sufficient faith and fortitude to be ready to deny themselves generously, in this life, what they need. And to those who lag behind, explain that it is neither very noble nor very graceful, even from an earthly point of view, to wait for the last moment, when they will be obliged to take nothing with them.

In yesterday’s Gospel reading, Jesus made it clear that whoever would be first must be the servant of all.  Note the period after the word “all”.  He didn’t say all ‘of our friends”, or “all Americans”, or “all – insert your ethnicity – ”  He said “all” and then the period makes it clear, He meant all.   In last week’s reading from James, it was made clear as well, there is no priority based on wealth, power, or prestige.  In God’s way of thinking, the president of a country (whether you like him or not) and a toddler are equal.  The richest of businessmen is no greater than a 97-year-old shut-in, or the homeless guy.

As part of that family descended from Adam we are a family.  One family.  As believers, and I love the way Vatican II puts this, the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of everyone, we have a share in.  It is from St. Paul we read these words originate – for He encourages us to share in the joy and sorrow of all – even those whom we count as our enemies and our adversaries. Our hearts need to break when we realize that people don’t know the love of God.  Our hearts need to rejoice, even soar with joy as someone is brought to life and will abide in the presence of Christ.

We need to, as St. Josemaria says, to help people learn to deny themselves generously, to help those around them, to truly help them.  Whether it is the family of refugees that we assist or the neighbor grieving,  it doesn’t matter whether they are long-time believers, or of another religion, or anti-religious.

They need what every human needs.  The love and mercy of God, shown through the people who know this mercy and love.  Who know it because in their brokenness this love is shown to them.

Simply put, there is no “them”, there is only “us”.

Realize this – that when Christ said we are to serve all – He meant all of “us”.  Go out and love with abandon.  Rejoice with those rejoicing, weep with those weeping, and serve one another.

Lord be merciful to us!

(1)   Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 340-346). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Do You Invest in?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the day

5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.(Mal 2:5–7 NLT

758    The wholehearted acceptance of the will of God is the sure way of finding joy and peace: happiness in the cross. It’s then we realize that Christ’s yoke is sweet and that his burden is not heavy.  (1)

Yesterday I ha the blessing of baptizing a young man named Aiden.

And then I was able to give to 60 or more people Christ’s body and blood.  Somewhere in the middle I delivered a sermon,   This is what I live for in life when I am consistent with the Spirit given me in baptism some 50 years ago.

It’s what i do, it is, in many ways, what I’ve invested my life in, at least the investment that is worthwhile.

I have invested time in other things, some that were fun, some that were silly, some that caused suffering, my own or someone else’s. Are some of those things good?  Well, God promises that all will work for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

It is when we see God’s will when we see His presence, His mercy, and His love made manifest, those are the times of the greatest peace, the most incredible joy. Which is why giving and yes receiving the sacraments, or studying God’s revelation of love is so much a time of blessed peace. It is when we are praying with someone, asking for God to reveal Himself, to reveal His mercy, whether that person is 98 and on their death bed, or 2 years old and crying because she doesn’t want to leave church, or with a bunch of friends at lunch that we see this.

You see the work of a pastor/priest is different, but no different in that God is working through us all, reconciling the world to Himself.  That is His desire, that none should perish, but that all are transformed into this life.

He is here, He is with us, He brings us life and peace… this is what we all are to pass on,  That is the greatest investment we can make… giving someone else the peace of God, found in life united to Christ.

And may we rejoice as we turn many from their sin because of this gospel message, lived out in Christ.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1766-1767). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Image of God, Seen Today in Our Midst

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
1  Take me as your pattern, just as I take Christ for mine. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NJB)

27  God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NJB)

18  And all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NJB)

Is our being made in the image and likeness of God something invisible, something confined, perhaps, to the soul? But if so, then it is not an image, for an image is, by its nature, something that can be seen. And, in fact, we can see the image—not in the momentary flash of photography, but in the demeanor that reveals a life: in the goodness of a mother, in the uprightness of a husband, in the fidelity of a friend in our time of trouble, in the patience of one who suffers, in the gentleness and maturity of one who prays. When we see these signs, we are seeing the image of God. (1)

Every once in a while you hear about Jesus image, maybe in a piece of toast, or a tortilla or pancake, or in some artifact.  It is kind of funny the fuss that is made over these things,

But what if I said I saw God’s image today, the glorious image of God, reflected in the face of an 89-year-old lady, or a two-year-old child, That claim might seem rather over the top.  There is a strong Biblical basis for it.  A basis recognized in the devotion I came across this morning.

I love how Cardinal Ratzinger sees the image of Christ, not in a static picture or print, but in a life lived reflecting the glory, the love and mercy of God.  The glory of God at work, redeeming and reconciling for Himself a people, and doing it through….. the people He has redeemed.  The people He has reconciled to Himself.  He causes them to love, as the Holy Spirit transforms them into the image of Jesus. The Holy Spirit molds them, and as Eph. 210 discusses – we are changed into a work of art, God’s great masterpiece,

A people who resemble their Lord and Savior, the One, who sent the Spirit, to focus them on Jesus, and transform them.

So the lady in my Bible Study, who always pauses to pray, and give thanks and know God’s love, in Her I see the image of God reflected.   In the two year old, who is most comfortable and most at peace at the altar, even though she can’t explain what happened in her baptism, in the friend who reaches out and listens, even though pressed for time.  In each the image of Christ is reflected, the glory of Christ is seen and known and experienced.

Lord, have mercy, and He shows He does, as people find the healing that is only in Christ while helping others heal.

Godspeed!

(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 219). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Is “Love Thy Neighbor” simply Law, A Commandment, Or it is something more?

Featured imageDiscussion Thought of the Day

 ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27b (NLT)

9  “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. John 15:9 (NLT)

16  We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 1 John 4:16-17 (NLT)

21  When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:21 (NLT)

In a recent blog, I made mention that loving our neighbor is not just law, it is always gospel.  The contention was over evangelism, when I said doing such was an act of love, that love compels us to work for reconciliation.  But what compels us is not the law, but the love that is the effect of the gospel.  And to not love our neighbor, by sharing the greatest treasure we have, the love and mercy of God, is sin.

SO I was asked to clarify how “love thy neighbor” isn’t just law, but the purest of Gospel. Because of that, we have a blog about it.

The simple truth is we aren’t capable of loving each other as God commands, in the midst of our sin.  Therefore, a directive to love our neighbor is the law, and we can be judged by it. For most Lutherans (who the discussion seems to be between) this is normal use of the law, it guides our actions in community, and it reveals our need for God.  It also shows how we should live, (what it called the third use of the Law)

But it is more than just a command, it is a commission, a way of life God prepared those of us in Christ to walk in,  (see Eph. 2 10. )  It is who we are in Christ, formed by Him, transformed by the Holy Spirit.  It is the effect of our reconciliation, our redemption and sanctification, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

It isn’t about living within the confines of the law, the don’t touch, don’t do, type of law.  It is more than the third use of the law – because it isn’t about obeying, it is about being in Christ, about the Holy Spirit’s work.  If it is the only law, it is about us.  But loving God and loving our neighbor is more than that.

It is the freedom of living and abiding in God’s love. That is where the commission to love comes from.  It is the encouragement to live within the reality of your salvation, As we look to Christ, as the Spirit transforms us, it is indicative of who we become, of who we are in Christ.

If loving our neighbor is only law, it is not an indicative state, it is not that which the Father commissions and makes happen  as we are raised with Christ. We are no longer Christ’s masterpiece, the work that He is glorified and raised above all others for accomplishing.

But love is not just law.  It is life, in communion with God and all of His people, all of His creation.  It is indicative of the eternal life promised and given to us, as the Spirit quickens and transforms us.

AMEN.

Sharing the Hope You have in Christ Jesus: Doing God’s work

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day

27  “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 28  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:27-30 (NLT)

658    If things go well, let’s rejoice, blessing God, who makes them prosper. And if they go wrong? Let’s rejoice, blessing God, who allows us to share the sweetness of his cross.

We are too much like the laborers of the first hour in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Mt 20:1–16). Once they discovered that they could have earned their day’s pay of one denarius in a much easier way, they could not understand why they had had to labor the whole day. But what a strange attitude it is to find the duties of our Christian life unrewarding just because the denarius of salvation can be gained without them! It would seem that we—like the workers of the first hour—want to be paid not only with our own salvation, but more particularly with others’ lack of salvation. That is at once very human and profoundly un-Christian.Escriva,

A recent response to a blog indicated that I was doing something wrong, by trying to show that sharing one’s faith, doing the work revealing the love and mercy of Christ, was wrong.  The writer thought I was unjustly burdening people, by using the law to motivate people.

Except that in a relationship with God, sharing the good news of His mercy, the love He wants everyone to know, isn’t hard, or burdensome. It is if we condemn people for not doing it, but it isn’t if we free them to be able to share the greatest gift they have ever been given.

Like Herod talking to John the Baptist, I like and dislike hearing the words of Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict).  They ring very true – why are we jealous of those who find a relationship with God at the last minute?  Are we upset that we had to work harder alongside our master?

I’ve often explained it this way.  Imagine some billionaire is down at the local bank, handing out million dollar checks to whoever shakes his hand.  You get yours, deposit it.  What do you do?  Do you simply go home, or go to the local BMW dealer?  Or do you get out your cell phone and call a few friends?  Do you consider it work, do you consider it burdensome to do so?  No, you do it because you know people who could use some cash, and you care about them.

It’s the same thing with the good news that God loves you.  Yeah – you.  He loves you so much to carefully strip away everything that hinders you, all the sin, all the resentment from being sinned against, all the crap in your life. Is that worth more than a million dollars?  If we realize it is, then shouldn’t we joyfully share it with those who are hindered and broken by sin?

That is what being yoked to Christ is about in this life.  It’s about doing the Father’s will, helping fulfill His desire that all would come to the transformation that is true repentance.  Serving others, ministering to their needs, helping them find Jesus, and the hope He gives them in life.  Some have the vocation of doing this as shepherds of God’s people.  But if they are doing it while they are shepherding, so the church is doing it alongside them.  Which is why the burden is easy.  We aren’t alone.  We bear this with all the church, and with the Lord of Life, the Holy Spirit who indwells and empowers us.

It is bearing our crosses, it is abiding in Christ.  When we see people come to know Him, to receive His mercy, His forgiveness, His love, it is an incredibly joy filled experience.  When the road gets a little rough, when thins don’t work as we  planned, when we are rejected or when we are oppressed, we still are sharing His cross, His yoke, and dwelling in His presence, the joy remains.

It is the only work, the only vocation I know of, where we beg people to join with us, as we rest in peace.  His peace.

Enjoy it!

Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1538-1539). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (pp. 217–218). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

A Way to Deal with Spiritual Insomnia…

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

27  Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? 28  Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe. 29  If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. 30  That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (MSG)

1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith.[2]

They should, therefore, constantly exert themselves to have the faithful know and live the paschal mystery more deeply through the Eucharist and thus become a firmly-knit body in the unity of the charity of Christ.9 “Intent upon prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4), they should devote their labor to this end that all those committed to their care may be of one mind in prayer10 and through the reception of the sacraments may grow in grace and be faithful witnesses to the Lord.[3]

316    You tell me: “Yes, I want to!” Good. But do you “want to” as a miser wants his gold, as a mother wants her child, as a worldling wants honors, or as a poor sensualist wants his pleasure? No? Then you don’t “want to”!

It was a long time ago, thirty-five years ago when the nights seemed so long.  I was young, working as a dishwasher at a Denny’s back in New Hamshire.  I worked the graveyard shift, the eleven to seven am a shift.  I would go from there off to high school.  There was a point on those nights, I can never forget.

When you work those shifts, or if you are just having a tough time sleeping, there is a time where the darkness begins to crush you.  It is about two hours before the sunrise, until the moment the hint of dawn starts to lighten the sky.  I would run up the ladder, get out on the roof, and watch the miracle of a sunrise.
But oh, the pressure of night in the two hours of the night!  It causes a sense almost like claustrophobia, as you wonder whether the night will ever end.

As I read the first quote above, the psalmist is comparing his hunger for God’s presence to the night guard waiting for dawn, those feelings resonated within me.  And It resonated so much, that the blog came about.

I think there are times we get spiritual insomnia.  We forget God is here, and we get overwhelmed by the darkness that is in life.  The evil that casts it dark shadow over us, that would oppress us with that same feeling that occurs in the hours before dawn.  The more the darkness crushes us, the harder it is to remember that dawn is coming, the harder it is to remember His light has shown in our lives… and still does.

No wonder Paul will talk of those who have fallen asleep and even died because they didn’t recognize the Body and Blood of Christ!

I put two quotes, after the scripture quotes, one from the Lutheran Book of Concord, one from the Roman Catholic documents.  Both talk of the strength found in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist  The strengthening of faith, the communion that grows strong among the people of God. It is something we agree on, this recognition of God’s presence, and His work in our lives.   His supernatural work seen as the Holy Spirit, strengthens, cleanses, heals, comforts and makes new.

The God we encounter as we are fed His Body and His Blood.

As His light again is brought into our lives.

As it shatters that darkness that we feel crushing us.  I’ve been in those darks nights, I’ve felt the pressures, the anxieties, both from physical darkness and spiritual darkness.  Perhaps that is why I so desire and love to share in Communion, why I appreciate it so much.  It is more refreshing than even the dawn.

So run to the altar, desire God’s presence as St Josemaria challenges us to desire it.  Even as that desire grows, know how He comes to you, through His Word, through His sacraments,

And find the rest those who work at night find, as their day ends with the dawn.

[1] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 35). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

9 Pius XII’s encyclical letter, Mediator Dei, Nov. 20, 1947: A.A.S. 39 (1947) p. 97 ff.; Paul VI’s encyclical letter, Mysterium Fidei, Sept. 3, 1965.

10 cf. Acts 1:14 and 2:46.

[2] Catholic Church. (2011). Decree concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church: Christus Dominus. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Are You Brave Enough, to Receive This Blessing?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

27  So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29  For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30  That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (NLT)

240    Ask for light. Insist on it … until the root is laid bare and you can get at it with your battle-axe: the particular examination.

I know a lot of men who can make a valid claim to bravery.  Some are those who faced the enemies of our nation, like my father.  Others work the inner city streets and the jails.  Some armed as police and sheriff, others who go into those same streets with a Bible, and the sacraments that will help bring healing.  I know others who are brave in a different way, as they face challenges of health such as cancer or Alzheimer’s or the death of a loved one.

But even in the midst of courage, there are few people who are willing to take another step that requires great courage, even though what is promised is a blessing, not some danger.  Though to do so will result in a change in our lives as great as those who battle external or internal enemies.

The courage to examine one’s conscience, to let God look inside us, diagnose our sin, and go about cleansing us, healing us.

It takes courage to bare our souls to God, yet it is something we need to do and do often. We overlook it, perhaps out of fear that quenches our courage.  A fear that God might break His promise, and not lead us into everlasting life.  Perhaps even a greater fear, that God will take a part of our lives, and remove it, change it, remind us that it isn’t good for us.  Parts of our lives that cause great shame, that we think cause pleasure, and may for our instant.  Or parts that make us feel superior to others, or give us power and control.

Our fear of confession, of the self-examination that scripture encourages, may also come because of a fear of intimacy. Many of us, not only men, are afraid of that word.  We are truly afraid of it when God is the one driving the intimacy, who wants to know every nook and cranny of our lives.  He wants to, not to break us, but to heal our brokenness.  That means letting Him plunge into the deep dark places in us.  We need to let Him see the parts of us that we don’t want to admit exists, the narcissistic, dark places of our hearts and minds.

It takes more than faith, it takes courage. It also takes encouragement, which is why I think the blessing of confession and absolution is so needed.  It is why Luther prayed that private confession would never fall into disuse.  It is why I rejoice when I hear of churches that have lines, waiting for people to receive the blessing that comes from self-examination and letting God show you where He is working in your life.

For God is working there.  He isn’t restricted to the good and joyous parts of your life. He isn’t just helping you know what you should do, or where you should go.  He’s not just giving you the gifts you need to serve His people, or guiding theologians in their pondering of things mystical and mysterious.  He is not just declaring you righteous and holy, He is at work, crafting a masterpiece, getting rid of that which mars and ruins the depth of the masterpiece.

He is healing you, where you need to be healed.

Just like He is doing in my life.

If you have the courage, go to you pastor, your priest.  Ask them for guidance in this, ask them to hear your confession, to tell you God is forgiving you.  That is what they are there for; it is something that is a great blessing to them as well.

You weren’t meant to do this alone… God is there…for you.  And he’s put men there to be for you as well.

To help you see the height, depth, width and breadth of His love, revealed in Christ Jesus.

So come, take courage, and let God work in you!

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 648-649). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Prayer, Holiness Mission and the Unplugged Cellphone

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
8  O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.  Psalm 62:8 (NLT) 

107    Sanctity without prayer? I don’t believe in such sanctity. 

109    If you’re not a man of prayer, I don’t believe in the sincerity of your intentions when you say that you work for Christ.  (1)

I woke up this morning and reached for my cellphone to see what time it was. I unplugged it and tapped the screen three times to turn on the screen.

Immediate I got a warning, less than 5% power remaining, and it shut itself off. No power and it didn’t work. No phone, no internet, not even the simple information about what time it is.  Apparently, while I ensured I plugged the one end of the cord into my phone, the other end wasn’t plugged into the wall.

No problem, I’ll just switch to my tablet.  It had power, and I found out it was 8 o’clock here, or 5 am at home.  Okay. I got what I want.

But then during my devotion time, I came across a number of passages about prayer, and the necessity of it.  Then a blog post that talked about all of the different conferences and things that help pastors become more missional, more serious about the apostolate.

I started to wonder, how many of these conferences have a focus, not just a section or a speaker, I mean an entire conference,  If it were, would pastors and church leaders come?

Do we see the correlation between time spent in conversation with God, bi-directional conversation, and effective ministry?  The Apology of the Augsburg Confession (one of the basic documents explaining the Lutheran understanding of our relationship with God)  encourages prayer, even naming it as a sacrament because then men may pray more.

Because we need it.  It is not just our source of power; it is our source of life. It is the source of our mission as well. Without an active conversation with God, our life becomes stale, our wisdom is reduced to dry knowledge, and there is no relationship we can share with others. Like a cellphone with a dry battery, a believer without prayer is dead.

But an active prayer life helps us understand the will of God, His desire to love all of us, to show us mercy so we could realize that love. It brings healing to our brokenness. Healing so great it drives us to others, with the compassion to share the healing with them.

One last thing.  Don’t read this and start praying so that you will be a more effective evangelist, to be a better witness of God’s mercy.  The more time you spend with Him, the more the zeal for inviting others to the conversation will occur, not forced, but naturally.

Just walk with God, pouring out everything to Him, and hear him pour out His heart to you.

Have a blessed day…. with Him!

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 399-402). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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