Category Archives: Devotional

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

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

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).

Ministering to The Agnostic (they aren’t just who you think they are!)

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  Then King Darius wrote to the people of all nations, races, and languages on earth: “Greetings! 26  I command that throughout my empire everyone should fear and respect Daniel’s God. “He is a living God, and he will rule forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his power will never come to an end. 27  He saves and rescues; he performs wonders and miracles in heaven and on earth. He saved Daniel from being killed by the lions.” 28  Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:25-28 (TEV)

Let us follow Jesus, knowing that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joyful hope that we must bring to this world. Please do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope that Jesus gives us!

There are times in life where we don’t know. Even the strongest Christian (whatever that means) throws their hands up and cannot explain what God is doing, and to be honest, we wonder if he is still there. Health issues, work issues family issues, even issues at church can get so complicated, so overwhelming, we forget that God is God. That God is our God..

And we drift into agnosticism.

We know there is a God, we know the data, but for the moment we can’t recognize Him, or His presence. We just don’t know!

We made try to hide it, ignore it, repress it, but we need to deal with it.We need to get past that stage, we need to rediscover the hope that we once had, as we realized the Lord is with us.

Except we cannot, unless we encounter the Daniel in our lives.

The one who God sends, whose faith is strong in that moment, who is able to speak for God, the one we need to hear, the One we need to be able to be in awe of, the One we need to be able to respect, the One we need to know will save and rescue us, Who will perform wonders and miracles in order to make us His own, to restore our broken faith.

We need to cry out with the boy’s father, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief!”

This is why in Hebrews 10 it tells us to always meet together, to encourage each other. For while some are Christ’s hands and feet, surely others are His shoulders, upon which we are carried, by Jesus. We need each other for this, for there are days we are Daniel, and there are other times we are the Darius of the world, testifying to the goodness of God, even though we see it second hand…

He is with us.. yet in our brokenness, we need someone else to help us see it.

God provides them!

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 325.

Friend or Lord, Thunder or Whisper, Which God will I hear?

Devotional Thought for the Day:

3  The voice of the LORD is heard on the seas; the glorious God thunders, and his voice echoes over the ocean. 4  The voice of the LORD is heard in all its might and majesty. 5  The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars, even the cedars of Lebanon. 6  He makes the mountains of Lebanon jump like calves and makes Mount Hermon leap like a young bull. 7  The voice of the LORD makes the lightning flash. 8  His voice makes the desert shake; he shakes the desert of Kadesh. Psalm 29:3-8 (TEV)

11  “Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain,” the LORD said to him. Then the LORD passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks—but the LORD was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12  After the earthquake there was a fire—but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice. 13  When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?1 Kings 19:11-13 (TEV)

The heart is like a home. There are houses that are open because they are at peace; they are welcoming because they have warmth. They are “not so tidy” as to make people afraid even to sit down neither so untidy as to become an embarrassment. The same goes for the heart: the heart that has room for the Lord also has space for others.

I look at the two Bible passages above, and they seem to contradict.

One reveals the Lord who is majestic, to whom all honor and glory is given. The God we are in awe, and if realistic, we should fear. The God who speaks commands and things become reality, where there was no reality.

The other reveals God who is our friend, the God who comforts the broken, who brings healing to them, who will wipe away every tear from our eyes. The God who we are in awe of, because He comes to us, invading our lives with His compassion and mercy. This is our Friend, our Abba, Father.

It is the same God, not two different gods. Not the first is the Old Testament God, the second the New. This isn’t a description of Father in the first paragraph, and the second describes Jesus. Both descriptions equally describe the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

So which God will I encounter?

This may sound odd, or perhaps awkward, but it doesn’t really matter. You can’t control which, and the response should be the same.

Yes, you read that correctly, the response to God is the same, whether He comes as your King, the Father who disciplines you, or your Deliverer, or your Comforter.

In each case, the initial response of awe should come naturally. But what happens next? How will we hear Him? Will we shudder and cower in fear? Will we embrace Him? Will we pour out our pain, and let Him begin to wash our feet? Will we adore Him, will we immediately enter into worship?

We cannot know, but we should have this happen. We should move from awe to gratitude. We should become grateful we find ourselves in His presence. For whether He comes in majesty, or comes as the suffering servant, He is here. He has come to dwell with us, to make our lives His home. And like the church that weeps and laughs and loves in Romans 12, He does all those things in our lives in resonance with us, being the God we need, even desperately need.

The Lord is with you.. and He loves you..

Rejoice and be glad, you are no longer alone…

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 312.

The Art of “Fixing” the World!

Why does Jesus continue to come to us?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6 Here on Mount Zion the LORD Almighty will prepare a banquet for all the nations of the world—a banquet of the richest food and the finest wine. 7 Here he will suddenly remove the cloud of sorrow that has been hanging over all the nations. 8† The Sovereign LORD will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The LORD himself has spoken.
9 When it happens, everyone will say, “He is our God! We have put our trust in him, and he has rescued us. He is the LORD! We have put our trust in him, and now we are happy and joyful because he has saved us.”
Isaiah 25:6-9 GNT

Though we cannot fix anything, the presence of Jesus lightens the burden of the Poor and gives them strength. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to approach the Poor with the gentleness, mercy and delicacy of Jesus Himself. We need humility to listen, lest we go to them with ‘solutions’, having no idea what pains and wounds are in each heart. Our every word or gesture can bring light and joy into a heart, or they can increase the darkness and pain. That’s why we need Jesus!
We do fail, and I never stop placing all my failures into His Sacred Heart and plunging them into His precious wounds where He alone can redeem and make all things new.

At least once a week, therefore, each and every head of household is responsible for asking and questioning closely the children and household workers, one at a time, as to what they know or are learning and, where they lack in knowledge, seriously to hold them to it.15 For I still remember the time—indeed, even now it is all too common—that one daily found crude, ignorant, older, and age-worn people who knew absolutely nothing of these things.

There is a part of every person that longs to be a superhero, a crusader to fix that which is wrong, and make it right. Sometimes that aspecto of our personality is dimmer and even blotted out by failure. Other times, the crusade we choose is too large, and we learn we can’t fix the world.

Other times, we try to lead the horse to water, and make it drink, but it will not do so, and that frustrates us. We do everything right, we assume, but it doesn’t work. Sometimes that is because the horse is stubborn, other times it is because the horse isn’t thirsty, but rather it is hungry, or it needs rest. An example, often as a hospice chaplain, I watched doctors try to find cures for people that were terminally ill. They never gave up trying to cure them. However, if they were able to help the person cope with the pain, often the person would die in great peace, and sometimes, their bodies would do what the doctor couldn’t. With all the good intent and sincerity, their hope

It is as the nun wrote above, we need the humility to go and listen, to go with an attitude of gentleness and mercy, and with great delicacy. For there are often far to often, wounds and pains which we cannot see, that need to be addressed before we can address the problems we see.

So how do we overcome this crusading mentality? How do we find the patience and the humility to allow the brokeness, that poison that destroys souls to be drawn out?

I think is starts with remembering the end game. To recall the promises Isaiah wrote down, inspired by God. We need to remember that not only does he dry away the tears and provides, but He is the one who delivers us. Depending on that leads us, eventually, to realize that Has this day, and the person we hope to help, in His glorious loving hands.

Often our best option is simply to do as Luther advised, to share with those we are responsible for (great question there) the love of God revealed in the basic creeds, to reveal His presence, to reveal His care, His mercy and His delicate patience in bringing s to wholeness, and to health. In the process we help them discover it, not forcing it, but asking the questions that will lead them deeper into a relationship.

As this happens, we find out how to address their poverty, whatever that poverty truly is, as we see God already doing this. We simply learn to walk with them, addressing where we can, but primarily serving to remind them of the presence of God.

If you want to change the world, this is how it is done, by being there as God changes their world, and yours.

Lord Jesus, give us the patience to see that the issue we want to help with isn’t always the issue that they are ready to see You bring healing to in their lives. Help us to realize as well, that all “fixes” are actually your responsibility, and our role is to remind them of Your presence, Your love, and that You are at work in their lives. AMEN

Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 183). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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. 189–190). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

God, You Showed Them!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

8  O LORD, our God, you answered your people; you showed them that you are a God who forgives, even though you punished them for their sins. 9  Praise the LORD our God, and worship at his sacred hill! The LORD our God is holy. Psalm 99:8-9 (TEV)

The temptation, for a seminarian or priest, to reduce Christ to an abstract idea is most destructive of the spiritual life. It leads to the loss of his own identity and prevents him from accomplishing his first and most important mission of leading the faithful in his care to a knowledge, love and service of Christ as He is alive for us in the Church.

The tempation that is descibed in Burke’s words above is quite real. Those who minister to others can spend so much time styudying Jesus, studying His word, that we can forget to interact with Him. That leads to our treating Him (and God the Father and Holy Spirit) like an abstact idea, something to study and observe from afar, something to comment on, much as an editorialist comments about the events and people of his day.

The result is our preaching becomes filled with illustrations and quotes, refering to what others tell us about Jesus. Their observations are far sharper, and sometimes we resonate with them, but don’t understand them. We resort to meme’s written by those whom we are told are “great thinkers.” Catachesis and discipleship become more about instruction than helping people see Jesus revealed to them, evangelism and apologetics become more about debate than sharing a journey,

And as Jesus becomes someone to be studied, what disappears is what Paul desired for people, what he described in this way to the believers in Ephesus,

I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18† so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Eph. 3:16-19

So how do we prevent this from happeneing? How do we realize Jesus is a person to talk to, and not just talk about? It is to see what He promised, that He is here, disciplining us when needed, but always ready to forgive, to show His mercy, to pour out His gifts of love upon us.

In our present journey thorugh Ezra Nehemiah, there is an incredible prayer, describing the journey of the people Israel. It mentions the times of blessing, and the times where God disciplined them, it is honest about their failure. But it isn’t a lecture, it is a prayer. We would do well to do the same, to consider how God’s been faithful to us, telling Him how we are greatful, and remembering in our rebellion and sin, how He was faithful to us.

I often do this while contemplating the incredible mystery in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, How Jesus comes again to us, and provides a feast celebrating our being forgiven and restored, of God’s revelation of His love for us, shown in the very Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for us.

He showed us, and we experience that love when we partake, eating and drinking His body and blood. He shows us, as prayer becomes more than a duty, but a deep conversation, as we hear His voice. Worship comes alive as we realize we participate in its dance, again celebrating the fact that He is here, with us.

And that changes everything in our lives. including our study of scripture as we desire to know more aobut the Lord who loves us, who interats with us.

Lord bless us with the conviction that You are with us, and as You are healing us, help us to know who you are drawing to Your side, and help us reveal to them Your incredible love, mercy and presence in their lives. AMEN!



Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 144). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

The Great Actions of God? Does this Lady really know what She is talking about?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

46  Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48  For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55  For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
Luke 1:46-55 (NLT2)

Thus Mary shows by using this word (Magnificat) what her canticle is about, namely, the great acts and works of God to strengthen our faith, to comfort the lowly, and to terrify those of high degree. To this threefold use and purpose of the canticle we should focus our attention and understanding, for she sang this not for herself but for all of us so that we would sing after her.1

Thining about Mary’s words and Luther’s commentary on this-this morning causes me to think a bit.

When most of us think about God’s incredible works, I doubt we create the same list as Mary and Luther. We probably would include the miracles, the Resurrection, the Splitting of the Red Sea, the feeding of thousands and the raising of dead people to life. (and no, not as Zombies!)

Rather than listing the miraculous and highly visible works of God, Mary lists things done in our lives, things we desperately need. These are the magnificent works of God! These are the things that make people sing aloud, and sing with all the power in their heart and soul.

So let’s look at them.

We start with God’s magnificent work of strengthening our faith. This is needed, for most of us struggle to trust those around us, never mind trusting God who we can’t see. This faith is nothing more (or less) than trusting God for what He has promised to do in our lives. But that isn’t easy, and so the Holy Spirit creates this dependence in our lives (not easy for either of us!) breaking through our jaded hearts and replacing them with souls that are alive, and resonate to the love of God.

Next is God’s magnificent work of comforting the lowly, the broken folk in our world. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit share in the title “the comforter,” something that should never go overlooked. God is found the midst of our brokenness, even the brokenness we cause by our sin and idolatry of self, there to bring healing, and comfort as we just can’t deal with the pain.

He is there, carefully cutting away the parts of our lives that are dead, circumcising our hearts as the Apostle Paul describes, with the care described as so tender, that a bruised piece of grass will not be broken. There He is, doing what is necessary to restore to us a life that is described with the word “abundant”.

The last concerns me the most. God will terrify those of us who are “of high degree.” We may not think we are, but how often do we play the Pharisee, saying “Thank God, I am not like that politician, or that illegal alien/refugee, or that I am so better of than those Catholics/baptists, evangelicals, or “those” types of sinners, etc.

We play at being of high degree a lot more than we would admit, and it takes the love of God to do what seems so… harsh. To terrify us, to scare us by revealing the depth of our sin. God has to humble us to the point where we are ready to see Jesus the Messiah and find relief in His presence. Where we will seek Him, knowing that only in Him will we find relief. You see, God doesn’t terrify those of high degree to punish us, but to help us let Him enter our lives, to help us encounter the works above. This is true in all of scripture, as He works to see us all come to repentance, to return to our relationship with Him.

These are the magnificent works of God…

It is when we see them happening, even when God is terrifying us (remember His purpose) and it is when we encounter Him, seeing Him at work in this – that we praise Him, that we rejoice in God our savior, along with that young lady, who gave birth to Jesus our Savior, who gave birth, to God.

May we praise Him as she did… not from obligation, but because we realize the work He is doing in our lives. AMEN!

1  Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 101). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Dealing with Evil in the Church…without losing your faith.

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

19  But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21  No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.
Genesis 50:19-21 (NLT2)

In one of his (Boccaccio) stories in the Decameron, a practical Jewish businessman, Abraham, is contemplating conversion and baptism, at the gentle leading of the pious archbishop of Paris, but has to reside at Rome for a season to do business with the Borgia family and the papal bankers. The archbishop asks him if he wouldn’t like to receive baptism before his trip, but he is a practical man, and business must come first. The bishop is convinced that Abraham will never join the Church once he sees her corruptions with his own eyes; but when he returns to Paris, he asks to be baptized! He explains to the startled archbishop, “I’m a practical Jewish businessman. I don’t know theology, but I know business. And one thing I know with certainty is that no earthly business that corrupt and venal could possibly last fourteen weeks; this one has lasted over fourteen centuries. It’s a miracle! Count me in!”

I have been grieving over the church recently.

It seems like we are entering a season where evil seems to be winning, thrusting its devastation both near and far. I see the broken lives, some still in denial about what is going on, about their role in the game, I sense that others don’t really care, passing by the broken lives as the priest and the Levite did on the road.

On the national level, the battles are like icebergs. In my denomination, you see it in the reactions to a document which alleges chronic, planned and coordination bullying. The Catholic Church has its internal wars going, as do the Methodists, Baptists, and other groups.

And what is even scarier, the wars we see are often not the real war. As any counselor/manager knows, the stated problem is rarely the real problem. Those are deeper, even at the point of sub-conscious, as our souls can’t bear the trauma.

On a local level, sin has raised its bitter head to many times in the past two months. Again, the temptation is to deny the seriousness of the impact on individuals and parishes. We want to say, “that’s their problem, it won’t affect me or mine.” Yet, even in saying that, we acknowledge the division in the church.

To that point, Peter Kreeft’s Socrates referents Boccaccio, and makes me think deeper. Could our evil be used by God to draw others to Him? (This is by no means an excuse, or should we use it to justify or be complacent about evil – we need to confront it) The Jewish businessman finds hope because the church perseveres in spite of the corruption, in spite of the evil.

It requires a great deal of faith, or truly depending on God to see this. It takes the attitude of Joseph, who can piece together all the things God used ot come to a point where the family is preserved, where they are provided for in the midst of another storm.

God doesn’t like such things, or plan them, and I am sure they break His heart. Yet, His love finds a way to use them to bless us, all things, even the evil, even the brokenness. He promises that so many times, along with the fact that He will never leave us or forsake us.

We need to know that in these dark days, and in those to come.

He is with us, He will be with us, and somehow, He wiwll use even these times.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your heatts and minds in Christ Jesus

Kreeft, P. (2003). Socrates Meets Machiavelli: The Father of Philosophy Cross-Examines the Author of the Prince (p. 162). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Holiness isn’t an option, so what is its well kept secret!

Devotional Thought of the Day.

The LORD told Moses 2† to say to the community of Israel, “Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
4† “Do not abandon me and worship idols; do not make gods of metal and worship them. I am the LORD your God
! Lev 20:1-2 GNT

7 Keep yourselves holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8 Obey my laws, because I am the LORD and I make you holy.” Lev. 20:7-8 GNT

1   Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. 2  Happy is the one whom the LORD does not accuse of doing wrong and who is free from all deceit. 3  When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. 4  Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat.  Psalm 32:1-4 (TEV)

It is there in the wounds of Jesus that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. I have seen so many people
who find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him,
“Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds
and wash it away with your blood.”
And I always see that God does just this: He welcomes, consoles cleanses and loves.

Throughout scripture, we hear this theme over and over again. Be perfect, be holy, be mature, imitate me as I imitate Christ,

If you know church history, you know that there have been several seasons where this was the focus of the church. It drove the earliest monastics, it found roots in the immigration from Europe to America, we see it in the Welsh Revival and the Azusa Street revival also comes from a holiness movement that resulted as well in the formation of the Nazarene churches. and before that the Wesleyans. The Catholic and Lutheran Churches as well had their moments of pietism, often forced, guilt-driven pietism. Even the moral majority was a passing thought to see the image of holiness cast on our nation.

But all these movements, as movements, eventually lost their momentum. You can only drive holiness into your people so long before they will abandon it, the guilt and shame too hard to handle. Or again, harassed by an unreachable goal, they opt for the image of holiness, (the appearance of Godliness – see 2 Tim. 3:5) often creating a pharisaical system which focuses on some minute behaviors while ignoring others.

But the failure to maintain the appearance of Godliness, the failure to be truly holy is not an admission that we can’t be holy, that we can’t imitate Christ Jesus. Indeed, if anything, these failures should help us realize we go about being holy in a way that is the cause of our unholiness.

Our holiness isn’t about us. It isn’t about our effort, our determination, our will being broken and tempered correctly through this practice, or that book, or following these spiritual exercises. Ultimately, these things can be beneficial, if they help us understand the secret of holiness.

The secret is found in the first two readings….

Don’t abandon God…. and I am the Lord your God, I make you holy! 

There it is, the secret to holiness.

Let God do it!

Just relax and focus on walking with God. Revel in His presence, rejoice in His promise, as often repeated throughout scripture, of forgiving, cleansing, us of all sin, making our lives right, restoring our lives which were broken. Reconciling, redeeming, declaring us innocent, and righteousness. Removing the burdens of guilt and shame, all these things He does makes us Holy.. That is why God begs us not to abandon Him, not for His sake, but for ours.

As God does all this, what is left, is simply….. holy. It has been sanctified.

And if you look at the early works of the great revivalists, this freedom, this joy of being freed from the burden of our sin, would result in people restoring that which was stolen, reconciling with those they sinned against, and finding the sins and temptations of the world as what they really are, unsatisfactory, destroyers of peace.

Know my dear friend, that you are forgiven. Stay in the presence, or stay aware of the presence of God in your midst. Just rejocine in the work He has promised to do, and is doing in your life.

You will be holy, for this is what God does. AMEN!


Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 20). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Our Love/Hate Relationship With God (and those who speak for Him)

devotional thought of the day:

20 Herod was afraid of John because he knew that John was a good and holy man, and so he kept him safe. He liked to listen to him, even though he became greatly disturbed every time he heard him. Mark 6:20 GNT

The biblical term shalom, which is usually so translated, implies much more than the absence of armed conflict; it means the right order of human affairs, well-being—a world where trust and friendship prevail, where neither fear nor want nor treachery nor dishonesty is found. Yet the song of the angels first lays down a precondition, without which there can be no lasting peace: God’s glory. This is the message of peace at Bethlehem: peace among men results from God’s glory. Those who are concerned about the human race and its well-being have to be concerned about God’s glory first of all. God’s glory is not some private concern, left to the personal choice of the individual; it is a public affair. It is a common good, and wherever God is not honored among men, there man as well will not remain honorable. The reason why Christmas affects the peace of man lies in this: because it has restored God’s glory among men.

9 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in trouble; my eyes are tired from so much crying; I am completely worn out. 10 I am exhausted by sorrow, and weeping has shortened my life. I am weak from all my troubles; even my bones are wasting away. Psalm 31:9-10 GNT

We are all like Herod.

And even as I say that I prove it is true.

I recoil at the thought, I am not as evil as he was, I console myself. But yet, if someone is preaching about my sin, I am disturbed, I am very uncomfortable, I feel like he’s laid my brokenness out there for everyone to see. I may even be a bit pissed off, and wanting to strike back as the pain of having my brokenness revealed causes that.

Which is hard when I am the pastor, and the one preaching! 🙂

But there is something comforting as well, I like listening to the promise that even thoguh I have sinned, that there is the possibility, the potential of being forgiven, of being healed and made whole. I may think I am not ready for it, but I need to know it is there.

I need to cry out with the Psalmist for God’s mercy, and I need to know He will answer. I need to know there can and will be peace.

I sandwiched the quote from Pope Benedict in between the gospels for a reason. There is our key to why Herod (and we) like the presence of God and God’s spokesperson in our lives.

The Glory of God which leads to peace, and the promise of that peace. For while we see God’s glory as something to be in awe of, even scared of, for those who know Him, for those who listen to Him, that glory has another name.

That name is “love” and “mercy”, It it glorious that God is compassionate, sympathetic, and in Christ, even empathestic to our brokenness. For while Jesus didn’t sin, He bore the wieght of that sin, and its wrath on the cross. Revealing that glory is something that leaves us unexplainably at peace, knowing God can cleanse us and heal us.

Will we let Him, how much more do we need endure of our brokenness before we shall?

Praying that it not be long… but rather we would find ourselves at home in His glory, experiencing His love, and dwelling, finally at home in His peace!


AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 409). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.


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