Category Archives: Devotional

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.

Black Saturday: Where His ENTIRE church finds Unity… His Grave

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image20  “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 21  I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. John 17:20-21 (TEV)

4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6  there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 (TEV)

2  Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it? 3  For surely you know that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptized into union with his death. 4  By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. Romans 6:2-4 (TEV)

I spent much of last night in turmoil, not fully asleep, but hounded by grief.

Grief caused by the brokenness of the church.  A Church that is not just divided, but shattered, and continually reacts to the brokenness with fear instead of faith, loathing each other, rather than loving each other, harassing each other, rather than praying for healing.   I see other Christians, including pastors and priests, leading people away from trusting in God, to rail at politicians instead of respecting them and praying for them.  I see the self-righteousness that brings all this division, the condescension of Christians claiming to be holier than the world, and groups of Christians holier than another. (and catch myself at it too… none are immune to this sin)

I wonder what happened to the church described in the Creeds Where is the church that is one, that is holy (set apart to God), catholic (united in our trust of God) and apostolic (sent, even as Christ was sent)

I grieve over what I saw yesterday, and today.  I wonder what those who are being martyred in other parts of the world would think, if they see what divides us.  I long to see the church be one, and yet, am so driven away by pathos, the outpouring of negative emotion, that I desire to no longer be a part of it.

It is black saturday.  The day without the Lord, the day He found rest in the tomb.

The day we should find our unity.

Not because we are without Him, by no mean, we weren’t on the day after he was betrayed, beaten, mocked, abandoned, crucified.

We aren’t without Him on Black Satruday, when He lies entombed, crushed by sin.

We are there with Him, drawn into Him during His crucifixion, drawn into Him by the love poured out like a flood, united to His death in our Baptism – as Paul says.

Drawn into Him, called, gathered, united to Him in His death.

That is where we find unity, that is where we become one church, where we find the one faith, where God is our God, working through all who have been granted repentance, who have come to trust in Him, who know His mercy and love.   You can’t be divided from Him, and as we die to ourselves as we are united with Him, our pride, our anger, our angst, our hurt dies as well.

If we are to be a resurrected people, a transformed people, a converted people, a delivered people, we each have to realise we are there with and that others are as well.

Unity as a church, no THE CHURCH, starts in the tomb.

Does that mean we will all get along, that sin won’t creep into the church, that we will all agree on every article of our faith?  No, we won’t.  That’s not what is promised, yet. But the healing that will be found will overwhelm that sin, the sin already paid for, and allow our hearts to embrace those whom Christ has embraced.

There is hope, even when we are in the grave, a hope we will realize tomorrow, as we exclaim, He is risen!

We are united in that as well, for if we die with Him, if we are united to Him in His death, we will be united to Him as we are raised to a new life with Him.

I am depressed today, mourning for a broken church.  Yet, in the grace with Christ, I know there is Hope for tomorrow.  I know there is hope for His Church.

For we will be one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.  His death, burial and resurrection guarantee it.

Being Missional is a Happy Thing!

Featured image

How can on not receive this bread and wine with joy? In the same way, how can one not share that joyous good news with others?

Devotional?Discussion Thought of the Day:

23  The LORD says, “The wise should not boast of their wisdom, nor the strong of their strength, nor the rich of their wealth. 24  If any want to boast, they should boast that they know and understand me, because my love is constant, and I do what is just and right. These are the things that please me. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Jeremiah 9:23-24 (TEV)

914      If your prayers, your sacrifices and your actions do not show a constant concern for the apostolate (2 see below for what the apostolate means), it is a sure sign that you are not happy, and that you have to be more faithful. Whoever possesses happiness, and the good, will always seek to give it to others.  (1)

When I first read the words in blue this morning, I was taken aback, stung by them.  I went through a cycle of emotions; first I denied that the words were true (or had an effect on me).  Then I moved on to anger, trying to justify myself by saying they were not trie. Then a brief battle with guilt and shame, as I know I am not always thinking about the mission, even when I am thinking about my ministry.

Once past that smaller rollercoaster of emotions, I started to meditate on these words, and on the Bible passage I earlier read from Jeremiah.  It is the one cited above talking about how our boasting should be that we know and understand God.  It is the same thought, for boasting about God is our mission, our apostolate.

We know His mercy, His love, we know His desire that we have a deep and abiding relationship with Him.  We know that our being in that relationship pleases Him.  We know he does this our of His Fatherly love for us.

How could knowing this not be that point where we know the joy, where we know happiness?  How could we know this and keep silent?  If we are knowing and understanding God and His love doesn’t result in our proclaiming it, we do need to trust Him more, we need to understand His blessings more.

This is not about being forced to be missional, to understand our apostolate. It’s not about being a good Christian or making sure we are checking off all the right boxes in spiritual growth.  Being so engaged in our apostolate, being missional is a sign of the joy that comes from knowing God’s love.  We trust God at promises that exceed anything we can know or experience on our own.  It is about walking hand in hand with God.

That is worth boasting about, that is worth rejoicing over, this God who loves us enough to come to us, cleanse us, and make us His own people.

So boast away my friends, in the love of God for you… and may many hear it, and come to rejoice with you!

The Church’s Mission is NOT to Convert People

Devotional THought of the Day:Featured image

 26  Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12:26 (NLT)

356      The first Apostles, when Our Lord called them, were by the side of an old boat busy mending the torn nets. Our Lord told them to follow him and statim—immediately—relictis omnibus—they left everything—everything! And followed him… And it does happen sometimes that we, who wish to imitate them, don’t quite leave everything, and there remains some attachment in our heart, something wrong in our life which we’re not willing to break with and offer up to God. Won’t you examine your heart in depth? Nothing should remain there except what is his. If not, we aren’t really loving him, neither you nor I. (1)

Every once in a while, I hear a financial appeal for finances from a mission group. While they may never use the word “heathen”, that is what they are really saying.  It may be to a inner city mission, or some foreign field in the middle of a desert, or swamp, or jungle.  But the idea is that we must convert them, win them to Christ.  Some may say they’ve had so many say a “sinner’s prayer”, or decisions for Christ. Others talk about the numbers of baptisms.

What they are focusing on is that moment when someone “becomes” a believer, the moment they were “saved”.

But the church isn’t in the business of converting people, of a one time moment that changes life, or at least gives us a guaranteed visa to heaven.

That isn’t what Jesus did, not is it what we are commissioned to do.

We are told to make disciples of all nations, not convert them.  

Jesus didn’t tell Peter and Andrew, or James and John to just believe in Him.  He didn’t ask Matthew the tax collector to do that either. 

What God is after, what He desires isn’t a nice photo album of those who repented of their sins at a crusade, or who were convinced by a logical apologetic speech or emotional appeal.. He wants a family, people who are His, who know He is theirs. A relationship where He can bless His children and care for them.  Where He can teach them and share His glory with them.

You might say, that’s what conversion does.  And yes, there is a quickening, a bringing to life.  A baptism, a prayer, a confession of trusting God.  But our transformation, that work of the Trinity in our lives takes a lifetime, the promised completion date is Christ’s return.

What does this matter?  Why am I saying our goal isn’t to make converts?  Why can’t conversion be our mission our goal?

Image a lady, who wants to become a mother. Has she achieved her goal the moment conception occurs?  Or is there 9 months of pregnancy, and then years of sacrifices and successes, of joy and sorrows?

Our journeys only begins at baptism, our life in Christ starts there, when we go from not knowing God, to finding Him revealed in our lives so clearly that we trust Him. Where a relationship occurs as we walk with Him, as we are taught by Him, as we enjoy this life He has brought us.

We don’t want to just convert people, we want to see them become our brothers and sisters, we want our Father in heaven to adopt them….. our mission is far longer, far deeper, far more important than winning a debate.

It’s helping them to walk with God….. to know His love and mercy. To realize that nothing else is important, compared to walking with God.

to know when we cry together, “Lord Have Mercy!”. He answers.

That is what being missional is about, about what the apostolate is about.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1406-1412). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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