Category Archives: Devotionals
Devotions for our day:
1 Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely. 2 The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; he gathers Israel’s exiled people. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:1-3 (CSBBible)
“God makes fools of both theologians and princes, for he commits to us an impossible task which nobody would undertake if he knew about it beforehand but which he is not allowed to relinquish once it has been committed and undertaken. So it is with the rest of our work. We demand many things, but they aren’t done except to a limited degree. We teach many things, but they are learned only to a modest extent. ‘Nothing is successful,’ as the preacher of Solomon says [Eccles. 1:1, 2].
“Why does God act so? Because he alone is wise and powerful. Because if our suggestions and ideas were carried out we would become presumptuous and would claim wisdom and power for ourselves. Because we surround the glory of wisdom and power with the defects which belong to our nature. We want to set things straight and make everything right. To this God says, ‘Well, then, go ahead! Be clever and do a good job! Be a preacher and make the people godly! Be a lord and mend the people’s ways! Get to it at once!’
“What a retrogression would occur! And the conclusion would be: ‘Vanity of vanities’ and ‘Let wisdom be attributed to God alone’ [Eccles: 1:2; 2:26]. We are fools and wretched bunglers in all we do and attempt.”
As I began to read Luther’s thoughts this morning, I wondered if he had been projecting himself 500 years forward, and was observing me. You see, I resonate to the frustration of things not getting done, and often wonder whether I am helping anyone learn anything, especialy when I wonder if they are learning to depend on Jesus more.
The battle seems to never end, and so I question the efficiency of my work. The experts all talk about being more effective in ministry, how to get better results. ( Note: It is always good to look at their track record and see how they did! If they were truly successul, why did they leave?) But the weight is burdensome, it can even seem to crush you.
But I ask this question – the one that Luther alludes to, why are you expecting you are the one to get it done?
Why do we expect our work to be as successul as the One who was crucified? Why do we spend more time planning and trying to find the ways we need to manipulate life?
I am not saying do not put effort into what we do, but what we do has to originate in what God is doing. The ancients in the church talked about our reaction of praising God for HIs work and promises being what forms our beliefs (our doctrine – what we teach). Those beliefs in turn should cause our actions.
It starts with God, and what He is doing, as we see God renuild His community, as we see God gather and heal His people. It relies on Him for our efficacy, for it is His work, and we follow. WIth HIm we find that we are loving the unlovable, brining healing to the broken, sharing His mercy with those around us that neither deserve the mercy, nor know it exists.
I need to remember this, I need God to remind me of it often, so that life isn’t managed by the fool and bungler that I am, but the God that works within you and I.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 98.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not let us be ripped apart by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird from the hunter’s net; the net is torn, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6–8 (CSB)
Worship means to “express in some appropriate manner” what you feel. Now, expressing in some appropriate manner doesn’t mean that we always all express it, in the same way, all the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will always express your worship in the same manner. But it does mean that it will be expressed in some manner.
“A Christian should and must be a cheerful person. If he isn’t, the devil is tempting him. I have sometimes been grievously tempted while bathing in my garden, and then I have sung the hymn, ‘Let us now praise Christ.’ Otherwise, I would have been lost then and there. Accordingly, when you notice that you have some such thoughts, say, ‘This isn’t Christ.’ To be sure, he can hear the name of Christ, but it’s a lie because Christ says, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled [John 14:27]. Trust in me,’ etc. This is a command of God: ‘Rejoice!’338 I now preach this, and I also write it, but I haven’t as yet learned it.
As I read Luther’s words in green, I felt a sense of relief. Because to be honest, I am not always in the mood to “rejoice!” And often, I wonder how I will lead people in worship when I am not in a joyful mood.
Sometimes it is a matter of relief, as the psalmist describes in verse 6. Processing that leads to awe, as is described in verse 8. And sometimes that is the best I can offer, at least at the beginning of a Bible Study or Worship Service. I am back, God got me through all of this, this week…..
Satan thought he would win in his attack and oppression. He didn’t.
Worship did, or better yet, realizing we are in the presence of Jesus, and therfore worshipping.
That is what we do when we find ourselves in the presence of God who is compassionate, merciful, and loving, who heals and protects and comforts us. Tozer makes a point, we will worship in different manners, depending on our context, our environment, and our mood. But we will worship!
God is with us… meeting us where we are at.
It might be the joyous festival worship, it might be the cry of lament, it may spring from quiet, powerful meditation.
But we will worship! As we are revealed to be in the presence of Jesus, as we see Him healing and comforting us, we will worship!
For the Lord Jesus is with us….
We just need to learn that… together.
A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 96.
Devotional Though of the Day:
14 Each morning fill us with your faithful love, we shall sing and be happy all our days; 15 let our joy be as long as the time that you afflicted us, the years when we experienced disaster. 16 Show your servants the deeds you do, let their children enjoy your splendour! 17 May the sweetness of the Lord be upon us, to confirm the work we have done! Psalm 90:14-17 (NJB)
Evangelical Christianity is gasping for breath. We happen to have entered a period when it is popular to sing about tears and prayers and believing. You can get a religious phrase kicked around almost anywhere—even right in the middle of a worldly program dedicated to the flesh and the devil.
Old Mammon, with two silver dollars for eyes, sits at the top of it, lying about the quality of the products.… In the middle of it, someone trained in a studio to sound religious will say with an unctuous voice, “Now, our hymn for the week!” So they break in, and the band goes twinkle, twankle, twinkle, twankle, and they sing something that the devil must blush to hear.
They call that religion, and I will concede that religion it is. It is not Christianity, and it is not the Holy Spirit. It is not New Testament and it is not redemption. It is simply making capital out of religion.
Christianity, at least in the West, is still gasping for breath. From my perspective, it needs to catch its breath, to find its “second wind.” Some might think the church is beyond help. Others think spiritual intubation or the shock of a defibrillator might restore life to these wearied saints and the emptying churches.
I think the issue is compounded by COVID and our inability to gather. Pastors are being reduced to online preachers. Their role as commune-icators seems to be reduced to providing monologues. Pastors are called on to produce talks that try to motivate and comfort. Yet they cannot see the sparkling eyes that tell you the gospel has been heard or the body betraying the anxiety of a soul tormented by guilt and shame.
There is no dialogue, no worship, no life together.
We struggle alone, pastors and people separated from each other and feeling separated from God. The expression of the vibrant Christian religion has been replaced by a religious expression that doesn’t see people celebrating in God’s presence.
Tozer saw this in his time; the Psalmist saw the answer to it in his time. We need to be reminded of the Psalmist’s prayer, prayed for “us” the people of God. The answer to vain religion is to see God filling “us.” We need to savor the sweetness of the Lord together, to see Him confirm the work we are doing as we walk together in His presence. That only comes as we see God at work in us, as we know His presence. His presence not just in individual lives, but as He draws all believers into His presence. Not just those who believe now, but those who will come to believe.
This is the hope for the church to be gathered again into His presence and rejoicing in that together. For together, we will savor the sweetness of the Lord.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul?b13 Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. 14 The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the LORD your God, as does the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD had his heart set on your ancestors and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Deuteronomy 10:12=15 CSB
Ah, my Jesus, my love, my infinite good, my all, be ever welcome in the poor dwelling of my soul! Ah, my Lord, where art thou! to what a place art Thou come! Thou hast entered my heart, which is far worse than the stable in which Thou wast born; it is full of earthly affections, of self-love, and of inordinate desires. And how couldst Thou come to dwell there? I would address Thee with St. Peter: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.1 Yes, depart from me, O Lord, for I am indeed unworthy to receive a God of infinite goodness; go and find repose in those pure souls who serve Thee with so much love. But no, my Redeemer; what do I say? Leave me not; for if Thou departest, I am lost. I embrace Thee, my life; I cling to Thee. Mad indeed have I been in having separated myself from Thee for the love of creatures; and in my ingratitude I drove Thee from me. But now I will never more separate myself from Thee, my treasure; I desire to live and die ever united to Thee.
“It’s very difficult for a man to believe that God is gracious to him. The human heart can’t grasp this. What happened in my case? I was once terrified by the sacrament which Dr. Staupitz carried in a procession in Eisleben on the feast of Corpus Christi.47 I went along in the procession and wore the dress of a priest. Afterward I made confession to Dr. Staupitz, and he said to me, ‘Your thought is not of Christ.’ With this word he comforted me well.
This is the way we are. Christ offers himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, and yet we flee from his face.
Ours is a joy not born from having many possessions, but from having encountered in our midst a Person: Jesus who never leaves us alone in difficult moments, and is all the more present when problems seem unbearable and obstacles insurmountable.
It is Christmas Eve.
It is 2020, and we are amid a pandemic that has caused further division. In the days after a political free- for all that has divided us further.
This world is so broken! Even Christianity has become more about a “personal” belief than a communal relationship with God.
It is Christmas Eve.
I look at the world and then look in the mirror and wonder why God would bother with us, why He would bother with me. Luther was correct; it is hard for man to believe that God is truly gracious, that God desires to cleanse us, heal us, help us in the midst of all the crap in which we live. Ligouri echoes the same sentiment when realizing God is here, that God is invading our lives. Ligouri’s reaction is to drive our Lord away…. as if the pollution in our lives could poison God.
I know that struggle; I wonder how God could even dare to descend into my world… I want Him here; I know I need Him here.
This is Christmas Eve.
This is Christmas Eve…
And in a few hours, the babe will go in the manger in nativity sets around the world.
I need to see Jesus there, in all His innocence, in all the simplicity, in that place were holiness and the crap of this world. I need to see, as the filthy shepherds did, God incarnate, the one the angels sang about, reveling in His glory.
I need to see Him there… We need to see Him there.
For there, we can approach Him and realize the incredible love and devotion of God. To realize His faithfulness, to realize His desire to dwell with us…not just in Israel 2000 years ago… but today in Cerritos, or wherever you are….. and then, maybe, we can see His desire for eternity with us…
But it starts there… where He can be approached…reverently for sure, but without the terror that comes as we realize His holiness and purity and realize the difference between man and God.
Seeing Him there, may we never desire to flee from Him again… but stay by Him… until eternity draws nigh…
It is Christmas Eve…
It is Christmas Eve!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 77–78.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 19–20.
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), 406.
Devotional Thoughts for 9/11:
14 We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us. He died to destroy the devil, who had power over death. 15 But he also died to rescue all of us who live each day in fear of dying. Heb 2:14-15 CEV
We doubt God’s love when we see and feel all the sufferings that our freedom to sin has brought upon us. Like Dostoyevski’s Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, we prefer happiness to freedom. We wish God had given us less freedom and had guaranteed that we would stay in Eden forever. We wish that He had put up a sign saying “No snakes in the grass”, that He had given no law that we could ever have chosen to disobey.
I was in Del Taco, the one on 29 Palms Highway, the one from which you can see Yucca Valley High School. I had just placed my order, and heard people gasp. I rounded the corner. and froze.
And we, along with millions of others, watched as thousands died.
I don’t remember what I ordered, or if I ate it. I was supposed to go play golf on the base golf course, that would be cancelled. I drove to my church, threw open the doors, let 107.7 know people could come and pray…. and they did.
19 years later, the memories, along with many of the people I’ve stood by the bedside of, as they died. Many of those times are passing before me this morning. Some people were at peace, others not so much. All, along the journey, questioned God about the suffering that they, or the loved ones they cared for endured.
Why does it have to exist? Why couldn’t god just leave us in paradise, and make it impossible for us to sin? Impossible for us to suffer, impossible to…die. Why do we fall for temptation, again and again? Why do we have to suffer the consequences of the freedom God has given us all? Why did Adam and Eve fall for the lie that all freedom is good? Oh the power of that lie! Oh the damage that freedom can wreak… for freedom means that we often choose that which leads to death. Our death, or others.
Wouldn’t we be happier if God just programmed us perfect, and we knew no freedom, but only happiness? If we knew naive bliss, but not how love is still love in the midst of our brokenness? Would it not be nirvana if there was no war, no discrimination, no terrorism, no death?
Perhaps it would, but nirvana is but emptiness, it is the emptiness, the lack of self, and while this may seem peaceful, it misses out on what truly creates and sustains peace. It lacks the thing we need to know the most
The kind of love that brings peace in the midst of suffering and death. The kind of peace that has us give up control, but in order that God’s love may be revealed to be in control. The kind of love that rescues us from the fear of dying, by reminding us for the promise of heaven.
Kreeft finishes the paragraph above with this,
Mere kindness or compassion would keep us protected against suffering by denying us real freedom. That is the love we have for pets but not for persons, at least not persons we really respect. We are not meant to be God’s pets. He did not create us for that. We are to be God’s lovers.
We aren’t not God’s pets, His naive, companions. Who wants a scratch behind the years, or a treat when we behave right, and ask to go out rather than leaving a puddle on the kitchen floor. We are the bride who will cry on His shoulders, who will depend on His strength to get us through life,e who will sing His praises, for eternity is more than death… and even in the times of death, those who know Him, can know His peace. We need the Holy Spirit to come, and to comfort us, in the midst of terrorism, amid the brokenness of a country torn apart by disease, or sin, or natural disaster. We need to find something so amazing that we can leave the painful emptiness behind, in view of the amazing love.
That is why people ran into First Christian Church on 9/11. That is why they cried at the altar, and why they could leave… still distraught, still not believing, but knowing that God was with them, and therefore knowing peace on a horrendous day.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 116–117.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Jesus turned. He saw the woman and said, “Don’t worry! You are now well because of your faith.” At that moment she was healed. Mt. 9:22 CEV
29 Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, you will be healed.” Mt. 9:29 CEV
5 Jesus could not work any miracles there, except to heal a few sick people by placing his hands on them. 6 He was surprised that the people did not have any faith. Jesus taught in all the neighboring villages. Mark 6:5-6 (CEV)
Some people meditate on Christ’s passion by venting their anger on the Jews.1 This singing and ranting about wretched Judas2 satisfies them, for they are in the habit of complaining about other people, of condemning and reproaching their adversaries. That might well be a meditation on the wickedness of Judas and the Jews, but not on the sufferings of Christ.
We are taught, by past experience, that the more simply we depend upon the grace of God in Christ, and wait upon the Holy Spirit, the more we shall bring forth fruit unto God. Oh! to trust Jesus for fruit as well as for life.
Their faith made them well.
And their lack of faith stopped Jesus from working in their midst.
We hear so much about faith, and yet we have such a vague understanding of it. We say we practice our faith, we have statements of faith, we know we are saved by faith (through grace – but what does that mean?) There are faith healers, and people who promise that you will have an ever increasing faith. SOme will say faith is a noun, something we base our lives upon, some will say it is a verb, and our life sucks because we don’t have enough of it.
WIth all these ways the word is used, it is no surprised we are confused!
Luther starts his meditation on Christ’s passion by talking about the ways people screw up meditating on Christ’s passion by meditating on everything else but the passion of Christ. I included one example above, but he will include several. In the same way, we screw up faith, talking all around it, but never engaging in it, never engaging in Christ, never depending upon Him as Spurgeon urged us to do, with our lives, with the mission and vocation God has laid on us all.
Faith is simply a description of the relationship we have with God, where we depend on Him, recognizing He is God and we are His beloved people. It is a relationship where we are confident of His presence, and confident of His work in us, and being patient to let it happen.
It is not easy to do, in fact it is impossible to do!.
It is simply a way we live, knowing His presence, taking time to remember that, and being grateful for what He did to create this relationship, to reveal Himself and His love. You can’t do states of existence, any more than you can force a relationship. But existing in it defines you in relation to the “Other”, the You to your I. Everything we are, defined by that relationship where He provides all we need.
So be still, know He is God, then move, guided by Him through life. AMEN!
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), 7.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
If the LORD does not build the house, the work of the builders is useless; if the LORD does not protect the city, it is useless for the sentries to stand guard. Ps. 127:1 GNT
456 To criticize, to destroy, is not difficult; the clumsiest laborer knows how to drive his pick into the noble and finely-hewn stone of a cathedral. To construct—that is what requires the skill of a master.
It seems the church, mirroring the culture, has grown to use to using a pick or a sledge hammer to destroy each other, and the impact is that this destroys our churches.
All I had to do is look at Facebook or Twitter and I see people tearing at the heart and souls of others. It gets tiring, and to be honest I am often tempted to unfriend or unfollow those whose lives are so focused on destroying others.
But to deny this exists, to deny my friends and often my family (and myself) can engage in this type of destructive behaviour, doesn’t do anything about it. Neither often does direct confrontation, for most of us are experts in self-justification.
The problem is that justification is not a skill that we have. For true justification doesn’t tear down over there to build up over here. Justification is not relative, being more just/righteous than those people over there doesn’t mean we are just and righteous.
We need, desperately need to stop making justification or the determination of justification our job. (Even a pastor/priest can declare someone just by the command by declaring Christ’s words) We don’t have the right to sit in judgment over people, condemning them because they don’t meet our warped standard of what is righteous and just.
We do have the ability and the responsibility to urge them to be reconciled to God. We can tell them that He will declared them just and righteous. That He will forgive their sins and heal them of all brokenness living in this world can cause.
We have to remember it is God that justifies, that this is His role as God, His justification is the way He builds His church. He does the building, He does the justification, otherwise it is useless, and vain.
We can thank Him and praise Him for doing so! Meditate upon how great His declaring you just and righteous and how frequently you need this gift in your life. Praise Him, instead of justifying yourself at others expense, help them to know that they too are those God longs to justify, that God longs to reform them, and share with them Him glory.
Rejoice and relax, God has got this justification business down, and his motivation to do so is most compelling, He does it because loves us.
(which is a lot better than doing it from fear)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1115-1118). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
15 You are doomed! In your fury you humiliated and disgraced your neighbors; you made them stagger as though they were drunk. 16 You in turn will be covered with shame instead of honor. You yourself will drink and stagger. The LORD will make you drink your own cup of punishment, and your honor will be turned to disgrace. 17 You have cut down the forests of Lebanon; now you will be cut down. You killed its animals; now animals will terrify you. This will happen because of the murders you have committed and because of your violence against the people of the world and its cities.e
18 What’s the use of an idol? It is only something that a human being has made, and it tells you nothing but lies. What good does it do for its maker to trust it—a god that can’t even talk! 19 You are doomed! You say to a piece of wood, “Wake up!” or to a block of stone, “Get up!” Can an idol reveal anything to you? It may be covered with silver and gold, but there is no life in it. Habakkuk 2:15-19 GNT
Indeed, when we refuse to make the effort to understand God’s dealings with humanity or to study the Bible and whatever may help us understand it, we rebel against the express will of God. For God commands us to love him with all our mind as well as with all our heart, soul and strength (Mark 12:30; compare Proverbs 1–8). We can therefore say on scriptural grounds that it is the will of God that we study his ways of communicating with us. Rejecting this thoughtful, careful study is not faith, and it does not spring from faith. It is the rejection of the God-appointed means to God-appointed goals.
Most people don’t like to talk about sin.
Let’s be honest, unless a pastor is a sadist, he doesn’t like to talk about it either. He has to, for the sake of the people he is talking to, and for the sake of those they interact with, who have the same problem with sin.
We don’t understand it.
In some cases, we don’t want to understand it. We’d just rather enjoy it, or enjoy not struggling with it, and deal with the consequences later. Take it from me, as a pastor I am not just an advocate against sin, unfortunately I am a skilled practitioner, you might even say an expert in the field. ( the Apostle Paul was as well. ( 1 Timothy 1:16)
When I read Dr. Willard’s words about refusing to make the effort to understand God’s dealing with humanity, the passage I read earlier from scripture came immediately to mind. We don’t understand why God doesn’t like sin, we just know He doesn’t, and that there are punitive action against it. So we run and hide from Him, or we deny He says this is sin, or that is.
But we don’t understand sin, we don’t realize the chaos and pain it generates, we can’t see reality the way God does. And rather than looking at the scriptures, to see the effect of sin there, we hide it, or deny it.
Habakkuk deals with it, especially the sin of idolatry, The punishment for sin is something we choose when we dwell on the sin in our thoughts, both the punishment in the now, and the eternal consequences we will have to deal with on Judgement Day.
But if we understand what sin does, the havoc it causes, both now and generations to come, we begin to see God’s problem with sin is not just our disobedience, but why He asks us to trust Him in that matter. Why he says, this isn’t good for you. In the case of worshipping idols, whether they be hand crafted or our retirement fund, or a person we think has it all together, the idol will fail! It can’t do anything for us, and it will leave us more empty than when we started.
He tells us not to sin, so that all will be good in our life, so we can avoid the brokenness, the emptiness that comes when guilt and shame are given control.
Instead, He would draw us back to Himself, heal us of our brokenness, rescue us from the consequences of our sin. Care for us, as He always has planned. THis is God, our God, who is here… and listens.
Maybe we should begin to, and as we read and stury scripture, come to realize how God wants to deal with us, and the sin that so easily ensnares us.
Trust Him…and know His peace!
Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson, Hearing God through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2015).
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 “How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you? Could I ever destroy you as I did Admah, or treat you as I did Zeboiim? My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong. 9 I will not punish you in my anger; I will not destroy Israel again. For I am God and not a mere human being. I, the Holy One, am with you. I will not come to you in anger. Hosea 11:8-9 (TEV)
386 Don’t forget, my son, that for you there is but one evil on earth: sin. You must fear it and avoid it with the grace of God.
I recently started taking my son ot the gym. His first day, the trainer started working with him and talked about working on his core – and if he takes care of that (unlike Dad has) everything else he does would benefit him far more.
The thought was in the back of my mind as I wrote a paper last week on the Biblical theological foundations of worship. There had to be a core thought that threaded through scripture. FOr while the form may change a little from Adam’s sons times, through Abraham and Moses, through the Kingdom and into the New Testament, the core doesn’t change.
It cannot change.
That core is our struggle with sin, and more importantly, the ability to know God’s heart, and instead of fearing wrath, responding in confession, and the desire to be forgiven and healed.
A theologian would talk of this as the primacy of the Doctrine of Justification. I think, pastorally, we should talk of it as our core. Not core doctrine – but core as the place where our strength health comes from, the place that if it is swell exercised and strengthened, the rest of our spiritual nature will follow. If it is breaking down, if it is ignored, then the rest of our spiritual formation will crumble, and we will struggle, and even let our faith be minimalized and maybe disappear.
If however, we remember God’s heart, His determination and His unwillingness to give up on His people, that trust grows. If we understand the strength and power of His love, the love that raised Jesus from the dead, then we begin to trust Him, and trust Him with our brokenness.
There are exercises in the gym to strengthen our physical core. Crunches, working on certain machines, doing certain stretches. Spiritually there are exercises as well, all of them based on interacting with the love and mercy of God. Bible Study can be, as can prayer. But those things can often be focused on something other and our relationship with God, and our relationship with others. The sacraments are great core practices, as they cause us to encounter this heart of God.
Specifically, I want to address Confession and Absolution. For there we encounter God’s command to those serving you, and the power in hearing the words, “Your sins are forgiven”
You need to hear that. I do as well. We need to desire to hear that as well, so that when we do sin, we run to God, knowing how He won’t give up on us, and how He is there to heal and forgive, even to strength against temptation.
This is our core, this relationship where broken sinners can trust God enough to let Him deal with their brokenness.
So come, confess your sins. Hear you are forgiven, and strengthen your ability to depend on the God who loves you…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 976-977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
When I saw this, I fell face downward on the ground. Then I heard a voice 2 saying, “Mortal man, stand up. I want to talk to you.” 2 While the voice was speaking, God’s spirit entered me and raised me to my feet, and I heard the voice continue, 3 “Mortal man, I am sending you to the people of Israel. They have rebelled and turned against me and are still rebels, just as their ancestors were. 4 They are stubborn and do not respect me, so I am sending you to tell them what I, the Sovereign LORD, am saying to them. 5 Whether those rebels listen to you or not, they will know that a prophet has been among them. Ezekiel 1:28-2:5 GNT
274 “Father,” said that big fellow, a good student at the Central* (I wonder what has become of him), “I was thinking of what you told me—that I’m a son of God!—and I found myself walking along the street, head up, chin out, and a feeling of pride inside …a son of God!” With sure conscience I advised him to foster that “pride.”
As I read the details of Ezekiel’s call, I resonate with the idea of falling on my face. THough usually for me it is not because of seeing the glory of God. Too often, it is because I’ve screwed up, or something in life has tripped me up, and I landed hard, as if I did a belly flop/face plant.
I hear the voice of my dad, “get up, brush yourself off, and take your stand!”
Except there are times that is impossible, what knocked me down seems improbable to deal with, if not impossible. All those proverbs about getting up one more time just seem, well, ignorant.
In the prophets case, God even prepares them for the rejection, for the fact that he will do a faceplant.
But in that position, there is some hope. There is the Holy Spirit that enters us and raises us to our feet.
You see there are days when the only way to get up, is to have God raise us up. There are days where we have to realize it is God that raised us up, and placed us where He knows we need to be.
To depend on Him for lifting us up? That’s a challenge! To depend on Him to keep us up is a whole different challenge.
It is in those moments, realize that we aren’t the first to fall down and think we can’t get up (or we are just tired and don’t want to get up) becomes helpful. What is even more helpful is what the student realized. That we are the beloved sons and daughters of God. That He is looking out for us, that He is caring and providing for us, that He doesn’t tire of picking us off, healing our bruised hearts and souls, and being our paraclete, the comforter called alongside to help us carrying our burdens.
As we realize that we also realise this, and pray it for each other
18 I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, 19 and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20 which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world.
Ephesians 1:18-20 (TEV)
This is our God, and here we stand, we can do not other.
And with apologies to Martin, the reason we can stand is not because of our conviction that we are right, but simply because of the love, mercy and grace of God. Because He has made us His kids, because with all of His power supporting us, we can stand.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 728-731). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.