Category Archives: Devotionals
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! 2 From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, 3 for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. 4 Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!
Psalm 61:1-4 (NLT2)
How, then, can I learn what it means to be human? What must I do? In his question the teacher of the law mentions a prerequisite that we seldom consider nowadays: if my life in this world is to be successful, I must view it as a stepping-stone to eternal life.
There are days in my life that are dark.
Just like most of you.
We hide from those days, we try to ignore them, and if we can’t, we try to anesthetize ourselves from the pain and emptiness they bring.
Days when I seem lost, when life doesn’t make sense, or when it gets in the way of what I want to do. Especially when what I want to do is serve God? To be with His people? It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem that I am doing what I have been put here to do, and that dissonant feeling is horrid.
For me, those days have been a major part of life. Recovery from surgeries that left me isolated for months, asthma as a kid (one year I was in school only 40 days more than I was not!) and even the odd flu bug that knocks me out of church, like it did yesterday. Never mind all the fun things with my son and wife that I miss out on, because of health concerns.
Life can suck at times.
Into those thoughts, invading them comes these readings from this morning. First the psalmist, whose words I skim over at first, tacitly and religiously agreeing with them, Yep, I want that, that’s where I should be, there in the presence of God. What is next to read, oh yeah, proverbs?
A couple of readings later, I come to Pope Benedict’s one-year devotion. It’s become a favorite of mine. And his words make me go back to the Psalm and read it again.
My life doesn’t revolve around this mortal life. It revolves around my life with God. An eternity with Him, dwelling in His presence, not just in the stadium, like watching a rock star from the nosebleed seats. But interacting with Him, sharing the joy that comes from knowing the depth of His love.
This life isn’t the end, not even close, it is the dance lessons for our eternal dance with God.
That is exactly what I need to remember in these dark days. What I so missed my people telling me yesterday, as I missed church. What they fire back with me with conviction, as I tell them the Lord is with them
His presence here and now is a start.
And it’s only a start!
Lord Jesus, help us realize that your ministry to us was not just to make us right and holy, but to have a relationship with us, one that will last forever. Lord, help us to dwell with you, in 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. 87). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day
12† Any who love knowledge want to be told when they are wrong. It is stupid to hate being corrected. Pr 12:1 GNT
Man wants to be himself the instrument by which history achieves its goal. Because he does not believe in God, he feels obliged to guide the course of history himself and, in doing so, acts as he imagines a God would act.
One of the biggest challenges in my life is discerning between intelligence and wisdom. The difference between being able to recall tons of trivial data, and actually being able to help someone else endure the challenges of life.
And as someone who has a bit of intelligence, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that knowing “it all” is
But what I have to know, well, that is a challenge. Know thyself was the cry of Socrates, a man that would run circles around the intellectuals of our day, just as he did in his own. ( Side note, I highly recommend Peter Kreeft’s series “Socrates meets ….” books that use a
To “know thyself” is a challenge, to be both the observer and the observed, to be able to judge yourself, who you are, who you really are, is challenging.
For you are more than the biological material, you are more than your gifts, abilities, sins, and weaknesses. To know those things, that is good, and yet they still do not define you. And if you focus on them as your identity, you will never allow God to correct you.
To know thyself is only possible in knowing Jesus. Then, correction is simply cutting away what isn’t you. It is freeing you to be you, a child of God, someone who dances in HIS presence.
By defining ourselves in relationship to God, we stop playing God, sitting in judgment over our lives (as well as the lives of others). We stop seeing life as we think, in all our imperfection, He sees it. We end the self-deception! What ends up defining us is God, who has made it that He sees us as holy and righteous as Jesus. Jesus, who died on the cross to free us from sin, and who rose, giving us life in this relationship with God.
Relax, know God is here, and find
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. 85). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Psalm 139:7-8 (NKJV)
Now when people have learned and become aware
Once upon a time, I was a non-denominational pastor. As such, I looked at Lent and Ash Wednesday with a negative eye. I thought it was all a bunch of hype, some innovative way to subject people, and steal from them the meager joys they have earned.
I had grown up Roman Catholic, and I had some good mentors in the faith. Fr. Alex and Sister Ursula made sure we understood why we did things, not just hearing that we had to do so. But even with that, I thought to take 40 days out to weep and grieve over our sins and my sins was a bit overkill. And to wear an ash cross on my forehead for a day? (Well at least that would stop an aunt or two from kissing my forehead!)
Yet, the older I get, the more experienced I get with my own guilt and shame, the more I need to spend that time, examining myself. Not to beat me down, or just to endure discomfort as if that can bribe God to keep me out of hell.
I need these forty days. I need to process the way I am when I set God aside.
Again, not to dwell in grief or shame indefinitely, but to remember what the psalmist said, You are there!
I can’t get away from the God who loves me, who loves me even “THERE.”
I need to know that even there I can go to Him, confess that I’ve sinned, that I’ve depended on other “gods”, that
I need to know that even in the midst of sin, God is there to bring healing and hope into my darkness. And let’s be honest, just because I am a Christian and a pastor doesn’t mean I still don’t struggle with the darkness of sin in my life.
Lent, and especially Ash Wednesday, is an awesome time. We can stop playing the hypocrite, we can stop pretending our sin is justifiable, we can grieve what we’ve
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. 74). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 After that, the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler—you and your descendants after you. You have saved us from the Midianites.”
23 Gideon answered, “I will not be your ruler, nor will my son. The LORD will be your ruler.” Judges 8:22-23
With those we lead in any way (sometimes we lead by simply asking the right questions), we are to be “the servant of all” (Mark 9:35), “eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you” (1 Peter 5:2-3). Redemptive mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21) is achieved in this way.
So much current religious work is not lined up with these scriptural injunctions. This is bound to be if those who lead try to control the flock through their own abilities to organize and drive, yet clothed in a spiritual terminology. They do not rely on Christ’s power. As their faith is, so shall their leadership be. It will be “my group,” “my ministry” and “my children”—and those who follow will never experience how completely God is Lord of each person.
Leadership is a tricky thing.
Especialy for those who serve Christ by serving the people of God as leaders.
Once upon a time, I was in management. Went to the seminars, did all the team building excercises. Especially loved the idea of the inverted triangle, that a leader is not at the top, but rather at the bottom of the structure. Learned about different styles and tempraments of leadership and had some excellent leaders who had authority over me, but saw it as responsibility for my work.
Dallas Willard’s comments are striking in this, that a leader that leads based in their own ability to organize and drive those that follow is not truly doing their job. They are neglecting the very reason for their being in leadership.
Willard describes what is missing as “those who follow will never experience how completely God is the Lord of each person.”
This is not about questioning the sincerity of those in leadership. Many of us sincerly want to do the best we can, and train and learn to be leaders of the people of God. We try to adapt what we know, but sometimes it falls short, simply because we forget that we aren’t leadiing to success, or to a short term goal. As a result, we often find ourselves manipulating people rather than guiding them. We get them to “do” rather than experience.
We need to remember that LORD is the way the Jewish people respectfully used a title instead of God’s name. The name, YHWH, simply means I AM. (rememer Moses and the burning bush?) That is what our people need to experience, that is what we are tasked with revealing to them, shepherding them in experiencing the love of God who is present.
My job as a pastor, the job of the elders and board members is to help people experience God’s mercy, His care, His presence in their lives. That is the role of every Christian leader.
And that is why so much of secular leadership strategy is challenging. Because if relies on us, because it doesn’t tale the attitude of Gideon, who points to them to the Lord (even though he was the most effective of the Judges)
“No, not me… look to God…” the same kind of leadership that John the Baptist, that the Apostle Paul and so many others have modeled for us.
So this day, I have a challenge for you who lead.
Your challenge is this, find someone to guide, and the place you need to guide them to is a place of stillness, a place of peace, a place where they know God is present, (and that you are not God!)
Go in His peace, and I pray you
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26† “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. Luke 14:26 GNT
676 Have you noticed how many of your companions know how to be very kind and considerate when dealing with the people they love, whether it is their girlfriend, their wife, their children or their family? Tell them—and ask it of yourself too— that the Lord does not deserve less. They must treat him that way! Advise them, besides, to continue practising that kindness and consideration, but do it with Him and for Him,and they will achieve, even here on earth, a happiness they had never dreamed of.
Is God really serious
That I have to love Him, be more devoted to Him that to my wife, my son, my mother, my friends?
Other translations phrase it more bluntly, indicating that we have to “hate” those relations. The root word can extend from the hate that is actively working against the person to simple indifference, where the blessing we could be is neglected, to refrain from being in the person’s life.
I have to admit this, I don’t like these words of Jesus.
I struggle with them.
I can try to rationalize a million reasons why Jesus didn’t mean what he said. From talking about our responsibilities under the fourth commandment ( Honor thy father and mother) to talk ing about the witness we need to have with our lives, as we care for those God has put in our lives. And I know people that have done as the Pharisees and discounted their parents out of religious obligation. Jesus talks about them as well, calling that practice wicked.
Yet these words will not disappear from scripture.
And as much as we are shocked by them, we need to hear them. We desperately need to hear them. We need to admit how we too often turn these relationships into idolatry When we live through them or define ourselves first as a husband, dad, son, brother, cousin, friend. When the devotion we should have towards God is sacrificed on the altar of these relationships. When we tolerate sinful behaviors or brokenness because we are afraid of hurting the relationship. When we are more worried about losing this person’s favor than we are about losing the love of God.
And there is the problem, this idolatry of relationships, this giving of the place that God designed in your life, so that you can know His love, that you can know His care, that you can realize His presence.
Yeah, He means it. not out of some self-centered jealousy and need for self-affirmation, but because of what He can provide for us, that no one else can.
As we learn to live in that love, as that relationship defines us, we even find out our care for others becomes more like God’s, truly loving and not just caring for what we get out of it.
A hard lesson to hear, a harder one to live out. Yet so necessary…
Lord, help us to receive Your love for
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2824-2829). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“There were two men who owed money to a moneylender,” Jesus began. “One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. 42 Neither of them could pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Which one, then, will love him more?”
43 “I suppose,” answered Simon, “that it would be the one who was forgiven more.” Luke 7:41-43 GNT
630 Forget about yourself… May your ambition be to live for your brothers alone, for souls, for the Church; in one word, for God.
I looked at the comments to a video last night and was immediately depressed. Not because of the bad news the Cardinal was sharing, an announcement that seven schools were closing. Rather what depressed me was the self-righteous commentators who condemned the Cardinal.
Lots of them, expressing their….hatred of the cardinal, blaming him for a multitude of sins that caused the schools to close.
I think back a week, and the hostility geared to New York’s governor, and the week before that, to a teenager in Washington, D.C. I can think of other situations I’ve been in, where the same attitude occurs.
None of these were calls to repentance, none of them were direct communication with the person (as per Matthew 18). None of them showed any concern for the person they publicly tried, found guilty, and condemned. (Do we eve believe any more than condemning them is condemning them to hell for eternity?) What people were doing was playing God, for only He can condemn people, and that is the thing furthest from His desire.
In the gospel reading, a young Pharisee is trying to make sense out of Jesus, He did well, inviting Jesus to share a meal. But then, faced with an unwanted guest, he questions why Jesus would allow her to make contact with Him.
Jesus calmy asks the question, who will be more grateful.
Next time you go to condemn someone, next time someone’s actions or words cause you to respond with great emotion, consider that question.
How grateful are you, that Jesus washes you clean of YOUR sin.
Having gained that perspective, you have also set aside the perspective that you are the judge that sits at God’s right hand. You humbly set aside that reaction and set your sites on the person’s best interest. You learn to desire that they find the same peace that you have, rather than desiring to see them in hell. You begin to desire that they come ot know the joy of being forgiven, the awe at finding mercy.
That change in your reaction and sets aside emotions that would drive your reaction. It turns hatred into love, it transforms your sin into holiness, and even if the target of your rage doesn’t see it, others will…
and they will join you, captivated by the way you reflect the love of God.
So if you are talking about having a pure faith, or being missional, or taking your apostolate seriously, my suggestion is this, remember how you have been given forgiveness… and rejoice, for God is giving you the opportunity to share that daily.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2659-2660). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a
At the dawn of the third millennium not only are there many peoples who do not yet know the Good News, but there are many Christians who need the Word of God to be re-announced to them in a persuasive manner so that they may concretely experience the power of the Gospel.
Many of our brothers and sisters are ‘baptized, but insufficiently evangelized’. In a number of cases, nations once rich in faith and in vocations are losing their identity under the influence of a secularized culture … The Church, sure of her Lord’s fidelity, never tires of proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and invites all Christians to discover anew the attraction of following Christ. (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, 96)
The history of Evangelization across the centuries witnesses that the great missionaries were also great people of prayer, more specifically that they were authentic adorers. Indeed, the Eucharist is ‘the source and the summit of the Christian life’ (Lumen gentium, 11), and the ‘source and summit of all evangelisation’ (Presbyterorum ordinis, ).
608 Against those who reduce religion to a set of negative statements, or are happy to settle for a watered-down Catholicism; against those who wish to see the Lord with his face against the wall, or to put him in a corner of their souls… we have to affirm, with our words and with our deeds, that we aspire to make Christ the King reign indeed over all hearts… theirs included.
The church pictured above has been empty for decades. The doors are bordered up, and voices have long been silent. There is no prayer offered, not voices lifting up praises as the realize the love and mercy of God,
There are other churches just as lifeless, even though the bodies are in them, even though voices can be heard, their words empty, vain. They try to make things better in life, they try to either legislate it or inspire people to behave, to live inspiring, meaningful lives. Some consider themselves traditional (or faithful) and others claim to be progressive and socially active.
And they are as empty and lifeless as St Anne’s.
They have been, “baptized, but not evangelized.”
They’ve been made part of the church, but they haven’t experienced the love of God. They haven’t learned to sit in silence and contemplate how much God desires to be with them, to guide them through life, to fix their brokenness, to forgive their sins.
So they put God on time out, reaching out to him the least amount of times they feel necessary, or reaching out to Him when there is trouble or trauma.
The priests in Jesus day were like that, they knew the scriptures, they put their trust in the promises that were theirs because they were circumcised, but the idea of talking with God, interacting with God, being guided by God, those were all missing.
But they heard the gospel, and they were changed.
And so can our people, our pastors, and priests, our ministers, our worship leaders. They can experience the breadth and width, the height and depth of God’s love.
They can realize they are loved, and adore God, not forced or manipulated, but simply adore Him – because He loves them. And their prayers and their worship will rise louder and stronger, and it will impact more and more.
Lord, reveal yourself through those who serve you, to both the church and the
Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 3–4). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2579-2582). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” 9 Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! Psalm 27:7-9 (ESV)
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
Hosea 10:12 (ESV)
540 You neither want to be an evil man nor a good one. And so, limping on both legs, you will have mistaken your way and filled your life with emptiness.
When I read the psalm above, I feel guilty. I resonate with the words in my heart, oh how I long to know the grace of God, fully in my life. ANd yet, I don’t seek his face enough. It is not as much God hiding his face from us, as we don’t look for Him as often as we should.
We try to get through life on our own, we try to act like we are mature Christians, we try to walk in His steps, but without His help. We are like the 3-year-old, trying on her mom’s high heels, (or his dad’s boots) And when we fall, we wonder why God abandoned us, why He allowed us to
We need to hear God, we need to take Him seriously on the fellowship He desires to have with us. It is how we need to live, really live. To live and walk with Jesus. To abide in the Spirit, to realize the righteousness, the holiness that rains down upon us.
God is with us, and the more we can seek Him, the more our brokeness is revealed to be a place where His comfort and peace powerfully is at work.
Stop what you are doing, spend a few moments seeking God, letting HIs mercy and peace wash over you, a demontration of the love …anad live a full and abundant life. For it is time
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2333-2335). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day
10 Moses heard all the people complaining as they stood around in groups at the entrances of their tents. He was distressed because the LORD had become angry with them, 11 and he said to the LORD, “Why have you treated me so badly? Why are you displeased with me? Why have you given me the responsibility for all these people? 12 I didn’t create them or bring them to birth! Why should you ask me to act like a nurse and carry them in my arms like babies all the way to the land you promised to their ancestors? Numbers 11:10-12 GNT
479 “Pray for me,” I said as I always do. And he answered in amazement: “But is something the matter?” I had to explain that something is the matter or happens to us all the time; and I added that when prayer is lacking, “more and more weighty things are the matter.”
It’s the thought of the mom as she picks up after her children or her husband. It’s the thought of the manager after he sends his workers home for the day, It’s in the mind of the secretary who has to deal with unreasonable people, guarding her boss from them. It’s the thought of the nurse, who has to care and clean up patients, who cannot care for themselves. it’s the thought of the pastor, burnt out after the holidays and yet still having to meet the needs of people in crisis. The denominational officer, trying to figure out why another church is struggling.
And we cry out to God, why have YOU stuck us here?
Why did you give these people into my care?
Why can’t these people be “normal”, why are they so needy, so unaware, so irresponsible, and why do I have ot work them, clean them up, get them back healthy, and teach them to play well with others?
If St Josemaria is right. we are going to deal with those people all our lives. There is always something broken, or some relationship that is breaking. There is always another mess to clean up, another person or church in trauma, another friend caught up in sin.
So how do we survive? How can we keep our strength
Fellowship with God, deep, intimate fellowship, and sharing that with others, so we develop a burden to pray for each other, to bring the other before the throne of God, knowing that is where they will find the peace, the rest, the healing they need.
And that includes those people we have to serve, whether those in ministry with us or those we serve.
And it is where we need to be ourselves. Because life is like a boxing match, and sometimes it seems like the bell will never ring, ending the round.
So please pray for me… and let me know what I can pray for you!
may you know you dwell in His peace!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2100-2103). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.