Category Archives: Devotions

We all know God loves us, but far too often the stresses, anxieties and problems in life crowd Him out of our view. Here find a moment to re-focus and remember how incredible it is that God loves us, and what it means to live in His presence, in the peace that passes all understanding…

Please! Stop Trying to Be Holy!

This word... princess pride

Devotional Thoughts for the Day

Then Jesus told them, “Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.”  CEV  Matthew 22:21

See, now you understand the meaning of the term “to hallow” and “holy.” It is nothing else than withdrawing something from misuse and dedicating it to its proper godly use, just as a church is dedicated and appointed solely to the service of God. In like manner we must be hallowed in our whole life, leaving nothing but the name of God to dwell in us, in other words, nothing but kindness, truth, justice, etc. Hence the name of God is hallowed or profaned not only with our lips but also with our soul and all the members of our body.
Second, God’s name is defiled by robbing and thieving. Although wise men will at once understand what I mean, it will be too subtle for the simpleminded, since we are here referring to the arrogant ones who regard themselves as righteous and holy and do not feel that they are profaning the name of God as those in the aforementioned group do. While they dub themselves righteous and holy and truthful, they freely and fearlessly pilfer and purloin God’s name

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.

As I read the words Luther wrote nearly 500 years ago, I knew I had to write on the first paragraph, and what holiness/perfection truly is.  I’ve mentioned this before, but it cannot be spoken about enough.  We hear, 44  I am the LORD your God, and you must dedicate yourselves to me and be holy, just as I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44 (CEV)) and we get to work, trying our damndest to become what we think holy means, or when we fail, working equally hard to maintain the illusion of holiness.

It is the latter action that leads us to be convicted of robbery, trying to steal what is not ours. We profane God’s name, Luther writes, when we pretend to be something we are not when we put up the charade that we are perfect, that we are righteous, that we are holy.  For not only do we not understand holiness, but we also take the responsibility that is God’s alone when we declare we are. What a scam the devil has laid upon us, to get us to think that we determine whether or not we are righteous, and others are not!  Falling for it, we try to determine what is good and what is evil, unaware of our own spiritual blindness.

Holiness is as simple as what Luther notes, taking something misused and redirecting it towards its purpose. Whether it is God’s name, no longer used to swear, condemn or falsely justify ourselves and others, or whether it is our lives, created in His image in order to spend time with Him. This is the truth that St. Josemaria talks of, in regards to being pious and holy, the key is simple. Being constantly in the presence of God. Finding out that we are int he presence of a loving, merciful, gentle God who will gently (and firmly) heal our brokenness.

Stop trying to be righteous, stop putting on an act that presents you as holy and perfect. Instead, spend time talking to God, letting Him do the work that only He can do. Look to Him, focus on His love, spending as much time aware of His presence as you can.

Holiness will be taken care of, He promises.

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), 29.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Relationships of Christmas Past

Advent Midweek ThemeThe Relationships of
Christmas Past
Genesis 44:30-44

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus convince you of the healing that is indeed happening in your life and in the lives of those you knew in Christmases past…

Haunted

I can’t imagine, as Judah stands before the brother he does not recognize, the heartache that he feels.  His heart and soul flashbacks to the look in his father’s eyes when they told him of Joseph’s death. Of watching his dad weep for months,

How it must have eaten him up, even though he knew his brother probably wasn’t dead, but simply a slave somewhere.

Still, he had to look down and see his father, wracked with tears, and live with his father’s overprotective nature toward Joseph’s younger brother, the only joy this broken man had…

Judah then considers having to break the news to his father, that his other son would be lost to him as well. His heart breaks, as guilt and shame have so weakened him, he realizes he can’t go back, he can’t watch his father die, because of the sin he has committed.

Surely he is haunted far more than Bob Marley or the most of the ghost of Christmas past ever could.

Our Relationships of Christmas Past

For many of us, the holidays are a challenge. We miss many dear friends and family.  Some are memories form our youth, like those we looked up to have past away, some of them decades ago.

Others are missing for a different reason.

Our sin.

Maybe we didn’t sell them into slavery, but the effect is much the same.  We never, ever, want to bump into each other, for the sin that divides us is too grievous.  Like Judah, thinking of the pain he caused his father (not even thinking of Joseph), we can’t live with it. I can’t imagine bearing up with that kind of pain for decades….

Or can I?

I think back to the relationships of Christmases past, and know the absence of lives that brought joy, people I had fun with, that won’t be there this year without a miracle.  If I think about it, I understand all to well the pain that Judah felt, as he considered going back to his father,

I could easily share in the words of Judah,

33 Sir, I am your slave. Please let me stay here in place of Benjamin and let him return home with his brothers. 34 How can I face my father if Benjamin isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father in such sorrow.

As we regret the past, as we wish we, as we pray like Judah prayed, as we grieve over the damage of our sin, we hear God respond, “no…”

It is hard to hear God answer no…

So hard we don’t always hear, “my son, that is not necessary….”

But our Brother can…

It is actually impossible to take care of what we’ve broken and shattered. We can’t take the place of the joy, we can’t somehow sacrifice the life we have to restore that which is broken.

But that isn’t why God says, “no.”

He says no because He had already taken care of the sin that caused Judah’s grief and anxiety.  The brother he thinks dead, he is standing before. What his and his brother’s sin threw away, the love of their Father is now going to be restored.

This is the moment that is the perfect example of Advent.  We stand before the King, who is about to be revealed, trying to do with our guilt and shame, trying to figure out how to face the eternal consequences for our actions. How can we face God our father, when the relationships of our past mean our brother, our sister, isn’t going to be with us?  It is at this moment we understand the power of Advent and the greater moment of Christmas…

We really need to hear what God has already said, we need to listen to it with all our heart and all our mind, and all our soul.

“Let it be done for you as you believe. By Jesus’ command, I tell you, Your sins are forgiven, and what was done for evil, God will use for good. This is promised in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN!”

Does God Still Surprise Us?

Ponte sisto

Devotional Thought of the day

22 His answer surprised them so much that they walked away..…33 The crowds were surprised to hear what Jesus was teaching.  Matt 22:22, 33 CEV

 This development reflected the new liturgical awareness which had been growing in these years. At that time, young people were interested not so much in the inherited dogmatic problems of eucharistic doctrine as in the liturgical celebration as a living form [Gestalt]. They found that this form, or structure, was a theological and spiritual entity with an integrity of its own. What previously had been the rubricist’s sphere of operations, mere ceremonial, having no apparent connection with dogma, now seemed to be an integral part of the action. It was its actual manifestation, apart from which the reality itself would remain invisible. Some years later Joseph Pascher put it like this: as far as the structure is concerned, up to now people had only paid attention to the rubrics, to what was printed in red; now it was time to give equal attention to the red and the black print. “There is far more in the form and structure of the texts and the whole celebration than in the rubrics.”

Throughout scripture, I find God surprising people.

Sometimes it is with what they are taught, as in my readings from Matthew this morning. Sometimes it is with the call, the role He gives them in life, as they minister and try to lead the people who need to find themselves, by discovering their relationship with God.

So why does He keep surprising us? Or perhaps the question is “how” He keeps doing so.

The latter question is seen in the words from Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI)  We get so caught up in “how” we worship God, how we serve Him, that we don’t hear the words we read, that we sing, that we preach or hear in the sermon.  We get so caught up in the forms and directions for doing them right, (the rubrics – which were printed in red by the printers of worship hymnals, missals, and the agendas – the books that guide pastors/priests) Pascher talks about giving equal weight to form and matter, even realizing there is what is said.

We do that today as well, getting more focused on how we worship and how we live than in the glory of God that surrounds us, for we are His people. That is why some police morality and thoughts more than seek God’s face.  Why some think revival comes from people being corrected in thought, word and deed, rather than realizing that their errors in thought word and deed are forgiven, and the damage done by sin God will heal.  (That is what forgiveness really is, by the way, not just the removal of the punishment, but the healing of the damage done!)

That is why it is surprising when miracles happen, or when prodigals we gave up on come home. It is why we hide our sin and brokenness, rather than talking about it freely, we struggle to believe God will forgive what we cannot believe can be forgiven. It is why we have developed a culture that still is based on shame and guilt, rather than in the hope of restoration and the love that brings it about.

These things are taught in our liturgies, whether complex or simple. It should be heard in our sermons and our prayers celebrated and rejoice over in our songs sung in church and throughout the week.

And when we are surprised by what Jesus reveals to us in His word, then again give thanks, for the Holy Spirit is keeping us focused on Jesus… and the form will naturally follow.  As the ancients taught, as we worship, so we believe … and so we practice.

Lord Jesus, we ask that you keep surprising us, that you keep revealing to us the promises, and even more your presence and love which makes us sure of them.  Lord, help us never grow stale or dull in our dependence on You but keep us marveling at how You sustain and heal us.  AMEN!

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 33–34.

Please! Please! Don’t let this happen!

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

27 This time the LORD made the king so stubborn 28 that he said to Moses, “Get out and stay out! If you ever come back, you’re dead!” 29 “Have it your way,” Moses answered. “You won’t see me again.”  Ex 10:27-29 CEB

Indeed, no one should depend on his heart and presume to pray without uttering words unless he is well trained in the Spirit and has experience in warding off stray thoughts. Otherwise the devil will thoroughly trick him and soon smother the prayer in his heart. Therefore we should cling to the words and with their help soar upward, until our feathers grow and we can fly without the help of words. I do not condemn words or the spoken prayer, nor should anyone spurn them. On the contrary, they are to be accepted as an especially great gift of God. However, it is wrong when the words are not employed for their fruitful purpose, namely, to move the heart, but are only mumbled and muttered with the mouth, on the false assumption that this is all that is necessary. Not only is there no fruitful improvement, there is a corrupting of the heart.

I am pretty sure that none of us would intentionally become like the Pharoah. We would tell someone sent by God to never come back.

But how many of us, for a moment, would be willing to hear God say, “Have it your way!”

Most of us would say, with Peter, “Even if everyone deserts you, I will never desert you!” (Matt 26:33) Most of us would vehemently deny being like the Pharaoh, at least actively.

But what about passively?  Do we ignore the signs God sends us in life?  Do we ignore the calls to repentance, the urging to reconcile, both with God and with those who would offend us.? Do we ignore the times God would call us to come and spend time with Him, or worse, do we prevent others from doing it, as Pharoah did?

Yeah, we do.  More than we want to admit. God and his people often sink to our lowest priority.  Don’t worry about missing worship – you deserve a rest!  Why do you have to go tonight to Bible Study, didn’t you do enough last week?

Thirteen years ago, I bought a devotional book.  I was amazed when there was a simple set of daily liturgies, prayers that over the years have become memorized for me, and for my son now as well. I work diligently to not take the words for granted, and part of me is amazed at how these words have found a place in my heart and soul.

I think Luther’s discussion on prayer notes why, if I simply let my prayer be based on my heart, I ould have shorter prayers, filled with more distractions. When I engage my heart and soul with my mind and tongue which intones the words, the words of the psalms and prayers written from them become precious, leading into deeper moments of prayer, guiding and giving limits for prayers that keep it focused on Jesus.

Without them, I think of the challenges of the day, of those who are broken who I need to help. I go from entrusting these people in God’s care, to attempting (vainly) to figure out how I will fix their problems, to despairing of the situation. As Luther pointed out, such smothers the life of prayer. and rather than praying “Lord, have mercy”, I begin to struggle with despair and depression.  It is all too easy for the devil to do this, he just opens the door, and we begin to crash.

We begin to realize the silence of God letting us have it “our way.”

Not because of active defiance, but being so passive we become apathetic, and ignorant of God’s compassion, and His presence.

This is easily taken care of, simply start praying, ask the Holy Spirit to empower and sustain you, even when you don’t know what to pray.  After all, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write this, 26  And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. “Romans 8:26-28 (NLT2)

So pray, use guides, or just simply pray the psalms, or the Lord’s prayer. Ask the Spirit to guide you and protect your focus in the prayer, especially as you attempt to listen to His glorious message to you…

“I am here… I forgive you… I love you… let me begin your healing..”

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), 25–26.

A Reason To Worship… The Parable of the Full Trash Can

 

grayscale photography of trash bins

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.    Ephesians 2:10 (NLT2)

20  But you have learned nothing like that from Christ, if you have really heard his voice and understood the truth that he has taught you. No, what you learned was to fling off the dirty clothes of the old way of living, which were rotted through and through with lust’s illusions, and, with yourselves mentally and spiritually re-made, to put on the clean fresh clothes of the new life which was made by God’s design for righteousness and the holiness which is no illusion. Ephesians 4:20 (Phillips NT)

592    Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?

It seems counter-intuitive, that God relies on us ot do the work that builds His Kingdom, but that we should not take pride in a “job well-done.” We struggle against sin, we try to serve our neighbor, we give of our time talent and treasure, shouldn’t we get a pat on the back? Can’t we take pride in an effort that took our all and more?

To that St. Josemaria’s words seem like a cold, harsh shower. A trash can?  Can’t we be considered a little nicer than that?  Yes, what God pours into us (and what He removes from us) makes all the difference in our lives.

We need to think this through, we need to meditate on what God is doing and has done to our life.  Not only how he cleans us up (justification – Eph. 2:8-9) but how he then plants in us something beautiful, and sweet-smelling.  Even the things we think we’ve buried so deep and hidden get cleaned out and replaced with things that alive, growing, beautiful.

You see, that is what is at the core of worship. The awe that comes in realizing what God has done, how He has cleansed us, how He has empowered us, how He sends us into the communities to reflect His beauty and glory into a world that has become content with brokenness.

What an amazing thing God has done, in the life of each the Holy Spirit has brought home!!!  What He has done is no illusion, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

“we”

 

Combined 4

Devotional Thought of the Day:

22 So let’s come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let’s keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water. 23 We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.  Heb 10:25

544    The Communion of the Saints. How shall I explain it to you? You know what blood transfusions can do for the body? Well, that’s what the Communion of the Saints does for the soul.

There is a challenge today that the church needs to embrace.

One that describes us as the author of Hebrews does, in the third person plural.  “Our,” “We”, “You” (the plural kind not singular.) these are words we need to restore to practice in the church.

Our faith is not an individualistic faith, it is always a corporate sharing of pain and sorrow, a sharing of joy and wonder at the grace of God.

That is why St Josemaria pictures it as an infusion of life as the Blood that is shared covers our sins as it brings life to us as a community, as a body, as the Body of Christ. For when a person is weak in their faith, the faith of the community lifts them up, comforting them and reminding them of the presence of God.

Without that infusion, life takes its toll, draining us of energy and the ability to depend on God. Without hearing others say the Lord is with you, without knowing that they are praying for you, we battle with the idea that the battle is ours, that we are alone. We need that input, we need the comfort and the encouragement we receive through the church, broken as she may appear.

“We” are the church, the people of God whom He ministers to through His word and the Sacraments. We need to be her…together.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What if We Are Not the One, but One of the Ninety Nine?

photo(35)

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Let me ask you this. What would you do if you had a hundred sheep and one of them wandered off? Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go look for the one that had wandered away? 13 I am sure that finding it would make you happier than having the ninety-nine that never wandered off. 14 That’s how it is with your Father in heaven. He doesn’t want any of these little ones to be lost.  Mt.18:12-14  CEV

16 Don’t be a gossip, but never hesitate to speak up in court, especially if your testimony can save someone’s life. 17 Don’t hold grudges. On the other hand, it’s wrong not to correct someone who needs correcting.  Lev. 19:16-17 CEV

The Holy Spirit, however, permits us to censure sin, and prescribes the way in which we are to do it. It must be done by rebuking our brother to his face, not by railing behind his back. This course is manly, brotherly, Christlike, and under God’s blessing will be useful. Does the flesh shrink from it? Then we must lay the greater stress upon our conscience, and keep ourselves to the work, lest by suffering sin upon our friend we become ourselves partakers of it. Hundreds have been saved from gross sins by the timely, wise, affectionate warnings of faithful ministers and brethren.

For most of us, the statement about leaving the 99 is comforting, for most of us know we wander off too frequently.

Put a different face on the 99, and we might have a different reaction.

If it is a person that antagonizes us, we might say good riddance, and let them go.

It is someone who has hurt us, we may pretend we do not notice.

If they are a politician or someone who expresses themselves politically is a way we oppose, we might even pack their bags and give them a map with the fastest way out of town, and try to inflame them enough that they burn bridges behind them.

We should not take those attitudes, but they seem natural to us, and many would cheer us on if we allowed them to wander off.  After all, we didn’t push them away or force them out. We just let them go, off to get what they deserve. (not to mention what we deserve.)

The answer to this sin is not found in forcing our will to do what we don’t want to do. We might be able to subject our will once or twice, and yet, somewhere down deep, resentment will only grow, not just toward the one who offended us, but towards God and those who would encourage reconciliation.

So how do we do the impossible, how do we pray that Jesus is able to rescue this one stray?  Or even more impossible, how do we come to desire that we assist in some small way?

I don’t think it is by focusing on them, or the pain they have caused.

I think it can only be by looking to Jesus, to seeing Him at work in our own lives, bringing about the healing that we need, forgiving the sin we’ve committed, removing the guilt and shame, and indeed the fear of death that comes from knowing we will be judged. To experience the love of God that makes our life new, and free from the power of sin.  In awe of that, with the joy that only knowing we have passed from death to life can bring, is reconciliation with others possible.

For free, and full of joy, we see them out of the corner of our eye, and in awe of Christ’s work, we invite them to share in it. We then find great joy walking with Jesus after the one, because as they share the in the wonder of Christ’s healing them, we see again His healing us, it is made more complete.

Another part of us is healed, when they are cleansed and healed by Christ.

Then the joy of seeing Christ at work becomes greater, as it is shared.

Heavenly Father, help us to see and wonder about the incredible things Christ is doing in our lives. Help us to know He is with us, and as we gaze upon the cross, help us to rejoice as the Spirit brings healing to all our relationships.  AMEN@

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Our Need for Contemplation…

1  O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 2  I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. 3  Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! 4  I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 5  You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. Psalm 63:1-5 (NLT2)

In a nutshell one could say that the goal of Asiatic contemplation is the escape from personality, whereas biblical prayer is essentially a relation between persons and hence ultimately the affirmation of the person.

We know God aright when we grasp him not in his might or wisdom (for then he proves terrifying), but in his kindness and love. Then faith and confidence are able to exist, and then man is truly born anew in God.

Luther’s words in green above come from a pamphlet (the forerunner to the blog) on the contemplation of the suffering of Jesus. It is a pretty difficult read, as he takes us through contemplating the incredible power of sin, that breaks us down, the crushes us…

that we to often choose.

It is painful, and though I hate to say it, it should be. We need to be horrified by the actions we have done, the words we have said, both in anger, and simply to do damage to those we dislike or are jealous of, we need to take a moment, and examine our thoughts to realize how little we control them.

And then, find relief, not in our own resolve, or our ability to make things right, or even survive our brokenness, but in the presence of God, in the Holy Spirit’s comfort and gentle careful cleansing of our lives, our hearts, minds, souls… all of it.

This is the meditation that Pope Benedict XVI discusses, the relationship we have with God, and He with each and all of His people. It is what affirms us, this new birth in God that we have to really contemplate – that we really have to sit and discover.

And in that contemplation, as we gaze on the power of God, as we realize what He has done and is doing, we can cry out praise, much as the Psalmist does.

It is in those quiet moments, contemplating the riches of God, revealed in Christ so that they may be revealed in our lives, that the desire for God’s work becomes stronger and stronger.

So take some time, not just a moment. Consider the cross and the grave… let the Spirit help you know the entire picture, how you’ve been broken, and how you’ve been healed…

For the Lord is with you…

(no matter which side of the Tiber you are, or whether you are on the bridge)

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 24.

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), 13.

When A Christian’s Experience is More Important than Knowledge

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5  I trust your love, and I feel like celebrating because you rescued me. 6  You have been good to me, LORD, and I will sing about you.
Psalm 13:5-6 (CEV)

O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord’s lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it; sing gratefully; shout triumphantly.

548    If you feel the Communion of the Saints—if you live it—you’ll gladly be a man of penance. And you will realize that penance is gaudium etsi laboriosum—“joy in spite of hardship,” and you will feel yourself “allied” to all the penitent souls that have been, that are, and that ever will be.

I grew up among a generation that was told not to focus on experiences, not to trust our feelings. to only focus on a logical, rational presentation of Christianity.

I’ve also seen the other extreme in my youth, where people chased after religious experiences, who wanted to feel the positive vibes that come when experiencing the supernatural, I think those excesses of the late 60’s and 70’s led to the pendulum swing of the 80’s and into the new millenium.

Both sides treat the other side with suspicion, both sides blame the other for the death or at least the hospice status of the church. ANd both try to convince me and others that their focus is the best and only hope, relying not on God for the growth of the church, but on man’s wisdom, and man’s ability to create the right… environment… that will bring about revival.

While I think both are wrong, and grow weary of both, I do think think that a sign of revival is an experience, Not one of great passion, not one of great signs and wonders.

Instead a humbling experience, one that touches the depth of our brokenness, and leaves us tired, exhausted, and in awe of what we’ve encountered… the grace of God.

That is what Spurgeon is talking about with the term loving kindness. cHesed in Hebrew, it is that experience of the merciful love of God that comes to us in our brokenness, in the depth our our sin, when we are with hope, and dries our tears and whispers to us that we are forgiven, that we are being healed, and restored.

That is what Escriva is talking about with the joy in the midst of hardship, the experience that causes us, in the future when we sin again, to pray for repentance and restoration with confidence,

It is the quiet celebration of the Psalmist, who though he believed there was no hope, found that hope in the middle of despair.

We aren’t talking about seeing a miracle that leaves everyone applauding like a Superbowl victory, (Well heaven parties like that) but one that leaves us like the feeling, having worked all night, to see the break of dawn…knowing that peace and rest is near… yet struggling to believe it.

We have to experience this healing, we can’t just “know” it happened once. We need to struggle with it, to ask, ‘could God have really loved me this much, and then be assured, by scripture and by the sacraments, yes, He does.

THis experience is contagious, it sweeps communities and nations, it changes individuals and countries, it changes the church, which welcomes sinners home with confidence, expecting to see the miracle again that reminds us of our miracle…. as we share in something that leaves us… awe doesn’t seem strong enough a word.

This experience can’t be manipulated, it is not subject to our feelings or our knowledge. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, drawing us, even dragging us to the foot of the cross, helping us see we belong there, nailed to the cross, sharing in Christ’s death, and wondering why we are even allowed near Him. And then coming to the realization that because we died with Him, we rise from the dead with Him.

That’s not head knowledge, that is life…and that life has to be lived….

Heavenly Father, help us to see the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, drawing us to the cross, uniting us to His death and resurrection. Help us to see this, not as observers, but from actually experiencing the reality of the SPirit’s work. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN!



C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1322-1325). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is Church worth the Investment of Time

Devotional Thought of the Day:

40  He came back and found his disciples sleeping. So he said to Peter, “Can’t any of you stay awake with me for just one hour? 41  Stay awake and pray that you won’t be tested. You want to do what is right, but you are weak.” Matthew 26:40-41 (CEV)

530    Many Christians take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (no hurry here). They are leisurely, too, in their professional activities, at table and recreation (no hurry here either). But isn’t it strange how those same Christians find themselves in such a rush and want to hurry the priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy sacrifice of the altar?

I’ve probably spent twenty-five hundred hours of my life “in church”.

That might sound like a lot, until you realize I’ve been alive for some 475, 449 hours.

Sure, you could add in the time in Bible studies, both formal and informal. Chapel services, funeral and weddings might a few hundred more hours. and times of prayer and meditation may double the total.

But even then, I as a pastor, probably spend less than 2 percent of my life, “in church: and in prayer.

Not much of an investment.

Not given the eternal consequences, nor give the peace and comfort those eternal consequences bring, nor given the joy that walking with God brings in this life. Joy found even in the midst of chaos, in the midst of pain, in the midst of grief.

Yet some complain when church goes over 65 minutes (or in my case 90) We are willing to be free with our time, but sometimes we get all hot and bothered by spending more time with God.

We’ve got important things to do, people in great need to see, things that MUST get taken care of, and don’t you know, we are advised to take care of ourselves?

and so our flexible time becomes that we spend with God……

I am not writing this out of a sense of piety, the idea that what all good Christians do is spend 2-3 hours on Sunday, plus one on Wednesday night in church and 30-45 minutes a day in prayer. If we are doing it to prove how good and holy we are, that time would be better spent.

I am urging us to do this because we need, even desperately need that time with God. Life is too challenging, it is too broken, it is to wild. We need God in our lives, and we need to remember His promises to be there.

Savor your time with God! Enjoy the moments without stress! Turn over to him all the things that cause anxiety and pain, the things that could cause guilt and shame…. and then just enjoy His presence and the Love He shares with you.

Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1282-1285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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