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…

We MUST Experience God’s Grace…

aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 1 Cor. 10:16

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5 Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! Romans 5:1-2 GNT

To be utterly frank and clear, I would like to say once again: ‘It is fitting that seminarians take part every day in the Eucharistic celebration, in such a way that afterwards they will take up as a rule of their priestly life this daily celebration. They should moreover be trained to consider the Eucharistic celebration as the essential moment of their day, in which they will take an active part and at which they will never be satisfied with a merely habitual attendance. Finally, candidates to the priesthood will be trained to share in the intimate dispositions which the Eucharist fosters: gratitude for heavenly benefits received, because the Eucharist is thanksgiving; an attitude of self-offering which will impel them to unite the offering of themselves to the Eucharistic offering of Christ; charity nourished by a sacrament which is a sign of unity and sharing; the yearning to contemplate and bow in adoration before Christ who is really present under the Eucharistic species.’ (Pastores dabo vobis, 48)

The priestly ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Baptism it leads us, through the admonitions of faith, to a fundamental reconciliation with the living God so that we no longer regard him and his world as a threat, but recognize their foundation in love. It is the priest’s role to make God’s gifts present to us and to associate us with these gifts in such a way that, as the Canon of the Mass puts it, we ourselves become a gift together with him.

For God decided not only that we should believe in the crucified Christ, but that we should also be crucified with him and suffer with him, as he clearly shows in many places in the gospels. “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me,” says the Lord, “is not worthy of me” [Matt 10:38]. And again, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matt 10:25)! Therefore, each one must carry a piece of the holy cross, and it cannot be otherwise. St. Paul says as well, “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” [Col 1:24]. It is as if he were saying that his whole Christianity is not yet completely prepared, and we also must follow so that nothing is lost or lacking from the cross of Christ, but all brought together into one heap. Everyone must ponder that the cross cannot remain external.

There is so much in my readings today, that I am struggling to put it all together!

But it all starts with the Christian life that we have been brought into, what Luther described as living in our baptism, this becoming the gift (In Pope Benedict’s words). One of my professors would have called it living the “Incarnational life” or the “Sacramental life”

It is why we, as a church, need to stop just going through the motions of worship, and why we who are taked with leading have to avoid the trap of manipulating the emotions in the way we plan our services, but simply live in the moment as well.

The challenge is then to let go and live in the liturgy we have, to realize how close it brings us to Christ, how it reveals His love in a way that we experience it, in the way it stimulates and strengthens the hope we have. It is why the seminarian is encouraged to spend as much time as possible contemplating and meditating on the Lord’s Supper, realizing the presence of God, His Body and Blood, that we serve our people, that serves us.

It is this feast, this sacrifice that draws us into Christ’s sacrifice, just as baptism and the other sacraments do, that gives us the faith to trust God as we commune with Jesus as we take up our crosses as well. As we embrace suffering for the hope it gives those around us, as they realize we aren’t just going through the motions, or saying what we think we should say.

For if we realize the love, the mercy and dwell in God’s peace, our people will see it. We won’t just go through the motions of worship, we shall indeed live in it, and the words of the liturgy, drawn from scripture will become alive, not just in us, but in all who participate.

Go back up and read the words again, these words from scripture of the Apostle Paul. See the depth of them, this great encouragement to live in the experience of grace, this being so overwhelmed by the hope of living, knowing we shall share in the glory of God, that we live in the love of the Father, who loves us as much as He loves the Son.

This is why we gather, this is why we savor the words we say and sing in our churches, this is why we study for years to lead the people of God. To help them dwell in the midst of His peace, His presence, His glorious love.

And then, we see something amazing, we become the gift….

Lord, help us to move past the phase of “going through the motions” and then having to manipulate worship. Instead, help us to live in the grace of which we speak, and of which we sing. Help us Father, we pray in the name of Jesus, Who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN!

Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 136–137). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 191–192). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 152). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Purity of Faith Can’t Be Sterile!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6  This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace. 7  You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. 8  He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you. 9  So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
Colossians 1:6-10 (NLT2)

1    Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.

The most insane and inane fight in God’s church that I have seen in my life is the battle between those who are concerned with keeping the doctrine of the church pure, and those are claiming to be more missional, more evangelistic.

It is insane because someone who is faithful to the teaching of God will care about the making sure His salvation, and those whose mission to save the world cannot but hope to do so by any other means than revealing God’s love for mankind in all of its purity.

It can’t be an either or, any more than you can have an ocean without a sky above it. It is not a sense of competing, as if one was evil and the other good, or one to be the light, and other the darkness.

The more you become aware of God’s love, revealed in His word, and in the sacraments, the more you want others to know it, and the more you want to share it. Doctrine after all, is not just what is written in books for study, but it is what we believe and what we teach and what we confess is the basis of our hope.

The more our doctrine is clear, the more it will have been shared, It can’t be sterile, it can’t be kept apart from the world it was given to save. It has to meet people in the midst of their brokenness, their sin, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, cut out their cold dead hearts and replace them with the heart of Jesus. (Ezekiel 36:25ff)

It is as simple as the old praise song, which speaks of a spark that turns into a fire that warms everyone. That is what the basic teachings of Christianity do, they create in us a warmth that can’t help affect others around us. FOr to know God loves us, enbales and causes us to love others, And that love will burn up that which isn’t of God.

True revival does both, it purifies and multiples, if gives people the joy of knowing they are loved, and that love results in a peace, because they can count on God’s presence, they can count on His promises, they can revel in the mercy that causes us to be found holy, pure, righteous.

And yet the church, no matter which denomination, gets into these battles, putting purity of doctrine against mission.

It has to stop, for the sake of the world,

For our sake as well, for a sterile, pure faith that isn’t involved in God’s work of reconciling and redeeming the world, is dead.

Lord, help us stop these petty battles, and instead find the joy of You saving us, find the joy that comes from knowing You love us. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 171-174). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Hope for Believers (and Churches) Burnt Out, or Just Going Through the Motions

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  God was performing unusual miracles through Paul. 12  Even handkerchiefs and aprons he had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. 13  Some Jews who traveled around and drove out evil spirits also tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to do this. They said to the evil spirits, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” 14  Seven brothers, who were the sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva, were doing this. 15  But the evil spirit said to them, “I know Jesus, and I know about Paul; but you—who are you?” 16  The man who had the evil spirit in him attacked them with such violence that he overpowered them all. They ran away from his house, wounded and with their clothes torn off. 17  All the Jews and Gentiles who lived in Ephesus heard about this; they were all filled with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was given greater honor. 18  Many of the believers came, publicly admitting and revealing what they had done. Acts 19:11-18 (TEV)

We need to “go out,” then, in order to test and experience our own anointing and its power and redemptive efficacy into the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness longing for sight and prisoners under so many evil masters.

It may sound harsh, but I wonder today if the church is more like the sons of Sceva than like the Apostle Paul.

We go through the motions, we say the right things (at times) we have a good intent, but we lack the faith, the trust in a God we know, to truly minister to others the way we should.

As our efforts don’t result in any significant change, we slowly give up our our outreach. We begin to rely on what others have said or written, rather than express our awe of God directly. We rely on canned presentations, Bible studies written by someone we’ve never met, who doesn’t know the people we study with and/or teach. Prayer and meditation on scripture become things we will do “when we have time”.

And we wonder why we ministry seems a drain, why people don’t realize the blessing that church should be, and why they never are free of their demons.

The more we do, the more the church gets focused internally, the more church politics rips us to shreds, the more churches close their doors, or become places that focus on things other than Jesus, and exploring the incredible dimensions of His love, experiencing what we can never completely explain.

So what is the answer, how do we go from a church of Sceva’s sons, to being an apostolic church.

How do we live out the work of God that became possible when the Holy Spirit called us, when God the Father united us with Jesus, and the same power which raised Him from the dead gave us new life?

I think Pope Francis has the answer, just “go out”, trusting in God enough to go where there is need, to the broken, to those who are blind and suffering, to those who are prisoners . Asking God to make His annointing of our lives known in our lives as we minister to those He puts in front of us.

In order to know that, we have to know He has indeed redeemed us, that we are His people, not because we are so good, but because He has indeed redeemed us. As a pastor, everytime I baptize someone, everytime I give someone the body of Christ, whether the person kneeling at the altar, or the shut-in in their home, or the counselee, whose burdens are lifted as they experience the love of God, the lesson of my own redemption is renewed.

I’ve seen the same thing when parents assist in their child’s baptism, or a sponsor assists in the friend who has come to know God’s love. Our faith is renewed, our dependence on God becomes a great joy, and we realize the world without hope is indeed full of God’s hope.

You see the church may sometimes act like the sons of Sceva, but she isn’t. She may be depressed, and dejected, focused on survival more than mission, but her Lord is with her, strengthening her, giving her life, and urging her to go to the broken in the world, with the assurance she doesn’t do so alone, or on her own power.

We go with the Lord and Giver of Life, empowered by God to do the works He has planned.

This is our call.. this is who we are..

Let’s get back it, walking with our God.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 190). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

How to Recognize that Your Life is Sacred and Holy

Devotional Thought of the Day:

13  So then, have your minds ready for action. Keep alert and set your hope completely on the blessing which will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14  Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. 15  Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. 16  The scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16 (TEV)

7  “Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am GOD, your God. 8  Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the GOD who makes you holy. Leviticus 20:7-8 (MSG)

The author of The Way shows that this invitation or calling does not in itself involve an invitation to leave one’s place, to choose another way of life; in fact, for the great majority of Christians it is an invitation to face the ordinary circumstances of one’s existence and find there a divine way which must be made holy. That is why Monsignor Escrivá rejects the temptation to “get out of place” (832), because this amounts to avoiding the will of God. Each Christian must find a holiness in keeping with his own mission and his own state in life; and so the ordinary Christian, who lives in the middle of the world, should sanctify himself and others by means of the world itself, sanctifying his professional work and his whole life.

If I asked 100 church going people, I wonder how they would answer the following question.

“Is your life sacred and holy”

I imagine some might answer with a theological statement, or some might answer from the perspective of pride and answer, “of course”. But I think most of us would look down, theink about the last few days and with a bit of regret and check the box that says, “no.”

I’ve written before that we don’t have a good handle on holiness, Most of us think it has to do with being good, with not just limiting sin, but to be some kind of spiritual superhero. (Have you watched superhero movies, those folk are far from perfect!) Someone who leaves wealth and riches to go serve in a third world country, or someone who prays for hours and “glows” like Moses did as he left the presence of God.

We hear the Apostle Peter’s words to be holy, because God is holy and we shake our heads, as we realize how impossible that command is.

We might even wonder if it would be more possible somewhere else, given a fresh start, given a new surrounding, one more conducive to holiness. (anyone want to start a new monastery?)

I love the words form the introduction to St. Josemaria’s classic devotional book, “The Way”. We find a “Divine Way” not on a mountain top, or in a cathedral, but right where God has placed us. Right in front of the people who have seen you sin, who have seen you be hypocritical, who know you at your worst.

That is where holiness is found. That is where we realize how sacred our life is, as it intersects with God. THat is where we find ourselves serving those who are broken, trying to help them know God, as we know God. Guiding them as they explore how wide, how broad, how deep and wide God’s lve is for them, as they experience that which they can’t understand, but they can know.

There in the midst of the brokennes, we find holiness. Not from our great effort, but just because we have to cling to God. We realize His power at work in us. We find that living a sacred, holy life is something that we are committed to, but that God makes happen, it is His craftsmanship, (Also see 2 Thes. 2:13) It is the transformation of our hearts and minds that God creates and sustains. Our biggest challenge? Not fighting against it, and allowing our old self-serving nature in to grab a foothold.

You are Holy, your life is sacred, from the moment God called you and the Spirit went to work, this has been the goal. It is the reason Jesus was incarnate and born of Mary, the reason for His life and teaching, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection and Ascension. All of that works toward this one goal , of setting you apart for a relationship with God, Father, Son and Spirit.

This is it, something we have to trust and depend on God for, as we walk with Him. Life has a way of making us depend upon Him, and that dependence (what chruch fathers called Tentatio) is part of He makes us Holy, how our life becomes sacred. That dependence is called faith, the gift He gives us to depend on Him.

Another way to look at it, if the presence of God in a bush that is aflame makes the ground around it holy and sacred, what does the presence of the Holy Spirit do in our lives. What simply makes the difference is our awareness of God’s presence and work in our lives.

RIght here, right now, whereever we are stuck and struggling.

He is with you.. and therefore,

Your life is sacred and holy.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 97-102). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Some Advice: Embracing Suffering can be a blessing

Devotional Thoguht of the Day:

37  “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38  Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39  Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it. Matthew 10:37-39 (TEV)

26  That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27  I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.
1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (TEV)

989         Haven’t you gone against your own preference, your whims, some time, in something? You must realise that the One who asks you is nailed to a Cross, suffering in all his senses and faculties, with a crown of thorns on his head… for you.

There is a fact that there is nothing you can do, no price you can pay, no acts that can earn you salvation,

Some people take that information and make it sound like Christianity is a simple, pain free acceptance of the grace of God. And even more of us live as if it is, as if the moment we are baptized we begin to live the good life, that there is no more pain and suffering, as if we enter heaven, while remaiing here on earth.

In a way, there is soething to what they say, for God is truly with us.

Yet we still will have pressures in our life, we will still be tempted with sin at our weakest points, we will encounter tragedies and trauma, we will be sent into the middle of messes by God, to bring His peace and healing where there isn’t any.

In view of this the scriptures point out Jesus call to keep Him as our priority, to love Him more than anyoen else, including our own lives. To be willing to suffer and even die on a cross.

Or more challenging, to embrace disciplines so that our lives are not in vain, that while we bring others to know the love of God, we somehow slip away.

It is this reason that I think the idea of embracing the sufferig we will endure ( not that we cause ourselves) with the midnset of Christ is not law, but rather the purest gospel. These blessings in disguise often keep us dependent on God, unable ot comfort ourselves, and therefore relying on the Holy Spirit.

It sounds odd to think of these things as blessings, as gospel and yet ina real sense they are. For they remind us that God is still present, caring, proving and comforting.

You don’t have to like suffering, you don’t have to like discipline, but there is something that changes it, and in a way, makes it beautiful.

He is with you.

Even when life isn’t heavenly.


Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 4001-4004). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Challenge of the Cost of Revival

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“O LORD God of our ancestors, you rule in heaven over all the nations of the world. You are powerful and mighty, and no one can oppose you. 7† You are our God. When your people Israel moved into this land, you drove out the people who were living here and gave the land to the descendants of Abraham, your friend, to be theirs forever. 8 They have lived here and have built a temple to honor you, knowing 9 that if any disaster struck them to punish them—a war,d an epidemic, or a famine—then they could come and stand in front of this Temple where you are worshiped. They could pray to you in their trouble, and you would hear them and rescue them. 2 Chron. 20:6-9

If I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first.
Between a rugged Church coming out to the streets and a Church sick of self-referential narcissism, without doubt, I prefer the first.
When the Church does not walk, she falls apart like a sandcastle
.

The Lord requires us to go to the end of our misery, our poverty, our sin when we are before the Most Blessed Sacrament. Being poor, this is our title of nobility.

Perfect Churches don’t need revival, so they do not see it happen. The same goes for people who have it all together, whose lives are not crushed by sin, who have no worry about death, who never had to deal with temptation, or struggle with demonic activity.

Of course, the only churches and eople that are that good are those who are already in the God’s presence.

The rest of our churches are wounded and broken. Their people are not prim and proper, but are worn down, and look and smell like they’ve just finished a 10 hike in the mountains and desperately need a bath, a showed, and manybe another bath.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a church that is about to undergo revival, a person who about to experience God’s ability to transform them must be in the mdist of their misery, they must address their spiritual poverty. For there, they can cry out to God, in the place where He has set aside to remind them He is with them, they He is patient and desires to transform us.

For as we cry out, we begin to see the reality of His rescue, we being to see the salvation that He has promised is not far off, but that we are in the midst of it.

He will hear us.

For it is the Holy Spirit who moves us to call upon Him, to reach out, only to find He’s been there all the time.

And in awe at His work, His patience, His love, we find the life He has created us to live. A life that is not static, a life that findss meaning in revealing His love to others.

A life that llives for the moment when another person, or another community realizes that God is with them.

Lord, help us learn to stop hiding from our brokenness, but tather let you heal and restore us. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 185). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 123). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

How to Survive this week…

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for the day:

7  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12  So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13  But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14  We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15  All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 16  That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (NLT2)

We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life and death, all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.

And if our life means anything, if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and does some good, it is that somehow, by being here, at peace, we help the world cope with what it cannot understand.
William Brodrick

The Eucharist will restore to us our original dignity: to that of rational beings: not rationalists but rational ones, perfected by the grace of faith, hope and charity. This is a healing from a deviant emotionalism that is wrought by an authentic theological life, which puts the emotions and feelings in their rightful place. Otherwise, one is faced with two temptations: either lose oneself in emotion, or reject it categorically, which in both cases is a tragedy for the humanity of the person. Only an authentically theological life restores to human affectivity its legitimate and rightful place, including in our devotional lives.

As I sit in my home office, I am looking back on a week that I could never have imagined happening to me as a pastor. I am not talking about never imagining it when I was 8 and felt the “call” to be the pastor. Or when I was 18-22 and studying to be one.

I am talking about never imagining it as far back in time as last Wednesday.

And I have seen a thing or two as a pastor, and helped people pick up the pieces of hundreds if not a thousand or more traumatic experiences.

And so when I cam across the words of Mr. Broderick above, they resonnated incredibly well. there is where I stand, in the midst of the extremes of life (and along with me the staff of my church and school.) It is not the queit place it normally has been, and while the sense of peace is being revealed again, there are the challenges we have endured that have marked us.

But we are that candle, and by being here, in this moment, we help those around us cope with what they cannot understand, what we cannot understand. What was beyond our imagination, and yet became a reality.

So in the midst of that, we learn to focus on what is dependable, what brings about peace, what cannot be seen or perceived completely, yet has been promised to us.

We look to the Eucharist, the Body broken, the Blood poured out to restore us, to renew us, to help us believe and depend on God, even in the times we struggle to believe, because our minds cannot understand. This is what renews us, what calms our fears, that strengthens our dependence on Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

And then in the midst of a peace that is beyond our understanding, we find our hearts and souls healing, and we realize the healing that we have been able to help others find.

Lord, bless us as we pray! You promised the Holy Spirit would interpret those prayers, even with groaning deeper than our own. Help us to look to You, to see Your love revealed, to strengthen our faith, our trust in Your love. Lord we need to know You are here, so make it evident that You, Lord, are with us! AMEN!

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 121). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ 5/31/2019

The Blessing We All To Often Overlook… The Forgiveness of our Sin

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thoughts for the Day:

Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21 Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us. 2 Chronicles 6:20-21 GNT

because they have sinned against you and then when they turn to you and come to this Temple, humbly praying to you for forgiveness, 25 listen to them in heaven. Forgive the sins of your people 2 Chron 6:24-25 GNT

O LORD, listen to them in heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, the people of Israel, and teach them to do what is right. 2 Chron. 6:27 GNT

…listen to their prayers. If any of your people Israel, out of heartfelt sorrow, stretch out their hands in prayer toward this Temple, 30 hear their prayer. Listen to them in your home in heaven and forgive them. You alone know the thoughts of the human heart. Deal with each of us as we deserve, 31 so that your people may honor you and obey you, 2 Chron 6:29-31a

If there in that land they repent and pray to you, confessing how sinful and wicked they have been, hear their prayers, O LORD. 38 If in that land they truly and sincerely repent and pray to you as they face toward this land which you gave to our ancestors, this city which you have chosen, and this Temple which I have built for you, 39 then listen to their prayers. In your home in heaven hear them and be merciful to them and forgive all the sins of your people. 37b-39 GNT

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 GNT

So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect James 5:16 GNT

Thus Luther never thought of abolishing private confession. He knew and used its benefits in his own spiritual struggles, and he could not conceive of a Christian who could get along without it. He never designed an order of public confession, but in the Small Catechism he offered two forms of private confession.

Nevertheless I will allow no man to take private confession away from me, and I would not give it up for all the treasures in the world, since I know what comfort and strength it has given me. No one knows what it can do for him except one who has struggled often and long with the devil. Yea, the devil would have slain me long ago, if the confession had not sustained me. For there are many doubtful matters which a man cannot resolve or find the answer to by himself, and so he takes his brother aside and tells him his trouble. What harm is there if he humbles himself a little before his neighbor, puts himself to shame, looks for a word of comfort from him, accepts it, and believes it, as if he were hearing it from God himself, as we read in Matt. 18 [:19], “If two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done for them.”

A lot of reading accompany this morning’s thoughts. Most of them from one chapter of 2 Chronicles 6. I broke the reading into segments for a reason, to highlight a concept over and over, to help us understand what a priority it holds in scripture, at the very dedication of the Temple, and the place it should hold in our lives.

I have yet to see a Christian church, whether Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran that doesn’t talk about confession at some point in the life of its people. But far too often, once mentioned, it disappears, and with it, the incredible gift of forgiveness, of being forgiven.

At the dedicaiton of the temple, time after time this pattern is seen, we pray, God hears, and forgives.

Not just once at conversion, not just as a rote practice and prayer as part of a worship service. But to confess in a way where we don’t just hear we are forgiven, we depend on it and base our lives on it..

But what if we struggle to believe? What if we hear these words and just can’t get our minds to accept that God forgave this sin that haunts me, that I cannot escape the feelings of guilt and shame about? That no matter how many times I pray in a church service, or on my own, or at the altar, I wonder if I am forgiven of it?

That is where what is called “private confession” or in other churches , “the ministry of reconciliation” comes into play. Confessing those sins to another believer, a pastor or priest who has been tasked by GOd and the church with comforting you, with providing to you the words of forgiveness, on the behalf of God himself. This is what James 5 speaks of, and promises (you can also check out JOhn 20 and Matthew 16 for other places where the church is given authority to forgive sins on God’s behalf)

Over the years as people have spoken of their sin, the most remarkable catharis takes place, as they see God break the hold that sin has on them. As they hear and experience that God has forgivenes them of the darkest sins, as God heals them and makes them whole, as He reminds them that they are His holy people. James doesn’t used “healed” for lack of a better word, it is truly what happens.

It is an incredible blessing, it is a most amazing thing to observe, this transformation that occurs.

Please my friends, don’t let the darkness of sin consume you, rather confess your sins, and find the Prodigal’s Father embracing you, and restoring your life with Him.

AMEN!

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 53: Liturgy and Hymns. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 53, p. 117). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 51: Sermons I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 51, p. 98). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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A Way to Deal With Stress…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  Where there is no vision the people get out of hand; happy are they who keep the law. Proverbs 29:18 (NJB)

2  Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and mature. Romans 12:2 (NJB)

958         You have a big problem; but if such things are approached properly, that is to say, with calm and responsible supernatural vision, the solution is always to be found.

Yesterday I attended a class on the relationship between stress and weight loss/gain. Some of the things in the course were quite interesting. others were, hmmm, more challenging to hear, as they led down different paths.

But the first words were about the inavoidability of stress, of problems that we will encounter. It’s there, and there are natural bio-chemical, hormonal reactions to stress. ANd the natural reactions to stress are fight or flee, both kicked into high gear by the rushing hormones that fill our blood stream and affect every muscle and organ in our body.

Stress is unavoidable, brokenness, grief, guilt, shame, worry, all cause this, and more besides. And the toll of such stress over the years is an horrific list of thigns from heart disease and cancer, to forms of mental illness.

Techniques were offered. Breathing, mediation, Tai Chi, Yoga, Visioning. Lacking was anything about prayer, meditative on scripture or on the sacraments. ( Which is odd considering the weight loos program is under the asupices of a Roman Catholic Hospital, administered by an order of nuns. )

For I have found that in the presence of God, when I realize that He is my fortress, the protesction from the trauma of the world (and my own internal trauma as well), that I can begin to relax, that I can begin to hand over the causes of my anxiety.

It is as the Proverb says above, that without that vision, we get out of hand. In other translations, we cast off all restraint, and then, we perish. But when we treasure (for that is what heep means) this revelation of God’s love, of His mercy and healing, we know a joy that is only found in the most perfect peace.

But how do we get there?

It was odd, at the end of the presentation, the last slide included the presenter’s fvorite word. Metanoia a word she knew as change, the change of our mindsets, our way of processing life. You could see her light up as she talked about it.

So I asked if she knew the “other” translation of the word. And then shared with her the word often it is translated into in scripture.

Repentance.

Not the repentance seen in movies, the guilt and shame producing feeling that comes from someone pointing out your guilt and shortcomings. But the kind of transformation seen in Romans 12 above, the very work of God renewing our minds. The work of Holy Spirit in our lives, brinign comfort and healing to our broken hearts and souls. Reminding us that there is no need to beat ourselves up over our sin, rather as 1 John 1:9 says, confessing ti to God, knowing He will cleanse us of all of it, and all injustice.

All of it.

The end of this, the end of seeing/envisioning God, revealed in all his love and mercy in scripture finds us at peace, at home in the presence of God, a place where the anxieities and stress of life may exist, but are so dimiished as we know GOd will bring us through them.

As He has for all who depend, who trust in Him.

Heavenly Father, help us be aware of the Holy Spirit’s work within those who have faith in You, and depend on what You have promised to do and provide for us. Grant us, repentence, the renewing of our hearts and minds and souls, so that we can dwell in the peace You intend for us. We pray this in the name of Jesus, who made this all possible at the cross. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3886-3888). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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