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…
Devotional Thought for our Days:
27 Then, Israel, you will know that I am among you, and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other. My people will never be despised again.
The Day of the LORD 28 “Afterwards I will pour out my Spirit on everyone: your sons and daughters will proclaim my message; your old people will have dreams, and your young people will see visions. 29 At that time I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, both men and women. Joel 2:27-29 TEV
61 Sanctity does not consist in great concerns. It consists in struggling to ensure that the flame of your supernatural life is never allowed to go out; it consists in letting yourself be burned down to the last shred, serving God in the lowest place… or in the highest: wherever the Lord may call you.
When Paul makes the third point, “Let him not steal but do good works,” Eph. 4:28, he is showing that in the individual commandments we must daily undertake our new obedience, that is, so that our meditation on the Decalog may demonstrate the exhortation to good works. If we have the beginnings of renewal, we should give thanks to God for beginning in us the restoration of His image, and we should pray that these beginnings be increased and finally brought to perfection. We should also consider how sluggishly we follow the Holy Spirit as He helps and leads us into new obedience, and if we stumble or undo the work of the Holy Spirit, we must confess our wretchedness and seek mercy.
When I was a child, the nuns taught us about something called a “Holy Day of Obligation,” I always liked them, because it meant we took time to leave school walk about 6 blocks, and go to church. Which I preferred to going to school and being bored. It didn’t even matter if it was cold and snow and ice made the walk challenging. We got to go to church, which was far better than doing the same old drills in math and diagramming sentences again.
I was probably the only one who liked these days, at least I remember a lot of kids complaining and the Sisters “encouraging” them not to complain. In our old, worn down church in Lawrence there was a sense of holiness, a sense of God’s presence. Even though we couldn’t always understand what the priest from Lithuania said, we knew he spoke of God’s amazing love, as did the liturgy.
Let’s drop the phrase “obligation” for a moment, and what if today was a holy day. If we took our day, and responding to God’s incredible mercy and love, dedicated it to Him. What if we took a moment, thought of His incredible love, and decided, this day, I am going to remember His love for me?
We might do as Martin Chemnitz (one of Martin Luther’s students and theologians) suggested, and meditate on the individual commandments and try to live in what the Lutheran Confessions call, “the new obedience”, even as we see God renewing our life, a renewal that began in our baptism. We would ask God to continue and increase the speed of this renewal, knowing that it is He that brings us to perfection. When we fail, as we will, we wouldn’t just try to ignore the sin, or justify it, we would simply ask God to forgive us. Or, if still bothered by guilt and shame, we could approach a pastor and ask them to hear our confession, that we might hear them tells us God has cleansed and forgiven us.
This is the same thing St Josemaria wrote of when he wrote about not letting the flame of our supernatural life go out, even as we let it burn us out, even to the last shred as we realize the day is holy and sanctified by God, as we walk with Him through it, loving and serving those people He brings into our lives for the moment.
Joel’s prophecy (in red above) is not about the future, someday when God brings us home. It is about every day since Pentecost. Days when God is with us, among us, working with and through us.
It is about today, a day when YOU are holy, for God has our out His Holy Spirit upon you!
May you rejoice, may you vry out in joy, and in prayer that you see this clearly, and respond, depending on our God, for there is no other.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 441-444). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.
Devotional Thought for our days…and our future:
10 My brothers and sisters, try hard to be certain that you really are called and chosen by God. If you do all these things, you will never fall. 11 And you will be given a very great welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10-11 NCV
“Life’s” destination lies beyond this life because it depends on “Someone” with a capital letter. All this is rooted in the hearts of our people, even if they are unable to express it conceptually.
There are times in my life, where surviving the evils of this day is my only goal. Where i just try to hang on to God, and His presence long enough to help this person or that one. Where I deal with these problems, those challenges, this person’s sin, or worse my own.
I drag myself home, climb the stairs, and hopefully remember to thank God that He carried and dragged me through the day…..only to have another day come all too soon.
I do not think I am alone, not by any means.
We need to learn to live for something more, something that is glorious, something that is perfect. Something that is beyond us, this destination that Pope Francis speaks of, the place where we will find Him, our “Someone”. A place that is truly home, a place of incredible, unbelievable peace, a place of joy, a place where tears, sorrow, weariness are unknown.
Francis is correct about our not knowing how to express it conceptually. We don’t know how to talk about heaven, we don’t know what it will be like, and to talk about it, sooner or later, we might have to talk about death and dying. We really don’t want to talk about that. NOT. AT. ALL.
But heaven is our reality, dwelling with God, in His glory, in His peace, in wonder and awe that He wants us there, that is what Christianity is about. An eternal, everlasting relationship that we can’t even begin to conceive of (see 1 Cor. 2;9)
But we know we shall be with Him.
At the end of the day, that is what matters,
At the beginning of tomorrow, we need to realize He is still here…revealing to us His love and mercy, comforting us, healing us, and preparing us for life with Him.
A life that began when we were baptized into His death, into His resurrection.. and given the promise of the Holy Spirit to dwell with us, keeping us til then.
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional Thoughts for our days:
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you wanders away from the truth, and someone helps that person come back, 20 remember this: Anyone who brings a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and will cause many sins to be forgiven. James 5:19-20 NCV
What were the practical benefits of attending and participating in an evangelical church?… What we were asking had to do with our spiritual walk, with sanctification, and with spiritual maturity. Were we being helped, encouraged, uplifted by the music? ( A few sentences later) Were we supported by the fellowship with other believers?
What fellowship? Social interaction based on convenience and conformity can hardly pass for the communion of God’s people. Or should we have focused on our desire for spiritual nourishment on the ordinances, in particular the Lord’s Supper? But here too, we were disappointed. The infrequently celebrated sacraments had long since been reduced to mere symbols, i.e., gutted of all divine power and mystery.
78 Heroism, sanctity, daring, require a constant spiritual preparation. You can only ever give to others what you already have. And, to give God to them, you yourself need to get to know him, to live his Life, to serve him.
On the other hand, he constantly stressed that absolution offers forgiveness from God himself. He violently denounced the view of the Roman church which made absolution conditional upon the proper attitude and penance of the penitent. According to Luther, the absolution that one Christian offers to another in the name of God is absolutely valid. God forgives through the word of the brother. If a man fails to believe this word, so much the worse for him. But the fact that God’s peace was offered to him remains unaffected whether he accepts the offer in faith or not. 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.
The church has a job, one job, and we need to get back to it. Whether we call it “Making disciples of all nations” (Matt 28) or being “Ambassadors of Reconciliation” (2 Cor.5) Or simply “loving our neighbor” (Luke 10), or “seeking and saving the lost” as we imitate Christ, this is what Jesus has sent us, his people to do in this world, even as the Father sent Him.
I think, as Webber and others complain about modern worship, or what they see happening in some places, this is what they are missing. The incarnate Jesus welcoming sinners, cleansing them, healing them, breaking the power of Sin, and its partners, guilt and shame, and resentment. For these four do more to damage our heart, our psyche and our soul than anything else.
Luther, even as he struggled with Catholic Church in his day, could not see a reason to get rid of confession, in fact, he encouraged it greatly! The freedom that confession gives, the freedom that is salvation is incredible, it is wonderful, it is beyond words to describe the peace that comes from knowing that all that has been taken away.
Which is why Luther could not conceive of a person who would not benefit from it.
We sin, we need the power of God revealed in our lives, to realize that He will forgive us, so that we don’t hesitate, but run to Him, counting on His love and mercy.
The more we understand this, the more we will be equipped to share with others this incredible hope we have been given in these sacraments of baptism, confession and absolution and the Eucharist. Each reminds us of the presence and power of God in our lives. the same power every person in the world needs, and we need to share.
This is our mission – revealing to people the amazing love and peace with which God would fill their lives! This is the basis of why we want our churches to grow, why we want to have buildings and schools, why we spend money on chalices and sound systems and send men to seminary. Without the good news of the forgiveness of sin, and the restoration of the relationship God has desired…. we have done nothing.
It’s simple – as James tells us, our mission is to help people come back to being GOd’s people, and when they do, sin is covered!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 493-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 53: Liturgy and Hymns. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 53. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999. Print.
Devotional thought for our days…
14 “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. 15 I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. 16 When that day comes,” says the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’ Hosea 2:14-16 (NLT)
15 But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, 16 but answer in a gentle way and with respect 1 Pet 3:115-16 NCV
66 My God, teach me how to love! My God, teach me how to pray!
Every once in a while, when doing bills, I put the wrong month in, and sometimes the wrong year.
It is hard for me to accept we are in 2017, and that we are almost at 2018. It seems that this should be in the future, way in the future.
Similarly, it sometimes feels like the promises of God aren’t here yet, like 2017 shouldn’t be, I can’t see it, I can’t picture it, even while I long for those days when my hopes, my expectations will be fulfilled. The expectations and hope that make up my faith, the answers I need to answer people with, as St Peter says, in a gentle way and with respect. Even to those who do not respect me, especially to those who do not respect me, or God.
That is the amazing thing that gives me hope!
We see it in the underlined part of the first reading, these people who hated GOd, who turned away from Him and worshipped gods they made of wood and metals and gems. Those who ignored what He would say, especially when He told them that He loved them.
These people of God wouldn’t call him master, they wouldn’t call Him by some official titles, but they were to use an endearment to call Him by, a name that revealed the love that they recognized was between them.
For God would win our affections back, God would restore us, and we would willingly give ourselves to Him, a response to His healing and caring for us.
FOr we would finally realize that He loves us!
We are Christ’s bride, not His slave, we are the Father’s beloved children not, the servants who run from His anger. We are the companions of the Holy Spirit. RElationships that are not bound by law, but love. A relationship that began because God was stubborn and patient, not willing to let us perish, but bringing about in us a change of mind…
A change that comes when we begin to see His love for us fully revealed at the cross.
May we realize this is now – this hope, this expectation is not just in the future, some far off date when we finally realize He loves us. That was revealed at the cross, and at our baptism, and every time we share in the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar.
This is our reason for hope, our assurance of everlasting life, with the God who doesn’t want us to call Him Lord and Master, but beloved…for
He loves us…
And so we pray, with St Josemaria, that God would teach us how to love, how to interact with Him!. Lord have mercy on us! (And be confident and know He has!)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 452-454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought for our days:’
9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” 14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” Mark 7:9-15 (NLT)
9 We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people, whom God made like himself. 10 Praises and curses come from the same mouth! My brothers and sisters, this should not happen. James 3:9-10 NCV
79 I will not stop repeating until it is deeply engraved in your soul: Piety, piety, piety! For if you lack charity it will be for want of interior life, not for any defect of character.
As I have talked to people since the Las Vegas shooting, as I have read articles, posts and tweets about it, one question is asked over and over. It is the same question that was asked after the Sandy Hook or Florida shootings, or the bombing in Oklahoma City, or even 9/11.
What defect is there in those who commit such horrors, what kind of evil lurks within them? What dysfunctional part of their nature causes such evil?
And two questions follow those:
“Can we stop this from happening again?”
And the question we are afraid to ask,
“Am I capable of such evil?”
Most of us would believe we aren’t capable of that level of evil, of creating such trauma, such horror. If you asked the Pharisees of Jesus day, they certainly didn’t believe they were capable of such evil; they were too holy. Sure, a little sin here, a little lie there, some unforgiveness and pride, even a smattering of gossip. But real evil?
Nah, not us. We’re the good guys, remember?
If that isn’t our attitude, the contrary position we take, seeing every moment in our lives as proof that we make Hannibal Lector and Hitler look like simpletons when it comes to evil. We believe our character to be broken, our dysfunctionality beyond salvation, our defects to irreparable.
We see the passage from Mark, and we know that there is something within us to cause such horror, we hear James and wonder how we can gossip or lie or brutally treat someone one moment, and sing A Mighty Fortress or say the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostles Creed the next.
Well, sin is pictured several times (including James 5) as an illness, a sickness, a disease that has weakened us. Yes, we are responsible for our thoughts, our words, our actions, but at another level, we are incapable of living life free from the bondage in which sin grips us. It is more than just a defect or dysfunction, this sin that so easily ensnares us.
I think St Josemaria points out the answer, as he mentions our interior life. Our struggle with sin as Christians is because we don’t understand what it means to dwell in the presence of God. It is that interior life, that time that we spend living in Christ, resting in His presence, being transformed by the Holy Spirit that provides the love we need to love others, and to love and adore God.
This isn’t some exercise in finding God, it doesn’t take a pilgrimage around the world, though there are places where realizing He is there is easier, like in a church as they celebrate the Eucharist, or in a gathering of people singing His praises. He is with you on that sleepless night as well, or in the heat of the moment, when you want to respond in anger, or in pain.
The interior life is simply living and recognizing the presence of God, and hearing His voice.
So call out to Him, give Him your burdens, pray that He will help you, confident of His promises too….especially when it is dealing with temptation, or with the ghosts of the past.
The Lord is with you! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 495-498). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days:
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)
Younger evangelical Craig Gilbert writes, “If we are to make disciples, then we are called to long-term care, feeding and education of the soul that we evangelize. To not integrate them into the body of Christ, the church, is to not fulfill the great commission. To fail to faithfully live the example in fellowship and study, prayer and worship, and thereby give the convert a tangible model to emulate, is to fail in our calling.” (Webber notes that this was from a private email conversation)
During the lifetime of Saint Francis of Assisi people experienced a deep yearning for a Church of the Spirit; they longed for a better, purer, more meaningful Christianity and anticipated that this new Church would bring about a change in the course of history as well. To many of those who suffered from the inadequacies of institutional Christianity, Saint Francis seemed to be a God-sent answer to their expectations, and, in fact, Christianity of the Spirit has seldom been so genuinely exemplified as it was in him.
Back in the day, the Irish Band U2 gave us a song that told us, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for”. According to many who forgot the angst they went through in the 80’s and 90’s, this could be the anthem for the millennial generation. (We all too soon forget the problems we had with the generation that went before us!)
The quote from Pope Benedict shows us another generation that went through this – some 800 years ago, during the time of St Francis of Assisi. One could say the same for Luther, or Wesley or Escriva, where they wanted a church that was more than a machine, more than a system, more than a programmed system.
They needed a church that would be there, that would provide a care that would last a lifetime, that would nourish them spiritually, that would continually remind them of the presence of God, just as Webber’s young friend notes we need today ( that was 15 years ago)
Those who complain about this generation being “snowflakes” forget their own tears, their own fragility, their own brokenness. They forget the need for Christ’s cleansing and healing of their lives, of the hope given by the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit, of the true fellowship where we cried with those who cried and rejoiced with those who rejoice.
What St Paul tells the church is still true, we need to explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ. It is a love beyond comprehension, of love that we experience, a love that is without bounds.
A love that embraces millennials and baby-boomer, and even those lost folk in the middle, the GenX’ers like me. As it did the generations before us.
It is a reformation, like Luther’s, like that of St Francis, like even the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s, that will well up from desperate need.
The church has the option – to shepherd it, or to mock it. To provide the nurture and care we all truly need, or to ridicule those as weak, who simply are honest about it.
I pray we hear God’s voice and call on those who follow to imitate us, as we imitate Christ!
May we all learn, in our brokenness, to cry out,“Lord, have mercy!” As we cry it out, together, I pray we all here His answer… “I am with you always, even until the end of time.” Amen!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought for our days…
24 Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25 Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 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 9:24-27 (TEV)
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:13-15 (KJV)
1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded,6 but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God.
60 Each day be conscious of your duty to be a saint. A saint! And that doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end.
Let’s be honest, when I hear the term spiritual discipline, or mortification, most of us think of medieval monks with knotted ropes, whipping themselves over their shoulders. Or maybe not doing that physically, but spiritually and emotionally, as Martin Luther was portrayed, struggling with the sin that would so easily ensnare him.A struggle which nearly drove him crazy. Or perhaps it did, at least causing a breakdown.
Paul mentions the struggle as well, complaining about it in Romans 7, as he shares that he can’t do what is holy and right, and unsuccessfully battles temptation. And in the passages in red above, Paul talks of mortifying the flesh – of beating the body physically in order to bring it to subjection. (Never mind Jesus talking about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands when the cause you to sin!_
The struggle is real.
The Augsburg Confession is as clear as any other document, the good works that are planned by God are to be the result of the trust, the faith, the dependence we have in God’s work in our lives. Again, Fr. Josemaria chimes in similarly – we just fulfill our duty, for we are saints,
But is it that happens, that short-circuits our desire? How do we overcome it? Is it by physical and spiritual disciplines that punish our body and soul, even to the point of scarring it? Or are these words of scripture simply an illustration – hinting at the different battle? A different sort of discipline?
There is a part of me that wants to dismiss the entire conversation, and I would, except for one thing. I tire of my sin, I am tired of the unrighteousness in which I dwell. I am tired of the Romans 7 battle and feeling like the wretch, unable to change, unable to transform, and afraid of the condemnation such deserves.
So where do I find the rope, and what knots do I tie in it? Or do I find 8-12 hours to cry at the altar, as those using the mourner’s bench did in the Great Awakenings of prior centuries? Or do I give up – and freely sin, thanking God for the abundance of grace that will result in my abundance of sin?
I think the answer is that spiritual disciplines are done, not to achieve a new level, but to remind us of what has been obtained for us. Like a martial arts instructor who still does the basic steps with his students, so that he remembers even the basics, so we invest time in spiritual things to remind us of what we should know – the glory and incredible love of God. These disciplines are not punitive or even restorative, but affirmative, to help us know the love of God, the presence of GOd, the mercy of God.
That is the purpose of striving to be regularly praying, regularly reading the scriptures, regularly doing both of those with other believers, and communing together, guided by those people the Body of Christ has called to serve them, is simple. Life is pain (as the Dread Pirate Roberts was fond of saying) and these practices remind us that it is worth it, that God will make sure it works out for good, and that He will be with us, every step, every moment of the way.
In other words, God doesn’t need to have us so disciplined, though He does like our company, we need it! We need to know He is with us, and will never leave us. FOr we can easily chase after distractions, and think we have strayed to far…
And still, He is here…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 439-441). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional thoughts for our days
4 Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.
6 Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.
8 Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, on what I have told you and shown you, and you will find the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-8 (Phillips NT)
39 I see myself like a poor little bird, accustomed only to making short flights from tree to tree, or, at most, up to a third floor balcony… One day in its life it succeeded in reaching the roof of a modest building, that you could hardly call a skyscraper. But suddenly our little bird is snatched up by an eagle, who mistakes the bird for one of its own brood. In its powerful talons the bird is borne higher and higher, above the mountains of the earth and the snow capped peaks, above the white, blue and rose pink clouds, and higher and higher until it can look right into the sun. And then the eagle lets go of the little bird and says: Off you go. Fly! Lord, may I never flutter again close to the ground. May I always be enlightened by the rays of the divine sun—Christ—in the Eucharist. May my flight never be interrupted until I find repose in your Heart.
Far too often do I resemble St Josemaria’s little bird, content and yet bored with the simple life we struggle through. Not only do I lack the power and skill to soar above the heights, I fear to do so, for flying that high means I could crash. And if crashing close to the ground is hard, how much more devastating would it be to crash when I am spending time in the heavens?
The idea of soaring with eagles sounds nice, it sounds incredible, but I’ve been on too many retreats and had to come back to “reality” from the mountaintop experience. Even worse, I’ve seen what it can do where people only see that mountaintop experience as the only blessed thing in their lives. Where they live, remembering the high of the last retreat, and looking forward to the next one.
If only we didn’t have to come down!
If only I wasn’t so afraid of those heights.
Paul urges us to delight in God, to give to him every detail of every problem, depending upon Him to receive them as He promised when He asked us to cast all our burdens upon Him. He begs us to keep our eyes on the things that are good, that are Godly,
Does that require us to stay soaring in the heavens, only to be worthless here on earth? Do we like the monks of old or the Amish, separate ourselves from the world? How can we be in the world but not of it, as Jesus asks?
Is this command of Paul, to delight in God, to rejoice in all things possible? Or is it just an unfulfilled dream? And if it is unfulfilled, does this mean the negative impact I think it does, a life lived in disobedience and therefore condemnation?
I can’t worry about that question, nor its answer. it is beyond my role, beyond my experience. For if I worry about that, the more I will not spend my time delighting in Him, and the less likely it will be for me to run to Him for the forgiveness I so need, for the comfort and consoling that will restore to me the joy of my salvation, and the awe of being found in His presence, and loved.
For that is where the delight comes from, in realizing how incredible God’s love is, a love that desires to make itself manifest in every moment of our lives. love that would shape our lives with thoughts about what is righteous and just, what is lovely and pure, what is of God.
May our desire to dwell in His presence be satisfied, and may be not be satisfied with anything else. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 366-374). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. 4 For in your struggle against sin you have not yet had to resist to the point of being killed. Hebrews 12:1-4 (TEV)
50 Feel the responsibility of your mission: the whole of Heaven is looking down on you.
Most of the time, when I read this passage, I get hooked on the idea of leaving my sin which has such a grip on me, and so many others I care about. To be free of that insidious evil that tries to sink its talons into us, what an incredible thought! To be rid of those things that get in the way of the life we live, whether it be resentments, or hurts or anxieties, what an incredible invaluable blessing!
A blessing that comes as we look to Jesus, keeping our eyes fixed on Him, as the Holy Spirit transforms us! What an incredible thing! It is amazing, awe-inspiring s we focus our adoration on the Lord who loves us. us!
Yet this passage isn’t primarily about this blessing, but in what this blessing allows us to do, to run the race, to complete the mission, as Paul will say in Colossians, to present every man perfect IN Christ, who is the goal of our mission as well.
That is the same mission as those who went before us and trusted in God. All of the great men and women of faith, who struggled with God and were used by God, who came to trust Him with their lives. And in the process, even when being martyred, killed for their testimony, they were able to embrace the hate and pain, knowing that in some cases, their dependence on God would bring the ones torturing them to know God’s peace.
The author here encourages us not to give up, reminding us of how much Christ endured for us, and how much those people of faith endured. Don’t give up – keep focused on Jesus love for you – plunge its depths, ascend its height, explore its unending breadth and width, walk with Him through life…
Even on Mondays, even when it is not torture, but the boring return to our monotonous weekly grind beginning again.
He is with us, remember that, the day will be different. Full of joy and peace, no matter what our bosses or the world throw at us.
God is with us! Let’s get back to work in His harvest, with Him!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 406-408). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Infinite Valuable
That leaves all in the dust…
† In Jesus Name †
May you realize the infinite value of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and as you do, may you not even notice the things left behind.
Value beyond calculation…
Every once in a while, when the lottery gets over 500 million, I wonder what that kind o money would look like, and all the good things that could be done with it. It is kind of silly, to want to know what kind of money looks like, but interestingly Google has the information.
500,000 dollars in $20 dollar bills would be a stack over 10 feet tall, and it would weigh close to 60 pounds.
It might be difficult to calculate, but it can be done. And its value? That is easier to calculate. A half of a billion dollars could provide
2500 full-ride scholarships for 4 years
It could buy 750 homes for homeless families that live in places like Coyote Creek or the Santa Ana River Trail.
It could provide 5 thousand people health insurance for 10 years.
or it could build 50 new churches and provide them a pastor at district scale for 2 years.
Or perhaps, our dear friend Pr. Bernie could use it for his mission projects in … 6 months? 😊
So its value isn’t infinite
Not even close.
Yet today we are looking that is, enough so that as we realize it, we drop everything, leaving it all behind.
Because what we are given is the infinitely valuable thing in our life.
An Important word?
Like most of Paul’s writings, there is a lot to focus on in this passage. Some like to focus in on Paul’s qualifications and talk about how important he was. Others like to talk about the athletic language used in verses 12-14.
Me? I get distracted by one of my favorite words in Greek.
Translated in most modern translations as rubbish (who uses that today? Rubbish?) or garbage. The old King James was more accurate with dung. While it has the same amount of letters, it was in common Greek, you might say a much coarser or foul synonym.
For some reason I always got a chuckle out of Paul using that word to describe his genetic lineage, his academic and professional accomplishments, and that the word is in scripture, and that translators struggle with how to put it…nicely.
But that is part of the problem we face, in this passage which talks about not just the most valuable, but the infinitely valuable, we mess around with resumes, sports terms and other bull… rubbish.
I wish I understood why we can get so easily distracted, why we find it so easy to focus in on other things in a passage, rather than what the passage itself says is most important.
Important enough to leave all else in the dust.
For they have no value, and knowing Jesus who was chosen and anointed to save us, to realize He is our Lord, knowing Him is everything.
Nothing is worth chase after, like chasing after we’ve been caught
Paul explains why a few verses down,
I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
This is why knowing Jesus is infinitely valuable. Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him. To experience life, the life that comes from dying with Him, and being raised, for we are united to Him.
To be that close, to know Christ, to depend on Him, sure that while we may fail, He will never fail us.
In one of my readings this week, a pastor wrote the words he us with a burnt out pastor, “
Delight,” I told him, “in the mystery of God revealed in Christ, who, by the Spirit, is united to our humanity and opens the way to our union with God. Delight in the incarnation of God in Jesus, in his sacrifice for our sins, his victory over the powers of evil, and the good news that everything that needs to be done to unite us with God and establish our spiritual relationship with God is done through grace by faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Affirm that Jesus, in union with God, dwells in you and you in him, and see the world through God’s divine embrace. Then live in your freedom to participate in God in the life of the world!”
That pastor, like so many of us, was looking to his own works to make him holy, looking to his own actions to prove how spiritual he was. And like the apostle Paul, he couldn’t do it. No way, no how.
Graduating seminary and getting ordained are great tools to prepare you to minister, but they don’t make you holy. Neither does just coming here, and doing your duty. All that stuff, if we don’t hear Jesus, if we don’t get to know Him, if we don’t hear His voice, if we don’t experience His love as He brings us to life, all that other stuff is a bunch of….. rubbish.
But when we come here, when we spend time hearing of His love, of His promised work in our lives, from forgiving us our sins to comforting us as we struggle, as He holds us in His embrace…
That is infinitely valuable.
So come, celebrate the Lord’s love for you.
Come, taste and know the love of the Lord…
For He is with you and wants you to know Him, and then know His peace. AMEN.
 Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.