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 of the Day:
So the LORD said to me, 5 “I, the LORD, the God of Israel, consider that the people who were taken away to Babylonia are like these good figs, and I will treat them with kindness. 6 I will watch over them and bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not pull them up. 7 I will give them the desire to know that I am the LORD. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God, because they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:4-7 GNT
40 I want to obey your commands; give me new life, for you are righteous. Psalm 119:40 (TEV)
The parish of St Louis-St Blaise has been experiencing graces of charity which are drawn from Eucharistic adoration: links are forged or tightened, the parishioners are more attentive to each other, more supportive. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament overwhelms the heart of the parish and opens it gradually to the mission that we are trying to put in place.
In the title, it says “the Church”, and by that I do not mean any one congregation, or denomination. I don’t mean just the Lutherans, or the Romans Catholics, the Evangelicals, the Conservative or the Liberal/Progressive groups in the church.
I mean the One Church, the people set apart for God (Holy), Church that includes every time period, every culture, every demographic (catholic) and the Church that is on a mission from God (apostolic) whether she lies it or not.
What the Church needs is to have the desire the psalmist describes, a desire to treasure what God has called into being, what He has commanded. (Not just the do this/don’t do that – but every command God has uttered ) We need to hear the voice of God, and revel in the fact that He comes to us, and creates in us life.
We need the desire to know He is the Lord, to know that He is drawing us toward Him!
Please look at Jeremiah’s passage carefully, and see this. “Then they will be my people and I will be their God because they will return.” The words of God recognize His people, even when they are struggling in bondage, when they are in captivity, either to Babylon, or Egypt or sin! This is the God who hears the psalmists plea to give him (and us!) new life, and does so.
This is why parishes and congregations who dedicate time in the presence of God find themselves more attentive to each others’ needs, more supportive of those in their community that aren’t part of the church, yet! It is why churches that have dedicated times to adore Jesus, and/or spend time in prayer find themselves renewed and revived, responding to the needs of those around them.
it doesn’t come because we force it, it comes as a result of being drawn into intimacy with God. It is not a programmatic response, it is one from the depths of our souls, as the Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ, and united to Him, we serve as He served.
This is our hope, this is who we are.
The people of God, who are being drawn back, who are returning to Him.
Florian Racine, “Spiritual Fruits of Adoration in Parishes,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 208.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8 Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9 But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. 10 . 18 Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace? Jeremiah 20:7-9, 18 (TEV)
13 And there is another reason why we always give thanks to God. When we brought you God’s message, you heard it and accepted it, not as a message from human beings but as God’s message, which indeed it is. For God is at work in you who believe 1 Thes. 2:13 GNT
261 I forbid you to think any more about it. Instead, bless God, who has given life back to your soul.
Two things showed up on my computer this morning.
The first was a copy of the picture above, reminding me that eleven years ago, I was installed as the Senior Pastor here at Concordia. The other, in my devotional reading, was Jeremiah’s words above. Ironically, these were the words I had to preach on the first Sunday after I received the call to Concordia.
It has to make you wonder, when one of the strongest prophets of God whines like that! What had he gone through, what had broken him so badly that he had to accuse God of deceiving him, and forcing him to do something that was,,, more than challenging.
This is month is also my twenty-first anniversary of being a full-time pastor and it is closing on 27 years since I started as a chaplain preaching and counseling in the detention centers of Los Angeles County. In that time, I have felt like Jeremiah more than a few times. Some call it clergy burnout, and if the numbers are still true, over 1000 pastors and priest leave the ministry every month, many because they can’t handle the feeling Jeremiah describes.
So many different things can cause it, to many traumas, such as deaths, or serious illness in the people you are entrusted to care for, and walk beside. Sometimes it is conflict, or maybe a power struggle, or just helping a church go through some significant change. (The number of guys who leave a church after a successful building program is staggering!) SOmetimes it simply builds up over the years, and all of a sudden, you find yourself weary and unwilling to go on.
You just want to shut up, move to someplace no one would expect, and leave the pain and struggle to someone else. Some guys don’t remember Jeremiah, and feel guilty about getting upset at God. Others just bottle it up, and find solace in video games, alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, or they just turn their vocation and calling into a “job” and punch the clock until they can retire.
Some of us are blessed, and have parishioners, friends and mentors that look out for us. (Hint, if you have a pastor, look out for him! Pray for him often!) Others feel like they are almost invisible, when it comes to their needs. Even so, the wear and tear has an impact.
The point Jeremiah ends up discovering and struggling with is the power of the message we are given to share. The message that must get out, even if it has to burn through us.
The message of God’s love, and His desire for us to let Him heal our broken hearts and tortured souls. The message that He will take us back, that He will rescue our people. When all else we are doing fails, when the brokenness is overwhelming, when despair seems to drive out life, He is there. In that moment we need to hear and treasure these words the most….
“and also with you…”
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 692-693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 The LORD says, “The time is coming when people will no longer swear by me as the living God who brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. 15 Instead, they will swear by me as the living God who brought the people of Israel out of a northern land and out of all the other countries where I had scattered them. I will bring them back to their own country, to the land that I gave their ancestors. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Jer. 16:14-15 GNT
Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God. Col. 4:2 GNT
How would our magnificent castles, houses, silk, satin, purple, golden jewelry, precious stones, all our pomp and glitter and show help us if we had to do without air for the length of one Lord’s Prayer?
These are the greatest gifts from God and also the ones that we deride most, and, because they are so common, we do not give thanks for them. We take them and use them each day so thoughtlessly, as if it had to be so and we were entitled to them; thus, we do not need to thank God for them even once. In the meantime, we tear off and care only to worry, quarrel, wrangle, strive, and storm after unnecessary money and goods, honor and luxury—in short, after something that cannot hold a candle to the blessings mentioned above. Worse, it hinders our joyful and serene use of the common gifts, such that we do not recognize them as such, nor do we thank God for them. Behind all of this is the devil, who does not want us to use and acknowledge all of God’s gifts to us and thus be happy.
When Luther explains the passage from the Lord’s Prayer about “give us our daily bread” he gets passionately pragmatic! We see that in the words above as he talks about our concerns that things that cannot hold a candle to the real gifts God has given us.
And yet, we let those things rob us of our peace, of our serenity, and our ability to use those things that God has given us!
I think it starts before that though.
In the passage of Jeremiah, he notes that there will be a point where Israel now longer looks back to God’s deliverance in the past, but rather, looks at their deliverance, the deliverance from the Babylonian Captivity. God’s presence, God’s work is no longer something He did for someone else, in a far distant time. It is something that presently affects them, that proves He is not some distant God, but a God who will allow us to be disciplined, and yet, restore us.
It is one thing to appreciate what God has done in the past, to those whose steps we walk in. We should appreciate these things and learn from them, for they reveal to us the character of God. It is another thing to realize He is here now. Delivering us from the bondage of sin, delivering us from guilt and shame, healing u of the brokenness that is all to common now, just as it was during the captivity. He is here! Providing for us all the things we need! Yes, life and daily food, Oxygen and gravity, To thank Him for giving us a new life, and walking with us through it, even through the valley of the shadow of death.
For all this, it is a simple thing to stand back in awe, and to Thank God.
We need to thank Him and that includes knowing we can ask Him to help us when we don’t understand, trusting Him to ensure all things work for good, for those called according to His purposes. Giving thanks for what He has and will do for us, now and until the day we join before His throne, there for eternity.
Lord, help us, when we are struggling, to remember and be thankful for the thousands of thing You have given and done for us, from the air we breathe to the food and drink, houses and homes, even the jobs that can stress us out. Lord, help us be most thank for your deliverance of us from our enemy, sin. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 206.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 The LORD said to his people, “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths and where the best road is. Walk in it, and you will live in peace.” Jeremiah 6:16 GNT
As you come upon verse 18 (1 John 7), you may prayerfully dwell on the ways in which love—God’s love for us, our love for him and love among people on earth—pushes fear out of all relationships. You may think of the fearless child surrounded by loving parents, of how loving neighbors give us confidence and relieve our anxieties. You may dwell on how the assurance of God’s love given to us in the death of his Son suggests that we will never be beyond his care. Seek God’s help in comprehending this and in seeing what your fear-free life might be like.
I do believe that the Church, from congregations like mine, to mega-churches and denominations, all the One, Holy, catholic and Apostolic church is at a crossroads.
To many of our communities are dying off, others are wandering away, some to be relevant, some to shrink back and protect what is theirs. Some will embrace change, and some will point to a passage like the one above from Jeremiah, trying to justify doing things the “old way” as it is good and proper and safe.
Not that the ways, from how we do liturgy to how we teach scripture are all relatively new. Not one of them existed at the time Jeremiah wrote this warning from God to His people.
So there is that.
Jeremiah isn’t talking about the liturgy, or the role of women in the church. He’s not talking about polity and structure, nor do I think we need to rebuild the temple. In fact, reading on in Jeremiah it was the worship they took so much effort in that God was going to reject. The tabernacle was already going to be rejected, which would include all the sacrifices.
If the system of worship established in the first 5 books of Moses isn’t the ancient paths walked upon how could we claim the latest liturgy or our favorite hymnal form the 1940’s or 50’s is this “ancient path?”
So what is?
Faith, that relationship that is so special that we can depend on God in every circumstance of our life. Faith in the one we have a relationship with, the very thing that Hebrews 11 describes as how Abel, Abraham, our fore-fathers and the prophets saw sustain them,
Faith, which sustains because it is based on God loving us, a love revealed at the cross, and in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Faith, which is possible because we don’t travel down that ancient way alone, but Christ is that way, and we walk with Him.
The ancient way is the life in the Garden, where God walks with us, His people, as He did with Adam and Eve.
Finally a thought, that ancient way is none other than Jesus, the son of God. So let us walk with Him, as He leads us to Father, as He brings us home. AMEN!
Dallas Willard and Jan Johnson, Hearing God through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“Unfaithful people, come back; you belong to me. I will take one of you from each town and two from each clan, and I will bring you back to Mount Zion. 15 I will give you rulers who obey me, and they will rule you with wisdom and understanding. 16 Then when you have become numerous in that land, people will no longer talk about my Covenant Box. They will no longer think about it or remember it; they will not even need it, nor will they make another one. 17 When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called ‘The Throne of the LORD,’ and all nations will gather there to worship me. They will no longer do what their stubborn and evil hearts tell them. 18 Israel will join with Judah, and together they will come from exile in the country in the north and will return to the land that I gave your ancestors as a permanent possession.” Jeremiah 3:14-18 GNT
1 Give thanks to the LORD, because he is good, and his love is eternal. 2 Let the people of Israel say, “His love is eternal.” 3 Let the priests of God say, “His love is eternal.” 4 Let all who worship him say, “His love is eternal.” 5 In my distress I called to the LORD; he answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:1-5 (TEV)
152 Don’t you sense that more peace and more union await you when you have corresponded to that extraordinary grace that requires complete detachment? Struggle for him to please him, but strengthen your hope.
As you read the Book of Jeremiah, you see different aspects of God’s personality. There is the God who warns people about the wrath to come, there is the God who Jeremiah feels betrayed by, and there is the God who begs and pleads for His people to come home.
And yet, as we know, this God is one, and the focus is that on those who have rebelled, or walked away, or just ignored God, and getting them to return.
A God who promised to do away with the sacrificial system, a God who would promise to forget His anger toward them, a God who would provide everything, if only His people would come back.
Seems a little like a lovesick teenager, who will do anything if only their love would stop messing around with others, and be faithful. Between passages like this one above, and the Book of Hosea, God doesn’t appear in the greatest of light! How could He be such a sucker as to let people betray Him, disrespect Him, cheat on Him, and still beg for them to return?
Is He that infatuated with us?
If this was a human relationship, we would be telling Him to dump those unfaithful, ungrateful wretches, and if He didn’t we would wonder what kind of chicken He was. How could someone have such a grip on someone else and let themselves be so mistreated?
The difference is that with God the love is truly pure, His being faithful is not because He is blind, or because He things we will completely change in this life. He knows how we will struggle, He is in this for the long haul, and the Spirit works within us.
That is why Psalm 118 was Luther’s go to, we have to have God’s love for us revealed often! We need to help our people (and ourselves) realize that God will be this faithful and has planned things for us beyond our ability to imagine.
We have to know we can call to Him, and be set free.
When we do this, it is what St Josemaria describes, this detachment from everything but God, for it is in union with Him that we find peace.
And having found that, and seen how He has promised to truly perfect our lives, we can rejoice in His work in our reconciliation.
Lord, help us to hear Your plea and, led by the Holy Spirit, return and rejoice in Your faithful love. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 488-490). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the day:
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15† so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, 16 as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Phil. 2:14-16 GNT
While the entire psalter and the holy scriptures altogether are also dear to me, as they are my sole comfort and life, nevertheless, I have struck up a very special relationship with this psalm, so that it must be mine and be called mine. It has worked quite diligently for me, deserving to become mine, and has helped me in some great emergencies, out of which no emperor, king, sage, clever person, or saint would have been able to help me.
You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God?
My daily devotions changed a few years ago, when I discovered a book called Celtic Daily Prayer (and now volume 2) and another book called The Way. Before that I saw devotions as a task, and as what a good pastor did, and tried to model to his people. I did the read through the Bible in a year, I even wrote the predecessor to this blog. Looking back, I am not sure I could have answered the question posed by the last line of the quote from Dallas Willard.
It wasn’t the books that changed my devotional life, they just showed up and in the right time and place. It wasn’t on a quest for holiness, that this process grew, nor do I see myself holier or more mature.
I may have grown in holiness, I may be more “devout” (I believe that is very much up to debate), I pray that I am more like Christ.
What I am is more aware of how much I need to depend on God. I resonate with Luther, about this passage and that ministering to me more than others. ( 1 Cor. 2:9, Ezekiel 26:25, Exodus 50:20, Phil. 1:6, Hebrews 12:1-3 Romans 12:1-3 ) for a few that have that effect) greeting me like old friends when I get to them. Jeremiah 20:7 as well, oh gosh has that saved me in despair more than once.
Yet it has been reading through scriptures and my other aids that have led me to those passages. The words of Escriva, Luther, Willard and Popes Francis and Benedict have help me see what I am missing, and far too often, what I encounter gives me the strength I need when something big is looming. (and it seems like something always is looming)
I am not doing this because I am a saint, or devout, or because I want to impress people. I am doing this because I need to, I need to remember that God is benevolent, and merciful, and loves me, and then that He loves those I struggle with, and desires that we all come to repentance.
It is why I encourage you to spend time in the word, like a miner digging for diamonds, trying to find those verse that will reveal God’s love to you so completely that you don’t recognize the change. But you cling to them.. oh.. do you cling to them, as you are comforted and healed by the Holy Spirit who uses them to heal your heart, soul and mind. AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 203). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day
The LORD said, “I was ready to answer my people’s prayers, but they did not pray. I was ready for them to find me, but they did not even try. The nation did not pray to me, even though I was always ready to answer, ‘Here I am; I will help you.’ 2† I have always been ready to welcome my people, who stubbornly do what is wrong and go their own way. Is. 65:1-2 GNT
2 We honor God for what he conceals; we honor kings for what they explain. Proverbs 25:2 GNT
A church that merely “functions”, that is merely “functional”, no longer provides what was special to it: a space in which to be, a space in which to leave the world of goals and to enter into the freedom of God. To erect such spaces is, especially today, a rewarding task that becomes all the more pressing the more we are isolated in the towering domiciles of our cities.
If one were to gather all the churches together, including their clergy, they would have to confess that they never prayed from the heart even for a drop of wine. Not one of them took it upon himself to pray out of obedience to God or faith in the promise. Nor do they reflect on their troubles, but do not think any farther (to put the best construction on it) than to do a good work in order to pay God; they do not want to take anything from, but instead give to God.
If a prayer is to be prayer, it has to be done with earnestness, so that one feels one’s need—and such a need that it squeezes and drives us to call out and scream. In this way the prayer happens by itself, the way it should, and requires no teaching as to how one should prepare oneself for it and prepare oneself for devotion. In the Lord’s Prayer you will find sufficient need generously expressed that should be our concern as well as the concern of others.
Do not hurry. Do not dabble in spiritual things. Give time for each stage to play itself out fully in your heart. Remember, this is not something you are doing by yourself. Watch and pray.
The quote from Proverbs this morning interested me. How do we honor God for what He conceals? For that matter, why would we honor Him for hiding things from us?
It was the last of my scripture readings, and it took some thought, and indeed the other passages and some thoughts began to form.
Look closely at God’s words to Israel. See His desire to step in and help, and yet they didn’t ask. See how He’s always ready to make himself known to those who ask, who plead with them. It is what Luther noted in the Large Catechism quote in green as well, that people in prayer, pray with the earnest of a desperate cry for help – a cry that comes from the gut, and with all our heart and soul. It cries out in need, knowing that God will respond, that He will be faithful.
It doesn’t have the sense of trying to figure out how to work the machine, how to impress or pay off God for His blessing. That kind of sincerity Willard mentions as well, when he talks of taking the time for spiritual things to play out in our heart. For someone does not do this “by themself” it is something worked out in a deep relationship with our Creator, with our Lord who loves us.
That’s where Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) comes in to play. Prayer isn’t just functional. It has no mechanical attributes, it is not an automaton, it is relational, it is dynamic and changing as our life changes, as we encounter brokenness, sin, and the traumas that call us to cry out.
It’s not functional because we need more than a functional God. We need one that moves with us, in every way and movement. We don’t need a God who punches a time clock, or gives us blueprints for our lives. (Gosh, if we knew what He had planned, would we? could we deal with it?) We have to have a God who is bigger, who is stronger, who adapts and heals our brokenness. And a church that moves with Him in that process. Not changing for the sake of change, but changing as He meets our needs, and the needs of our community.
CS Lewis one said that Aslan ( a picture of Jesus) was not tame. Indicating God is not tamable, not able to be put in a box. Neither can a church that is in a relationship with him be simply functional. So don’t settle for one that goes through the motions like Israel, but doesn’t call out to Him. Go for the one that relates, and even at time is dysfunctional. And doesn’t hesitate to cry out to God when it does.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 258). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 201). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 “No longer will the sun be your light by day Or the moon be your light by night; I, the LORD, will be your eternal light; The light of my glory will shine on you. 20 Your days of grief will come to an end. I, the LORD, will be your eternal light, More lasting than the sun and moon. 21 Your people will all do what is right, And will possess the land forever. I planted them, I made them, To reveal my greatness to all.
Isaiah 60:19-21 (TEV)
It isn’t God who must change but the person. This is the obvious goal of prayer, and that is the reason why prayer is the privileged place of exile where the revelation is given, that is, the passage from what one thinks of God to what he truly is.
It is an exodus of purification where we are led by God through the dark night of the exile on the way to the contemplation of his face.
Then, we finally will be changed and transformed into the likeness of Him.
Often it will be an act of real humility and creaturely honesty to stop what we are doing, to acknowledge our limits, to take time to draw breath and rest—as the creature, man, is designed to do. I am not suggesting that sloth is a good thing, but I do want to suggest that we revise our catalogue of virtues, as it has developed in the Western world, where activity alone is regarded as valid and where the attitudes of beholding, wonder, recollection, and quiet are of no account, or at least are felt to need some justification.
Before we explain the Lord’s Prayer sequentially, we must first counsel and entice the people to prayer, just as Christ and the apostles did.2 First, we are obligated to pray because God has commanded it. Thus, we heard in the commandment, “You shall not take God’s name in vain,” that God’s holy name should be praised, called upon, or prayed to in every need. To call upon it is nothing other than praying
It may help to remember these words of Thomas à Kempis in The Imitation of Christ:
“Of what use is it to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy; but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God?”
I am hoping you made it through the incredible quotes above, looking forward to finding out where this incredible joy is found. What the “Re” is… are you ready for it?
Yes, you read that right, there is an incredible joy when the Holy Spirit gifts us with repentance. It is freeing, it lifts burdens, it is that wonderful mysterious transformation that God works in us.
It is why Luther urges us to prayer, reminding that this commanded, not for God’s sake, but for ours. For it is in that transformation that we experience that mercy and love of God that causes the repentance to occur.
Repentance, this transformation, finds us with the ability to bhold, wonder and remember the presence of God leaves us stunned, and sometimes, unable to speak, because the grace of God is so wonderful, because it so sets our hearts at ease, our mind cannot proceed. Repentance leaves us in awe, for the work the Holy Spirit crafts turns causes us to reflect and resemble Jesus , something that is beyond our ability to conceive of..
That is why Pope Francis talks of this change in the way he does. As we go from our thoughts and our visions of what a god should be, and it is revealed to us, who God is. He is the One who loves His people, and repentance is that process where experiencing that love changes everything, for it changes us.
Lord, help us not fear this work of Yours that is repentance. Help us to embrace it, to revel in it, for it is an experience where Your love is so manifested in our lives. When we are struggling with sin, grant the desire ofr repentance. in Jesus name. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 258). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 255). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The LORD says,
“Listen to me, you that want to be saved, you that come to me for help. Think of the rock from which you came, the quarry from which you were cut. 2 Think of your ancestor, Abraham, and of Sarah, from whom you are descended. When I called Abraham, he was childless, but I blessed him and gave him children; I made his descendants numerous. Isaiah 51:1-2 GNT
In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God’s presence with all confidence. Eph 3:12 GNT
105 If you don’t keep in touch with Christ in prayer and in the bread, how can you make him known to others?
In our first quote from Isaiah, God tells us to look back at our past, at the people who came before us. The passage will start with Abraham, but it will not stop then. God wants us to think about those who went before, to consider their situations deeply.
But the reason why is critical. We look back at the past not to glorify them (they were sinners – notorious ones at times) or imitate their actions (they were sinners remember) and turn what they did into our traditions. They aren’t superheroes, and people for us to adore. They were sinners.
We can talk of Abraham or Moses, we can move to the New Testament and talk of Peter and Paul. We can talk about the saints through the ages, ones like Francis of Assisi, or Ignatius of Loyola, modern favorites like St. Theresa or Billy Graham, or my two favorites Martin Luther and St. Josemaria Escriva.
Looking back at those who went before us is good, unless we begin to turn them into idols, or people whose faith and practice was so much “holier” than our own. We need to remember Paul didn’t say “imitate me!” He said imitate me as I imitate Christ”
So what do we do with these saints? what do we learn as we look back at those whose faith precedes our own?
The Lord tells us in Isaiah, we look back and see that Abraham was a broken guy, just like the rest of us, and then God worked in His life!
As we look at the past, that’s what we need to see, that the Lord worked in the life of Abraham, that God worked in the life of Moses, and King David, and stubborn and broken guys like the Apostles Peter and Paul
God works in our lives too. Which is why the chief of all sinners can tell the church in Ephesus to enter the presence of God the Father with confidence. Not when we die and get to heaven, though that surely will happen then. But to do so now, as we be still and take time to pray, to seriously find ourselves in the presence of God, laying burdens down, letting Him strip us of sin, talking with us, being with us.
This is why we look back at the our ancestors in the faith. To realize as broken and sinful as they were, God worked in their lives, He drew them into a relationship with Him, and in the process, things happened. But the major lesson – they lived in the presence of God, learning to depend on Him, whether in their prayers, or the times where He was physically present.
That’s what we need to know. That is what we must experience. that is what every person in our world needs. Looking back shows us He will be there, because He always has been there for His people, no matter how broken, even calling them back when they wandered or ran off.
He was faithful, He is faithful, and we learn He will be faithful in our lives, and in those who follow us… and look back to us.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 396-397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A Pastor Parker Parable/Devotional Thought of the Day
6† The LORD said to me,
“I have a greater task for you, my servant.
Not only will you restore to greatness
the people of Israel who have survived,
but I will also make you a light to the nations—
so that all the world may be saved.” Isaiah 49:6 GNT
12 At that time you were apart from Christ. You were foreigners and did not belong to God’s chosen people. You had no part in the covenants, which were based on God’s promises to his people, and you lived in this world without hope and without God. 13 But now, in union with Christ Jesus you, who used to be far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God. 17† So Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to all—to you Gentiles, who were far away from God, and to the Jews, who were near to him. 18 It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father.
19 So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God’s people and members of the family of God. 20 You, too, are built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets,f the cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself. 21 He is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord. 22 In union with him you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through his Spirit Eph. 2:11-13,16-22 GNT
In the Year of our Lord 1985, a classic movie came out. It told the story of 5 high school kids, the janitor and their vice-principal. What was supposed to be a day of punishment ended up to one of the moments that would become life-changing, and something they, or those who watched the movie, would never forget.
The Breakfast Club, the Brain, the Jock, the Preppy/Glamour girl, the Bad Boy, and the nonconformist. Each in their own world, and yet each of them a goyim, an outsider. SOmeone viewed with as much disdain as we might view the refugee or illegal immigrant today.
Throughout the movie they would struggle with each other, they would argue, cry, laugh, and bond together. Despite the stereotypes, despite the angst, despite the suspicion, they would come to know each other, and what the Vice Principal meant for evil, God would use for good. You even have a great picture of the transformation God works in people, through people, as Ally Sheedy’s character is transformed. Not that the others weren’t transformed, given hope, and started on the journey of healing. But her transformation was more visible.
It could be a parable of the New and Old Testament Quotes above, a prophecy of the work and its fulfillment, as Christ links us to His suffering and death and we rise from that death, as one. No longer alien, no longer the outcast, all welcome in the presence of the Father.
This is something we need to continually learn in our lives. It is something we continually have to be aware of as we encounter people that seem different that us. THat in Christ, we are meant to be one people, and we can trust God more than give into the fears and stereotypes. We can welcome those looking for help, those in trouble, even those who sins were as blatant and evil as they can get. God can redeem them, God can transform them. That is why Christ came and died…to set us free, to transform us, not into rule following robots/clones, but into the people of God, as diverse as the parts of a body.
Lord, help us look past stereotypes, not just we have of others, but those we have of our own lives. Help us to know Your presence, and Your love for all whom You are calling to be Yours – even though they might not know it. AMEN!
This is the power of Christ at work in His people, even those who are on detention for their sins