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…

The False Dichotomy Paralyzing the Church

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:
In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. 2  People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. 3  The LORD will mediate between peoples and will settle disputes between strong nations far away. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Micah 4:1-3 (NLT2)

After getting the heart filled with the Holy Ghost, it is well to get the head filled with the very facts and truth that should be there. The Bible speaks of grace and knowledge. They go well together.

In particular I should like to concentrate on the phrase “he went on his travels.” I come immediately to the conclusion that we Christians must not abandon the vineyard where God has placed us. We must direct our energies to the work before us, within these walls, toiling in the winepress. And then taking our rest in the tower when our day’s work is over. If we were to give in to comfort, it would be like telling Jesus, “Look, my time is mine, not yours. I don’t want to tie myself down to looking after your vineyard.”

500 years ago, the Church was torn apart because it wouldn’t take the time
to discuss the relationship between faith and works. Each side demonized the other, and rather than working it out, they polarized, and the Church was torn in two, and then into a thousand pieces.

These days, I am not sure the Church is being torn asunder, as much as the
arguments are paralyzing it. False dichotomies appear or are accidentally
generated. The discussion over the dichotomy distracts the Church from being who She was created to be.

I experienced that this morning, as a friend put up a meme talking about
mission and method. One was to be loved more than another, or else the Church would die. I heard it as an exclusion, and I know there are those in our brotherhood who would say the inverse is true, that exclude the
“other” and mission is worthless – because the Church is already
dead.

And for 20 years as a Lutheran and 16 with another denomination ( technically a non=denominational movement), I have watched people make this argument.

Mission versus method. We gotta being doing stuff, or the Church dies. If we do stuff the wrong way, the Church is dead. We have to be preaching the gospel, not doctrine. If we don’t teach our people, our gospel may be false.

All the time, we are discussing this, writing books about this, fighting for
power in our denomination so we can make sure everyone else gets it right… we are not being the Church.

And we end up without a mission or a method.

Look at the passage of Micah – it ignores the dichotomy. People will be drawn to God (mission) and walk in HIS paths (method). The Lord settles their disputes. The blogs, youtube videos, and other weapons become tools to use in the harvest, for the Lord has ended the disputes.

It is not one or the other; it is them working together in Christ. Mission and
Method, Grace, and Knowledge.

Our role, our vocation is not to be found in arguing this, but in working the
vineyard, in sharing the reason we have hope.

Immanuel – Christ with us. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Guiding us in
righteousness.

both. and…

Because of His promise, hell cannot withstand the onslaught of a church guided by the Spirit has His mission and His method.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


The Challenge of Finding Joy…on Mondays, During Covid.

The Patriots Play football,
I do this…
I got the better gig!

Devotional Thought for this Day:
9  Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10  And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11  And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12  So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)

“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.

Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.

Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.

It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.

It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.

It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.

Preach on Joy! That was our call…

Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.

That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.

The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.

Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.

THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…

My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 12–13.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 64.

God Doesn’t Erase our Past… He does something more miraculous…

Devotional Thought of the Day

9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30  And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:28-30 (NLT2)

“Sanctity, for the vast majority of men, implies sanctifying their work, sanctifying themselves in it, and sanctifying others through it. Thus they can encounter God in the course of their daily lives.” (St Josemaria, Conversations, no. 55)

A recent paper I submitted confused the professor. I had used both justification and sanctification in regards to our work in leading worship, and in regards to making transistions in worship. Bascailly, my thought process was that any transistion in worship needs both to be justified and sanctified in order for it to be useful and beneficial to those who are the church.

My theory is simple, and based on the two Bible passages above. If God cleanses us from all unrighteousness, God is not erasing our past. He is cleansing it, making it righteous, declaring us justified as those works go from be based in sin, to being part of the masterpiece He makes of us.

This is truly a miracle, for most of us struggle with sin, and sometimes, we don’t even bother to struggle. The sin is there, it ensnares us, pulling our focus away from Jesus. For God to take those actions, and use them as a blessing, to use even them for good means that there is an increidble miracle that has taken place.

Understanding this means brings us to a point where we expect to see God at work in our sufferings, in the challenges we face, in the times of brokenness where we don’t want to answer the phone, or find out what tomorrow brings. We begin not to doubt it, but to realize He is there, at work. That means what we do becomes sanctified, it somehow becomes holy, it becomes a blessing.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 107). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

This is the Way… what that truly means!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said to one another, “If Joseph is holding a grudge against us, he will certainly repay us for all the suffering we caused him.”
16 So they sent this message to Joseph, “Before he died your father gave a command: 17 ‘Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers’ transgression and their sin—the suffering they caused you.’ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when their message came to him.
Genesis 50:15-17 CSB

The Holy Spirit, when He effects His gracious invasion of the believing heart, must win that heart to glad and voluntary obedience to the whole will of God. The cure must be wrought from within; no outward conformity will do.

I still marvel at the hardeness of the hearts of Joseph’s brothers. Years after they joined their brother in Egypt, they are still dealing with guilt and shame. He provided for them richly, and yet they still live in fear, as if the sins he already forgave them for, still divide them from him. They fear his wrath, not understanding the mercy he has shown them.

I wonder if we are any different, wondering if somehow Jesus will pour out God’s wrath on us for the sins we have committed, We hear pastors and priests announce that we are forgiven, we take communion, knowing the blood of Christ was given to provide for the forgiveness of sin. Yet we still live in the anxious moments here we fear His wrath, and try to deny or hide our sin.

But we cannot hide them, and to be honest, we cannot deny them. They stil haunt us.

The key is found in the words the brothers used… “please forgive the transgression of the serviants of the God of your father.” There is a distance there, they don’t understand the God of their dad, who so very often forgave their dad! Joseph knew God, as well as he knew His father. That is what makes the difference, that knowing of our Lord. To understand HIs desire to be part of our lives, to work in and through us, bringing healing, and the hope of eternity.

We need to understand Him, and not just doctrinally. We have to realize His presence in our lives, and rejoice in it. We can run to Him, and not just when life fails, or is hard. We need to play and weep, to struggle and rest, to love because we are loved. This happens as the Holy Spirit invades our hearts, cuts away the brokenness and death that sin has caused, and is the breath of life that restores us. That enables us to trust Him with the greatest pains, the gravest sins, the greatest challenges in our lives.

This is the Way… for He is our Way!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

The Paradox of Sharing God’s love with others.

Devotional Thought for the Day:

1  Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2  I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. Romans 10:1-2 (NLT2)

49  “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50  Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.” Mark 9:49-50 (NLT2)

In apostolate, respect for the inner sanctum of personal conscience is essential: “It is necessary to banish any form of intolerance, coercion and violence in the dealings of some men with others. In apostolic action, rather, especially in apostolic action, we want no slightest trace of coercion. God wants to be served in freedom; therefore, any apostolate that failed to respect the freedom of consciences would not be honest.”

It should be simple, but it is a strange paradox.

The greatest gift we can give to a person, to reveal to them the love of God, we can’t force them to accept. We can’t try to overwhelm them with the logic, we can’t force them to believe.

I have struggled with this most of my ministry, as a lay person and as a pastor. I have struggled with so desiring family and friends to know God’s love. Even to the point of ringing their stubborn necks as they reject God. The opposite approach doesn’t work either – to leave them in peace, hoping and praying tht they might come to their senses.

Mark’s gospel seems contradictory – for salt attcks, it stings, even while it preserves and brings healing. How can we sting and bring peace? How can we long, with God, that all come to repentence, and put our heart into the ministry of reconciliation. How do we correct those who have misdirected zeal, who long for justice without righteousness, who long for love without morals, who long for heaven on earth, without a relationship with the Lord of life?

Is there no easy way to do this? Is there no short and simple approach to saving the world? Can’t we find some Machivellian ruse that brings them into God’s kingdom, and creates enough fear that they live a life free of sin and doubt?

The simple answer is to have faith in God. To simply share with people why they need God, because of sin and death. And then share that God si there. merciful and loving. Then the hardest part – to trust the Holy Spirit to work in them. Just like we have to trust the Holy Spirit to work in us.

To realize the heart of God, and simple live in that heart. To allow God’s message to course through you, and be communicated in love, and know that God will cut open the stong heart, and bring healing. For the will fall in love with God without our coercion, as the Holy Spirit brings them into His presence.

Know the God you have faith in.. and trust in… His desire will make His word, spoken through you, not return void.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 91). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Have You Tried Talking WITH Him?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD. Gen. 4:26b

Once the Holy Spirit’s work in our heart begins, grace, forgiveness, cleansing take on a form of almost bodily clearness.
Prayer loses its unmeaning quality and becomes a sweet conversation with Someone actually there. Love for God and for the children of God takes possession of the soul. We feel ourselves near to heaven and it is now the earth and the world that begin to seem unreal.…

Doing some reading for a class I am taking, there was a comment that the number one of the thing pastors can do to sustain good ministry is to engage in regular spiritual discipline. (the Lilly Foundation was credited)

It should be common sense, if our goal is to connect people to God, to help them encounter and experience His love, we need to engaged in that dialogue with Him. That is the sweet conversation Tozer describes, what gives meaning to actual prayer. Without the confidence that God is listening, prayer is simply the recitation of words, a philosophical incantation done ot offer a placebo.

But because the Holy Spirit is there, teaching us to call on God… everything changes.

To deny this, or to neglect it, is tragic, for how can we neglect hat God has created, the ability to talk with Him, as was given in the earliest days, as God gave to men and women the ability to talk with HIm directly.

Luther would note this too, as he explains in the large catechism about prayer. It is part of our lives, not just and after thought. ( I highly suggest reading this!)

The other point Tozer made is based on the reality that is expressed in Colossians 3, “For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3 (NLT2) Prayer helps us realize that Gid is present, and our relationshp with Him is the basis of reality. Who we are, what we are, we are defined by that relationship with Him, and nothing else is as real as that. Nothing else transforms us that way.

So pray, just start, ask the Spirit to guide you… and rejoice.. for God is listening…

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

At the End of our Story, We Find He Protected us.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  All those who truly respected the LORD and honored his name started discussing these things, and when God saw what was happening, he had their names written as a reminder in his book. 17  Then the LORD All-Powerful said: You people are precious to me, and when I come to bring justice, I will protect you, just as parents protect an obedient child. 18  Then everyone will once again see the difference between those who obey me by doing right and those who reject me by doing wrong. Malachi 3:16-18 (CEV)

No man can be renewed without as real and true a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s energy as he felt at first, because the work is as great, and flesh and blood are as much in the way now as ever they were. Let thy personal weakness, O Christian, be an argument to make thee pray earnestly to thy God for help.

Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Do you want to accompany Jesus closely, very closely? . . . Open the Holy Gospel and read the Passion of our Lord. But don’t just read it: live it. There is a big difference. To read is to recall something that happened in the past; to live is to find oneself present at an event that is happening here and now, to be someone taking part in those scenes. Then, allow your heart to open wide; let it place itself next to our Lord. And when you notice it trying to slip away—when you see that you are a coward, like the others—ask forgiveness for your cowardice and mine.

There are calendar year ends, fiscal year ends, liturgical year ends, and for me, the end of a year of devotional readings. That is why the reading from Malachi heads this list, the promise of God writing our names in the book, and offering His care, His protection to us. While we do not always realize this, this is our story, this God who loves and protects and comforts us!

The other readings touch on the same theme, the work of God in our lives, protecting us from the work of Satan, from the struggle with dying, even from our own broken nature.

Spurgeon makes it clear, we need the Holy Spirit working to bring us to His gift of repentance, As he notes, our flesh and blood just loves to ge tin the way! And so we struggle with God breathing life into our exhausted souls..

We Lutherans, as well as the Protestants need to pray the prayer above from the Catholic mass, remembering that what we are praying was granted to us as we were united to Christ,, united to Him in His death, and HIs resurrection. ANd as we realize this, we find that we are protected, not just from evil, but from the anxiety that obscures the hope from knowing Jesus will return for us. As I read this prayer this morning, the words poured out, they are what God is doing in our lives! By praying it, we realize twhat God is doing in our lives

And finally, in Mr. Fazio’s recounting of the life of St. Josemaria, in this encouragement not just to read the gospel, but live it, we live in the time of deliverance, where Jesus saves us. you and me.

And yes, Satan will try to cause it to slowly slip away… and then our answer must be to cry out to God, to depend on His presence, and the blessings He pours out on us, when we are delivered….

We need to pray for each other in those moments, that we do not slink away like a coward, but instead our encouragement stimulates us to run toward Him… knowing and counting on His love.


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

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 687.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 35). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I Didn’t Want to Write Today…yet needed to

Devotional Thought for the Day:

No longer will the Philistines eat meat with blood in it or any unclean food. They will become part of the people of our God from the tribe of Judah. And God will accept the people of Ekron, as he did the Jebusites. Zechariah 9:7

To bless God for mercies received is also the way to benefit our fellow-men; “the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.” Others who have been in like circumstances shall take comfort if we can say, “Oh! magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together; this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” Weak hearts will be strengthened, and drooping saints will be revived as they listen to our “songs of deliverance.” Their doubts and fears will be rebuked, as we teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. They too shall “sing in the ways of the Lord,” when they hear us magnify his holy name.

I didn’t want to write today, matter of fact, I didn’t want to even do my devotional reading. I realized as I did that I missed yesterday, and that may be part of the problem.

Another part was the serious prayer requests I’ve recevied over the last few days, people I long to help, but cannot visit them, cannot commune them, only just talk over the phone and pray with them. It doesn’t seem “enough”.

There are many things wearing me down as well – for example – receiving a note that I shouldn’t vote on election day, in order to protect me and my loved ones. Looking at the vanity of agendas all around me.

And in the midst of this funk, I come across this quote from Spurgeon, and again my heart looks forward to Sunday. When weak hearts like mine will be strengthened, when drooping saints will experience God’s revival… even as we sing of God’s rescuing us, even as we praise Him together.

Amidst this funk, the words of a little read prophet remind me of God’s care for every one of us, even us “gentiles”. For God will accept us, He will cleanse us, He has made us part of His people. He did this at the cross, and in the resurrection, as we died with Christ, so that we can be raised with Him.

One thing I have learned over this life, such times of despair are relatively short lived – at most the times in between gathering with others, seeing and hearing of how God is at work in their lives.

Sunday, my congregation will sing the following words, of a new version of the Sanctus…. “For you are Holy Lord… so PLEASE, save us Lord.” The “please save us” is the cry normally said this way, Hosanna! When I hear those words, along with the praises of Holy, I shall be lifted up, my heart will be strengthen, and revival will be there….

even as it is now….

When you hit bottom emotionally, spiritually, even physically, it is such a cry, recognizing God’s holiness, and our need for being rescued, that helps us remember His promise… and then gives us the endurance we need in such times….as we wait on Him, and know that He is Lord.

For that is enough…for this day.

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

Why Religion is the Relationship: A Call to Something Deeper than a Meme or Tweet

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

20  We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. 21  In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22  Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.
Psalm 33:20-22 (NLT2)

Among all worldviews it is the gospel alone that produces the beauty of the saints. Nothing else does. They are deeply converted, and therefore utterly in love with triune Beauty. Even though our surefire program is cast in contemporary thought patterns and terminology, it is pure gospel. As we have noted, this plan contains no gimmicks, no pop psychology. Clever phrases and shallow ideas do not, and cannot produce the splendor of profound intimacy with anyone, least of all with the radiance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit—our eternal enthrallment.

I have seen it on tweets, and on memes. Cute and clever sayings that are not unpacked, that do not consider the unintended consequences that actually considering what is said, means.

None more dangerous than the, “relationship not religion” concept that has been floating around for years…

If you have ever heard me teach or preach, you know how I refer to not just a relationship with God, but an intimate relationship with Him. Enough that with some folk, i just mention the I.R. because they don’t like that word intimate.

What leads us from just knowing God exists, to believing in Him, to being a disciple, the point where the relationship is becoming ever more and more intimate? Well that is where religion comes into play, that is where God’s revelation to us, the covenant with its blessings and curses, with its promised intimacy and its discipline come into play.

That is where we get to know (another IR word!) Him. It is where we find we can trust Him, where His faithful devotion to us becomes our hope, and our joy. It is in the midst of the religious frame of reference that we understand His love for us, the mercy and comfort He will show us.

This can’t be understood in a meme, or a tweet, or even in this WordPress post. Because it is more than the words on the screen. It is revealed in meditating (not reading or studying) His word. Letting the thoughts of God, revealed to us, sink beyond our mind into our heart, into our soul. Into the depth of our being, where the Spirit transforms us.

And as it does, those places that we once feared to go, the depth of our being, are converted by the Spirit, and it is there we begin to realize the splendour of having a God who wants to know us at the very depths of our being. And He wants us to know Him there, to know His faithfulness, His mercy, His comfort, His healing and His love.

That kind of work takes time, and sometimes, it is scary, and it hurts, for He cuts away what is not good and holy and right. So be patient with the process, and ask God to keep working, even as He comofrts you in the mist of it.

Have a relationship far deeper than a cute saying… have one based in the framework, the religion that is more intimate than anything else we know. For this is what God designed and created you for… to walk with Him!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 121.

Heaven or Hell is not about Pleasure or Pain…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Each generation will announce to the next your wonderful and powerful deeds. I will keep thinking about your marvelous glory and your mighty miracles. Everyone will talk about your fearsome deeds, and I will tell all nations how great you are. Psalm 145: 5-6

1029      With your whole heart, ask for death, and a thousand deaths, rather than offend your God. And not because of the punishment due to sin, which we deserve so much, but because Jesus has been and is so good to you.

In other words, loving neighbor means not only coming under God’s law but coming into God’s life.

Growing up, often the motivation for behaving (or appearing to!) was nothing more than avoiding a swat, or being sent to one’s room, or some other form of punishment. In other words, behave or experience pain!

That concept bled over into church, where we were told of the pain of hell, the place where people who misbehaved were sent to be punished for all eternity. Church, for those who went, became more about modifying behavior. As the churches changed in the 80’s and 90’s, the withholding of wrath as the motivation was replaced with the positive reinforcement of a heaven where everything was perfect, tear free, a reward for those who had “done good”. Sermons became about training up people to do good, to look good, to have the perfect family, etc. Pleasure, ultimate pleasure, replaced pain as the motivating factor for behavior.

Both methods of behavior modification have failed me….

Both have used the law incorrectly, making the destination and its pleasure/pain more important than Jesus. Yes, there are promised places, and we all deserve hell, but heaven is a gift, not because of the stuff it comes with, but because it is life with a God who has proven that He loves us.

It is beyond logic or reason that He does. It contradicts karma and our sense of what justice is supposed to be.

That is why it is so incredible, so wonderful, so miraculous.

It is from that love, being in so awe of that love, that we find the ability to love in return. Being enveloped in that love, we find the ability to love others, it becomes more natural, and it doesn’t have to be as forced. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, not behavior modified by pressures to avoid pain or pursue pleasure.

It is life in Christ.

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

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 170.

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