Category Archives: Martin Luther

What Should Make Christianity…. different?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 44 Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had. Now she doesn’t have a cent to live on.  Mark 12:43-44 CEV

By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.”

The pagan knew the fact that our hearts are restless, but he did not know the reason. Christianity supplies the reason, the key to the lock, the answer to the puzzle pondered by the great philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, even by Qoheleth in the book of Ecclesiastes. All these thinkers believed in a God, but they were not happy because they did not know God was love. Socrates worshipped the unknown God whom he would not name and knew he did not know. Plato’s God was impersonal truth and goodness. Aristotle’s God was a cosmic first mover who could be known and loved but who did not know or love us. Cicero’s God was only a vague object of “piety”. And the God of Ecclesiastes sat unmoving and unknown in Heaven while man’s life on earth remained “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”

172 Augustine says very clearly, “All the commandments of God are kept when what is not kept is forgiven.”1 Therefore even in good works he requires our faith that for Christ’s sake we please God and that the works in themselves do not have the value to please God.
173 Against the Pelagians, Jerome writes, “We are righteous, therefore, when we confess that we are sinners; and our righteousness does not consist in our own merit, but in God’s mercy.”

The novel Christian reality is this: Christ’s Resurrection enables man genuinely to rejoice. All history until Christ has been a fruitless search for this joy. That is why the Christian liturgy—Eucharist—is, of its essence, the Feast of the Resurrection, Mysterium Paschae. As such it bears within it the mystery of the Cross, which is the inner presupposition of the Resurrection.

This morning I came across some very powerful quotes in my reading.  I love them, whether it is from a soon to be pope (Ratzinger), an incredible philosopher (Kreeft), a group of rebels (the early Lutherans), or a British pastor who was perhaps, the first mega-church pastor.

They all point to one thing, the fact that Christianity is different. Philosophers tried to point to him, but they couldn’t understand God. That the Eucharist does, more clearly perhaps than anything else, for we encounter and experience Jesus there.  In the mercy of God which makes our broken lives perfect as God grants to us repentance and sanctification – as He completely saves us.

What an incredible concept, this salvation.

But do we really comprehend this blessing, this gift?

I do not think we do, at least not always.

How about this explanation.  We (the church) are like children at Christmas, more interested in playing with the box our present came in than actually enjoying the present.

Salvation, the complete work of God is so large a gift, we cannot understand it. But we can experience it, and it does more than change us. Jesus does more than give us life, He is that life. That is what makes Christianity different, it is the religion that is more than a relationship, for a relationship cannot begin to express what living in Christ is like.

The old lady with the two pennies experienced it. She wasn’t impressed with the box, she simply enjoyed walking with God, and gave what she had that others would as well.

We don’t even know her name, and she could care less.

She was with God, and among His people, as broken, as misdirected, as….unfocused on what she knew and responded to…

May we be more like her….. and enjoy living in Christ, as the children the Father loves.

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

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 39–40.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 130–131.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 65.

Pastors and Priests are not Holy Pez Dispensers!

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)

In the sacrament Christ is received. However, this would not happen if Christ were not, at the same time, prepared and distributed through the Word. For the Word brings Christ to the people and acquaints their hearts with him. The sacrament in itself does not transmit this knowledge.

And even if there is some preaching, the mass may be of Christ but the sermon on Theodoric of Bern or some other story. God punishes us in this way because we do not pray for our daily bread. The venerable sacrament finally becomes not only a vain and empty custom but also an object of contempt. After all, what does it profit us if Christ is present and has prepared bread for us, if this bread is not given to us and we do not delight in it? That is just as if a delicious meal were prepared and no one was there to pass the bread, bring the food, or pour the drink, and all were expected to have their hunger appeased by the odor or the sight of the meal.

You might think that this post is going to laud the preaching of the word over the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  I mean, after all, Luther’s words could be interpreted that way.  Luther makes it sound like the sacrament is completely dependent on the word, that without it, it, it is vain and worthless.  It would be of no profit to our bodies and even less to our souls.

Theologically, that may sound right, but I do not agree with that interpretation.

I think it is that we can’t separate what God put together, the gift of hearing the word and receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood.  We need both, and we need them together.  They need to understand the experience they have, as they take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

As I said in the title, pastors and priests (Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and other sacramental groups) are more than spiritual Pez dispensers.  Our role is to reveal to you Christ, to ensure you understand the grace that you are being given in the sacraments, to make sure you understand that grace is Christ’s presence in your life, and how that transforms who you are, it results in a change to your very identity.

That is why we see this Communion Feast so important, and the words that prepare us for it critical.  This time, not just about our sins being forgiven, but the time we know we dwell in Christ, and He dwells in us.

We need this, and we need to remember, to understand, to savor this moment.  So to preach on something else, to not focus on Christ crucified for us, to make sure you understand this and treasure it, and to give you the time to think and work through it, this is our calling.

For your benefit.

So let both people and their clergy, work together, and rejoice together, as God provides for us.  Amen!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 57–58.

Why I Don’t Care How Fast Your Church is Growing (or Shrinking)

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

27  I will live there with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28  When I place my Temple there to be among them forever, then the nations will know that I, the LORD, have chosen Israel to be my own people.” Ezekiel 37:27-28 (TEV)

I want you to know that God has never yet punished the world more harshly than by allowing blind and ignorant leaders to exist, who destroy us by withholding the Word of God and our bread. Let the Turks be Turks. This plague surpasses them. Woe unto us for not realizing this and praying for it to cease!
On the other hand, God has never been more gracious to the world than when he granted it well-informed and devoted spiritual leaders, who supplied this Word daily and abundantly. Christendom, and every Christian soul, is born in and through the Word of God.

The whole point of justification by faith is God’s scandalous, crazy, and wonderful gift of love.

Luther’s words are scathing, brutal, and today are as true as they ever have been.

O sure, we have more pastors with higher education perhaps, more and more of my friends are getting Doctor of Ministry and Ph.D./Th.D  degrees. I am going for one myself.

So why am I saying that we are in a period where church leaders are blind and ignorant?

I think it is because we are spending most of our time on things besides the gospel. We are trying to find the answers to the declining church attendance, the aging church, how to fight the decline in morality, the sociological and political jungles out there.  We hear the latest Barna report,, the latest Pew Research Study, the latest from our favorite religious blogger/vlogger/podcast and we treat our parishioners to our newfound wisdom, our conservative theological acumen, or our theory on how to get our churches to grow and be relevant while staying confessionally centered.

We might even wax eloquently on the core doctrine of Justification by Faith!

Yet we forget the point of justification is to return us to God, to cause us to walk in the presence of God. To realize, using Dr. Kreeft’s words, that God is scandalous, and crazy, as He loves us!

I don’t care if your church is growing 40 percent a year, or declining as you weed out the refuse. If pastors and church leaders aren’t revealing to people the wonderful, crazy, scandalous love of God for them, their work is a curse!  Whether the church is 2000 people on Sunday morning, or 24 faithful, confessional, traditional people.

We have to get back to preaching about God’s love for us broken people. It has to be our message.  We have to reveal to them that love as we preach and teach, as we give voice to God’s forgiving them (a wonderful, crazy, scandalous thing on its own,) as we give them the Body and Blood to eat and drink.

Pastors, do these things – we know they bring life to our people.  People, pray for your pastors, ask them to focus on revealing God’s love for you, constantly.  You are in this all together, and you are not alone.  For the scandalous, crazy, wonderful God who loves you, is with you!  AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 55–56.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 25.

The Problem of “Free Will” is we don’t want it freed….

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”  Mark 2:17

You may say, “Well, did God not endow us with a free will?”19 I reply: To be sure, he gave you a free will. But why do you want to make it your own will? Why not let it remain free? If you do with it whatever you will, it is not a free will, but your own will. God did not give you or anyone else a will of your own. Your own will comes from the devil and from Adam, who transformed the free will received from God into his own. A free will does not want its own way but looks only to God’s will for direction. By so doing it then also remains free, untrammeled and unshackled.

The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”11 And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:

I had perceived—via God’s grace, not my own wit, surely—that since God is love, we must therefore love God and love whatever God loves; that if we turn to the divine Conductor and follow the wise and loving baton that is His will, His Word, then the music of our life will be a symphony.

Over the years, I have heard people argue over the concept of free will.  Some would say we have it, others would simply say we don’t, that God is not only responsible for all of our actions, but He chooses what we will do, in every moment.  I’ve heard it blamed for our sinful choices, and for the temptations that we tried to avoid, but gave into and sinned.  Somehow people think because God gave us the ability to decide to wreck out lives, He is responsible for their breaking.

Until reading Luther this morning, I never conceived of the idea that free will could mean that it is not “our will”; not “my will” or “your will”, but the ability to simply have a will that is free, and therefore can be influenced by God,  A will that Kreeft describes himself realizing that God is love, and therefore we should resonate with His love, and love what He loves.  The power of free will then, is not aligning it to our own desires, but letting it be guided, let it resonate with the will of God.

After all, isn’t that the invitation Jesus came to deliver?  That those of us who are sinners, will be freed from sin, able to walk with Him?

That is why we train people in the faith; why we make disciples, not converts; why we catechize, answering the real questions of faith, rather than indoctrinate.

It’s not to force one’s will to be Christ’s, it is to help people see that their will, their Spirit, once clean of all sin of all injustice, resonates with Jesus.  For we were made in God’s image, and the Spirit causes us to realize this, as we realize the love of God.

This resonance is why salvation, realizing God has removed dampen and distort our lives, is so joyous. A guitar or violin string doesn’t have to be forced to sound, a similar string resonating brings its movement and sound.  Just as the word of God resonates with a truly “free will” creating joy where it resounds.

Heavenly Father, please, once again, send the Holy Spirit to remove all that would distort and dampen the will the Holy Spirit has restored.  In Jesus’ name!  Amen!

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 48

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 107..

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 16.

Do You Really Have Faith in God? Do I?

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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
25  Whenever you stand up to pray, you must forgive what others have done to you. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins.  Mark 11:25 (CEV) 

12  God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. 13  Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. 14  Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together. Colossians 3:12-14 (CEV)

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

In the second place, this petition mortifies us through other people who antagonize us, assail us, disquiet us, and oppose our will in every way, who mock not only our worldly actions but also our good spiritual works, such as our prayers, our fasting, our acts of kindness, who, in brief, are never at peace with us. O what a priceless blessing this is! We should really pay such assailants all our goods, for they are the ones who fulfil this petition in us. They are the ones through whom God breaks our will so that his will may be done. This is why Christ says in Matthew 5 [:25], “Make friends quickly with your accuser.” That is, we must surrender our will and accept our adversary’s will as good, for in that way our will is broken. In the breaking of our will God’s will is done; for he wants to see our will hindered and broken.

The Letter of St. James notes that we should demonstrate our faith in our works.  That is not always easy!  Especially when it comes to demonstrating our trust in God when it comes to the adversaries, enemies, and jackasses we have to deal with in everyday life.

The Catholics have it right when they say sin originates in letting our trust in God die in our hearts. It is then, as we turn our back on the Holy Spirit that we take power into our own hands, and do what God says not to do.

Like seek revenge, or curse those who oppose us, or simply forget they were created by God, and treat them without the love and respect the children of God should receive.

We have to trust, when people oppose us, that God is doing what He has promised to do, that all things, even the opposition, will work for good.  As Luther notes, God may be using them to break our will, so that His will may be done. Whether they realize this or not, we should be thankful to God.

That is why we can forgive them, realizing that their actions are actually blessings.  That they show God’s love for us, although in ways that are pretty frustrating, and yes, humbling.  We must realize that God is behind it. We must realize that His love is manifested in what these people are doing, saying, thinking.  God’s will is being done, not theirs, and definitely not ours.

This is why St. Paul’s advice to “Put up with each other” and “forgive anyone who does you wrong” is preceded by words reminding us of the FACT that God loves us, and chose us to be His own   That must come first, the relationship, the love that matters more than anything else. The love of Christ, that poured our in water and blood, the love that unites us all, cleansing us of ALL sin.  Binding us together.  Demonstrating how faithful God is to us, and how He, in His love, empowers our ability to look to Him, depend on Him, have faith in Him, even while persecuted…

Lord, we have faith in You, help us to have faith!
Lord, Have mercy on me, a sinner! 

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 100.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 44–45.

God’s Awkward Love…. for us

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Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional Thoughts for the Day

Please, LORD, remember, you have always been patient and kind. 7 Forget each wrong I did when I was young. Show how truly kind you are and remember me. 8 You are honest and merciful, and you teach sinners how to follow your path. Psalm 25:6-8  CEV

To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

In the second place, righteousness consists of this, that having known and judged ourselves, we do not despair before God’s judgment seat, before which we plead guilty in this petition, but that we seek refuge in God’s mercy and firmly trust that he will deliver us from our disobedience to his will

Yes, beloved believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has mounted to the topmost heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the bosom of our Lord, and we have no more questioned our Master’s affection to us than John did when in that blessed posture; nay, nor so much: for the dark question, “Lord, is it I that shall betray thee?” has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of his mouth, and killed our doubts by the closeness of his embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls.

I struggled with including the last sentence of the quote from Spurgeon.  It is awkward-sounding, extremely awkward-sounding to my ears, and I wondered how people would take it. But after delaying writing this devotion for an hour or so, I decided it needs to stay, but the journey towards it has to be taken, so be patient, and I will explain why.

First, let’s go up to the quote from the Roman Catholic Catechism and the definition of sin.  Sin isn’t about breaking the rules, not really.  As the Catechism points out, it can only be defined in view of the relationship between man and God.  It is a betrayal of the worse kind, a complete discounting of the relationship God desires with us. It calls to mind the pain of Judas’s kiss, that greeting when we calmly indicate God isn’t wanted in our lives, unless He plays by our rules, and takes on the form of the obedient servant.  (which we sometimes think is what He wants – but again – that isn’t what He set up!) Rome is right, we all to often embrace the weight of sin, and the misery it causes, and has caused throughout history.

Luther’s words provide a nice response to that. The first step, judge yourself and plead guilty of sins.  Second Step, do so with the vision of being cleansed clear in your mind, seeking refuge in God’s mercy.  Step three, depend on God that He will, no He has delivered us from this body, dead in sin.

But this is by no means a clinical process, a procedure that can be followed step by step, simply reciting some prayers we don’t hear the words of, as we’ve said them too many times. We need to think about the damage we’ve done, the pain we’ve caused, the grief, not to punish ourselves more, but to appreciate what God does, when He forgives those sins.  I like how the CEV translates Psalm 25, full of that confidence, yet with the childlike wonder that asks the impossible, knowing God our Father will make it happen.

WHich is where Spurgeon’s awkward passage comes in, where we are so distraught by our sin, that Jesus has to hold us and assure us that He is putting that sin far away from us, and the thoughts about it too.   Embracing us, not with sensuality, but with the intimate tenderness that puts an end to our distress.  Embracing us in a way that counter’s Judas’s kiss.

Yes it is awkwardly written, for us who live in a different time, and culture. Then again, it is awkward going up to someone you betrayed, and asking them if they can make it right, if they can forgive, and forget, and heal the brokenness that we caused.  Awkward, completely awkward.  Horribly awkward.

Confession has to be awkward, but even more awkward is the forgiveness that follows..And the assurance of God’s love, which we broken people need!.

And we need to hear His voice telling us we are forgiven, we are loved, and He will be with us… until He brings us home.

That’s awkward, and we need it… and He provides it.

To God be the glory, for great things He has done!

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 97.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 43.

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

Luther, what are you talking about? Don’t seek heaven? HUH???

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought for our Day:

8 I also want them to build a special place where I can live among my people.  Ex. 25:8

19 Don’t stay far away, LORD! My strength comes from you, so hurry and help!  Psalm 22:19 CEV

Our life should not be directed toward our own advantage, not even to our salvation or any blessing, whether temporal or eternal, unless all of this ultimately leads to God’s honor and praise.

The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.

579    Faith. It’s a pity to see how frequently many Christians have it on their lips and yet how sparingly they put it into their actions. You would think it a virtue to be preached only, and not one to be practiced.

As I was doing my devotional reading this morning, I first came across the reading from Luther, and I was stung by the idea that my life shouldn’t be focused on the advantage I have for how I will spend eternity.

After all, isn’t that why we are Christians so that we don’t end up in hell?

Isn’t that reward what we are after?

And then I came up against the question of evil, and the answer that I know to be true, but it does not, in any means, satisfy my questions. Nice job explaining the theology, but where is the comfort I need, when dealing with this broken world?

St. Josemaria brings the lesson home for me, as he reminds me that faith in God is not supposed to be just preached, but something that only exists when practiced. I can talk all I want about depending on God, about believing He is there, about trusting in His provision and protection, but I have to do so, if my words are going to be anything. If I don’t actually believe, if I don’t put my trust in God and what He has promised, all the theological discourses mean nothing.

I have to realize the truth of Exodus 25, that God wants a place to dwell with us, that He wants to have a part (a major part) in our lives, both now and eternally. That is why I don’t seek heaven for my sake, heaven’s promise is worthless except for one thing, we will be with God. That is faith, that is depending, not just on the promises of no more tears and no more sorrow, but that He will be ours, and we His.  That is what He glories in, that is what is His mission, that is why all that was created, was created.

It works in the reading from Psalm 29, in the midst of the pain, David doesn’t seek relief, he seeks the presence of God. For knowing God is here, endurance is no longer the question, nor is the suffering.  Evil, with all of its ability to crush us, and sin’s power to torment, and the questions both raise, fall aside when we are exploring the breadth and width, the depth and height of God’s love, revealed in Christ Jesus.

Heaven?  Angels, and streets of God? Earth? Troubles and tribulations?

Does either matter, is either noticeable when we are dancing with God?

I think this is what the greatest of the faithful have realized. Not their own might or own strength did they endure. They simply knew He was with them.

Lord, help us to realize You are with us… and help us to desire You more than anything else… AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 36.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 84.

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

 

 

Please! Stop Trying to Be Holy!

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Devotional Thoughts for the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiness will be taken care of, He promises.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 29.

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

Please! Please! Don’t let this happen!

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Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 25–26.

Our Need for Contemplation…

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

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

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

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

that we to often choose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Lord is with you…

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

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

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 13.

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