Category Archives: The Forge
Includes citations from The Forge by St. Josemaria Escriva
Devotional Thought of the Day
34 Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. 35 This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.” Matthew 13:34-35 (NLT)
After a brief pause, Jack said, “Explain yourself. I’m willing to hear you out.”
“Okay,” I said, “but to explain myself I have to tell you a story.” I sensed a puzzlement on his part, so I quickly added, “All spiritualities are based on a story. You have to know the story of a particular religion to understand its spirituality.”
This statement aroused the curiosity of everyone. “Tell the story,” said Jack. “Maybe I don’t know the story; as a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Christianity told as a story.”
“Okay,” I responded, “but I have to tell you I can’t prove the story.”1
“I like that! I don’t like it when religious people try to prove their faith. Just the fact that you say that we shouldn’t try to prove the story with history and science makes me want to listen.”
899 The children of God are present and give witness in the world to draw others, not to be drawn by them. They should spread their own atmosphere, the atmosphere of Christ, not let themselves be won over by a different atmosphere.
One of the hardest lessons to learn in preaching is that it is very different from teaching, very different from teaching, very different from giving a lecture.
The goal isn’t merely to impart knowledge and information, but to draw someone into a relationship, to draw someone into the story, to reveal to them that they have a part, a role, and are wanted. (This is true not only about the sermon but about any time we bear witness to Jesus, that we share His love with others)
This is profoundly different than the way I was taught in the early days, in classes like Expository Preaching and Homiletics. I have written similarly before on apologetics, that the idea is not to win a case, to convince someone to judge Christianity right based on the proof I present.
We simply need to tell the story, to tell it so well the people are drawn into their place in the story,
This is why the post-modern sermon needs to be transparent, that the messenger be willing to tell his portion of the story transparently, the brokenness, the sin and shame (though not in great detail) the hopelessness that exists when we take our eyes off of Jesus, and His continual drawing us back, and the peace that comes when we see Him again. For if they know God can help us, then we are writing on their hearts the word of the story, the “God so loved (me)”, the “body broken/blood shed for (me).
I would assert that teaching the Bible without making the connection to the listener is not preaching, it is not bearing witness to Jesus. It is simply giving people, overloaded with facts, more facts to deal with intellectually. It appeals to their baser instinct, that they are the judge of reality. But they aren’t the judges, they are not just interested observers. So why preach to them if they were. Telling them the story involves them, it helps reveal to them that they aren’t observers and judges, but part of the story.
This takes the objective truth of salvation and helps it become subjective as well. It takes the historical information stored in our minds and makes it meaningful to our heart and soul.
This is the mystery that has been revealed, that which has been hidden from the beginning of the world. The mystery of God and His people, the people He makes His own, the mystery of how you and I, broken by our sin and the sin of the world, are picked up, healed, brought home.
That is preaching, that is bearing witness to God’s love, that is giving people what God wants them to comprehend.
Tell me the story, write on my heart every word, tell me the story of Jesus (and us), greatest that every was heard.
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3181-3182). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion Thought of the Day:
35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News about the kingdom, and healing all kinds of diseases and sicknesses. 36 When he saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them because they were hurting and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Jesus said to his followers, “There are many people to harvest but only a few workers to help harvest them. 38 Pray to the Lord, who owns the harvest, that he will send more workers to gather his harvest.” Matt 9:35-48 NCV.
Finally, I use these biblical, ancient roots together with insights and practices from Christian history to constitute the foundation for addressing the third issue faced by today’s church: how do you deliver the authentic faith and great wisdom of the past into the new cultural situation of the twenty-first century? The way into the future, I argue, is not an innovative new start for the church; rather, the road to the future runs through the past.
These three matters—roots, connection, and authenticity in a changing world—will help us to maintain continuity with historic Christianity as the church moves forward. I hope what I cull from the past and then translate and adapt into the present will be beneficial to your ministry in the new cultural situation of our time.
858 The first step towards bringing others to the ways of Christ is for them to see you happy and serene, sure in your advance towards God.
In my “different” (some would say twisted) experience in the church, more than once I have come across those who are focused on Church Growth. Originally, church growth theory came from those who saw abundant numbers of conversions on the mission field, and sought to replicate it now that they were “back home”. Now church growth is more affected by statisticians and pollsters, men who observe and make judgments based on what they see, trying to replicate what worked in Texas in Missouri, or what worked in Atlanta in San Diego and Boston.
And the cry today is not to grow the church because that doesn’t work! The idea today is that new starts, new missions, new ideas make the greatest difference, and therefore deserve the greatest talent and the greatest money.
Churches that are forty years old or older and are in decline? Give up on them, let them die the experts say. We’ve consulted with them, we’ve given them surveys and tests, we’ve tried to transform them, and they continue to dwindle. Just give up on them, merge them into bigger churches, sell their properties and use it to start new churches.
There is a greek technical term that describes such advice, taurus skubala! Translated into English, it is easily seen as bullcrap. ( I would type bullshit, but some people might be offended!)
The reason the experts, the consultants fail to transform churches is simple. They aren’t part of the community. They come in on a wing and a prayer, they don’t understand the dynamic of why God put a congregation in that place, ( see the dedication of the Solomon’s Temple for the reason) they try to create a vision where there already was a vision, where there has always been a vision.
And the community struggles to adopt its new identity. It isn’t them, it isn’t authentic, it’s an act. And sooner or later they give it up, and give up the hope that was given to it! They wander around like sheep without a shepherd, simply following what is in front of them, and the shepherds, tired and weary, plod on after them.
But what if the church went back to what it treasured, and from their roots, used what they treasured in Christ and allowed Him to transform them and the world. That was Webber’s plea, with his Ancient-Future Church series. That is what Escriva considered the Opus Dei – the very work of God.
We can shepherd people toward the God we know, that is our call in a new church plant or in a church that is 1700 years old. It is the work of the 80-year-old retired pastor caring for the inner city church that can’t afford a full-time guy; it’s the work of the 26-year-old, fresh from seminary. It is the work of the lay people, who are shepherded by their pastors and priests. For as we do our job, the people know the happiness and serenity that is found in the presence of God. There, in His glorious presence, they find all they need, and it is contagious.
Bring people to Jesus, show them His way, reveal to them His love through word and sacrament. That is how you apply the Bible to their lives. That is how you give them hope, bring them healing, teach them to love as they are loved.
This is what we’ve always done, though somehow we lost that in doing that. It is the reason for the liturgy, for the praises we sing, for our homilies and sermons, for the sacraments we invite people too, knowing that they can and do experience God as they are washed and absolved and fed. As they have always been. Whether they realised it or not, whether we realized it or not.
As we gather tomorrow, may we shepherd the people to Jesus… may they respond as they find healing, peace and joy, and may others come to see Him as well. AMEN!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3040-3041). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 (TEV)
49 Zain Keep in mind your promise to your servant on which I have built my hope. 50 It is my comfort in distress, that your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:49-50 (NJB)
579 There was a young priest who used to address Jesus with the words of the Apostles: Edissere nobis parabolam, explain the parable to us. He would add: Master, put into our souls the clarity of your teaching, so that it may never be absent from our lives and our works. And so that we can give it to others. You too should say this to Our Lord.
Maybe a year ago, a missionary friend of mine and I were talking about the balance of ministry. He had recently gone through a rough patch, and he realized that he had been so busy that he neglected what he was saved to be. He as neglecting his time with God.
It is far too easy, in this day when time demands all we have, and far more. Especially for those in ministry, whether in a congregation, on the mission field, or in preparing those who will minister in the classrooms of our colleges and seminaries. It is tempting to reduce our time with God to the study of His word for teaching others. After all, it is similar, it is similar motions, it is dealing with the same material.
Yet Jesus did the same things – and still went away to pray to the Father. He didn’t just count the sermon on the mount and preparing for it as His time with the Father. And he praised Mary for sitting at his feet, rather than serving those in her vocation as hostess.
There is a time for both. There is a need for both, but especially for our regular, deeply intimate time with God. A time where we ask Him to show us how to pray, a time where we ask Him to explain to us His teachings, where the Holy Spirit takes us to school in prayer, so that He permeates our very lives, and from that life, we can give it to others.
We need this time with Him. It is what underlies the basis of a sacramental approach to God. Otherwise, we could just replace the church with a classroom, we could make do even with the latest book or podcast, getting knowledge from others. I believe some churches have done this, diminishing prayer and worship, times of meditation and absolution for a longer exegetical sermon that may or may not mention Jesus, and may or may not bring comfort to broken hearts.
The gathering, the church service, the mass is a time of prayer, it is a time waiting on Jesus, listening to Him, seeing His love revealed and given to us, not just taught to us. Our times of prayer, of spending time contemplating and meditating on His word is similar. This is why the early Lutheran priests talked about prayer as a sacrament, it is why the ancient church fathers talked about how we pray is how we believe, and why the dedication of Solomon’s temple talked all about “when people pray”.
Spend time with God, talk, listen, ask for insight, ask to understand, that what you experience may be an integral part of your life, a delight, and that it may flow from you to others.
I pray that you see revealed and experience the peace of God which passes all understanding, and that found in the presence of Christ, you know He will keep your heart and mind safe in that peace. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2156-2159). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the day:
1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)
777 Yesterday I saw a picture which I liked immensely, a picture of Jesus lying dead. An angel was kissing his left hand with an inexpressible devotion. Another, at the Saviour’s feet, was holding a nail torn out of the Cross. In the foreground with his back to us there was a tubby little angel weeping as he gazed at Christ. I prayed to God that they would let me have the picture. It is beautiful. It breathes devotion. I was saddened to hear that they had shown it to a prospective buyer who had refused to take it, saying, “It’s a corpse!” To me, You will always be Life. (1)
Alas and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I? At the cross at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away! It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.
It’s been nearly twenty years since “the discussion.” One of my church members was quite irate. And to be honest, I struggled to understand her complaint, and why i couldn’t get through to her why the cross, more specifically, a picture of the Jesus on the cross was not blasphemous, but rather a source of great hope, a source of great peace and comfort.
St. Josemaria’s words that I came across in my devotion this morning reminded me of that day. The picture was simple, a picture of a Tau Cross ( the Greek Letter T being Tau) with Jesus body on it. The passage I was preaching on was the one above in red (and the chapter before which says “we preach Christ crucified“) and all the songs were ones like the one in green above. The Wondrous Cross, The Old Rugged Cross, At the Cross, there was a theme working, I wanted them to work through the idea that Christ died for all on that cross, and that He died for you… and for me.
Apparently not. For the dear lady thought I was being blasphemous, picturing Jesus as if he was still there, for we know He has risen I have in twenty years of ministry only twice seen someone more angry at me, and this just moments before church was to start, moments before we were to worship God, indeed for sending Jesus to die for us, and for the Holy Spirit uniting us to that cross.
The next twenty-four hours were hard, I questioned myself, both my theology and my ability to communicate it. In either case, the answer was perhaps found in my returning to work at a university, to giving up on ministry. An old retired pastor changed that thought process, he was wondrous in his support in those days to follow.
I still preach about Christ crucified, and if I ever stop, then I should leave the ministry. For as St. Josemaria describes it, where others see a corpse, I see life. It is beautiful, it speaks of Christ’s devotion to save us, a love so encompassing that He could embrace that cross for the joy set before Him. A love for sinners such as I.
In preaching about the cross, it has to include us, for owe were united to that death of Jesus there, as He hung there, as He paid for our sin, as He died to justify us,, cleanse us, and plant a seed of life in us. It is there that the Holy Spirit brings us in our baptism, so that having died with Him, we rise with Him.
Not as an analogy, but being raised to a glorious,, holy life, being reborn, recreated as the children of God. Being brought to repentance, transformation, being able to have faith in God and His promise. This is where our burdens are rolled away, our shame, our grief, our resentment, and pain. It is taken there, nailed there.
This is all there at the cross……this is given us as He died there. This is His cross, and it is ours, again the apostle Paul describes the power, of the cross, in our lives.
5 For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. 6 And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin.
Romans 6:5-6 (TEV)
.So think on the cross, picture Jesus there, know the power of His love, HIs devotion for you, and then love and devote yourself to Him, for that relationship is what He desired, and what He saved you for in the first place.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2787-2792). Scepter Publishers.
(2) Issac Whats, At The Cross – words in Public Domain
Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
John 21:15 (NLT)
499 We men don’t know how to show Jesus the gentle refinements of love that some poor, rough fellows—Christians all the same—show daily to some pitiful little creature (their wife, their child, their friend) who is as poor as they are. This truth should serve as a salutary shock to make us react. (1)
If we know this scene well, we know what preceded it was Simon diving out of a boat to go see Jesus. He’s seen him several times since the cross, in groups and at least one on one. Even so, in excitement, in a desire to be close to his Friend, his master, he dives out of the boat and swims to shore. Once again he leaves everything behind to be with Jesus.
The question will be repeated, without the tag phrase “more than these”. But that is what we need to think about this morning.
Do we love Jesus more than those in our life that we care for deeply?
Escriva mentions we know how to show that love to others around us, sinners just like us. We know how to show that love to our wives, our children, our parents, other family members, and friends.
But do you love Jesus more than them? And if you claim to love Him more, are you able to demonstrate it?
(just as a side note – you aren’t doing so to save yourself, or to prove you are saved..)
Or do we need to be shocked by this truth, that we can show our love for people, but struggle to show how deep our love is for Jesus.
Peter didn’t think he could. He struggled with this question, He struggled to move on from it. Jesus kept asking him, and he kept answering, Each time Peter uses a different word for love than Jesus. One that still is love, but not as intimate, not a love that abandons all. Peter is careful, perhaps because of his failure, his denial of Jesus.
Just like we deny Him, just like we struggle to show Him, love, just like we fail, and find ourselves broken by sin. We love God, but we know we should love Him more, deeper, with more commitment, fully abandoning ourselves into His care.
We need to hear Jesus’ reply, each time to Peter – as Jesus accepts Peter, as Jesus loves Peter, as Jesus shares His ministry, His reason for being here.
Care for my sheep. DO what matters to me most!
You see, Jesus could see Peter’s heart, we can as well. Peter three times in his life left the boats behind.
The first time, when Jesus told him he would make him a fisher of men
The second time,, to walk on water to Jesus, when all others were afraid. Peter asked to come, was told to, and did…
This time, when he realized it was Jesus on the shore…
He knew in his soul how to love Jesus. You do as well.
Run to Him as you need, allow Him to guide your walk through life, and care for the sheep He shares with you…..
You love Him because He loves you… and gives you life. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1907-1910). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion Thought fo the Day:
2 But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. 3 All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.
1 John 3:2-3 (MSG)
2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3 (ESV)
413 Each person in his own situation should lead a pure life, courageously lived. We have to learn to say No for the sake of that great Love, Love with a capital letter.
We hear the word used in church, or maybe we read it in scripture, We bypass it quickly, either not thinking about it or dismissing it as a foreign concept.
Pressed on the issue, we will probably define purity in a way that appeases our nature. We will dismiss it as impossible, we will justify our impurity by indicating such purity doesn’t save us, that the law of Moses which defined purity isn’t binding on us any longer. We will hide our desire for impurity behind theology, behind reason, behind whatever we think will cover it up. And we will accuse those who encourage/demand purity it of being pietistic and hypocritical. ( This is not to say that some who encourage and demand purity are pietistic and hypocritical, but we apply the mocking labels far too liberally!)
So let’s talk about it. is there a sense of purity that is neither hypocritical, but that we should strive to be? Is it possible to be concerned with our own state without submitting to a legalistic system of demands?
Of course! It is possible!
The problem is that our idea of purity is too narrow, it is focused on behaviors, what we do or do not do, and maybe what we say or don’t say, rather than on who we are.
Purity in Greek is related to the idea of holiness, of being set apart to a relationship with God. It is about who we are in God’s sight, in His eyes. It means living a life that is devoted to Him, that we strive to please the Lord who loves us, who is compassionate toward us, that is merciful.
Which means we strive to live life as He would desire. That when we fail and think, say or do things that are not pure, we immediately we turn to Him and let Him cleanse us once again. For God purifies us, He refines us. Purity is about being grieved by our sin enough that we desire that he care for us, about hearing His voice comforting us with the words of forgiveness, and encouraging us not to sin anymore.
Is this easy? No, it is much harder to seek forgiveness than it is to enjoy for a moment the sin. But it is needed.
This is what life really is, living in His presence, not anxious or afraid, but full of joy. It is about dwelling in peace, assured that our purity isn’t fake – because He is the one who is our model, and who makes us pure and holy.
Let’s not waste His work, let’s not run or hide from it,, but rejoice as His glistening purity becomes ours, as we dwell in Him.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1597-1598). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
20 He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? 21 It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” Luke 13:20-21 (NLT)
5 In coming to the other side of the sea, the disciples had forgotten to bring bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” ………11 How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:5-6,11-12 (NAB)
397 Don’t place obstacles in the way of grace. You need to be convinced that in order to be leaven you must become a saint, and must struggle to identify yourself with Him. (1)
The exquisite elites know how to pucker their noses when confronted with failure; they are scandalized. They prefer to set up models of the Church based on “common sense” rather than on the failure of the cross.
Being effective is not always a blessing. In fact, some of the most effective things in the world are deadly, those viral and bacterial infections that can run amok and kill or gravely would everyone that comes in contact with them.
The scriptures above show this as well, as two different things are compared to the idea of yeast or leaven. The Kingdom of God can be like that, as we see the church explode during the time of the apostles, and in certain parts of the world today. Growth that goes beyond anything pragmatic, that causes us to scramble to try and adjust our plans to compensate for the growth. Yet the other passage shows a negative form of leaven, that of the teachings and practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees, groups that promoted a very pragmatic approach to being the people of God.
Yet their very approach was an obstacle to grace, a way that blocked people from identifying themselves as God’s children, And they were very effective – so effective that they were able to kill God, even as they nailed Jesus to a cross.
St. Josemaria talks about effectiveness that arises out of faith, not of reason. That the leaven we need to become is found in our holiness, in our being set apart to God, It is found, as Francis says,, not in models set up in common sense, but in the failure of the cross. For drawn to the cross we find Jesus, that is where the Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus, binds us to His death and resurrection. That is where we are given gifts like repentance and faith, where we are declared God’s people, where we are cleansed. At the cross, we are infected/affected by His great love and mercy, and find ourselves set apart to Him. It is here we become infectious and spread the gospel simply by being in people’s lives.
Not a very pragmatic or reasoned approach, this dying and rising to life, this admitting our failure and our desperate need for God.
Yet it is how God would affect us, infect us, and see our effectiveness, as the Kingdom of God testifies not only to our presence but His presence in us.
Lord, help us see you on the cross, and know the depths of your mercy, and know you have risen, as it testifies to Your immeasurable love, and may our lives be effective, as we are united to You. Amen!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1548-1549). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 It is of the mysterious wisdom of God that we talk, the wisdom that was hidden, which God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. 8 None of the rulers of the age recognised it; for if they had recognised it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him; 10 to us, though, God has given revelation through the Spirit, for the Spirit explores the depths of everything, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NJB)
318 Place yourself before the Lord each day and tell him slowly and in all earnestness, like the man in the Gospel who was in such great need, Domine, ut videam! —Lord, that I may see!; that I may see what you expect from me, and struggle to be faithful to you. Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge
Yesterday they saw Jesus humiliated, they saw the results of the beatings, the interrogations, the whipping. They heard the crowd cry out, “Crucify Him”; whipped into a frenzy, a desire for blood that scared a Roman Governor to the point of submission.
They watched Him carry the beam, and then fall, and then when He wasn’t able to carry it any longer, they watched a stranger carry it for him. They didn’t volunteer, they didn’t go near Him. They rejected Him.
Just like we do at times.
But what did they do today? Where they so stunned they just sat behind locked doors? Did they spend time in prayer, as they had been taught? Did their fears and anxieties oppress them? Did their guilt complete the job, leaving them depressed and in despair?
What did they do?
I ask this because I think we live in a similar situation today. Jesus hasnt’ returned yet, and while we know scripture teaches it, while we know the prophecies and promises, there are days where it all seems like a nightmare, and the promises, well they are diminished by our grief, our pain, our anger, our denial. our guilt and shame. We live in this time, where our minds should remind us, but our hearts and souls are overwhelmed.
We need to see Jesus. As St. Josemaria advises we need to remember we are in HIs presence and ask Him to help us see that which we perceive. We need to let the Spirit reveal to us the depth of the wisdom of God, the wisdom that planned for our salvation, that planned to and did raise Jesus from the dead.
And with Him, we died and rise as well….
† Lord, have mercy upon us, and in these days when we are brought low, when we struggle to see Your face, open our eyes, remind us of your promises. We pray this in the name of the Father, † the Son, and the Holy Spirit, AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. 12 Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Psalm 51:10-12 (TEV)
326 Invoke the Holy Spirit in your examination of conscience so that you may get to know God better, and yourself also. In this way, you will be converted each day.
71 The old man therefore follows unchecked the inclinations of his nature if he is not restrained and suppressed by the power of Baptism. On the other hand, when we become Christians, the old man daily decreases until he is finally destroyed. This is what it means to plunge into Baptism and daily come forth again.
The words sound familiar, they have been part of the liturgy for centuries, They were sung over and over in the 80’s and 90’s, as they were one of the beloved praise songs.
Yet I wonder if we’ve forgotten the words, forgotten the consuming desire to be holy. We’ve forgotten the fear and the wonder which comes from finding ourselves on Holy Ground.
We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, not just so we can see miracles and manifestations that are supernatural, but because we need the Holy Spirit to make us Holy, to cut away the shame, the grief, the hatred, the anger to remove from our hearts the sin that so easily oppresses us and robs us of life.
This isn’t something that happens in the theological classroom, it happens in the midst of brokenness, as we realize that without the Holy Spirit’s intervention we are hopeless. It is the cry of a heart weary from injustice, from the weakness of our heart in regards to temptation.
It is both a cry of despair and a cry of that keenest faith. Despair because we realize what we’ve let fade away, and faith, because we know, to see our hope and joy restored.
The church needs this, each one of us who calls themselves a Christian, a follower of Christ needs this, More than just a quick prayer at the beginning of our services, or after a sermon that tugs on our heart strings. Escriva and Luther tie this into the work of the Holy Spirit, the promise of our Baptism (also see Titus 3:2-8), a work that goes on every day of our lives.
That is critical to know and understand – this work of transformation isn’t a simple snap of a finger, although the promises are ours. This is why Paul tells us to strive, to work out our salvation, why Peter warns us to be on guard because the Devil is wandering about trying to find someone to devour.
Even as I write this blog, names and faces come to mind, people who need to see the Spirit working in their life, bringing them to the point where they are cleansed, where they are healed of their brokenness, where they are comforted because the Holy Spirit is at work, overcoming their sin.
SO let us pray, asking God to renew our hearts, asking Him to cleanse us, asking Him to remind us of His presence.
And let us rejoice in our salvation!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1296-1297). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print. LARGE CATECHISM
Devotional Thought of the Day
24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:24-25 (NLT)
241 If the outlook in your interior life, in your soul, is darkened, allow yourself to be led along by the hand, as a blind man would do. In time the Lord will reward this humble surrendering of your own judgment by giving you clarity of mind. (1)
I took a class a year ago on the text of St John of the Cross’s spiritual classic called Dark Night of the Soul. It was a hard read, not because of the language, but because it opened parts of my life where I need to let the Holy Spirit bring comfort and peace, cleansing them and helping us find God. Yes, even there we can find Him.
As the Apostle Peter says, He is the Guardian of our souls.
In these days where everything seems broken, we need to understand that role that Jesus has in our lives. It doesn’t matter whether the brokenness that clouds our Mondays is global, national, in our community or our church, or simply in the depth of our heart and soul, He is there.
Despite our sin, despite the injustice that oppresses us. He is there.
It doesn’t matter if it is 2:30 AM, and we can’t sleep, or Monday morning when caffeine doesn’t seem to help us overcome our…. Mondayness.
He is there, guarding us, protecting us, providing for us, caring for us and bringing us the healing our souls so desperately cry out for, whether we allow them to do so audibly, or bury it and let it cry through our bodies.
He is there. He is caring for you, for me.
St Josemaria explains this using the idea of our being blinded – and there are times where surely I am spiritually. The spiritual equivalent to the wasteland of a Monday, where nothing makes sense, nothing motivates, nothing is hoped for or planned for in our lives. Where we might be in that wasteland, and so deprived of hope that we don’t care it is Monday. The key then is to allow Him to shepherd us, to guide our steps.
This is faith, the trust, the dependence on God. It requires knowing those promises He has made us, that nothing can separate us from Him, that He will complete the work He began in us, that He will never leave us, never forsake us.
Here He is, guarding our hearts, our minds, our souls. He is guiding us, and as we feel the warmth of His glorious mercy and love, we find peace….and hope.
Even on a dark, cloudy, Monday….
Lord, have mercy upon us, and reveal Your care and work as our guardian!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1021-1023). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.