Category Archives: The Forge

Includes citations from The Forge by St. Josemaria Escriva

The Battle for Spiritual Growth….is Not What it Seems…


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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:
12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.      Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.    Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)

223      Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.

For decades I think we’ve bought into an idea of spiritual growth that is both childish, and damaging. It begins with telling stories of the great people that precede us in the faith as if they were perfect, as if they had no faults, as if they weren’t broken.

King David was perfect, and not an adulterer and murderer.  St Paul was a theologian par excellence, without a doubt or any struggle with sin. ( I can even find commentaries that say the above quote from Romans was St. Paul talking about prior to his conversion! )  We will whitewash Luther’s bi-polar nature, or Mother Theresa’s dealing with both depression.  We do this all the time, even with the modern folks we believe will be the next generation’s heroes of the faith.

That idea seems to be revealed for what it is, immature at best and perhaps deliberately misleading.

Paul struggled with sin, he realized that he had to battle for what was his in Christ, not to achieve it, but to receive it, to believe in, to depend on it. Even when our heart is trying to get us to focus on our sin, on our failures, on our spiritual growth not being as great as it should be.

St. Josemaria describes in a way that resonates with me, that there are times where we are going backwards, rather than forwards, that things are getting worse rather than better.  I resemble this at times, more often that I want to admit.

Which makes it challenging, because my mind will then move to why be a pastor, if I can’t grow deeper in faith myself?

Evaluating our spiritual growth is good, if we understand what spiritual growth is, what it really looks like, how it is measured.

The struggle with our sinfulness is part of it, we should never become complacent with our sin.  It shouldn’t haunt us, for Christ has won the victory over it, but we shouldn’t become complacent either. Our sin still needs to irritate us, disgust us, make us uncomfortable.

Not so we hide from God, but that we depend upon Him to purge that sin from us, that He would transform us.  Growth that has as its goal that we would treasure His love and mercy more than we treasure the sin.

This is growth, this battle, this fight, a growth which seems unending, but it will end. He has promised and He is faithful.  As He hangs on to us, we learn to hang on to Him.

May we be transparent enough with the generations that follow us, that they clearly see our trusting in God, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when we think we don’t deserve His mercy and love.

For then they will know this growth as well.. and not be as dismayed when Satan assails them.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 959-964). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Blessing of Knowing You’ve Screwed up!


DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day”
6  If, then, we say that we have fellowship with him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions. 7  But if we live in the light—just as he is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. 8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9  But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:6-10 (TEV)

187      If your mistakes make you more humble, if they make you reach out more urgently for God’s helping hand, then they are a road to sanctity: Felix culpa!—O happy fault!, the Church sings.  (1)

Every once in a while, I get to help people reconcile with other people. During some of the conversations along the way, one of the two parties might indicate that the fault belongs only to one side of the fight.Usually, this is with one side taking all the blame, but on occasion, it will be laid all a the feet of their opposition.

Normally, the only time one side of the argument is completely right is when one side is God.

But even with God, people will play the game most call hypocrisy, where they indicate it isn’t really a fault that is theirs.  I’ve seen people (and my own thoughts/actions) trying to avoid recognizing the fault/sin/brokenness.  We can pretend to be in denial, we can try justify ourselves, we might even go on the offensive and get distracted by other people’s sins.

Bout ours still lie there, eating at us, causing damage to relationships. eroding the value we place on those relationships, even our relationship with God.

For if we hide in the sin, if we bury it and refuse to acknowledge it, we turn our back on God and those we love.  This is what the Apostle John is writing about – that if we refuse to confess our sins, if we refuse to trust in God, then we set ourselves apart from Him, and we ignore his love and mercy and care.

This is where St Josemaria’s words come into play.  The humility it takes to know the brokenness that sin causes is easily taken care of by God.

Humility, acknowledging the reality, not hiding from it, nor running from the responsibility, not pretending anymore, but just going yes, I screwed up, and realizing in that moment that God has already planned to take care of it.

What a glorious revelation!  One we couldn’t know unless if was for the fault, and for honestly, humbly, coming to the realization that we are sinners, and that God isn’t going to get rid of us because of it.

He will deal with it, He’s planned to!

Let’s stop hiding, let’s confess our sins, and rejoice!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 853-855). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Limited Faith? Who Set its Boundaries?


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Devotional Thought of the Day:
11  And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. 12  I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. 13  I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. Philippians 4:11-13 (TEV)

117      “What do I have to do to maintain my love for God and make it increase?” you asked me, fired with enthusiasm. Leave the “old man” behind, my son, and cheerfully give up things which are good in themselves but hinder your detachment from your ego… You have to repeat constantly and with deeds, “Here I am, Lord, ready to do whatever you want.”  (1)

e need to stopIt is rare these days for pe]eople to ask how to grow stronger in their faith.  I am not sure whether that is good or bad. Some might not care to grow, some might be afraid to grow.  While others are growing, their faith being stretched like taffy, or a balloon expanding so fast that you wonder if it will burst.

There is a secret to this growth, a need for freedom from things that tether us down, box us in, that define the boundaries that we think define us, but in reality simply constrain us, and eventually choke out our faith.

Let me give you an example.  As a young man wanting to be a pastor, I set a boundary on where I would serve.  I asked God to send me anywhere, except for the desert. I narrowed the scope of my vision, and I would come to realize that the people in that desert needed the comfort and peace, the contentment that only comes from when you realize you live in the presence of God. (Yes, my first three churches I served were in the desert – and I needed to be there more than the people needed me)

I still occasionally do that, narrowing down where I will serve, or to whom I would “allow” God to send me.  God, you couldn’t have me in that kind of position, or ministering in that kind of church.  God you couldn’t use someone like me like that, etc.

And so do you.

We need to stop setting boundaries, we need to stop tying ourselves down, tethering ourselves to things that stop us from growing in our faith.  St Josemaria considers that might even include good things that hinder our detachment.  Things our ego depends upon to identify us as individuals, and therefore stop us from trusting that God knows what He is doing.

For growth, maturity in the faith is not confidence in ourselves, it is confidence in God, a deepening sense of contentment.  Whether it means we have to go without, or we have to learn to deal with having more than we need.  ( I know some of us find that harder to deal with! ) Spiritual growth is the abandonment of self, assured that God will develop what in us, and dependent on His promises.

Whatever He wants, where ever He wants, however long He wants; depending on the presence of Jesus, the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit

This is faith, a faith that grow and be stretched, a faith without boundaries, a faith that grows significantly, because God causes the increase.

AMEN!!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria.   The Forge (Kindle Locations 614-617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dwelling in Jesus…is more incredible that we can know (for now)


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

97      Renew each day the effective desire to empty yourself, to deny yourself, to forget yourself, to walk in novitiate census, with a new life, exchanging this misery of ours for all the hidden and eternal grandeur of God.  (1)

Since teaching through Colossians a couple of years ago, these words in red above seem to resonate with me more and more.  I have written about them before, and will probably do so again. 

I think they are critical for us to understand, this idea of our “real life”, a life which seems hidden, a life which is easily overlooked and forgotten, a life that is found at the throne of God.

THat’s where we belong, it is our eternal life.  The life that began when God circumcised our hearts, cutting away the sin and unrighteousness as He baptized us.  That was the conversation in the previous chapter in St. Paul’s letter to these saints.

But in chapter 3 he gets to the impact of that cleansing, the difference it makes in our lives today, and every day that will come.  He talks of our eternal life as our real life, our reality.    He urges us to set our hearts on this dance with God the Father, Son and Spirit.  The dance we’ve been invited too, and see glimpses of, even if our mind cannot clearly picture it.

If our mind cannot, our hearts and soul can be set on this.  For our hearts are better at knowing we are loved, knowing we are forgiven, and being able to accept the mysteries that our minds can’t fathom.

But as our hearts settle there, we dwell in the peace of God, we lose ourselves, yet find our life in Jesus.  For everything changes, from our priorities, to our relationships, from what we “need” to how we view those around us.

So today, think about the glory of heaven and come to realize with your heart that not only do you have a place there… you are already in His presence… 

and rejoice in that peace!

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 556-558). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Delayed Gratification and the Missio Dei.


dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the day:

9  The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 10  The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up. 11  Since everything is coming to an end like this, what holy and saintly lives you should be living! 2 Peter 3:9-11 (NJB)

48      It would be good if it could be said of you that the distinguishing feature of your life was “loving God’s Will”.

Most of us go through life, living day to day.  Because of that we give little thought to tomorrow, or next week, or eternity.

We want everything now, and the struggle ( noted 30 years ago by M Scott Peck ) with delayed gratification has only become worse.  We can’t wait months anymore, sometimes we can’t wait hours.

SO how can we understand a God who will be patient for decades with us, who will be patient for millennia with humanity?  How can we understand the patience that is born of a desire to have us realize we are His people?

For that is His desire, that we realize the Jesus died, not just to separate us from our guilt and shame, but so free of it that we spend time with our God who is holy and righteous, who wants to care for our children. God is patient, hoping we understand His desire to call us His friends.

If this realization was the distinguishing feature of our life, and of our lives together, how incredible our lives would be!  How we would consecrate ourselves to His mission, to the vocation of the apostolate – realizing we are sent, whether we work in a church, or at Best Buy or running a country, to see this desire of God fulfilled.   Whether it is a friend we are sent to , or a homeless person, or a corporate CEO/COO.  It doesn’t matter. God desires to see all His friends at His table.  All of them.

Eternity is the goal, an eternity spent in the most loving relationship there is, eternity spent free of pain, of guilt, of shame, and eternal life.

So think about tomorrow…. and God’s desire for it… and watch your life change!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 402-403). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Don’t Waste a Monday: It can be glorious!


Sunrise at Concordia

Devotional Thought fo the Day”
1  So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2  For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?
Hebrews 2:1-3 (NLT)

7      A day of salvation, of eternity, has come for us. Once again the call of the Divine Shepherd can be heard, those affectionate words: Vocavi te nomine tuo—I have called you by your name. Just like our mother, he calls us by our name, even by the name we were affectionately called at home. There, in the depths of our soul, he calls us and we just have to answer: Ecce ego quia vocasti me—here I am, for you have called me, and this time I’m determined not to let time flow by like water over rounded stones, leaving no trace behind. (1)

It is Monday morning, and the temptation is to simply outlast the day.  To go through work and life on some kind of automatic pilot, to ignore the boredom, or monotony, to survive the stress and anxiety it causes.TO just moan about the impact of the time change and on top of it, the normal Monday grind.  We can, to use the phrase from St Josemaria – just let Monday pass us by, without leaving any trace…

There is an option.

We can hear His voice.   We can hear Him call our name, and transform our Monday into something greater, a journey with our friend, the Lord who loves us and cares for us. Hearing His voice, letting it resonate within us, makes Mondays (and everyday ) a time of awe, a time where His work leaves us breathless, as He transforms everything around us.  On Mondays we have the opportunity to radiate His glory, to share in His mission, to realize as Jesus was sent by the Father, so He has sent us.

For while He has saved us for eternity, He has also sent us back into this world to help save it, as we journey through life with Him.

Why would it make sense to waste this?  Do we value our life in CHirst so little that we would rather walk into the darkness without being by His side?

Or would we rather see this as another day for salvation, another chance to see the masterpieces God creates as He calls to others through us?

May we not neglect this day, and the Lord who calls to us in it!

AMEN!

(1)Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 257-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Forging the faithful… and standing the heat…. Words of Encouragement for those who serve God’s treasured people


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the day:

28  So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me. Colossians 1:28 (Phillips NT)

12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.
Ephesians 4:12-13 (TEV)

There was a mother who, like all mothers, was passionately fond of her little child, whom she called her prince, her king, her treasure, her very sun. I thought of you. And I understood —for what father does not carry deep inside some maternal feelings?— that it was no exaggeration for that good mother to say: you are more than a treasure, you are worth more than the sun itself: you are worth all Christ’s Blood! How can I fail to take up your soul —pure gold— and place it in the forge, and fashion it with fire and hammer, until that gold nugget is turned into a splendid jewel to be offered to my God, to your God?

I was talking to another person in ministry this week, and we were talking about how to encourage young people to make the sacrifices of entering the ministry.  Within the context was also the discussion of the sacrifices we make to serve others. One of the sacrifices you might realize as you read the words in blue above.

If we are to be the instruments that which the Holy Spirit uses to “forge” people, to shape and mold them as we teach them and administer the sacraments, that weans we have to deal with the heat as well. Using more Lutheran terminology, you can’t preach Law and Gospel without hearing it yourself.  For that is how St Josemaria’s forge works, as we are purified and fashioned for the life God has planned for us – to be there for them.

Yet if we spend time at the forge, we have to be there in the heat, we have to hold on, and care for those God gives us to care for, to be there with the fire and the hammer, to work despite the heat, despite how it zaps our strength, despite their sweat and tears (and even the stubborn refusal to bend to God’s will)

Over 20 years of preaching in jails and churches, spending time at bedside and with those who are ill and dying, this is what ministry has taught me.  It is those moments where the heat is the hottest that I remember – not for the pain, but for incredible beauty that appears as the Holy Spirit transforms them, as the Spirit revitalizes them and reveals in them the image of God in which they were created, which was marred and broken by sin.

And being in the heat – you get to witness this, you get to see it. You get to look to God and say – I see what you did there, Oh my, how holy!  How they shine because of Your care, your mercy and love!  How they reflect your glory!  As we see this, the heat is forgotten, the Lord and His beloved children are all our mind can focus upon. It is an incredible blessing to see, more than any discomfort, far worth the sweat and the tears…

Miraculously something else happens, those of us who serve as tools, who endure the heat for others, realize the same heat that transformed them, is why we are able to bear the heat, because we too have been transformed and tempered as well.  While sometimes we think we are not made for this work, God turns our lives into masterpieces as well.

Praise God for the heat of His forge, and the work He gives us…. for it is an incredible thing to have a small part in, as He uses us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 226-231). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Politics, Hard Decisions, and our Faith


Devotional Thought fo the day:

 But these men pressed the king. “Keep in mind, O king,” they said, “that under the law of the Medes and Persians every royal prohibition or decree is irrevocable.” 17 So the king ordered Daniel to be brought and cast into the lions’ den.* To Daniel he said, “Your God, whom you serve so constantly, must save you.” 18 To forestall any tampering, the king sealed with his own ring and the rings of the lords the stone that had been brought to block the opening of the den.
19 Then the king returned to his palace for the night; he refused to eat and he dismissed the entertainers. Since sleep was impossible for him, 20 the king rose very early the next morning and hastened to the lions’ den. 21 As he drew near, he cried out to Daniel sorrowfully, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve so constantly been able to save you from the lions?” 22 Daniel answered the king: “O king, live forever! 23 My God sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not hurt me.b For I have been found innocent before him; neither have I done you any harm, O king!” 24 This gave the king great joy. At his order Daniel was brought up from the den; he was found to be unharmed because he trusted in his God.  NABRE, Dan 6:16–24

509      To be able to judge with rectitude of intention what is needed is a pure heart, zeal for the things of God and love of souls, free from prejudices. Think about it!  (1)

I will admit – I don’t have the purity of heart, and not enough zeal for the things of God, and while I try to love souls, there are days this isn’t an option.

If we were back in the days of Darius and Daniel, I can hear the FB and Twitter comments blasting this King, trying to force him to release Daniel, calling him names, and crucifying him in the media for doing what he did. Or the opposite – for not dealing with Daniel severely enough.

They didn’t see his sleepless night, his mourning, His brokenness.

If we were there, we would see someone in power doing that which we know he should not have done.

His heart wouldn’t have mattered, only his actions. His only hope was in the God Daniel trusted, only then could the king know peace.  He wasn’t Darius’s God, yet.  Darius would praise him, indeed, order his entire country to praise the God of Daniel 

26 Then King Darius wrote to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on the earth: “May your peace abound! 27 I decree that throughout my royal domain the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared:

“For he is the living God, enduring forever, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed, whose dominion shall be without end, 8 A savior and deliverer, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who saved Daniel from the lions’ power.” NABRE Dan 6:26-28

This is a lesson for us, for our tendency to judge before we know; before we see the big picture, and the heart of the man in authority  Before we realize that God is at work, as promised>  We need to pray for our leaders, for the decisions they have to make, that they may not want to make.  Even the decisions we disagree with, and find evil in our view.

We can only do this if our faith is in God, even as Daniel’s trust was.  Only if we are convinced of His promises can we endure, or watch others endure their own lion’s den.  Its not our faith in the Darius, or even in the Daniel, it is God’s reliability we are talking about here…

The God who restores things that are broken, from governments ot leaders, to our own souls.

Trust Him, know He will deliver us… and be confident in His work in you.   DOing such will leave in you peace… free to love, to serve the Lord.  AMEN!

 

(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1938-1940). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Forgotten Furnace Prayer….Is One We Need to Guide our Worship/Liturgy!


Devotional Thought fo the Day:

26 “Blessed are you, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our ancestors, and glorious forever is your name. 27 For you are just in all you have done; all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right, and all your judgments proper. 28 You have executed proper judgments in all that you have brought upon us and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our ancestors. By a proper judgment you have done all this because of our sins; 29 For we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you, and we have done every kind of evil. 30 Your commandments  we have not heeded or observed, nor have we done as you ordered us for our good.  NABRE Daniel 3:26-30

481      Take a good look at the way you behave. You will see that you are full of faults that harm you and perhaps also those around you. Remember, my child, that microbes may be no less a menace than wild beasts. And you are cultivating those errors and those mistakes—just as bacteria are cultivated in a laboratory—with your lack of humility, with your lack of prayer, with your failure to fulfill your duty, with your lack of self-knowledge… Those tiny germs then spread everywhere.  (1)

Perhaps I had read the Bible passage in red as a child, as I grew up in the Catholic Church. I know I haven’t recently, for I usually use protestant (evangelical) translations of Scripture, which have a few differences in the Book of Daniel.  The passage has been there, and Luther quotes it several times. I have to admit, as I read it – I came to love it, it resonated deeply and pointed me to Jesus.

I find it remarkable, as the three men are sitting in a furnace, and they are heating it up, that they pray in this way.  Their prayer doesn’t start with calls for vengeance, or even a call for deliverance.  They aren’t calling God to blast their enemies.

It starts with their confession – and the acknowledgment that God has every right to punish them for how they turned their backs on Him.

In the midst of their trauma, in the midst of being tortured and persecuted, the three men turn to God and admit they are guilty, and God has every right to punish them. They even recognize that the commandments are for their good, to guide them in life that is lived well and full.

They didn’t obey; their people didn’t obey.

They deserved God’s judgment, and they recognized it.

So they turned to God, confessed their sins and depended upon His character, His mercy, His love.  Assured of His mercy, the second hymn will be a joyous song of praise – sung in the presence of the Son of God.

How we need this spirit to be replicated in us today.  That when oppressed or persecuted, when struggling we recognize that we deserve much worse, (this is our confession)  we are then encouraged to depend on the mercy of God to deliver us ( the sermon), and then have a celebration in the presence of the Son of God (isn’t this what communion really is?)

Rather than striking out at those we perceive to be our enemies.  Rather than calling down God’s wrath upon them, rather than trying to justify ourselves, what if our first reaction was to pray that we be forgiven.  What kind of joy would come from this?  What sense of serenity found in Christ Jesus?   To be rid of the germs our guilt and shame, and the beam that blocks the vision.

What an incredible prayer (I highly suggest reading the entire thing) What an incredible statement of dependence on God, and the effect of it on life.

May we learn to pray and worship this way…even in the midst of the fire…

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1834-1838). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

I Don’t Think This Scripture Meant What You Thought it Meant! Jer 29:11


Devotional Thought of the Day

11 For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. 12 When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. 13 When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me—oracle of the LORD—and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you—oracle of the LORD—and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you.   NABRE Jeremiah 29:11-14

386      You lack faith… and you lack love. Were it not so you would go immediately and much more often to Jesus, asking for this thing and that. Don’t delay any further; call out to him and you will hear Christ speaking to you: “What do you want me to do for you?” Just as when he stopped for that poor blind man by the roadside who continued to insist, without giving up. (1)

Verse 11 of Jeremiah 29 is well known.  You see it placed on coffee cups and t-shirts, on various memes and on cards that are sent to people going through tough times.  It is used by pastors and priests to bring comfort, and yes hope to people going through challenges and enduring hardships.

We’ll memorize it, but do we always remember the context?

It is in the middle of a call to repentance, in the middle of Jeremiah’s prophecies about the pain and suffering Israel would endure, because their people followed their own desires.  Because they listened to prophets who gave them false hope. Who told them what they wanted to hear, and so they placed their hope in these men.

Sort of like those today, who maintain that all will be right, that we will be restored to greatness, if only this candidate or that wins an election.  Or if only this or that is done, or only if…only if…

But don’t touch OUR sin.  Don’t challenge us to repent.  Don’t bring up the fact that we need to love our enemies and pray for those who oppress us.

You see, when you finish with the promise of verse 11, you see verse 12, and a cry to come and deliver us.  A cry and another promise, God will listen, He will hear your cry!  He will change things, heal that is wounded, restore that which is broken.  He will create in you a new creation, a creation with a future and a hope.

When the people of God seek God their Father, they will find Him (for it is to believers this is written)  He won’t reject us, He won’t crush us because we sinned and rebelled.

This passage offering a future and a hope is far more powerful a promise, far more a comfort than we think.  For it brings a hope, a blessed expectation, not just to those who are innocent victims of circumstance, not just to those oppressed and poor.  Surely they hope, but this is written to those broken apart, crushed by their own sin. It is written to those of us who do not deserve a future and a hope, but God promises us a future and hope as well.

That is why this passage is far more powerful than we usually think it is.It applies to those who are struggling with their own sin, who don’t believe God could ever care.  To the addict, or the prostitute, to the mobster and the gang-banger, to the politician and to you and I.

It’s time to claim the promise, to let God reconcile you and I to Him.  It’s time to cry our,and keep crying out, depending on a God who came to bring us home.

He is listening, He is with you!

My friend, He has promised this as well, that His peace, which goes beyond our ability to comprehend is your, and that He will keep your heart and mind safe in that peace.

AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1511-1515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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