Category Archives: The Forge

Includes citations from The Forge by St. Josemaria Escriva

The Necessary Ingredient of Heroism.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for our Days:

3  I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. Romans 12:3 (MSG)

821      Work with humility. I mean, count first on God’s blessings, which will not fail you. Then, on your good desires, on your work plans—and on your difficulties! Do not forget that among those difficulties you must always include your own lack of holiness. You will be a good instrument if every day you struggle to be better.

We are no different than the children who put on superhero costumes for Halloween.

There is a part of us that wants to be the best, at something, anything. 

Especially the idea that we are the best at what we do, whether it is a parent needing the hero for their kids, or being the superstar at work, the one everyone turns to, that everyone counts on, the person who is indispensable.   

We want to be the heroes

We’ll even attempt to the difficult, the impossible if that will lift us up, not just for the praise, but for the acceptance.  For heroes are always accepted, aren’t they?  They always are welcome, aren’t they?

But this desire to be accepted, to be the hero, to be indispensable will fade, or we will fail. For we can never do enough, not for those whose favor we want, but to assure us own hearts that we will never be forgotten.

Compare this drive to the idea of humility, the idea of knowing who we are based on who God is, and what He does for us.  I love that St. Josemaria says that humility is counting first on God’s blessings.  Humility then is not a matter of self-abasement. It is not primarily an understanding of who we are, of recognizing our talents and limitations.  That comes into play, but even then, that should drive us back to the first step.

Who God is: our Father, our Brother, our COmforter, our deliverer, our Lord, and Shepherd.  WHat He does for us, creation, reconciliation, and as we are united to Jesus, the miracle of holiness happens to us.  We are holy in Him, in no other way, yet so incredibly transformed by the Holy Spirit.

This happens as the Spirit enables us to trust, to depend, to have faith in God, who loves us.

You want to be the hero?  Why?  You have one, and that Hero has provided what you need, accepting you, making you His child, treasuring you!

Humility is found in depending on this.  The Lord, your God, is with you…always!

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2912-2916). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can the Church Leadership Quit Lusting for Power and Control?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you 2  to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3  Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (TEV)

705      Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.

A society that tends to turn people into puppets of production and consumption always opts for results. It needs control; it cannot give rise to novelty without seriously compromising its purposes and without increasing the degree of already existing conflict. It prefers that the other be completely predictable in order to acquire the maximum profit with a minimum of expenditure.

I often receive advertisements for books and seminars about Christian leadership.  Books that talk about the management of the church, the proper way to administrate things.  Some bring the best and brightest of secular management and leadership theorists into play.  This is nothing new, as names like Peter Drucker, John Maxwell and Steven Covey have long tried to bridge the gap between secular leaders and leaders in the church. Most of the church consultants I know use those kinds of models, those kinds of systems.

By leaders, I mean anyone who leaders, whether it be the Sunday School leader, the deacons, elders, or altar guild, or the pastors and denominational leaders that go by terms like Bishop, President or even Pope. My favorite title for a leader, and I have heard every Pope in my life refer to it, is their title, “servant of the servants of God.”  Not the King, or the Lord, or high exalted leader but the servant of those who serve.

Back to leadership itself.  I think the problem we often see when secular leadership style and theory come into play in the church is the idea of profit.  Not necessarily monetary, but the idea of profit as in return on investment (ROI).  I’ve seen this as churches prepare budgets, as denominations determine where to plant new churches, and whether to close other, smaller churches.  The latter because they use up too many resources (money, land, building space)

St Josemaria calls us o think differently, to work with the love of God.  Not just putting in the hours, but truly investing our talent, our knowledge, our competencies, all bathed in the love of God.

Francis likewise warns of turning the church into a puppet kingdom, where we strive for results and growth, forgetting the person’s needs, and basing outreach on maximum profit for minimum expenditure.  I’ve seen this in meetings where rather than come alongside smaller churches in urban areas, advisors tell them to become legacy churches, closing and selling their properties to help growing churches thrive.  We want predictable and sure methods for growth or revitalization, something with a quick turnaround, rather than something that might consume us.

We come full circle back to Peter’s epistle then, where he tells us not to do out work for pay (whatever the “payoff is – it might not be money)  Rather we should do our job from a desire to serve, even as our Lord served.  To work, not demanding this and that of those we are entrusted to, but by being examples to those we care for, investing in them, not expecting them to invest in us first.  We need to love them, not manage them,  Just as Christ loves and guides us, with gentleness and care.

This is contrary to modern business practices, yet it is the nature of ministry, of serving others, it is the nature of imitating Christ Jesus, who expended it all to save a bunch of corrupt and often shameless sinners like you and I.

May we lead our people into the peace and wonder that is found as Christ is revealed, as He ministers to, cleanses and makes us Holy. May we all find that healing available only in Jesus, as we help others heal.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter But Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

The High Cost of Love

devotional thought of the day:

44 Turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. 46 You didn’t anoint My head with olive oil, s but she has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 
49 Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 
50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”  Luke 7:44-50 HCSB

 

760      The cheerful love that fills the soul with happiness is founded on suffering. There is no love without renunciation.

There was a song when I was growing up called “Love Stinks” and though it was talking more about infatuation, there is some truth to the idea.

For love is commitment, and that commitment often requires us to go without, to make sacrifices, to lay all we are on the line, in order to truly care for the one we love. 

Parents know this very well, as they will go without to provide for their children,  From little things like watching television shows their kids like, and not watching the ones they want to, because they are inappropriate for their child’s ears and eyes.   Teachers who give up time to plan, or to think of how to reach “that” student understand this as well.  

It is a mystery, a paradox, that delaying or denying your gratification for the sake of the one you love can lead to greater joy, greater happiness. 

The lady in the gospel reading found this out. She did something quite costly, anointing Jesus feet with oils that cost her much, oils she probably bought ot treat herself well, to help her forget the pain of life, after suffering the humiliation of submitting to others desires.

Still, in awe of God’s mercy, she sacrificed the reward of her labors to treat Jesus with love, to adore the Man who didn’t drive her away.  Maybe she was one of the people invited to Zaccheus’ house, one of the sinners Jesus was accused of eating and drinking with by the Pharisees. She tried to repay that love, with the most costly thing she knew of, with a action of love that showed how much she adored the man that didn’t want sex from her, and still talked to her, and interacted with her.

The suffering that love costs is high, and often it stinks.  Yet in the case of loving God, what it demands, though pleasurable, or profitable, is the thing that stops us from knowing joy.  We go without the pleasure, without the gain, and find ourselves free.

Just at the prostitute found herself freed from sin, and shame, and guilt.   Instead, she knew love, and that she was welcomed in the presence of God. She gave up what was costly and pleasurable and found a joy so much greater, and happiness that comes from being accepted and loved.

knowing this, realizing it in our heart, gives us the motivation, the ability to desire to give up what we need to give up.  Not because we have to, but for the joy set before us, the same joy that drove Jesus to endure the cross, for us.

Lord, help us to embrace you, receiving your love.  And as our love and adoration “costs” us, help us to realize the joy that comes from knowing that love.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2743-2745). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Slogans, Sermons, and The Celebration

A devotional thought for our days…

Jesus went with them, and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell Him, “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, since I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. 7 That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be cured. 8 For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. d I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”  Luke 7:6-8  HCSB

705      Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.

Yesterday, my birthday presents were delivered a bit early.  Actually, they came just in time for the Superbowl ( my second favorite part of tomorrow!) 

The present included two items, a hat and a sign for my office. 

The first is a new cap, with what I thought was my favorite slogan for sports and ministry.  “Do Your Job” and that is a critical aspect in football, in the military (as the centurion noted) or in our relationship with God and the ministry that is created by God in our lives.  

We simply need to walk with Him and do as He leads.  Which takes faith, the dependence on God that provides the will and ability (Eph 2:13) to do what pleases Him!   Do Your Job, do it trusting in God.  Do Your Job, loving God

The second slogan now hands on my office door, a few feet from me.  No Days Off!  Oddly enough, this slogan was not revealed during the march to last year’s Superbowl victory, but afterward, during the victory parade.  What was the secret to the victory?  The coaches and players lived football, they lived the game, in season and out of season.  They lived according to the standard of their slogans… and did their job, whatever it required.

Can you imagine if the church did this?  If it made the sacrifices to walk with God each day?  If it dwelt in His presence, depended on His mercy, realized His love and peace fills our lives?  If we stopped treated being Christian was a part-time gig, and desired to live in His love, not just part-time (as if to hit the minimum requirements to gain heaven) nor even full-time ( meeting what we think is our duty) but every day treasured our time with Him, and rejoiced in the love that is our, in and through Jesus?  That is really what our “job” is, everything else, worship, loving for others, caring for others, these things are just the impact of walking with Him. 

Then there is the motto I don’t have anything on, one that I couldn’t find applicable in the Kingdon of God.  The most recent slogan, ‘Not Done Yet”

Then I realized where that slogan comes into play in the church.  It happens as the sermon finishes, and for some people, that is the high point of our church time together.

It isn’t even close.

Altar with communionFor the sermon is simply revealing God’s plan in our lives.   But we aren’t close to being done at that point.  The greatest time in the church comes when we approach the rail together, as we bow together, recognizing the presence and invitation of God, and those who can kneel, and as a community of His people, share in the Eucharist as one.

As I preach, my hunger for the sacrament grows, and I pray it grows in my people.  To be welcome at the table, fully righteous in the eyes of God, fully cleansed by Him and made ready to celebrate.  Even as we realize we are not done yet, as we take a knee, the Lord’s Supper is the beginning of the celebration of Jesus completing His work in us,  For He has done all it takes to make us His own.  And the Eucharist is His thanks to the Father, and our thanks to Him, for it is finished.

He Has done and is doing, His job.  
He takes no days off…
And He is not done yet but will be, when He brings the last prodigal home.

Until then, let us walk with, work with and celebrate the love of God.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Struggle….of Brokenness

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The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God. May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
12  I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. 13  Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. 14  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG)

735      The interior struggle doesn’t take us away from our temporal business—it makes us finish it off better!

Brokenness.

It is real, I encounter it each day in my own life, and I try to shepherd others through it daily as well.

Brokenness.

It sucks.  And we aren’t the first generation to deal with it.  It goes all the way back to two people who weren’t broken but became broken.

The breaks may be physical, or social, psychological.  They may seem to others to be tiny fractures, for others life is simply shattered.  Some of our breaks we hide… not easily, and some we try to hide from, distracting ourselves, trying to find ways to numb the pain.

Some of our brokenness may be dealt with, for that is what doctor’s, counselors, and mediators are there to do.  Other types of brokenness have to be endured, and that to sucks.  To deal with something broken for 40 or 50 or 70 years.  Never knowing how bad the brokenness and pain will be the next day.  We never know when we will be completely overcome by it.

As a pastor, I know this all too well, in too many areas I’ve tried to endure it.  Physical, emotional, social, and outcast. Been there, done that. Have the scars and the memories that still hurt.

I wish I could heal it all, I know sometimes it happens, as God’s mercy overwhelms us and the person’s shattered life is made whole.  I don’t understand why this one, and not that.  I only know the healing we all have access to, the brokenness that for everyone there is healing, that there is being made whole, as we are made holy.

Spiritual healing. The healing that comes from realizing God’s love.  The healing that comes from the cleansing and restoration that forgiveness is.  Our heart and soul freed of the burdens of guilt and shame.  The healing that comes from encountering the love of Christ, pure, faithful, incredible, without measure.

A love so graphically pictured in the cross, and in our baptism.  A love that invites us to share in Christ’s brokenness in communion, that our brokenness we would realize He shares in as well.  And in our promised resurrection united with Him, the brokenness fades into the past. Freed of it, spiritually now, but when Christ returns… completely as we dwell with him in Heaven forever.

This is our God, who loves us, who cares… who heals.

Find your rest in Him, and your endurance is guaranteed. This is what Paul tells us about, the struggle to hold onto Christ, realizing He is holding on to us. A struggle that as we are healed spiritually has an incredible impact on our lives, on our work, on the art that comes out of our lives.  Remind others of this as well, for that is what it means to be the church.   A place where people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2662-2664). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can We Recognize The Brokenness, so We can Recognize that We are part of God’s answer to it?

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God, Have mercy on us!

Devotional Thought of the Day
18  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20  So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT)

669      The co-redeeming—eternal!—efficacy of our lives can only become real with humility, passing unnoticed, so that others can discover Him.

Recently, the president of the United States was reported to have commented with harsh language about several countries.  There is no doubt the phrasing he used was wrong.  But there is also no doubt that those countries, much like our own, are broken.

Sin does that, and in some places, the sin is more evident to us, and to others, our sin is much more evident than theirs.

But rather than focus on the brokenness, both those backing our president and those opposing out president focus n the words of the message.  I would not say the reason they d this is conscious and deliberate, but in focusing on the President’s phrasing, they are able to forget about the real problems in those countries and our own.

The brokenness, the sin that dominates our culture, whether it is corruption, or theft, or murder.

We would rather get mad, or get defensive about the word order than doing something about it

And these places, (including the USA) continue in their brokenness. And very few do anything about the problems.  Which, in and of itself, is just as sinful, just as corrupt, and just as wrong.

St Josemaria wrote about the humility required to become effective, to have a real meaning to our lives.  He talks about it from the point of our not caring about the credit we could receive, but rather being satisfied with only one goal, seeing people see God’s love for them.  It doesn’t matter if I am the man baptizing them, or whether it is my Catholic priest or Methodist pastor friend.  It doesn’t matter if it is my sermon that opens someone eyes to God’s love, or someone else’s.

All that matters is that they know God’s love and mercy.  As they do, they will be changed by God, and their little area of the world will be filled with less skubala. (that’s is crap in Greek)

But humility doesn’t start with not caring who gets the credit.  If it does, it could just be a nice excuse for apathy, and not working in the ministry God gave us all, the ministry of pleading with people to be reconciled.

Humility is found in our own reconciliation, in realizing the crap that we’ve got ourselves into, and that on Christ can reconcile us with the Father. He saved us from our crappy life, full of sin, and cleaned us up, and gave us life.  As he doesn’t in just about every country in this world.

And He does it through us, the people He reconciled.

He shares this incredible work with us and makes it happen.

As we simply point to the cross and the empty tomb and invite people to know that is all for them. For Christ would unity with them there, as He did with us.

This is our hope, this is our joy, this is who we are meant ot be, working with people to see their lives change, and then to rejoice and see that every day.  This is what makes our lives and communities a little less crappy…. and will do the same for the world.

The love of God, the power of God that would reconcile everything back to Him.

So rejoice in what God has done and is doing in your life, and pray for those who need reconciliation, and as you can, plead with them to let God do what God does… and then rejoice some more, in awe that God does work, and works through you!

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2460-2462). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When Good Ideas Turn Bad in the Church….(they can be redeemed BTW)

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Concordia 

Devotional Thought for our day:

15  When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16  and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17  He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Mark 11:15-17 (NLT)

612      Wherever you may happen to be, remember that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Be sure that anyone who wants to follow him cannot attempt to act in any other way.

I suppose, like many good ideas, the selling of animals for sacrifice and the money-changers in the temple area started for the right reasons. Pilgrims came from all over the world, and they didn’t have the temple coin, and bringing livestock and pigeons would have made the journey e

ven more difficult. 

Perhaps the inhabitants of Jerusalem entered into these services in order to be hospitable to help out those who had come from longs ways away.  But over time it became a commercial venture, a way to make money, and the ministry to others faded in into the background, as profit and costs took over the ministry.

We see this in the church today, as ministries that once developed to serve people now are affected by significant costs.  From the tuition of Christian preschools, schools, and universities, to music and books, industries have been formed, including those which support the other industries that directly “serve” our members.  Oftentimes, membership becomes confused with the idea of clientele, where the ministry exists to serve them, rather than to equip them to serve others.

And in the meantime, prayer and worship, the adoration of God and giving as freely as we are given disappear, because prayer doesn’t have to line that can be analyzed in black and red terms.  These things are the results of people having access to God, and giving them that access is what ministry has to be about.  It is why we are called to serve. 

We have to find the balance between stewardship and true ministry.  We have to run things well, so that prayer and worship aren’t interrupted, that those needed encouragement and discipleship are provided it.  Part of that discipleship is helping people learn to serve others, to care for others, to put others needs before their own. 

This too is challenging, because many will hear it as a requirement of being a Christian.  As the law which they must fulfill or face God’s wrath.  It isn’t, for to do something as impossible as being a servant who leads requires only one thing.  It requires us to know the Lord is with you!  Knowing His presence, knowing His grace and mercy, dwelling in His love, this doesn’t just enable us to serve, it causes us to, as the Spirit transforms us into Christlikeness.

This is our call, this is who we are, leading people into the presence of Christ, and enabling them to know He will hear their prayers

May we serve well, diligently keeping what should be first, first.  Lord, Have Mercy!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2268-2270). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

An Unexpected Call To Cheerfulness (but a needed one)

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2  In grassy meadows he lets me lie. By tranquil streams he leads me 3  to restore my spirit. He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name. 4  Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you are at my side. Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me. 5  You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup brims over. 6  Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life. I make my home in the house of Yahweh for all time to come. Psalm 23:1-6 (NJB)

520      Christian cheerfulness is not something physiological. Its foundation is supernatural, and it goes deeper than illness or difficulties. Cheerfulness does not mean the jingling of bells, or the gaiety of a dance at the local hall. True cheerfulness is something deeper, something within something that keeps us peaceful and brimming over with joy, though at times our face may be stern.

I sit here this morning, having survived ( I think ) another battle with influenza, only to have my soul troubled by what I read, as stories of the Church divided fill my browser.  It is depressing more than the flu, which managed to keep me from celebrating the hope I have in Christ Jesus with my friends and family.  For to watch people try to destroy what Christ came to save… is devastating.  Especially when such rot comes from within, from people who should know we have the ministry of reconciliation.

Yet in my devotions this morning,  St. Josemaria reminds me to be cheerful.

Not the cheerfulness that celebrates freedom from illness or difficulty, the kind of cheerfulness that is found at parties and dances.

Something far deeper, something that today I need as I look out on a broken world, on a broken church.

The cheerfulness, the peace that is found in times where brokenness should have dominated.  The cheerfulness I have seen wash over a group of people, allowing them to cry and laugh as we remember someone who has passed.  Pr when other tragedies occur, leaving us breathless, and for a moment hopeless…..

Then someone starts to read or recite Psalm 23…….

I used the old NJB edition, for that is how I learned it.  Yahweh is my Shepherd.

God gave me not only the right to use His name but the assurance with it that He is guiding, that He is providing and caring for me.   I hear the song I grew up singing, based on it, Yahweh is my shepherd now, I shall not want, I shall not want…

And on days like this – when the body and soul are wary when the spirit is weak, and hope for the church is dimmed by the Church itself, there are only the promises of God that sustain…. that bring peace, and eventually the ability to smile.

As St Josemaria notes, there is something within something within us at these moments, where we find peace, and hope, and God’s comforting presence, and His promise of eternity.

From here it is possible to write and speak with hope, to point out the presence of God, and to urge everyone to find comfort and peace and yes cheerfulness there.

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1971-1976). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Already Broke Your Resolution? Good! Now you can really change!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought for your new year!

4  “Israel, remember this! The LORD—and the LORD alone—is our God. 5  Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (TEV)

14  Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15  Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16  But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.” 17  Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 (TEV)

503      Love Our Lord passionately. Love him madly! Because if there is love— when there is love—I would dare to say that resolutions are not needed. My parents—think of yours—did not need to make any resolutions to love me: and what an effusion of tenderness they showed me, in little details every day! With that same human heart we can and should love God.

In Lutheran thought, most commands are what are known as “Law.”  Law has three purposes, The first is to keep civil peace.  The second use of the law is to show us that we are guilty of sin and deserving eternal punishment.  Knowing that we can be drawn to Christ to receive grace, the merciful forgiveness that restores us, and welcomes us into the presence of God.  The third use of the law is simply to show us how to live, now that we are bound to Him, for Christ’s life is the picture of a life lived in full harmony with the law.

But the command following the words of the Lord being our Lord, the phrase known as the Shema, is not Law in the Lutheran sense.

Yes, we may struggle ot love God with everything we are, and if we think about it, this could make us wallow in guilt and shame.  Most of us can keep our resolution longer than we can maintain a love for God that includes every part of our life!  But if we feel guilty, or if we just ignore our shortcomings, we are missing the incredible, glorious, life-changing words that come before it.

The Lord, and the Lord alone, IS OUR GOD!

This line is why this isn’t Law, it I the purest of Gospel, for it describes what it means for us to have God (using His name YHWH) as our God. Loaded into that phrase is the idea that God takes responsibility for us, provides what we need, loves us. It means His nature of loving mercy (cHesed/Agape) is at work in us, bringing to completion the work began in us.

And as we consider this, as we think it through, there is no need for a resolution, no need for goals to change us.  As we think and meditate on God loving us, we love Him, we adore Him, we become more and more hungry to hear of His love, and to share it with others.

So maybe you made a resolution or four to change in this new year. To lose weight, to be more patient with people, to be more determined in your spiritual disciplines.  Maybe you already broke one or two.

That’s okay.

Real change in our lives starts with something else.

Being still, and knowing He is our God.

Knowing His passion and love for you…

Just sit there for a moment, and let His love sink in…

and find yourself changed.

Godspeed my friends!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1920-1925). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Too Familiar with God? I don’t think it is really possible!

Devotional Thought for our days:

46  As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 47  Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” 48  Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49  Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 50  Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” Matthew 12:46-50 (NLT)

15  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16  For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17  And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:15-17 (NLT)

495      Have you seen the affection and the confidence with which Christ’s friends treat him? In a completely natural way the sisters of Lazarus reproach Jesus for being away: “We told you! If only you’d been here!…” Speak to him with calm confidence: “Teach me to treat you with the loving friendliness of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus and as the first Twelve treated you, even though at first they followed you perhaps for not very supernatural reasons.”

One of the critiques of contemporary music back in the 70’s and 80’s ( and still repeated now quoting 40-year-old lyrics as if they are contemporary) is that it treats God without proper reverence, it treats Him as if He is a common friend or a brother. 

But that is exactly what the church had rediscovered in scripture.  The idea that we are indeed co-heirs with Jesus, that we are His brothers and sisters.  That God isn’t distant, just sitting in heaven waiting to judge us, but that He is here, caring for us, protecting us, sanctifying us.

He’s seen us at our worst, and still loves us, and still wants to be in communion with us. 

That is why St. Josemaria, that very reverent and devout priest talks about treating God the way Mary and Martha did.   He understands that reverent doesn’t mean distant, that being in awe draws us closer to God, it doesn’t stop from standing on holy ground, it just teaches us to do so, trusting and depending on Him. 

Think about the blessings that are shared with you in the sacraments.  Do these draw you closer to God, do they fill you with confidence to approach Him, depending on His work to make you holy and righteous?  Doesn’t the author of Hebrews tell us that because of Christ we can approach the throne of God with confidence?  Does the promise that we will dwell in the very glory of God urge you to approach Him?

In your baptism, you were united with Jesus in His death and in His resurrection.  Dying with Him, rising with Him, there is nothing more intimate than that!  Go back, read this paragraph again, you have shared a more intimate moment with God than you have in any other relationship you have. 

Some will say we cannot and point where those who approach God in the wrong way were dealt with severely.  That familiarity breeds contempt, and that these narratives prove it! No, they don’t. Indeed they were treated severely, but that is because they did what they did contrary to what God had taught them, what God had established. They are like those people who spell God a G_d, or who are afraid to use YHWH and replace it with Lord.  They are so afraid to use God’s name in vain that they don’t use it!  Which is also in vain, disobeying God’s command to call upon His beautiful, precious, powerful Name!

We need to know God, not just know about Him.  We need to treat Him much like Mary and Marta, like Lazarus, even like Peter.  Don’t worry, God will correct us when we need to be corrected.  But let yourself be drawn to Him, and reach out to Him.

Lord Jesus, help us to be drawn to you, and give us the confidence in your promise, in your love, in the work you did at the cross, drawing and uniting us to you. Help us to be one with You, even as you and the Father are one.  Remind us that you sent the Holy Spirit to guide us as we approach you.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1891-1896). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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