Category Archives: Pope Francis

Ministering to The Agnostic (they aren’t just who you think they are!)

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  Then King Darius wrote to the people of all nations, races, and languages on earth: “Greetings! 26  I command that throughout my empire everyone should fear and respect Daniel’s God. “He is a living God, and he will rule forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his power will never come to an end. 27  He saves and rescues; he performs wonders and miracles in heaven and on earth. He saved Daniel from being killed by the lions.” 28  Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:25-28 (TEV)

Let us follow Jesus, knowing that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joyful hope that we must bring to this world. Please do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope that Jesus gives us!

There are times in life where we don’t know. Even the strongest Christian (whatever that means) throws their hands up and cannot explain what God is doing, and to be honest, we wonder if he is still there. Health issues, work issues family issues, even issues at church can get so complicated, so overwhelming, we forget that God is God. That God is our God..

And we drift into agnosticism.

We know there is a God, we know the data, but for the moment we can’t recognize Him, or His presence. We just don’t know!

We made try to hide it, ignore it, repress it, but we need to deal with it.We need to get past that stage, we need to rediscover the hope that we once had, as we realized the Lord is with us.

Except we cannot, unless we encounter the Daniel in our lives.

The one who God sends, whose faith is strong in that moment, who is able to speak for God, the one we need to hear, the One we need to be able to be in awe of, the One we need to be able to respect, the One we need to know will save and rescue us, Who will perform wonders and miracles in order to make us His own, to restore our broken faith.

We need to cry out with the boy’s father, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief!”

This is why in Hebrews 10 it tells us to always meet together, to encourage each other. For while some are Christ’s hands and feet, surely others are His shoulders, upon which we are carried, by Jesus. We need each other for this, for there are days we are Daniel, and there are other times we are the Darius of the world, testifying to the goodness of God, even though we see it second hand…

He is with us.. yet in our brokenness, we need someone else to help us see it.

God provides them!

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), 325.

Friend or Lord, Thunder or Whisper, Which God will I hear?

Devotional Thought for the Day:

3  The voice of the LORD is heard on the seas; the glorious God thunders, and his voice echoes over the ocean. 4  The voice of the LORD is heard in all its might and majesty. 5  The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars, even the cedars of Lebanon. 6  He makes the mountains of Lebanon jump like calves and makes Mount Hermon leap like a young bull. 7  The voice of the LORD makes the lightning flash. 8  His voice makes the desert shake; he shakes the desert of Kadesh. Psalm 29:3-8 (TEV)

11  “Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain,” the LORD said to him. Then the LORD passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks—but the LORD was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12  After the earthquake there was a fire—but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice. 13  When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?1 Kings 19:11-13 (TEV)

The heart is like a home. There are houses that are open because they are at peace; they are welcoming because they have warmth. They are “not so tidy” as to make people afraid even to sit down neither so untidy as to become an embarrassment. The same goes for the heart: the heart that has room for the Lord also has space for others.

I look at the two Bible passages above, and they seem to contradict.

One reveals the Lord who is majestic, to whom all honor and glory is given. The God we are in awe, and if realistic, we should fear. The God who speaks commands and things become reality, where there was no reality.

The other reveals God who is our friend, the God who comforts the broken, who brings healing to them, who will wipe away every tear from our eyes. The God who we are in awe of, because He comes to us, invading our lives with His compassion and mercy. This is our Friend, our Abba, Father.

It is the same God, not two different gods. Not the first is the Old Testament God, the second the New. This isn’t a description of Father in the first paragraph, and the second describes Jesus. Both descriptions equally describe the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

So which God will I encounter?

This may sound odd, or perhaps awkward, but it doesn’t really matter. You can’t control which, and the response should be the same.

Yes, you read that correctly, the response to God is the same, whether He comes as your King, the Father who disciplines you, or your Deliverer, or your Comforter.

In each case, the initial response of awe should come naturally. But what happens next? How will we hear Him? Will we shudder and cower in fear? Will we embrace Him? Will we pour out our pain, and let Him begin to wash our feet? Will we adore Him, will we immediately enter into worship?

We cannot know, but we should have this happen. We should move from awe to gratitude. We should become grateful we find ourselves in His presence. For whether He comes in majesty, or comes as the suffering servant, He is here. He has come to dwell with us, to make our lives His home. And like the church that weeps and laughs and loves in Romans 12, He does all those things in our lives in resonance with us, being the God we need, even desperately need.

The Lord is with you.. and He loves you..

Rejoice and be glad, you are no longer alone…

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), 312.

An odd place to find hope… and help

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Devotional Thought for our Day

My friends, be careful that none of you have a heart so evil and unbelieving that you will turn away from the living God. 13 Instead, in order that none of you be deceived by sin and become stubborn, you must help one another every day, as long as the word “Today” in the scripture applies to us. 14 For we are all partners with Christ if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at the beginning. Hebrews 3:12-14 GNT

Never will we be able to show a student the horizon of greatness if we use our leadership as a stepping-stone for our personal ambitions or for our petty interests. If we let our kids see in us this counter-witness, we make them afraid to dream and grow.

But the real heart of Christianity is, and will always be, love of neighbor. For, in very fact, each individual is infinitely loved by God and is of infinite value. Christ says to each of us the words so feelingly formulated by Pascal: “In my mortal agony, I thought of you. I shed these drops of blood for you.” If we are able by our love to give meaning to another person, to just one other person, our life will have been infinitely worthwhile. And it will always be so: that men live by their encounter with the love that gives meaning to their lives—it is true of every relationship; no reform, no revolution, can make this gift superfluous. It is likewise true that in all relationships it would be redemptive if, in a world marred by hostility and alienation, one individual would leave the collective and be a brother. These redemptive encounters, which are recorded in no history book, form the true inner history of the Church, which today, more than ever before, we forget in our concern about the history of institutions.

I am not the handyman my dad was. Simply put, I might be able to hammer a nail in, or, on a good day put together something from IKEA. But I can’t use a jigsaw, or tables saw with any skill, and repairing thgs? Well, lucky for me I have a church with guys who have that talent.

I learned early on to rely on others, including my dad or my Father-in-law. It wasn’t the easiest of lessons, but common sense soon overcame a very humbled sense of pride, and I can now allow those with the gift to get involved before I attempt to screw things up beyond repair.

It is a lesson we need to learn spiritually as well.

We need to be involved with others, and as Hebrews says, it can stop us from making a mess out of our lives. THe more we are engaged with others, helping them, crying with them, laughing with them, the less impact sin and evil have in our life. True fellowship has that effect on us, as we are gathered together by God in His name. (remember Jesus said “wherever 2 or 3…)

This is what Pope Francis was talking about in regards to leadership. We need to reflect on how leadership can corrupt us, as we consider more how our decisions impact us, rather than how they impact those around us, and those who will follow us. Our encounters with God change us, and our encounters with those for whom Christ shed his blood are part of those encounters.

Imagine if we saw every encounter as a redemptive encounter? If we knew God would bring healing to our brokenness, if He would pour out mercy on us both? How we would look forward to such times!. How we would greet each other with more eagerness! How being in groups would be less anxiety producing! How great these times would be, and how willing we would be to help, to accept assistance, to laugh and cry together.

to share our brokenness, our struggles with sin and temptation…

and how our lives, our homes, our churches would experience this new life. A life God gives us as He draws us into Himself.

Here is our hope and healing, here is our help.

Lord, help us to look at every encounter, every meeting we have as an encounter with You. Lord help us then see these same encounters as times of redemption and healing, as You bring us together. In Jesus name we pray! AMEN!



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), 292.

Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 290.

The Toughest Example to Set…

24 As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, 25 who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. 26 And then they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will. 1 Tim 4:24-26 GNT

Hence the profound sense of the Church’s social presence derives from the Eucharist, as is testified by the great social saints who were always great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Sacred Host, recognize Him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need.

Our educational work should have a purpose: to elicit a change in our students, to make them grow in wisdom, to help them undergo a transformation, to provide them with knowledge, with new feelings and, at the same time, achievable ideals. Many institutions promote the formation of wolves more than of brothers and sisters by educating their students to compete and succeed at the expense of others, with only a few weak ethical standards.

For most of my life, I have loved a good argument. I loved getting into it with someone, whether over politics, sports (an easy one NOW, since Boston teams have been great for a couple of decades), philosophy, even, I am embarrassed to say, religion.

I still occasionally still enjoy a good debate, and with a highly intellectual 12 year old in the house, I have a ready made opponent. Yet I would dread to see him observe me arguing about religion. For what I would be teaching him is that our belief is God is not as important as winning an argument.

Our relationship with God, our ability to trust in Him is too precious, to important to argue about. Correction needs to me more loving, more patient, and this is something every single one of us needs to grow in and mentor others, helping them develop an attitude like Jesus.

This is something we need to model, to teach, whether as pastors, elders teachers, parents, our purpose is to help those entrusted to our care to mature in faith. What Pope Francis noted about our educational system is true in our lives as well – we need to stop pushing competitiveness in a way that humiliates and demonizes the competition. It has invaded to many relationships, wrecked to many friendships and divided too many communities, and sad to say, to many churches.

I think the quote from Benedict XVI shows us where the hope of the answer is found. I have long thought the answer to division is not found in an office or conference room, but at the altar. To realize that the Body broken and the blood spilt for me was also broken and spilt for my nemesis, to realize my being drawn to the table to communion is matched by the same Holy Spirit drawing them there, puts ou relationship into a different form. It helps us recognize Jesus in them, or the work the Spirit is doing to draw them to Jesus, a work that is either advanced or hindered by my actions, words and attitudes.

This is one of the myriad of blessings found in the Lord’s Supper, and it is one of the reasons I run to it, or spend time contemplating the gift it is, especially when I am in conflict. To realize what God is doing, bringing us all to completion, bringing us all into the holy relationship with Him that He has created and set us apart for, is amazing. At my church, we still have an altar rail, where everyone kneels together, and receives this blessing together. The choir and praise team especially, but many others have begun to hold hands after they receive, another sigh of unity. This isn’t forced, and it started during a time when one member was struggling. It is a sign of this unity that transcends anything we could argue about.

We can still strive to do our best, we can still try to correct what we see is in error, we can still hold strong opinions, but when we see Christ in the other person, it calms our spirits, it helps us still do our best, but to do so in a way that glorifies God, and encourages them to trust Him.

Lord, help us not only be good examples of Your love and care, help us to encourage that in others, including those we struggle with…AMEN



Benedict XVI, “Homily for the Solemn Mass of Corpus Christi,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 221.

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), 286.

I Will Live! (and the Rest of the Story…)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  I will not die; instead, I will live and proclaim what the LORD has done. 18  He has punished me severely, but he has not let me die.
Psalm 118:17-18 (TEV)

It is in the wounds of Jesus where we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of His heart.

To better evangelize the adorer must first be evangelized. He must let the merciful love of Christ heal him, liberate him, enlighten him, raise him. To the question ‘What does Jesus do in the Blessed Sacrament? ‘the Cure of Ars replied, ‘He waits for us’. There, Jesus veils His majesty so that we might dare to go speak with Him, as one friend to another. He tempers the ardour of His Heart for us to experience its sweet tenderness. On the Cross, Jesus turns hate into love and death into life. Similarly, in the Eucharist, Jesus performs the same wonder in us: He changes evil into good, darkness into light, fear into confidence. Pauline-Marie Jaricot, an untiring Apostle of charity, living in Lyon in the nineteenth century, sums up this personal transformation that takes place in the heart of adorers who allow the Spirit to change their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh:

I have heard verse 17 proclaimed with great power many times. It is a wonderful verse, and it should be proclaimed.

I think it is even more powerfully proclaimed when it is proclaimed from a point of recovery, a time when one is healing, but is so weak it is barely heard. It is the most powerful when said in the context of verse 18, as the realization dawns that I can get through this.

And I can speak of what the Lord has done! Not I can, but I will, I have to, for I didn’t think I would make it.

Several times in my life I have been there physically. After a cardiac arrest that killed me 5 times. Another time when I had two heart valves replaced, and again once when undergoing a procedure I didn’t think I would survive. ( Not a major one comparatively) But I know the feeling of waking up from anesthesia, and realizing, I am alive. It is shocking, for it is unexpected.

Spiritually, this happens when God has to circumcise our hearts, cutting away the sin which clings to our heart. This is easily seen as the punishment the Psalmist describes, as God has to subdue us, as He has to cleanse us of the sins we too often cling to, that we too often run to. As we refuse to see the damage that sin does, and how it leaves us broken, shattered, unable to relate to others, or find any comfort or peace.

But as the Holy Spirit has to “wound” us, we find another set of wounds, the wounds of Jesus. It is in those wounds that we find our how much we are loved, it is there we find security and peace, even as God removes the sin, and our healing begins anew.

That is why communion is so incredible, so needed in this broken world of ours. Go read the words in green again.

No, i meant it, I didn’t want to retype it all!

Go re-read it!

We need to find Jesus waiting for us, ready to begin again our healing. Ready to see us transformed, the power that raised Him from the dead at work in us.

Therefore we live, and will not die, and can tell what God has done….

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), 266.

Florian Racine, “Spiritual Fruits of Adoration in Parishes,” in From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization, ed. Alcuin Reid (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 2012), 202.

Pray… even if you don’t have the words.. (A lesson re-learnt)

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

Isaiah 62:6 (GNT) — 6 On your walls, Jerusalem, I have placed sentries; They must never be silent day or night. They must remind the Lord of his promises And never let him forget them.

I can ground myself on this, not because of my own worthiness, but because of the commandment. Similarly, in this case, we should consider what and for what we pray as requested by and done in obedience to God. We should therefore think, For my sake it counts for nothing, but it is most important that God commanded it. Therefore, each one of us should come before God in prayer for whatever we need in obedience to this commandment.
Therefore, we urgently entreat and admonish all people to take this to heart and in no way forsake their prayers.

To take up a life of prayer every day is to allow ourselves to be accompanied, in the good moments and the bad, by him who best knows and loves us. Our dialogue with Jesus Christ opens up new perspectives for us, new ways to see things that are always more filled with hope. 

In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit and through the Son. He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.

These words have been credited by many to St. Francis. “Preach always, use words when necessary”. Last week, I experienced a twist on those words. “Pray always, use words when necessary”

I had stopped by a chapel where a friend serves. Technically it is called an Oratory, a place not open to the public, but where members of a religious community worship and pray in the house they share.

I was in the area, and between a couple of visits, so I stopped in, and welcomed, ascended the stairs up to the chapel.

I went through the normal prayers, recounting things I needed God to forgive, and some situations that just cause my heart to ache. The kind of things that only God can solve. I talked to Him about the things coming up, and then… just couldn’t go on.

I had no more words.

That has happened more than once before… so I did what usually works, simply saying the Lord’s prayer slowly, savoring each word, confident that it covers every prayer I could ever pray. Confident of the Holy Spirit’s intercession as promised in Romans 8…

26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Rom. 8:26-27 GNT

Then, in the midst of the Lord’s prayer, I couldn’t continue. I couldn’t find the words, words that I repeated tens of thousands couldn’t be grasped, couldn’t be remembered. All I could do, is sit there, and look at the crucifix.

This bothered me… why couldn’t I pray, and yes, there were things to pray about, to pour out of a heart that is broken and struggling. And then I started to realized it was time to be still, to be reminded of the promises of God, to see that God was there, to realize the presence of God, the One to whom I spoke.

Not even to hear Him speak, or the Spirit to guide my thoughts. But just to be there, praying and realizing His presence. To pray without words, even without thought.

To dwell in the silence… with the One who loves me and knows me better than myself.

After, as I made the long trek home, I didn’t feel ecstatic, I don’t think I glowed like Moses, and all my situations weren’t miraculously taken care of…but I felt whole, and more sure of His guiding hand. A very subtle thing… but quote good.

God is with us, and we need to take the time to experience it.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 199). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

From https://opusdei.org/en-us/section/pastoral-letters/ Aug. 10,2019

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 260). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Joy of Re..

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  “No longer will the sun be your light by day Or the moon be your light by night; I, the LORD, will be your eternal light; The light of my glory will shine on you. 20  Your days of grief will come to an end. I, the LORD, will be your eternal light, More lasting than the sun and moon. 21  Your people will all do what is right, And will possess the land forever. I planted them, I made them, To reveal my greatness to all.
Isaiah 60:19-21 (TEV)

It isn’t God who must change but the person. This is the obvious goal of prayer, and that is the reason why prayer is the privileged place of exile where the revelation is given, that is, the passage from what one thinks of God to what he truly is.
It is an exodus of purification where we are led by God through the dark night of the exile on the way to the contemplation of his face.
Then, we finally will be changed and transformed into the likeness of Him.

Often it will be an act of real humility and creaturely honesty to stop what we are doing, to acknowledge our limits, to take time to draw breath and rest—as the creature, man, is designed to do. I am not suggesting that sloth is a good thing, but I do want to suggest that we revise our catalogue of virtues, as it has developed in the Western world, where activity alone is regarded as valid and where the attitudes of beholding, wonder, recollection, and quiet are of no account, or at least are felt to need some justification.

Before we explain the Lord’s Prayer sequentially, we must first counsel and entice the people to prayer, just as Christ and the apostles did.2 First, we are obligated to pray because God has commanded it. Thus, we heard in the commandment, “You shall not take God’s name in vain,” that God’s holy name should be praised, called upon, or prayed to in every need. To call upon it is nothing other than praying

It may help to remember these words of Thomas à Kempis in The Imitation of Christ:
“Of what use is it to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy; but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God?”

I am hoping you made it through the incredible quotes above, looking forward to finding out where this incredible joy is found. What the “Re” is… are you ready for it?

Repentance..

Yes, you read that right, there is an incredible joy when the Holy Spirit gifts us with repentance. It is freeing, it lifts burdens, it is that wonderful mysterious transformation that God works in us.

It is why Luther urges us to prayer, reminding that this commanded, not for God’s sake, but for ours. For it is in that transformation that we experience that mercy and love of God that causes the repentance to occur.

Repentance, this transformation, finds us with the ability to bhold, wonder and remember the presence of God leaves us stunned, and sometimes, unable to speak, because the grace of God is so wonderful, because it so sets our hearts at ease, our mind cannot proceed. Repentance leaves us in awe, for the work the Holy Spirit crafts turns causes us to reflect and resemble Jesus , something that is beyond our ability to conceive of..

That is why Pope Francis talks of this change in the way he does. As we go from our thoughts and our visions of what a god should be, and it is revealed to us, who God is. He is the One who loves His people, and repentance is that process where experiencing that love changes everything, for it changes us.

Lord, help us not fear this work of Yours that is repentance. Help us to embrace it, to revel in it, for it is an experience where Your love is so manifested in our lives. When we are struggling with sin, grant the desire ofr repentance. in Jesus name. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 258). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 255). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

How Do We View the Scriptures: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21 Christ rules there above all heavenly rulers, authorities, powers, and lords; he has a title superior to all titles of authority in this world and in the next. 22† God put all things under Christ’s feet and gave him to the church as supreme Lord over all things. 23 The church is Christ’s body, the completion of him who himself completes all things everywhere. Eph. 1:21-23 GNT

I do not mean that the Bible should be worshiped. Its uniquely sacred character is something that does not need to be exaggerated or even insisted on, because it is self-authenticating. It confirms itself to any earnest and open-minded user. For just as openness to and hunger for God leads naturally to reading the Bible, so the eager use of the Bible leads naturally and tangibly to the mind of God and the person of Christ.

To worship is to be filled with the love we have for the one with whom we enter into communion. None of us worship anyone we don’t love or who doesn’t love us. We are loved by God! We are dear to Him! “God is love”!
This certainty is what leads us to worship God with all our heart, because “He first loved us”
(1 Jn 4:10).

I started studying scripture academically in 1983. Up till then, I had read it and been taught it devotionally, been taught its principles. But studying it in the Greek and Hebrew, specifically looking at the culture and how people would have understood it then, well, that is different.

The challenge is that every pastor, no matter how formally or informally trained, approaches the scripture with a predisposed attitude toward it. That attitude makes a difference in how they will present it to their people, how they preach, teach, counsel, and how their people see their own ministry.

As with anything, there are extremes in this, and a bulk of ministers fall into the middle ground, and then there are a few oddballs, not on the spectrum.

On one side, we have the people who think that the Bible has many flaws, and that it is the job of the pastor )or at least the professors) to help people discern what is true, what is added to scripture, and what should not be heeded at all. They would place the wisdom of man as more reliable than the Bible. On the very extreme, they dismiss all the miracles, and much of the “moral” teaching as only being relevant “then.”

On the other side, we have pastors and professors who confuse the “word of God” (the scriptures) with the “Word of God” (Jesus) Often they will claim to teach and preach “verse by verse” and “book by book”, plunging the mysteries and finding hidden meanings that become rules and doctrines. ( An example of this would be those who adore the KJV to the extent that every other translation is a ruse of Satan)

So how do we approach scripture? Is it something so holy and precious that we honor it and bow down to it, or is it something we can treat like a good philosophy or self help book? Do we take every word of every translation (or just ours) as if sacred, or do we dismiss this part and that, based on our knowledge and research?

I think there is a different route to take (yes, I am the oddball mentioned above).

I believe the word of God is the inspired word of God, the message it conveys is critical for us to understand. It is more than a matter of life and death.

It leads us to praise God, to adore Him, it is there to reveal to our broken hearts, minds and souls the mercy and love of our Creator, and therefore it is beyond all other books.

But it reveals God, it isn’t God. It is a tool, a device, that has to be used with care, keeping in tension doctrines to complex for our minds to fully understand. While this revelation is an incredible gift, the relationship it reveals, describes and encourages is the treasure.

And while it is without error, we are are not. Therefore we have to be careful with our interpretation, with how we understand it, with how we teach it. We have to check what we teach against all of scripture, understanding the covenants, the history, and the tension that exists as scripture reveals our brokenness and the hope of healing that is found in Jesus.

That is why our constant focus has to be on what scripture is promised to deliver to us, to reveal Christ, whose love caused Him to endure the cross for us, to rescue and deliver us from the bondage of sin…and restore us to our heavenly Father.

Heavenly Father, please reveal to us Your love as the Holy Spirit cuts open our hearts with Your holy, inspired word, allowing the work of Christ on the Cross, and at Your side interceding for us to make us holy. May we realize what a blessing the scriptures are, as the words reveal to us Your care. Help us to neither dismiss the scriptures, nor prize them more that the message they bring. In Jesus name. AMEN!

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 254). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Without Love We Are Nothing, But Do We Even Know Who to Love?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you did not speak the truth about me, the way my servant Job did. 8 Now take seven bulls and seven rams to Job and offer them as a sacrifice for yourselves. Job will pray for you, and I will answer his prayer and not disgrace you the way you deserve. You did not speak the truth about me as he did.”
9 Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did what the LORD had told them to do, and the LORD answered Job’s prayer
. Job 42:7-9 GNT.

13 I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. 2† I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 3 I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned—but if I have no love, this does me no good. 1 Cor. 13:1-3 GNT

Many men and women are experiencing more and more today serious lowliness and neglect as a result of their excessive zeal for autonomy which they inherited from modernity. But mostly they have lost the support of something that transcends them.

It is hard to communicate across Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It is even harder to develop relationships where we love one another. Yet these odd relationships appeal to so many.

I think part of it is the illusion of safety, the idea that we can have “friends” while still being autonomos. Yet these social media platforms are more addictive and the relationships less satisfying, and more frustrating. It is so easy to write off that person who has a different outlook in regards to religion, politics, sex, etc. And because the relationship is not really a relationship (in most cases) we just unfriend, unfollow, and even block those who annoy us.

Yet we have both a great capacity and a great need to love. It is what we are created to do. To deeply care, be deeply devoted to others, so much so that reconciliation is more important than frustration. That forgiveness is an automatic response rather than a thirst for revenge. ( I do believe that “unfriending” is more often a response of revenge than anything else!)

As St. Paul indicates, without love we are nothing. Without love, nothing is beneficial. Even sacrifice is worthless, if it is not done because of love.

As I was reading these passages this morning, I wondered why Job even bothered allowing his “friends” to hang around. Their words may have been sincere, but they were wrong! (And God let them know it!) They were annoying, they were judgmental, they didn’t offer comfort and support in the midst of some pretty dark times in the life of Job. Yet, he didn’t send them away. He would argue with them, he would struggle with their “help”, but he didn’t turn his back on them

Once Job was justified, he even did something for them that was remarkable. He prayed for their healing! He prayed that they didn’t get what they deserve! They were his friends, and so he did what they needed, no matter how much they had been a pain in the ass while he was suffering.

That is the kind of love that Paul tells us makes all the difference. That is the kind of love that makes life abundant. That is the love that tells us that while there is a time for solitude, we are meant to live in fellowship, in relationships that are deep, that result in our laughing when they laugh, and sobbing when they sob. (see Romans 12)

This is the love that transcends life, that happens because we know we are loved. For it is God’s love that enables us to set aside the zeal for autonomy, to realize the emptiness of narcissism, and risk truly loving those around us.

Even those who treat us like Job’s friends and family.

We need to know that we are loved. To look at the cross, to realize the depth of sin, our sin, that Christ would take on himself. To do so, because He loves us, and therefore could look at the cross and see the joy of reconciliation that would result from that cross, from that pain. His love is infectious, the more we explore its dimensions the more we can love, the more we desire to, and the more unfollowing, unfriending and blocking doesn’t make sense. Laughing and crying with people will be our norm, for that is what happens when we love each other.

And the more we want to see people face to face, and not settle for social media interaction.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 227). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Denying Someone Salvation. Who would do this?

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Devotional THought of the Day:

15 If you hurt others because of something you eat, then you are no longer acting from love. Do not let the food that you eat ruin the person for whom Christ died! 16 Do not let what you regard as good get a bad name. 17 For God’s Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives. 18 And when you serve Christ in this way, you please God and are approved by others. Romans 14:15-16 GNT

In our ecclesiastical circumscription there are priests who do not baptize the children of single mothers because they were not conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are the hypocrites of today, the ones who clericalize” the Church and prevent God’s people the access to the source of salvation.

The question asked in the title has a sobering answer.

Or perhaps, instead of asking “who would?”, the question should be, “who has?”

And the answer is even more sobering.

I have.

You have as well, and the sad thing is that we didn’t know we were doing it. Our focus was on being circumspect, being proper, following, in many cases, the rules, or interpreting the law in such a way that we can claim we were keeping not only the letter of the law, but every dotted “i” and crossed “t”. (proudly quoting Matt 5:18 along the way) Or maybe it is the legalist that you would condemn, and deny them forgiveness and mercy,

But every time we deny someone forgiveness and mercy, we do the same as the priest denying a baby the sacrament of baptism, or the pastor who justifies not communing someone because they aren’t members of his church (without finding out what they believe)

We may justify it, saying they are our enemy, they are our adversary, we may judge them as unrepentant of their sin, We might just not like them all that much, and therefore we don’t share with them the words of life that have been entrusted to all believers.

We need to become aware of our actions in doing so, so that we can repent, so we can ask God for help, to give us a heart that considers reconciliation more important.

Hard stuff..

Who would deny salvation to the least of these?

We’ve done it. Forgive us Lord, we ask trusting that He will. And He has.

AMEN!


Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 208). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

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