Category Archives: Pope Francis

RIght Now, the Church Is Like An Anxious Bride…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day

1  A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2  It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 (CSBBible)

We have been accustomed to hear of the Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, of Jesus born in a stable, of Jesus dead on the Cross. O my God, if we knew that another man had conferred on us any of these benefits, we could not help loving him. It seems that God alone has, so to say, this bad luck with men, that, though he has done his utmost to make them love him, yet he cannot attain this end, and, instead of being loved, he sees himself despised and neglected. All this arises from the forgetfulness of men of the love of God.

O Thou dealest so mercifully with us, and ascribest to us all Thy merit and righteousness; and in Thee the Father himself accounts us as righteous, even as though we were like Thee, Thou Mediator of the New Covenant; and through Thee the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and quickens us to newness of life.

The hands of God are blistered with love and accompany us on the path of life. Let us entrust ourselves to the hands of God, like a child entrusts himself to the hand of his father. This is a safe hand!

As we come out of COVID, the Church is like an anxious bride moments before
the wedding begins. Anxiety-driven by the moment, as concerns over everything
being perfect, everything fulfilling her dreams comes into play. Anxiety over
how the Church will be renewed, how we will get all our people back, and the
anxiety paralyzes us.

I asked a newlywed about her wedding last year, and she summed it up by
saying that she was walking down the aisle one moment the next moment she was
getting kissed. With that a common thought, why is so much time spent in
anxiety needed? If only I could rid them of the anxiety and allow them to savor
every word, every vow, every promise, every indication of the love that is
shared. Some women get caught up in the moment and are terrorized by it.

I see the same thing in de Ligouri’s quote in blue above. We know all about the
work of God; we can even enter into theological disputes about it. The
masterpiece of creation and every moment that God has formed is there to ponder!
To meditate on His love for us that is revealed. Yet instead of that, we worry
about life, we try to find the latest book to read and recommend to others,
that their lives and churches might be full. So we don’t look for His love; in
fact, we abandon Him in search of other, more immediate answers and fixes.

As God stands there with blistered hands and a pierced side so our anxiety
would be replaced with peace! So that our sin would be replaced with His
righteousness! so that the Holy Spirit would quicken us to new life! He would
care for us with such mercy, like the groom who tenderly holds his wife’s hands!
He is caught up in the moment as well –  but caught up in the moment because he is with
her. (By the time the sermon is over, even the most anxious bride is caught up
with her groom, in the moment)

That is where we need to be, fully aware of God’s love, fully aware of His
presence. This is where Solomon’s wisdom comes into play and why he says mourning
is better than feasting. It focuses on the transition rather than ignore it. As
we realize the shortness of this life and what comes after, we should long for
that day and the incredible life that follows! We need to hear Jesus, we need
to hear the vows He made to us, we need to see our hands held in His, and
forward to our eternal life spent with Him.

As we do, the anxiety will fade, and the miraculous happens as the Holy
Spirit breathes life into us. We begin to have hope again as we realize the
love of the God who is here… with us.

As we come out of COVID, together, we need to focus on Jesus, on His love that has sustained and comforted us, and the promise of life with Him.  As that is our focus, then church will not just come back to normal, it will revive!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 252.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 133.

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), 147.

Stop pretending that everything is good…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:17 (NLT2)

We rejoice and are glad in Thee who hast had compassion upon us, and hast delivered our souls. And we beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, so that Thy birth may minister to us grace against sin, death, Hell and the power of the Devil; and by Thy Holy Spirit comfort and sustain us in the perils and pains of the last hour. All of which we ask, O precious Jesus, who art blessed and exalted forever, for the sake of Thy miraculous incarnation. Amen.

Those who share in the cross do not need to verify their activity with triumphalism because they know that the cross itself is already a triumphant victory.

On August 3, 30 years ago, everything in my life changed.

I died. After a signifcant bout with Arythimic Tachycardia, paramedics and doctorshad to defibrillate me 5 times. I woke up days later, when my heart was medically able to keep a normal rhythm. Since then I’ve had implanted defibrillaors put in, replaced, and replaced again. I have had two heart valves replaced with mechanical valves. Cardiomyoapthy is an issue, because of the meds, diabetes would as well.

Life changed that day. So much of it changed.., and so many things I enjoyed, I miss.

Boogy-boarding, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, running, other activities. My life for 30 years has been more sedate, less dynamic, and there are times where life simply is not good. It is not enjoyable. I’ll be honest, there are times it is seriously depressing, when things ae dark. And Satan knows how to get the most out of such times.

It is one of the reasons I like reading Luther and Pope Francis, and now Loehe.

They treat life as it is, broken, and not the way it should be. They acknowledge the dark stuff, and the work of Satan in our lives. Consider these words of Luther’s,

I’ve heard no argument from men that persuaded me, but the bouts I’ve engaged in during the night330 have become much more bitter than those during the day. For my adversaries have only annoyed me, but the devil is able to confront me with arguments. Often he has offered an argument of such weight that I didn’t know whether God exists or not. I shall now confess this to you so that you won’t believe him. When I was without the Word of God and was thinking about the Turks, the pope, the princes, etc., he came and struck against me with weapons. But when I have taken hold of the Scriptures I have won.

I can’t pretend everything is good in the middle of the battle, in the throughs od despair. I used to try, and it would exhaust me. Jeremiah 20:7 became my go to cry, not just because of my pain, but because of the pain I watch others endure. That too is a challenge, as I’ve watched people deal with guilt and shame, as I’ve watch them overwhelmed by grief or anxiety, as I’ve watched them struggle, and those around them struggle.

The idea of the “triumphant, victorious Christian life” is not in my wheelhouse.

I deal with these dark times now differently that I did when I was younger. I accept that life isn’t a bowl of cherries, or that I don’t have the spiritual equivelant to Tom Brady’s football career. And words like Loehe’s are there to help me focus on what is good and right.

The love and compassion of Jesus.

For as I realize that, as it is revealed through the Word and the Sacraments, I don’t care about the stuff that I’ve lost. I care about what is coming, and I can look to Jesus. And that is everything.

To know He sustains me in those dark times, to know He takes care of everything Satan can throw at me, to know that life has more meaning than a perfect set in volleyball, or a spinning crescent kick connecting.

There is life made whole, even in the midst of the pain, and the loss, because there is Jesus.

SO I will live, and I will tell people what He’s done.

He’s made me, and you, His own.

and that means more than anything else, than everything else.

It even makes the darkness, gloriously a light in His glory.

May my words help you to see this, so that we can stop pretending that everything is good… and know that because He loves us… it is serenely beautiful.

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), 133.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 123–124.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 93.

Ministry in the Shadows…

St Aiden on Holy Island

Devotional Thought for our Days

6  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he rescued them from their distress. 7  He led them by the right path to go to a city where they could live. Psalm 107:6-7 (CSBBible)
13  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 14  He brought them out of darkness and gloom and broke their chains apart. Psalm 107:13-14 (CSBBible)
19  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 20  He sent his word and healed them; he rescued them from their traps. Psalm 107:19-20 (CSBBible)

Aidan’s statue, Holy Island
Aidan stands. His head is close to the heart of the cross.
His eyes, far-seeing, scan the horizon, the joyous venturing of little boats.
A torch burns clearly in his grasp, a faithful challenge in his generation, meeting, listening, heart-connecting.

In his shadow is a place I covet, a challenge in a present time and confluence of cultures.
Aidan, let me lie down in your shadow. While I live may I be the shadow of a Rock in a weary land, a shelter from the heat.

When our Bohemian interrupted to say that he still had doubts about baptism, he [Martin Luther] replied gently,“When you first came here you were not at the stage which you have now attained. Continue to be patient. Give our Lord God time. Let the trees bloom before they bring forth fruit. Who was I before? I used to worship saints who hadn’t even been born! The time hasn’t come yet for me to speak otherwise [about baptism], I should now say, but wait and you’ll see what the Word of God is and can be.”

To embrace the cross, courage and endurance are needed. There are some “strong” Christians who undertake apostolic work but falter when faced with difficulty. They don’t know about patience.

What requires patience also requires the ability to endure exhaustion. Whether a marathon, or a long journey in a car, or the ministry, one must be able to endure the shadows. One must endure the times where you aren’t sure you can make it another mile, another hour, another day. Life is filled with such shadows, as we work through a world that has no direction and no ability to see where we are going, and yet we strive to define progress in so many areas.

Most of the people we minister to live there, in those shadows of exhaustion. Not quite in spiritual darkness, but neither are our lives always filled with the glorious light of Christ. We are not patient; we want our life on earth to be heavenly. When we cannot see that perfection, the shadows form, and tired and weary, we are anxious, not knowing when the next storm will hit or this one will subside.

We need to embrace the cross, not just with strength but patiently. We need to, as Luther advises, be patient and give the Lord time. (this not just with those we minister to, but with ourselves!)  We need to see what the Word of God is, and what it can be.

That is why I find so much hope in my reading from Psalms this morning. There we see people cry out to the Lord, those lost in their wandering, those imprisoned by gloom and shame, and those whose foolishness caused their own suffering. The eventual response was to cry out to God to have mercy, and His response was to rescue them. In those times in the shadow, it is good to find the Aidans of our time. Those whose lives point us to Jesus. Those who keep close to the cross and draw us there. They dwell in the shadows as well (why else would they need torches?), and as they are in the presence of Christ, their shadow is a place of rest, a place of peace. As Jesus delivers us, slowly, we too become like Aidan, or Paul or Peter, and we dwell in Christ! Others will come, and we will learn to deal as patiently with them as God deals with us. Aidn’s image is so powerful, in the shadow of the cross, he provides light to others!

This is life in the shadows; this is ministry in the shadows… be patient. Find those who help you keep your heart and head near the cross, and then look for those who need to be drawn into His presence, and provide them the rest, the sanctuary they need, in the shadows.

Andy Raine – https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/meditations/meditation-day-16/ (text reformatted to fit the page)

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 92.

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), 132.

It is not preaching unless…It is not worship unless…

Come and see the wonders of God; his acts for humanity are awe-inspiring. Psalm 66:5 (CSBBible)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26 (CSBBible)

When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

When somebody inquired whether a person [under the papacy] would be saved if he had not embraced this teaching of ours, he [Martin Luther] replied, “I really don’t know. God might have had regard for his baptism. This could do it. Even so, I have seen many [monks] die with a crucifix held before their eyes [as was then customary]. In spite of everything else, the name [of Christ] proved to be effective on their deathbed.”

When Jesus comes to the soul in Holy Communion, he brings to it every grace, and specially the grace of holy perseverance. This is the principal effect of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, to nourish the soul that receives it with this food of life, and to give it great strength to advance unto perfection, and to resist those enemies who desire our death.

Most of my college professors were focused on reading, studying, and preaching the Bible verse by verse. That is called exegetical preaching. Exegesis is the art of drawing the message from the text. All the professors taught this way,  except one, my preaching professor. He would criticize me to no end, saying that “unless you preach the gospel, you may have given a good message, but you haven’t preached. And that gospel requires you to bring them to the cross. (Doug Dickey, multiple times in 1984-1986. He wanted you to include God’s grace, God’s love, God’s mercy, and if you didn’t – back to the library you went until you did!

I think that needs to be a rule, not only for preaching but for worship. We need to bring the people of God to the cross – We need to be there as well! Oh, do those who preach and lead worship need to come to the cross! We need to see with the Psalmist – the wonders of God as He acts on our behalf!  We need to see Him take on death and destroy it!  We need to see Him triumphant over our sin! That is why the Lord’s Supper explains the giving of Christ’s Body and His Blood shed for us! The entire service needs to focus there to journey with the cross throughout the week! 

The cross needs to be there; the sermon and the sacrament need to draw us to Jesus! Look at the monks Luther describes, as they die, they just wanted to focus on the crucifix, to be in awe of God’s love for His people.

Can you preach verse by verse and still proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? I believe so, but will the cross and the resurrection be your primary focus? The same question may be asked to those who preach topically,
who do a series on marriage or faith. Or those who preach from the pericope, the rotation of verses over 1 or 3 years. You must go to the scriptures, see how they point to Jesus, and work on that passage until you figure out how!  The same as the worship service is formed, how does each song, each reading, each prayer draw people into Christ and make them more aware of His love! Of course, the decision on whether to offer commune fits there as well! Where else is the work of God as manifest at that moment, as people commune with the Body and Blood of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)

It is not preaching unless Christ crucified is revealed, nor is it worship if we are not brought to that cross in awe and celebrate that death was for us. This is why we gather… this is the refreshment given. It is time to celebrate!

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), 125.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 87–88.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 224.

how to change church….

Devotional Thought of the Day

32  All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33  The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34  There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35  and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. Acts 4:32-35 (NLT2)

To be 100 percent positive would be as fatal as to inhale steadily all your life without exhaling. You can’t do that.…
When the Church inhales the Holy Spirit she must exhale everything that is contrary to Him.

Our evangelizing vocation asks us to cultivate the humility of being stewards, not masters, who assume the reproach and contempt for the cross of Christ in our daily work, in the service of the Son of God who went before us along the way.

The church, in its early days, must have been something to see in action! To watch people, who found unity in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, live out that unity sounds incredible! As you go through history, similar times have
been documented. The church reacted to being freed from hell and the dear of death with unbelievable generosity.

That spirit is the result of lives where the Holy Spirit has breathed life into them. Where a constant diet of God’s presence, of His mercy, of celebrating His love changes them. It is then the church becomes stewards of life and of everything God has given them. As stewards then, their reward is in an investment result that provides the Lord great joy. This investment is a reaction to the blessing of God! It is not a reaction made in fear of salvation but because of the joy of being saved!  Rather than attempting to win God’s favor, one recognizes that they are in God’s favor because of Jesus. This is the life in Christ, the life where the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer, within the church.

That life embraces the challenge; it embraces even martyrdom as Stephen did, knowing that God will use it for good! It, therefore, doesn’t require a triumphant spirit; it doesn’t act condescendingly to those who are unbelievers or of another belief.  This life in Jesus shows them love and desires; as God does that He transforms them.  We are stewards of everything, our assets, our words, our very lives. 

It gives out the gospel because that is all that it has… for that is what it has been fed…and everything else is being expelled. The nicer way to put it is exhaled, but that which is not of God is expelled!  This is the only way to grow the church – to give them Christ, and watch the change He works in them!

The implications of this are huge, for instead of the church focusing on modifying sinners’ behavior, it needs to instead feed them on the love and mercy of Christ. It needs to take the gift of grace and assure people it is theirs, despite the sin that had them bound. Repentance is more the transformation of the heart and mind now cleaned than trying to force yourself to do good. This is our blessing!

This is our life, in Christ!

Lord Jesus, You desire that all are drawn to You. Help us bring them there, as they are, and rejoice with them as they realize that Your resurrection from the dead brings them to life in You.



A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

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), 121.

Thoughts 2 days before the cross..

How do you communicate this?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5  Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6  He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7  And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7 (NLT2)

This is the way our Church wants us to be today: men and women freeof compromises, unprejudiced, free of ambitions, and free from ideologies, in other words, men and women of the gospel and only the gospel.

It was not an easy task which the Church faced.… To carry on the work of a man who was known to have died … to persuade others that this man had risen again from the dead and that He was the Son of God and Saviour: this mission was, in the nature of it, doomed to failure from the start. Who would credit such a fantastic story?…

Have you ever needed to have your mind and heart jump-started?

Tozer’s words (in purple) did that for me this morning, and then Pope Francis’s words resonated with them. We have to be gospel-centered people. We have to carry on the work of redeeming the world, the work that Jesus is sending us, just as the Father sent Him.

Imagine being the women sent to proclaim the good news to the disciples!  I am pretty sure they didn’t need to be told to remember – I think the angel’s words would have burnt into the heart, soul, and mind.

“He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead – just as He said would happen!

How do you explain that to those who saw Him tortured and dying on the cross?  Who heard nails driven through his wrists, who saw the spear pierce His side, as the water drain from His taxed lungs, and the heart emptied of the blood that was left…

How do you find the words to make them believe this?

How do we truly believe it, not just as a historical event, but as something that has more impact on our lives than anything else?

Over the next 5 days, I have to preach 4 sermons, all geared to helping people know, to help them dwell upon their union with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. To know they were drawn to Him at the cross, united to Him there through their baptism.  To know He came to them at the celebration of the Eucharist. To understand the intimate fellowship that God wants with His people.

How do we lay everything else aside? How do we communicate this to people who live compromised lives? People who are struggling with realizing their own prejudice? (or being accused of it!) How do we open the eyes who are driven to ambition to gain…what exactly?

To be honest, I cannot compete with all of that, and the greatest preacher doesn’t have any greater chance than you and I. I have to tell them about Jesus. We just have to do it, with lots of prayer, before, during, and after Jesus is talked about. Not praying because it will make us successful, but because it will remind us to depend on the Holy Spirit. For it is the Spirit that will cut open their hearts and open the opportunity for healing.

Let’s remember what the angel told the ladies – and let us go tell all who would follow Him that Jesus is alive! He has risen, just as He said!

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), 114.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Which Message Needs to be Preached?

Is there joy or suffering in this nativity scene?

Devotional Thought for this day:

23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man* to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. John 12:23-26

If you want to be faithful and fruitful, our homilies should always disseminate and harvest hope.

Later they will know that they are to be educated to be pastors. Afterward they will offer their services when some position is unoccupied. That is to say, they will not force their way in but will indicate that they are prepared, in case anybody should ask for them; thus they will know whether they should go. It is like a girl who is trained for marriage; if anybody asks her, she gets married. To force one’s way in is to push somebody else out. But to offer one’s service is to say, ‘I’ll be glad to accept if you can use me in this place.’ If he is wanted, it is a true call. So Isaiah said, ‘Here I am. Send me’ [Isa. 6:8]. He went when he heard that a preacher was needed. This ought to be done.

There is a lot to being a pastor, to preaching the word, to ensuring people receive the sacraments. It is a calling from God and recognized by the church. You go when you are needed, as Luther discusses. And yet, there is a question of recognizing the need, and responding to it.

The passage in red, from the gospel is one message that needs to be proclaimed. It seems to ask for a lot, for the believer to follow Jesus and sacrifice himself for the needs of others. It seems different than Pope Francis’s words about providing and havesting hope.

Do I preach about self-sacrifice and Christlikeness? Or

Do I give a message of hope?

Or is there a third option, to so clearly preach about being in Christ that one realize the hope found in self-sacrifice. That is the challenge when presented with the dilemna of preaching this or that. It is not one or the other, it is where they intersect, and that intersection always is found where we meet Jesus. For our greatest hope is found when and where we are closest to Christ, when the Holy Spirit is transforming us into His image. There, no matter the sacrifice, the work of God is seen, a work that is joyful beyond anything else we can experience.

It’s not preach self-sacrifice or preach hope. It is both/and… in Christ Jesus

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), 110.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 80.

The Interrupted Devotional Time

Devotional Thought of the Day:

33  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35  Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36  Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37  Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38  They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39  All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. Hebrews 11:33-40 (NLT2)

To them the Spirit was One to be loved and fellowshiped the same as the Lord Jesus Himself. They would have been lost completely in any metaphysical discussion of the nature of the Spirit, but they had no trouble in claiming the power of the Spirit for holy living and fruitful service.
This is as it should be.

While the neoorthodox theologians were diverse, the movement as a whole believed that preaching is key for people to encounter the Word of God.

Jesus awakens great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human suffering, he shows the face of God’s mercy and always bends down to heal body and soul.

As the prayer requests were called and texted into the church’s office today, my devotions were interrupted. It happens.

As I finally got around to them, the readings that I highlighted seemed even more important! It was the faith of the people I was praying for, from a 10 year old boy to a 94 year old man, described in these quotes above.

Like the saints in the scriptures and their contemporaries, it was a dependence on God that made the difference. They were in love with God, not trying to determine which member of the Trinity- they just reveled in His presence. Therefore they did things that only those who know God Almighty loves them are capable of doing.  Pope Francis is right; they know God’s mercy and realize His presence, His coming into their lives because they know Jesus. I guess that is what concerns me today, as people hear sermons designed to know about the word of God, the scriptures, rather than the Word of God – that is, to know Jesus. And it is something I need to be aware of and ask myself – how did this sermon, these songs, this Bible Study help people to know Jesus.

How will it help them to someday be part of that great group of witnesses to God’s glory, who found their dependence on God fully justified? How will it encourage a Kurt or a Sam? How will it help them walk with Him, in His light, in His glory?

Weighty questions for eleven o’clock!  But ones that need to start affecting me more… and more. I pray you to benefit from them – as my congregation does.



A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 49.

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), 23.

Last Thoughts of 2020… that lead us to life in 2021

Devotional thought for 2020

19  “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. 20  Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. 21  It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Matthew 6:19-21 (MSG)

O my beloved Jesus, since Thou wilt feed me this morning with Thine own blood in the Holy Communion, it is but reasonable that I should willingly renounce all the delights and pleasures which the world might give me. Yes, I give them all up; I protest that I choose rather to suffer all evils united to Thee, than to enjoy all the goods of the world away from Thee. It is sufficient happiness for me to please Thee, who art worthy of all that we can do to please Thee. I will say, then, with St. Ignatius of Loyola, give me, I pray Thee, but Thy love and Thy grace; that is sufficient for me, and I am contented.

As Jesus was filled with joy in the Holy Spirit, may our joy by the power
of the same Spirit make us set our sight on the things of God’s kingdom.


If the world’s foundations crumble we still have God, and in Him we have everything essential to our ransomed beings forever.
We [also] have Christ, who … died for us and who now sits at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens making constant and effective intercession for us.
We have the Scriptures, which can never fail.
We have the Holy Spirit to interpret the Scriptures to our inner lives and to be to us a Guide and a Comforter.
We have prayer and we have faith, and these bring heaven to earth and turn even bitter Marah sweet.
And if worse comes to worst here below, we have our Father’s house and our Father’s welcome.

One of my favorite slogans addresses the picture that accompanies this blog, “do your job/” A slogan of the New England Patriots for a season, I think it it a key to life.

Do what you are called to do… and leave the rest to God.

Not the job you get pay from, nor your job as father, mother, child. NOr any other vocation, but the vocation that enables them all, being a child of God. For on God, for Tozer seems prophetic in his statement about the world’s foundations crumbling. Yet God is still there..

We have the assurance that the absolute worst thing that could happen in the world’s eyes, is that which will see us receive the most tremendous of welcomes. The welcome into our Father’s house.

Thinking like that is why deLigouri could pray (and recount the prayer ) the way he does, a prayer that I long to be able to honestly pray, if I could but give up everything that has occured in 2020, the horrible, the bad, that which grieves me to the deepest point, and those things that bring equally incredible joy.

We need to rely on the Spirit’s ministry to us, and through us. That is our greatest job… this dance with God. This is our greatest treasure, this is our reason for existence. This is our vocation…to partner and work in fellowship with God.

That is what 2020 freed us to do in 2021… to dance with God, as we have realized the vanity of anything else….

Heavenly Father, You and our Lord Jesus have sent us the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, to free us from the cares of this world, to help us dance with You… Help us to do this in 2021, more than we ever have in our lives. AMEN!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 88.

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), 406.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

The Missing Part of Worship…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Do not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey, any of your livestock, or the resident alien who lives within your city gates, so that your male and female slaves may rest as you do. Deuteronomy 5:12-14 CSB

For this reason, holy souls endeavor to remain as long as possible in prayer after Communion. The Venerable Father Avila, even when he was given his missions, used to remain for at least two hours in prayer. Father Balthasar Alvarez used to say, that we should set great value on the time after Communion, imagining that we hear from the lips of Jesus Christ himself the words that he addressed to his disciples: But Me you have not always with you.
It is not advisable, as many do, to begin to read immediately after Communion: it is then better to spend at least a short time in producing holy affections, and in conversing with Jesus, who is then within us, and in repeating many times words of tenderness, or some feeling prayer.

We are living out the joy of walking with Jesus, of being with Him, of carrying his cross with love, with a spirit that is always young!

For a few months now, we have worshipped as a church outside. At first, the hot summer temperatures were a challenge. Those have been replaced by the challenges posed by the cool Southern California winter. There have been challenges with smoke from fires, and a couple of rainstorms.

But what I think is the greatest challenge is the missing altar rail.

Outside, there is a parade by the pastor, the deacon who serve the people of God the body and blood of Christ. A spiriutal conveyor belt without time to pause, to contempalte, to let the presence of Christ’s body and blood be appreciated, reveled in, amazed at.

We go through the line, return to our seats and wait for the service to continue….

Especially during advent, where we left the altar open for peopel to stay as long as they needed. To find in that pause of time, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the amazing mercy of Christ. The chance to pour out our broken lives, to be made complete as God comes to us, and dwells in us.

Not that having a rail to kneel at does all this. BUt it provides the opportunity for the pause that we need, the de Ligouri talks about so enthusiastically. The rest that we need, that was created for us by God, that was part of the Ten Commandments. Something so important that we are commanded to share it with those who work for us, who work with us, even providing it to those among us who are alien and foreigners. This is what people need!

This is a time we need to provide – but how… and how long….and how do we help people spend that time in awe of what has been given them in the sacrament. All questions – but none that prceclude giving people a few moments to ponder, to be in awe, to feel the relief that flows through us, as we experience the love of God.

God is with us… He gives Himself for us…

God read that last sentence again, and again…

We need to take time to process this, not just continue on with the service…

Something to ponder… so that others can ponder this gift of God’s love…. and then celebrate it…

btw – if you like this topic – consider this song by Bob Bennet,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtcCXq0lFMA

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 75–76.

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), 406.

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