The Secret to a Blessed, Peace-filled New Year!
Devotional Thoughts to start the year:
12 How can I know all the sins lurking
If God’s conversational walk with us makes us think we are people of great importance, his guidance will certainly be withdrawn. For we cannot be trusted with it. In the kingdom of God, those who exalt themselves will be abased, and pride comes before a fall. If God speaks to us, he does so to help us become a part of what he is doing in the world to care for and guide others
We lack the simplicity that would enable us to stammer “Abba”. In fact, there is, in us,
The Year of our Lord, 2018 is finally over. It was, in so many ways, a tiring, draining, traumatic year.
You might call it the “year of faith” because so many things occured that all that is left, is to depend on God. A lot of people lost people close to them, a mother, a brother, a good friend, a husband. Others had to deal with their sin, no longer able to hide it. People struggled in their marriages, in their workplaces, with their health.
And God was there, crying with us, laughing with us, reminding us that we aren’t equal partners with God, but His people, those His covenant promises
Even as the psalmist points out,
There is also the sin we know about, that we deliberately commit. As God’s
This is how we need to start the year, even as we ended it, depending on God, trusting Him to do what is good and right and necessary to help us live in His peace.
And so, the prayer of the pastor/priest before we
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, YHWH, my ROCK and my REDEEMER! AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
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. 9). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
At the End of the Day; What have you seen?
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
17 For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Rev. 7:17 HCSB
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.
The ancient Celtic prayer that ends a section of my devotional time each day is one I to often overlook. Especially the part I emphasized with Italics.
I need to place the words on the door from my garage into the house? I need to come home with an inventory of where I have seen God at work during that day.
I need to remember the blessings, the wonders, the things that caused me to stop and pause, and consider the presence of God.
Things like a week ago, when a five-year-old, hearing her grandpa talk about how the church needs ot help us with my wife out of work, took our her change purse, put one of her precious dimes in an envelope with a picture she colored for me and left it on my desk.
Or the guy who needed to come home to his church, to find the peace he knows is here for him, as he is dealing with so much brokenness. (He ministers in a bunch of places – but this is his home)
The odd thing, at least to my mind, is not how incredible these things are, but how they surprise us. We know Jesus us the One who shepherds us, we know that He loves and cares for us, but we don’t always take the time to see the Spirit at work in our daily lives. Yet we confess He is with us, we chant it, sing about it, hear it in sermons, read it in the Bible, as God reveals it to us.
Or maybe we do see it, but we don’t remember it, at the end of the day.
We need to! One might say we desperately need to remember God at work in our lives.
From hearing our sins are forgiven by His command, to seeing His handiwork in nature and the skies, to the wonders of the miracles we too often overlook.
He is here… working…through us.
May we remember the blessed wonders we see, and may we see them! AMEN!
Where have you seen God working in your life in the last day or two?
500 Years Later: What Blessings Does the Church have in Common?
It was an amazing opportunity, a blessing that would have been unheard of at the 450th anniversary of the Reformation. A chance for a Lutheran pastor to explain where we have come from over the last 500 years, and using writings of a Pope, Martin Luther, Vatican II and a leading Lutheran Theology professors, give us hope and urge us on to seek reconciliation.
here is a rough draft recording of the talk…..okay a really rough draft.
May we pray that the Church would be one and that it would be seen as one by us. AMEN.
The Need to Seek God. Why prayer is more than tweeting Him!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 But he would go away to lonely places, where he prayed. TEV Luke 5:16
But there are other reasons why God has bestowed this external knowledge of Himself upon the minds of all men.
In the first place, He has done so for the sake of the external discipline which God wants all men to observe, even the unregenerate.
Paul explains the second reason in Acts 17:27 with the words “to seek the Lord.” This expression has been placed in the causal construction, “because of or on account of our deficiency.” Thus there is absolutely no doubt that this knowledge has been revealed so that we will seek God.
Nay, you must even accustom yourself to know how to pass from prayer to those occupations which your state of life lawfully requires, though ever so distant from the affections you have received in prayer: for example, let the lawyer learn to pass from prayer to pleading, the merchant to his mercial transactions, and the married woman to the care of her family, with so much ease and tranquillity that their spirits may not be disturbed; for, since all of them are in positions according to the will of God, they must learn to pass from the one to the other in the spirit of humility and devotion.
Chemnitz, in the reading in blue, notes our need to seek the Lord. In the passage it comes from, he is talking about what we see from natural revelation, but that too only wets the hunger for contact with God, and more than contact, for intimacy. In the intimate moments, we find peace and rest. When we enter that peace and rest, then something miraculous happens, we find healing, for we are being transformed into His likeness.
We need God, we can’t make it on our own, we have broken too much, and been broken too many times. The requirements of scripture primarily show us this, not just a path to enlightenment. We need him as much when we have been made His children, as when were alone in the darkness.
We are made for fellowship with the Father, we see that in Jesu’ own life, as He seeks the peace that comes as He finds rest in the Father’s love.
Why are we more in need of seeking God, of finding HIs presence? Don’t we mature? Don’t we become strong believers who can handle things on our own?
Simply put, no.
If anything, we become more aware of our brokenness, More aware of the healing needed in our lives, and in those around us. So we need Him more, we need HIs comfort, His peace, His presence. We need to be assured we are healing. The affections that he talks of maintaining.
Which is where prayer is so desperately needed.
I am not talking about praying unceasingly, as some portray it. Prayer is not a text message here and there or sending a tweet to God and occasionally seeing if. That isn’t the unceasing prayer.
Rather it is like De Sales advocates, this times of prayer where we find ourselves so enamored of God’s love that it becomes part of our parenting, part of our being an employee, part of being a boss, whatever it is. We move from our time of peace, our time of healing through our life.
That is unceasing prayer, a life of being there, in the presence of God, which stems from our sacramental time (3) where we deliberately take time to seek God and realized that He is our life, our breath, our breathing, as Paul states in Acts 17:28.
So go, spend some time crying out to the Lord! Find your rest and peace in His presence. Take your time there, consider the Lord’s supper, your baptism, the promises made then. Explore the dimensions of His love, allowing Him to relieve you of all your anxieties, your worries, your burdens, and yes your sin and shame. Then, knowing the glory of God’s love, re-enter life, assured of His presence as you walk by His side….
The Lord is with you!
(1) Chemnitz, Martin, and Jacob A. O. Preus. Loci Theologici. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.
(2) Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
(3) Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XIII talks of prayer as a sacrament, and if we knew it as one, maybe we would be more quickly run to it!
Peter’s (and our’s) unrealized betrayal… how could we neglect this blessing?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” 31 But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all spoke similarly.
The Agony in the Garden. 32 *Then they came to a place named Gethsemane,i and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”j 33 He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. 34 Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” 35 He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; 36 he said, “Abba, Father,* all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” 37 When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 *Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.k The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” 39 Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. 40 Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. 41 He returned a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. 42 Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.” Mark 14:30-42 NABRE
They have confused renewal with comfort. To give a small but concrete example: a religious reported to me that the downfall of his monastery began very concretely with the declaration that it was “no longer practicable” for the religious to rise during the night to recite the nocturnal office. But that was not the end of the matter. The religious replaced this uncontested but significant “sacrifice” by staying up late at night to watch television. (1)
As I read Pope Benedict’s words this morning, they stung.
Have I done so? Have I justified my own comfort, my own desires, in such a way that I claim it is really about renewal and revitalizing my dependence upon God, and how that is practiced in life?
I had already realized something that I hadn’t seen before. Peter had already denied Jesus three times, prior to being questioned. He denied him in the garden, as his need for comfort outweighed his desire to have fellowship with God.
I’ve been there recently (Thursday and Friday), with a schedule so overwhelmed I haven’t taken the time I usually spend with God, praying, reading, meditating and journaling/blogging (my blog is just my journal, the coalescing of my thoughts, reading and a lesson). I said Thursday I would catch up with it later, but by the end fo the day, I passed it on to Friday and Friday to this morning.
Oddly enough, a friend had shared with me on Wednesday how devastating a similar experience had been. I would say I caught it before it was too late, but it was too late, when I sought my own physical comfort before quenching a physical thirst. Denying the time I desperately need with God. I missed out, and while God still used me, and I still saw His glory in the lives of those around me, I also experienced some spiritual emptiness, and my experience with God’s glory became more like an outsider looking in, than as a participant, one invited to share in it.
It is all too easy to fall asleep in the garden, to adjust our time to provide enough “rest and relaxation.” (or to become like Martha and avoid that time because of our “work”) To view our time in prayer and meditation on God’s love as a duty, and not the incredible holy blessing it is. For to take that time – to set it apart to pour out our hearts, and to listen to Christ’s heart poured out for us, that is a blessing, a foretaste of heaven, a time to realize His presence; to experience the peace that is beyond understanding.
To let Him guard and heal our hearts and minds.
Lord, Have mercy on us, and don’t let us fall asleep on you, or seek our comfort more than your face. Spirit, help us, lift us to see the blessings, to experience the glorious presence of God in our lives, and see Your work in Your Church. AMEN!
(1) Ratzinger, Joseph. 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. Print.
A Godly Paradox: The Blessing of a Angry, Jealous God
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 GOD, you smiled on your good earth! You brought good times back to Jacob! 2 You lifted the cloud of guilt from your people, you put their sins far out of sight. 3 You took back your sin-provoked threats, you cooled your hot, righteous anger. 4 Help us again, God of our help; don’t hold a grudge against us forever. 5 You aren’t going to keep this up, are you? Scowling and angry, year after year? 6 Why not help us make a fresh start—a resurrection life? Then your people will laugh and sing! 7 Show us how much you love us, GOD! Give us the salvation we need! 8 I can’t wait to hear what he’ll say. GOD’s about to pronounce his people well, The holy people he loves so much, so they’ll never again live like fools. Psalm 85:1-8 (MSG)
1 I hope you will put up with a little more of my foolishness. Please bear with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. 3 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. 4 You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. 2 Corinthians 11:1-4 (NLT)
We find in scripture many mysteries, many things that we can know, but never quite understand. There are also things that we label paradox, the things we can understand, yet seem, not quite right, perhaps a little unbelievable.
The concept of a jealous God fits that last category, and if we don’t work through it, we will never understand His anger, and why He threatens and pours out His wrath.
If we do understand why God is a jealous God, if we understand why He is angry, there is a wonderful blessing to be known. A simple blessing.
Here it is:
You don’t get jealous, you don’t get angry when a relationship is stepped all over, or worse, ignored, unless you care, and care deeply.
God’s anger, God’s jealousy is proof of how much He loves us, how much He cares, how he longs to show us His mercy and love.
But this seems paradoxical at first. So take a moment, stop, breath a few times and think it through,
We like the fact that God is patient with us, but does patience have a cost? Of course it does. It means that God is willing to wait until we remember He is there, until we come to our senses, until the Holy Spirit’s work is done.
We like the fact that God is willing to go to extremes to bring us back to Him. Searching for us, (even though He knows where we are), calling to us; sending us messengers prophets and evangelists, and shepherds to rescue us and guide us,
Foreknowledge doesn’t turn God into some kind of metaphysical robot, It doesn’t take away the pain of the times we rebel, of the times we walk away, the times we choose to sin rather then revel in His love and care. While He knows the outcome, that doesn’t relieve the sorrow He knows as we spend time away from Him, as we spend time like the prodigal, dirty and muddy and hungry for something that will sustain us.
God wants this intimate relationship with us, He wants to care for us, to be our God, we His beloved children.
When stuff gets in the way of this relationship, when we create other things that would take His place, that we trust in, that we place our hopes in, He would destroy them. And someday He will. Yet for those who trust in Him, the wrather and anger that we deserve, that we are owed. God dealt with that too, and poured out all His anger and wrath, because He desires this, and was jealous of how we spend our time and energy, by nailing Jesus to the cross.
In doing so, we can be restored, the jealousy fades and we become what He desires more than anything…. HIs family.
Rejoice that we are in the hands of an angry God….. and realize that His desire for us is a blessed thing!
Can We Demand A Blessing from God?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 That same night Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two concubines, and his eleven children, and crossed the Jabbok River. 23 After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, 24 but he stayed behind, alone. Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. 26 The man said, “Let me go; daylight is coming.” “I won’t, unless you bless me,” Jacob answered. 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. “Jacob,” he answered. 28 The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.” 29 Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.” But he answered, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob. 30 Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel. Genesis 32:22-30 (TEV)
70 You asked me if I had a cross to bear. And I answered, “Yes, we always have to bear the Cross.” But it is a glorious Cross, a divine seal, the authentic guarantee of our being children of God. That is why we always walk along happily with the Cross. (1)
I don’t like to wrestle with God, yet I find myself doing it far too often.
Often the wrestling is because I am too much like Jacob, I want things the way I want them. Often times the way I want them seems quite logical, quite loving.
I want couples to grow together, not fight each other. I want my family and friends to be healthy, not dealing with heart issues, or cancer, or even the effects of aging and it slowing them down. I want my friends to be fellow disciples – studying and knowing God’s love, and desiring to spend time in worship and in service, and realizing that those two things, are really the same.
These things aren’t bad, are they? Why can’t they simply happen?
I am tired of wrestling with God over them, there are days, where I want to just walk away, to give up, to let people go there way, and find some nice “normal” life. Like Jeremiah, I have to rant and rave at times:
7 LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. Jeremiah 20:7 (TEV)
I can’t I have to wrestle with Him, I have to fight, I have to realize how He has blessed us. Until I do, like Jacob, I cannot give up. I have to find that blessing, I have to demand it,
I have to realize what it is….I have to realize the nature of the cross that He has chosen me to bear, even as you bear one as well.
The wrestling with God is all about the cross St Josemaria mentions; Jeremiah’s being deceived gives us the answer as well. Here is how Jeremiah sees the matter resolve…..
9 But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:9 (TEV)
It is seen in Jacob realizing the answer to the unanswered question, Who was this man? Jacob’s realization – it is God, I have seen His face. I even wrestled with Him, and He and I survived.
God came to me, He is here. He has come to you as well, and sometimes, the battle is on. We fight him, we try to forget Him, we do everything we can…. and He is still here. King David describes this as well in Psalm 139 – where he tries to flee God, and realizes His silliness.
The blessing? The reason we fight Him? It’s found in the very fight. He will wrestle with us, without destroying us. He comes to us, and engages with us, and cares enough to see the battle through. To let us rant and rave, and yeah – even sometimes cry, but in the end…. realizing His presence… we find peace.
That is the blessing..
A blessing that makes the cross glorious, that makes the struggle amazing, that makes God’s message, something we cannot dismiss or ignore… for it burns inside us.
To realize God has come to us, to you, to me. That He is here, with mercy and comfort, love… and a peace that we cannot explain. Even as we are exhausted from the fight, and weary from the burden of the cross… and though we still don’t get the entire story…. we know all that matters…..
He is here…and that is our blessing.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 514-517). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Burdened? With those of Christ, or Those of the World?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
414 Is the burden heavy? No, a thousand times no! Those obligations which you freely accepted are wings that raise you high above the vile mud of your passions. Do the birds feel the weight of their wings? If you were to cut them off and put them on the scales you would see that they are heavy. But can a bird fly if they are taken away from it? It needs those wings and it does not notice their weight, for they lift it up above other creatures. Your “wings” are heavy too! But if you did not have them you would fall into the filthiest mire. (1)
It’s one of the great mysteries of ministry, the ability to endure, and the strength that comes when we shoulder the burdens we are called to bear as we walk with Jesus.
There are days and weeks where pastors and others who serve the church get worn down, we are tired and weary and nearly breaking under the strain. I saw such a week ago, at another pastor’s memorial service. So many of my brothers looked worn down, beaten, broken. I didn’t pay much attention to the service to be honest, as I was mostly praying for the pastors sitting on either side of me. We are a tired bunch these days, many of us overburdened, many of us at the point where we can forget to look to Jesus. As we forget it is He that works through us, caring for His people.
As I was reading this morning, I came to the above quote from St. Josemaria. Having read of his life, of the existence during a civil war when brothers were dieing, of working tirelessly to see a vision where people – all people of the church realized that they were God’s worksmanship – that He had a role for each one, I realized these just weren’t words of advice. These were words of experience, words that shared the hope of realizing that we live at our best, when we take on those burdens of Christ.
Similarly, Eugene Peterson’s translation of an oft quoted passage strike home as well. It talks of the relationship we have with Christ. The relationship based on letting Him lead, letting Him choose the burdens we must carry. He replaces the burdens of sin, and shame, and guilt and resentment and regret with grace, with love, with putting all that aside to walk with Him, as He re-creates lives, as He restores what was broken, as He brings healing to that which was sickened and weakened by neglect and oppression. That’s God’s work, not really ours, though often it happens as we talk, as we hold the hand of one weeping, praying for them.
The burdens we do carry… seemingly heavier than those we set down, set us soaring. Not because they make us stronger, for that is not the nature of a wing. Wings primarily work because they catch the wind, and the wind pressure supports them and lifts them up. This is how the Spirit works in us, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who dwells in us, who cleanses us, who works through our words to bring people into that amazing relationship we have with God.
Ultimately, there is a time to stop, to listen to breathe. To pick up my guitar or sit at my keyboard (music not this one) and play… and realize the God who named me as His child, who called me into this ministry, who knows what He is doing. For if we don’t do that, surely we shall crash, surely we won’t be able to get out of the crud we entered as we ministered to people dealing with it in their lives. It’s the lesson an old Baptist jail chaplain taught me, as we served together. He told me when I left the jail, before I started my car to sit there, take a few moments to realize Christ’s promises to me in baptism. to remember that He has cleansed me, that He has taken all the real burdens from me, and that He will never leave me.
That’s a burden that is a blessing, and enables us to do everything else.
May you find the time today to take on His burden/blessings. AMEN
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1858-1864). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- The Heart of Theology & the Heart of Ministry is the Heart of Christ (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Needing a Sanctuary… because we know He is there… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Only Requirement to Come to our Church. Do you, or have you ever taken a breath… (justifiedandsinner.com)
One of the greatest blessings, that (or those) who annoy us?
Devotional thought of the Day:
Romans 8:26-28 (NJB) 26 And as well as this, the Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness, for, when we do not know how to pray properly, then the Spirit personally makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words; 27 and he who can see into all hearts knows what the Spirit means because the prayers that the Spirit makes for God’s holy people are always in accordance with the mind of God. 28 We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good.
250 We could get rid of so much neurosis and hysteria if people were taught—together with Christian doctrine—really to live as Christians: loving God and knowing how to accept things that annoy us as a blessing from His hand! (1)
Romans 8:28 is often used by those who minister and serve others, when we want to bring comfort to people. Especially those in deep trauma and those who have to deal with the impossible. Those times when we don’t know what to ask God, those times when all there seems to be, is pain.
Those times when we don’t want to admit we are over our heads. Like when the pain of loss of a loved one stops us from being able to think or act.
But what about the other times? What about the times (and the people) that a so frustrating its silly? When they just bug us to no end? What about when they drive us bonkers with the way they see things, when the situation is so…oddly broken that we can’t do anything? When the questions asked are such that we just don’t even know what to say?
Are these times really blessings? Are these people really a great blessing from God’s hand?
According to scripture, they are!
Talk about requiring us to have faith! To trust in God!
But that’s what Romans 8:28 says. Everything is turns out to be for our good.
Even the frustrating, even the annoying, even that which is so broken, so wrong, that it is silly.
So what do we do in those times? What do we do when we can’t find the answer?
Just pray, just put it in God’s hands, let the Holy Trinity bring you comfort and a sense of peace that also passes all understanding. Let the Holy Spirit interpret, and then trust in the God who sent His son, who died for us on a cross.
That everything would be a blessing, that everything would work out right.
I know – that doesn’t make sense to our rational, logical, minds.
Neither does the cross.
But the One who promised that the cross would be a blessing – that looked forward to it for the joy set before Him. He’s the One who also promises that all will work out for our best. Even the frustrating, even the annoying…
Even that which causes us to scratch our head, look to the heavens… and say…
Lord Have Mercy!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1230-1232). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.