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How Many Times Do I Need to Hear This? What About You? The Paradox of Life!

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
5  Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6  He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7  Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8  Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. Philippians 2:5-8 (MSG)

If someone doesn’t care whether they live or die it is hard to threaten them.  If our identity lies in whose we are, and not just in who we are, then even the loss of reputation will only be a temporary setback.  The need to be someone, to have clout, to command respect, to have prestige or position are the shackles every bit as those of materialism. To been seen as holy, o spiritual mature, someone of depth, having a quiet authority, are these not also ambitions or bolsters of our status?
If we can only reach the true poverty and yielded-ness of not “needing to be” anything (even a humble nothing!) then we will truly be invisible.  (1)

For where God’s Word is preached, accepted or believed, and bears fruit, there the blessed holy cross will not be far away. Let nobody think that he will have peace; he must sacrifice all he has on earth—possessions, honor, house and home, wife and children, body and life.
Now, this grieves our flesh and the old Adam, for it means that we must remain steadfast, suffer patiently whatever befalls us, and let go whatever is taken from us. (2)

Nietzsche once said he could not abide Saint Augustine—he seemed too plebeian and common. There is some justification for Nietzsche’s attitude, but it is precisely in these qualities that we discover Saint Augustine’s true Christian greatness. He could have been an aristocrat of the spirit, but for the sake of Christ and for the sake of his fellow men, in whom he saw Christ coming toward him, he left the ivory tower of the gifted intellectual in order to be wholly man among men, a servant of the servants of God. For the sake of Christ he emptied himself of his great learning. For the sake of Christ he became increasingly an ordinary person and the servant of all. In doing so he became truly a saint. For Christian holiness does not consist in being superhuman and in having an extraordinary talent or greatness that others do not have. Christian holiness is simply the obedience that puts us at God’s disposal wherever he calls us. (3) 

I could have included a passage or 2 from St. Josemaria that were part of my devotions over the last few days.  More passages where Jesus laid into the disciples the concept of sacrifice, where setting aside your life is the way to fulfill it.  That anyone who set aside everything will find far more. This even as Jesus mourned as the rich young man couldn’t leave all behind. The words of Paul are encouraging us to imitate Paul where He imitated Jesus.  The words of Stephen as boulders crashed upon Him, giving up even his “right” to revenge, that those who tortured them would be healed, that they would receive mercy, that they would rejoice in the love of the God whom they killed.

All those passages and the ones above coalesced this morning into one message.

It is the paradox of following Christ, to abandon to receive everything.  It is why we are drawn to Christ, to see our Father’s Kingdom come, His will be done – for the world to come to repentance, to be transformed, to be cleansed, to be filled.

As we are emptied, even as Christ emptied himself, there is freedom and peace. Assured that nothing can separate us from God, we are free to love, to be merciful, to share a blessing that is so far beyond anything we know, anything we used to value, including ourselves.  We get to share a blessing that is more than anything that could cause us anxiety, fear, or disturb our peace. We are emptied of all that…

It is simplicity that doesn’t even recognize itself, as we cling to Jesus and know we are His.

It is then the Holy Spirit is free to minister through us, guiding us, helping us love.  This is so subtly done we don’t realize it, for we are at peace…even if it costs us our physical lives like Stephen, Paul and Jesus.  Or, as living sacrifices where we live trusting and depending on God.

This is our paradox… not to think about as much as embrace.  It is our life in Christ.


Celtic Daily Prayer, Devotion for 8/29

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Large Catechism from The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 429). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 274). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Our Need for Prayer

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Featured image3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)

6  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

The more you suffer, the more you are tempted  the more you need to pray; prayer now alone can strengthen you with help and consolation.  Let not pain and fierce temptation paralyze you prayer.  The devil does all he can to prevent you from praying at these times.  But rather than give into weak human nature which absorbs the soul in its paid so that it sees nothing else for the time, turn your eyes to our Lord and speak to Him standing so near.  He is with you, looking on you lovingly, listening for your words.  He tells you to speak, that He is there to hear you, that He loves you and you have not a word to say to Him, no look to give Him.  What ingratitude!  Look at Him speak to Him without ceasing, The deeper your agony, the deeper you must bury yourself in the Heart of your Beloved, and cling to His side with ceaseless prayer!  (1)

I have to admit, while I don’t spend the time i would like, perhaps as much time I really need in prayer, the words in blue resonate with me.

I know them true, and it is why I can desire to spend more time, more hours, more days in prayer.

You may ask why I put the first reading there, about ignoring salvation. Simply put, because salvation isn’t just about the event, where God cleanses us from sin, washing us clean as He promises in our baptism, replacing our heart of stone with a heart of flesh and giving us His Spirit, (see Ezekiel 36:25).  Salvation is rescuing us from and delivering us to something that is incredible.

As we are saved we become something.  We become part of the people of God, daughters and sons of God, adopted and marked as His children, we enter into a entirely different relationship with God, one where He promises to never forsake us, never abandon us, never to stop working in our lives.  We find life, a life lived in fellowship, in community, in communion with God.

And that is what we should never neglect, that is what we need to grow in, the awareness that the Lord is with you.  (and yes, thank you – also with me).  We need to learn to depend up this, not as a fact, but as reality.  He is with us, ready to listen, ready to comfort, ready to heal, ready to reach out into this broken world.

Prayer then becomes the way of life, the very meaning of our salvation.  Walking with God. Please re-read the second scripture passage and the italicized blue above, there is our hope.  our peace, our comfort, our very ability to live.

In the past couple of weeks, many people I know have encountered death of their loved ones. I’ve talked to others, who have lost jobs, or are afraid of losing a relationship.   Just knowing this is exhausting, tiring, painful, the feeling of emptiness and loneliness I observe is… crushing.  For those directly involved, the devotional writer gets it right.  The sorrow and grief consumes us.  Nothing else can matter in that moment.

Until God breaks through, until He reminds us that He is here.  There is a strong correlation between how quickly we hear His voice in those moments, and the time we spend walking with Him at other times.  Even if we feel that there aren’t the other times.  Yet if we neglect this, if we take Him for granted, it may take a longer time to find Him, when only His comfort is the answer.  Don’t neglect Him, don’t

Then we can find rest and peace, dwelling in His love.

So pray my friends, realize God walks with you, and share with Him everything… and spend some time in stillness, and in quiet, and know He is God.  AMEN!

(1) from Celtic Daily Prayer:  Finian Reading for April 10th.

The Two Cries of a Church That is Alive… (even though others think it is dying)

Devotional & Discussion Thought of the Day:Dawn at Concordia
When the LORD brought us back to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! 2  How we laughed, how we sang for joy! Then the other nations said about us, “The LORD did great things for them.” 3  Indeed he did great things for us; how happy we were! Psalm 126:1-3 (TEV)

Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad. Romans 12:15 (Phillips NT)

 “if this is not a place where tears are understood, where can I go to cry?”  (1)

” I’m going where He goes, out into the world of lonely people:”

“Concordia is the the place where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal!”

There has been a blog going around recently, about the last gasps dying churches.  It is quite popular, not with those who are in the dying churches, but those that observe them, and are waiting for them to die.   I’ve been in those churches, and I’ve seen them come back to life, miraculously in some people’s minds. There is a different view from inside than out, there is a different need perceived, there are different words said, different gasps and prayers. They aren’t as self-centered and waiting for the last one to die, so that they can turn the lights out, as is often alleged.

So what does this have to do with the quotes above?  Well, that is where I find the life in these churches.  The two essential cries of the church, the cries of joy, and the cries of sorrow.

If a church can rejoice in the news of a baptism, if a church can cry as a member or friend dies, then it is not dead, or dying.  Depressed perhaps, anxious or frightened, sincere and yet wrong in their, these places where tears of joy and sorrow run, they are alive.  They may need great care, they may need patient shepherding, but they are not dead…..

Here is where it starts, they need to know that they (actually we) aren’t the only ones who hear those cries.  That God Himself laughs, that God himself cries with them.  That there is a great picture of God in Isaiah rejoicing, where the word is actually dance!  And they need to see Jesus tears, as He weeps at Lazarus’ tomb, and as He weeps over Jerusalem.  They need to see God as one who brings comfort and peace, who celebrates who loves His people.

Whoever they are.

I’ve found that these churches that people assume are dying can minister to people who feel lost and overlooked in the mega-churches, in the churches where lament is a concept, but not an experience.  They can be the family of the single mom, they can accept those who struggle with sanity, they can care for the widow and orphan – not just provide them something.  They are great places for families that struggle – because as a congregation, they can rejoice, and they can weep with those who need more than a hour and 4 minutes of a church service. Bring in a missionary, they will minister to him or her extensively.

One of the churches I served once sponsored a pretty famous Christian/Blugrass musician to play at the town fair.  It was a risk – an incredible 5% of our annual budget (which wasn’t much! went to bring him in for a Saturday night concert, and the following morning to play at our church.  That Sunday, as he played to our 45 or so people – and 5-6 guests, the band asked if they were welcome at the potluck afterward.  Of course – come on down – feast.  It was something they never got to do – big venues mobbed them, and they had to hide. With us, they could be ministered to  they could be welcomed as family.  Though it didn’t have the impact we wanted on the community – this little church – that others told me not to come to -because it was dying… served others.

In my experience, these churches are alive, they need gentle shepherding, and they need to know that it is good to cry, good to laugh, good to cling to each other and slowly, as they look to Jesus, as the Holy Spirit ministers among them, they won’t be gasping, they will be crying…to God, with God, in God’s presence.

They will see people come home, as the Psalmist describes….and they will know the Lord is doing great things there…

(1)  Ken Medema; quoted in Celtic Daily Prayer:  Aidan Readings for 7/17

(2)  Ann Kiemel  same source



Did You Leave God Behind This Morning?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:Will new camera 12 2008 167

66  As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. 67  Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68  Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69 (NAB)

465         “Just one minute of intense prayer is enough.” Someone who never prayed used to say that. Would someone in love think it enough to contemplate intensely the person they love for just a minute?  (1)

Every morning that I am in my office, I use a morning devotion service from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  I like it for a number of reasons, it is well set up, and is a nice mix of liturgical form and meditation.  Instead of one of the three creeds, there is a simple declaration of faith (same thing really – Creed comes from Credo – I have confidence in) The declaration of faith is simply Peter’s response above, Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”

After using this devotional liturgy for a year, those words are well written on my soul. I have pondered them quit a bit as well in this last week – and wondered how often our lives do not match Peter’s response.  How often do we say that there is no where else to go, no one else’s words that give eternal life? Yet we leave our homes, and sometimes God is left behind.  Or we left Him at church on Sunday.  We run our lives as if he wasn’t there.

If we are honest, maybe we don’t want Him around, getting into our business, convicting us of sin.  Do we want Him answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation, when our minds and bodies are desperately trying to justify submitting to that temptation, or even searching it out.

Do we want to hear the words that give us life?  Do we want a life of continual prayer?  Or do we, like the crowds, want to leave Jesus places. so that we can return to our former way of life?

I’ve heard people ( and have even done it myself )justify their lack of prayer life by saying they pray in bursts, like the one St Josemaria points out.  I have a dynamic deep prayer life of 4 minutes, or I talk to God constantly through the day, so I don’t have to have devotional time.  And we leave Him behind again, preferring the television, or the computer or the company of others to spending time with God.  We play the quality versus quantity card too frequently.  The out for most of us pastors?  We don’t have the time because we are caring for people.

We need to be immersed in God’s presence, we need to realize how much a difference it makes, that this isn’t about discipline like calisthenics or working out in the gym.  We aren’t doing it for being holy for holiness sake. The only way to learn to value this time?  By being in it, tasting and knowing that God is good.

If you think these words are only aimed at you, my dear reader, they are not.  They are for me as well.  They are not to produce guilt, but to hold out to us that which is the most incredible news.

God, the creator of the universe, the One who died to bring hope and healing to the world, wants to spend time with you, to walk with you, to work with you, to encourage and comfort and rejoice and even dance with you.  That the Lord is with you….. and also… with me.

We didn’t leave Him behind, for He dwells with us.

I pray that we would receive the mercy of realizing that presence, and spending both time of quantity, and time of quality, in dialogue we our God, for we are His children!


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2052-2055). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Living a Holy Life. Possible for us?

] Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

 7  But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. 8  Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9  But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10  I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (TEV)

The Christian life is not hard to live, it is utterly impossible to live! Only one can live it, so let Him, in you!  (2/18F entry – Celtic Daily Prayer)

1003      Saint Teresa assures us that “anyone who doesn’t pray doesn’t need any devil to tempt him; while whoever prays, even if only for a quarter of an hour each day, will necessarily be saved.” This is because our conversation with Our Lord—who is so loving, even in times of difficulty or dryness of soul—enables us to see things in their proper perspective and discover the true proportions of life. Be a soul of prayer. (1)

This trip to the Phillipines is turning out to be somewhat of a enforced retreat, a time of being broken before God.  Some of that brokenness is physical, much more is emotional, as I receive word from home, worry about my wife and children (William and the unborn baby).  As i look out my hotel window and see both great riches and great poverty, as I hear of a couple that receives more challenging… no, I can’t just use that word, bad news today about the spread of the wife’s cancer.

Yes, Lord, I am tired, I am beaten, and in my eyes, it is not well with my soul.

The afflictions I face aren’t like Paul’s for the most part.  I haven’t been beaten or stoned, The likelihood is that I won’t have my head chopped off, or be crucified upside down.

But as I sit here in this hotel room – far from all my friends but one – and his very gracious family… I can’t do anything. I can’t massage my wife’s back, I can’t bring peace and laughter to my friends, I can’t teach and preach and share in the Lord’s sacrament with my church family.  (Oh I missed that on Sunday!)

So what do I come across in my devotions this morning – well – you see it above…. and it is more mindblowing.

I can’t live the life I want to live I read, with the disclaimer that it can only be lived in Christ.  Great Theological truth there, I’ve said similar from pulipits and in counseling to people, We have to live in Christ

One saint quotes another saint talking about prayer…. and as usual my head argues with me – I don’t want to be forced to pray, I don’t want to have to depend on this, I want to do something. And then I remember that such calls to prayer are not calls of the Law – do this or else… they are invitations to share in God’s grace.

That’s how, in Christ – we are Christians!  Holiness is simply the way to describe our lives as being lived in relationship to Christ that is so imtimate, so much a part of our nature – both conscious and unconcious, that it is who we are, and we realize it.  We know it – and when we reach these times of brokenness, these times of despair, we simply realize that our place is in God, that we share in His glory. That His power is at work through us in ways we cannot comprehend (but dang it – there are times I wish we could)  Living a life of holiness isn’t about my being perfect, about my sinning less – it is about those 10-20 minutes or somedays an hour… where I remember I am in His presence.

Living a life of Holiness is possible – being a Christian is possible – only in Christ.

That somehow – these times of prayer – sitting in a hotel room – are more critical, more powerful than anything else I can do.

I need to know this – I wish I could see this but even more – I realize I need to see just Him….

Lord Have Mercy on us is a prayer that can only be said… in His presence…

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3536-3540). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


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