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Sometimes it is so good, you have to share

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but we have not only received these blessings, we have received CHRIST JESUS himself. It is true that he gave us life from the dead. He gave us pardon of sin; he gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured into us, and we have received him…..

The scripture passage above was one I included in a blog a few days ago. It is something I am dealing with, something I, to be honest, am struggling with, as I observe some disconcerting things in the Church, and as I observe some stress and pain, and as I see people who are immune to seeing that stress and pain.

I know that desperation, and the fire burning in the guy. (Jeremiah knew it too – check out Jeremiah 20:7)

There is a tendency to fight or flee. TO argue till they see our side, until they follow our holy rules and acknowledge our superior wisdom, or to take the ball, our ball, and walk away. We don’t see a third option, and to be honest, we often do not want to see that option.

Because it means we lose, that our agenda is set aside, that we have to humble ourselves and work with our adversaries, not only do we have to work with them, we have to listen to them… and instead of winning or losing, instead of compromising, we have to seek God together.

Tony Campolo used to tell the story of walking from a parking structure in Philadelphia to a big meeting, some major players were going to donate a large sum of money to back some mission efforts he was developing. Important stuff, millions of dollars on the line. He was late, and as he walked down the street, he noticed a homeless guy walking toward him. He did what most of us would do, he tried not to make eye-contact with him. After all, he was in a hurry, to do something incredible for God!

Every once in a while he would look up – and the guy had zeroed in on him. I think he used the word, “crap” or perhaps something stronger. He realized he only had a $20 in his pocket, and didn’t want to waste it. The guy approached, Tony got anxious, nercous, tried to think of something to say.

“mister, I want to give you something”

“HUH????”

“Here, you need this, as he tries to hand Tony the cup in his hand”

Tony accepts it, he can feel the heat through the cup. Then he looks and it is a steaming cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. He’s like “how much do I owe you”

The guy explains, “Nothing Mister, someone gave me enough for two cups this morning, and mine was so good, I had to give the other to someone else. You looked so stressed out, I had to give it to you. Haven’t you had something so good that you needed to share it with someone else?

I’ve heard Tony tell that story, of that horrible cold, wet Philadelphia day probably 5 or 6 times. Each time he does it with a tear in his eye, as he remembers the swirling feelings of guilt and joy.

Back to my original point.

Paul describes us too well,

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

Here is the cup of coffee we need to savor,

Look back u to the words of Spurgeon in purple.

Go ahead…

no really – and if you did ,,, think about it again. really work through it.

Now that is your cup of coffee, and you and your adversary, you and the person in the church who is causing you pain, the one you think you struggle with, that is inconvenient, needs to know this.

Now go and share you cup of coffee…

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

What Does Corporate Worship Matter?

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of The Day:

23  But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24  For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” 25  The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26  Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!” John 4:23-26 (NLT2)

Faced with the political and social crises of the present time and the moral challenge they offer to Christians, the problems of liturgy and prayer could easily seem to be of second importance. But the question of the moral standards and spiritual resources that we need if we are to acquit ourselves in this situation cannot be separated from the question of worship. Only if man, every man, stands before the face of God and is answerable to him, can man be secure in his dignity as a human being. Concern for the proper form of worship, therefore, is not peripheral but central to our concern for man himself.

She knew so little, but enough to hold on to some hope… … …

This lady who had depend on a guy to live, and had to depend on him in the most desperate way, still had a little of her childhood religion to cling too, but often, she must have wondered.

Many of us, even us pastors, wonder at times. in the midst of all of the broken and shattered mess of ife, wonder if that 90 minutes on Sunday, and maybe another 60 on Tuesday or Wednesday night makes a difference.

We pin our hope on the return of Jesus, and that is appropriate, but it can seem so far away, and how do we endure this moment, and the next. Will we be able to stand up after the next one?

She was standing before him, and she realized who she was, and that changed everything. A far off dream became true hope, that is what it means to find yourself in the presence of God who tells you, “I AM”

This is what should happen in worship, as we come face to face with God, who looks at our life, and smiles, and says I AM here, even as He proceeds to clean us up, to heal our brokenness, . That is why we worship together, to witness this happen in each other’s lives, as God comes to us, and reveals Himself.

I was able to witness this Sunday, as my partner in ministry was able to commune his father for the first time. I have seen it as the women abandoned finds hope for her and her two daughters. I see it in the old man broken by health, who lives each week to take the Body of Christ in hand, to pass his own hand over and caress the baptismal font. I see it in the little child who doesn’t go to church, but in its preschool answers, “God takes care of us, He gives us our food, He is always with us,” and another preschooler who scribbled, “He took our sins away, and that makes us feel better”, because they learn these things in chapel together.

In those moments, the broken words seem to have faded away. Political and social crisis don’t matter at the font and the altar.

In those moments, we realize how precious these people’s lives are.

In these precious moments, we realize He is with us! AMEN!



Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 7.

Some Blunt Talk About “the Ministry” and Supporting it.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

The priests have the priesthood as their share of what I have given Israel to be handed down from one generation to another. They are not to hold property in Israel; I am all they need Ezekiel 44:28 GNT

God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 2:1-3 GNT

363    You’re disheartened, crestfallen. Men have just taught you a lesson! They thought you didn’t really need their help and so they made you plenty of empty promises. The possibility that they might have to help you with hard cash— just a few pennies—turned their friendship into indifference. Trust only in God and those united with you through him.

There is a part of me that doesn’t want to write this blog. Partly because I know pastors who are well described in the words of St Josemaria. Ministers who needed a few pennies, and were turned down by congregations whose people drove new luxury cars, and lived in more than moderately priced homes. And there are pastors whose people are just as poor and financially desperate as they are.

And the words disheartened and crestfallen are descriptions that are blunt and accurate. Depressed and anxiety laden could be added.

I won’t say I’ve always had a solid salary to work on in ministry, Twenty-one years after I started serving “full-time” I am about where I was before I entered the ministry. My wife has had to work all the time, and there have been times where I worked a second or third job, but when push comes to shove, we’ve not gone without a meal, or been late on the rent. God’s people have been there. For which I am grateful

I know guys who haven’t had their church there. Pastors whose families are on welfare, who receive assistance from the government. Or who are too proud for that.

And then I come to passages like the two in my Bible readings this morning. Odd they come up on the same day, on a day I am writing a sermon about the disciples asking Jesus to “increase our faith”. Are these passages just talking about the days of old? Does the LORD still provide all that those in full-time service to him need? Do we have everything we need to live a truly religious life?

Yes, but we don’t often see it, and our lack of vision causes us to stumble, and fall into despair.

Yeah there are times we are stretched thin, and times where our people don’t see our need and doubt. Some of that is our fault, not helping them see what is going on. ( One church wasn’t aware how much their pastor’s rent was – they all owned homes, and hadn’t reconsidered the housing allowance for 30 years!) Sometimes it is necessary that we look somewhere else, as God is opening up doors for ministry. ( I know of two pastors who planted a church while working for a large hardware store – they built it from their regular customers whom they got to know. Similarly, my first church grew from the students I taught computer science to, and the families of the hospice patients I served as their chaplain).

The challenge is seeing what comes, the good and the bad, the time of wealth and the time of great need as something where God is. Being transparent about that, all the while investing in people the one treasure we have in abundance, the presence of God. Of realizing there are times where God’s provision is in the few pennies, or the bag of groceries (ot supermarket gift card) that appears on your desk. Other times it is in the opportunity you find to provide for yourself and your family. Other times it is found in going to your people and saying. can someone help us with food, or pay for our meds, or… and all the time trusting in God for your needs. And in the process, watch your people’s dependence on God grow as well…and that, my friend, my brother in ministry, is worth all our trials. It is why we do what we do… to see our people walk with God

Above all, remember how God fills our greatest needs, the need for peace, for mercy and love found in His presence. For that is our greatest treasure… one that doesn’t get used up, or go into the red. God is with your there…

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 924-927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Real People + Real Life Problems + Real God = Real Christianity

Devotional Thought of the Day:

27  Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.
Judges 8:27 (NLT2)

2  He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 3  He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. 4  He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan. 2 Kings 18:2-4 (NLT2)

It says, “I called upon the Lord” (118:5). You must learn to call. (You have heard that well.) Do not sit by yourself or lie on your bed hanging and wagging your head and devouring yourself with your thoughts by worrying. So do not strive and struggle to free yourself, and do not dwell on how badly it is going for you, how miserable you are, and how much you are suffering as a person. But get up, you lazy scoundrel, get down on your knees, lift your hands and your eyes to heaven, recite a psalm or the Lord’s Prayer, and place your trouble with tears before God. Complain and call upon God, as this verse teaches, as well as Psalm 142:2: “I pour out my trouble before God, I tell God my trouble.” Similarly, Psalm 141:2: “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.” Here you learn that praying, taking your troubles to God, and lifting your hands are the most pleasing offerings to God. God longs for you, wants you to bring your troubles, and does not want you to multiply your troubles by letting them weigh on you having you carry them around, torture yourself, and be the martyr. God wants you to be too weak to carry these troubles and overcome them by yourself so that you learn to
find your strength in God. Thus you will glorify God’s strength in you. In this way people become real Christians
.

Last week I heard an interesting lecture, where the speaker proposed that the modern church has begun to worship… well worship. One of his point was the way we “market” our churches, as we will spend great energy extolling our traditional worship with excellent choirs, ancient hymns, or our amazing contemporary worship, blah blah, blah.

We may not even get around to telling them our main mission, revealing to them the love of God, drawing them into a relationship with Him where they will find hope and healing as they realize how present He is in their lives.

I am going to have to watch that video over, because I think he is right. Our worship wars of the 70’s-90’s have resulted in this, we treasure our worship style more than the One we worship. We have done what the people of God did with Gideon’s breastplate, and with the Bronze Serpent. We have made our work the focus, and we pin our hope for the church on organs or keyboards, on choirs or praise teams, and we’ve left God out of the picture.

In comparison, look at this passage from Luther, and the way he describes prayer. Look at the way he shows us to dialogue with God, raw, blunt, harsh, pouring out everything on our hearts. In a word, a dialogue that is as intimate as anything we’ve experienced.

God won’t blast us for sharing our doubts our anxieties, our troubles. Luther notes this is pleasing to God, this is what He desires. As odd as it sounds to us, it is the picture we see in scripture, that God would pick us up, that He will allow us ot be weak enough that we realize that we aren’t alone, that there is a relationship we need, with Him. Christianity isn’t about being strong, it is about being vulnerable, and allowing God to do what a God should do, care for His creation.

That knowledge of God’s care should cause us to remove the idols from our midst. It should reveal the emptiness of our idols, and cause us to hunger for a real God, who will help us with our real problems, This is what it means to be a real Christian, to be one of God’s people, to realize the relationship we have with God our provider. To realize His love, His tender mercy and how He provides for us.

Lord, help us to see you, and become more and more confident in Your presence. Help us pour out our hearts to You, knowing Your desire to dwell in our midst. AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 210–211.

The Substance of our Message, our Ministry

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching: 29  for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28-29 (ASV)

1   I have complete confidence, O God! I will sing and praise you! Wake up, my soul! 2  Wake up, my harp and lyre! I will wake up the sun. 3  I will thank you, O LORD, among the nations. I will praise you among the peoples. 4  Your constant love reaches above the heavens; your faithfulness touches the skies. Psalm 108:1-4 (TEV)

A woman phoned our convent in Vancouver and said ‘I am a Witness of Jehovah and lately I am getting a strong interior message to go inside a Catholic Church; can I come to see you?’ She came. As I walked into the Church ahead of her, towards the tabernacle, thinking of how to explain the red candle, etc. Suddenly she screamed loudly and ran out of the Church. I also ran to see what was happening and she shouted: ‘God is in there! God is in there!’

Never, ever, should they think that they have completed learning these parts of the catechism or know them well enough, even though they think right away that they know them all too well. For even if they learned and knew all these things perfectly (which is, of course, impossible in this life), they would still, in any case, find it useful and profitable to read it daily and incorporate it into their meditations and conversation. For the Holy Spirit itself is present during such reading, conversing, and meditating and always gives more and new light and devotion. Thus it tastes better and better and is digested, as Christ also promises in Matthew 18[:20], “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

He points the way to Holy Scripture and reveals it as the center from which every perplexity of interpretation is to be resolved. He points the way to the word of God, to the primordial words that are preserved in the third and fifth books of Moses—words about the love of God and neighbor. When we hear these words, we observe first of all that they begin, not with a commandment, but with a profession of faith in something that is already known. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mk 12:29). It is the core of Israel’s belief, and Jesus makes it the fundamental core of Christian belief as well. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Every one of these words is important. Before doing comes hearing—comes acceptance of reality. Man is a being that answers. If we are to act rightly, our gaze must first be pure and our ear open. It is impossible to act rightly without truth.

I wonder, if after our church services, our people reflect the attitude seen in Psalm 108. Do they have confidence in God, are they desiring to praise Him more, to lay all of their burdens down and trust in Him.

If they aren’t, we have to re-examine the words of our sermons, the songs and hymns we sing, the way we worship, the way we teach our Bible studies, the way and the amount of time we spend in preparation, and more importantly, prayer.

Do people run from our sanctuaries, from our Bible studies, from our prayer meetings, screaming that God is “in there.” (Hopefully from joy!)

Or do they come, week after week, finding some rest, but not finding out they are loved by God, not experiencing the love that is too great to understand, that they can barely begin to explain?

As Luther points out, do we think we know it all, that they have learned the curriculum? Or are they, like the old hymn noted, “hungering and thirsting to hear it (the new of God’s love, of His presence) like the rest?

We need to teach this with authority, not from the point of observation, but from the point of experience. To be able to share that our God, the Lord, is One, that He is here. As Pope Benedict urged, we need to hear, before we can work. For that leads to an eye witness testimony, that leads to hearts that actually adore the God we sing the praises of, that leads to beginning to be overwhelmed by the love.

Whether we are the pastor, or the person who cleans up communion, or the visitor who doesn’t have a clue about the service, each person who walks into our sanctuaries needs to encounter God. As we leave those holy places, the people we encounter need to see the glory of God, reflected from us. They find that encounter, as they encounter those who have encountered God, rather than just learned about Him.

That is why the sacraments are so essential! That is why our sermons have to expose God’s grace, in all its beauty, in all its unbridled power, in all of the holiness. This is why spending time with each other, caring more about each other, comes more naturally after encountering God. As Paul shared,

Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. Colossians 1:27 (MSG)

We need to help each other see this. That is why we gather…this is what we do… and then watch as people run screaming for joy, as they encounter God.



Joseph MC. (2012). From Adoration to Serving the Poor. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 180). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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.) (pp. 186–187). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

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. 239). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Why I Am Thankful for Non-Theologian Believers

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Ezra had devoted his life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practicing it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel. Ezra 7:10 GNT

The arrogance of the specialist in matters of faith is just an especially obdurate form of the blindness inherent in all arrogance. The faith that rediscovers the fresh water of God’s word in the desert of a godless world, in the empty conversations at fashionable spas, may be inferior to that of the specialist in the knowledge of biblical textual criticism, but it is often infinitely more clear-sighted as to what is actually to be drawn from this source.

But God, our dear eternal Father, who has so richly enlightened us through God’s dear Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, might, through the Holy Spirit, also strengthen us with complete faith and give us the power to follow such a light faithfully and diligently, and praise and glorify God together with all the nations, with both [our] life and teaching. To God be thanks and honor for all God’s ineffable grace and gifts eternally. Amen.

To be spiritually mature doesn’t require one to have a great understanding of systematic theology. To be holy doesn’t always require the greatest knowledge of exegesis and hermaneutics. In fact, such knowledge, or to be “the specialist in matters of faith”

In fact, I have found that my greatest times of academic learning have been some of my weakest moments of faith, and the times when the practice of the faith, my walking as a believer, has suffered the most. It is those times when prayer and meditation have diminished, and I lost sight of my own brokenness, and didn’t struggle with it.

And I know I am not alone.

We can’t lost sight of the “big picture”, which is in fact a simpler picture is what we need to know, what will change our lives. The “specialist” can help us realize how deep the thought goes, but should they lose sight of the main teaching, they work becomes vain.

you see this is Ezra, a great scholar, a priest with exceptional credentials, a man who lived what he believed, depending on God, and spent his time teaching it to others. It wasn’t enough to just study the law and be expert in it, he had to live it, he had to share that life with others, and guide them in living it.

That is what Pope Beendicts speaks of when praising the clear-sightedness of the simple whose vision is what one receives from God. It is at the heart of Luther’s words about the Holy Spirit stregthening our faith so as to follow such a light, and then praise God for all that is provided.

It is why some of my people with the deepest faith, take the time (and have the courage) to ask when they don’t get what I am saying are so precious to me. They want to know about God’s love enough that they don’t hold back, they don’t worry as much about offending me as they are hungry to know about God’s love.

And in asking me, they help me stay focused on what matters, and use whatever skills, ability and knowledge to help them grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust Him when nothing else makes sense. In helping me minister to them, they help me grow, perhaps more than you would ever know.

They trust God, they depend on the Lord who loves them, and they help me do the same. That in turn helps me minister to them effectively.

This is how the church should work, and I am thankful for God’s work in our lives.

Lord, help us ever be in view of Your presence, and help us to always share the exploration of Your live, its width and breadt, height and depth together as Your people. Help me, as a pastor, use my knowledge and abilities to draw people closer to Jesus. Amen.

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. 190). 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. 150). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 195). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Hope for Believers (and Churches) Burnt Out, or Just Going Through the Motions

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  God was performing unusual miracles through Paul. 12  Even handkerchiefs and aprons he had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. 13  Some Jews who traveled around and drove out evil spirits also tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to do this. They said to the evil spirits, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” 14  Seven brothers, who were the sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva, were doing this. 15  But the evil spirit said to them, “I know Jesus, and I know about Paul; but you—who are you?” 16  The man who had the evil spirit in him attacked them with such violence that he overpowered them all. They ran away from his house, wounded and with their clothes torn off. 17  All the Jews and Gentiles who lived in Ephesus heard about this; they were all filled with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was given greater honor. 18  Many of the believers came, publicly admitting and revealing what they had done. Acts 19:11-18 (TEV)

We need to “go out,” then, in order to test and experience our own anointing and its power and redemptive efficacy into the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness longing for sight and prisoners under so many evil masters.

It may sound harsh, but I wonder today if the church is more like the sons of Sceva than like the Apostle Paul.

We go through the motions, we say the right things (at times) we have a good intent, but we lack the faith, the trust in a God we know, to truly minister to others the way we should.

As our efforts don’t result in any significant change, we slowly give up our our outreach. We begin to rely on what others have said or written, rather than express our awe of God directly. We rely on canned presentations, Bible studies written by someone we’ve never met, who doesn’t know the people we study with and/or teach. Prayer and meditation on scripture become things we will do “when we have time”.

And we wonder why we ministry seems a drain, why people don’t realize the blessing that church should be, and why they never are free of their demons.

The more we do, the more the church gets focused internally, the more church politics rips us to shreds, the more churches close their doors, or become places that focus on things other than Jesus, and exploring the incredible dimensions of His love, experiencing what we can never completely explain.

So what is the answer, how do we go from a church of Sceva’s sons, to being an apostolic church.

How do we live out the work of God that became possible when the Holy Spirit called us, when God the Father united us with Jesus, and the same power which raised Him from the dead gave us new life?

I think Pope Francis has the answer, just “go out”, trusting in God enough to go where there is need, to the broken, to those who are blind and suffering, to those who are prisoners . Asking God to make His annointing of our lives known in our lives as we minister to those He puts in front of us.

In order to know that, we have to know He has indeed redeemed us, that we are His people, not because we are so good, but because He has indeed redeemed us. As a pastor, everytime I baptize someone, everytime I give someone the body of Christ, whether the person kneeling at the altar, or the shut-in in their home, or the counselee, whose burdens are lifted as they experience the love of God, the lesson of my own redemption is renewed.

I’ve seen the same thing when parents assist in their child’s baptism, or a sponsor assists in the friend who has come to know God’s love. Our faith is renewed, our dependence on God becomes a great joy, and we realize the world without hope is indeed full of God’s hope.

You see the church may sometimes act like the sons of Sceva, but she isn’t. She may be depressed, and dejected, focused on survival more than mission, but her Lord is with her, strengthening her, giving her life, and urging her to go to the broken in the world, with the assurance she doesn’t do so alone, or on her own power.

We go with the Lord and Giver of Life, empowered by God to do the works He has planned.

This is our call.. this is who we are..

Let’s get back it, walking with our God.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 190). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Have you said, “I am not an evangelist?” Me too, and we are wrong!

Image may contain: text that says 'Evangelization is not just the proclamation of Christ but also a process ofincorporation into the Church. From this comes the sacramental link between Evangelization and the Eucharist. FROM EUCHARISTIC ADORATION TO EVANGELISM'

Devotional Thought of the Week

I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will always be with you; I will never abandon you. 6† Be determined and confident, for you will be the leader of these people as they occupy this land which I promised their ancestors. 7 Just be determined, be confident; and make sure that you obey the whole Law that my servant Moses gave you. Do not neglect any part of it and you will succeed wherever you go. 8 Be sure that the book of the Law is always read in your worship. Study it day and night, and make sure that you obey everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the LORD your God, am with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:5-9 GNT

When they bring you to be tried in the synagogues or before governors or rulers, do not be worried about how you will defend yourself or what you will say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Luke 12:11-12 GNT

Evangelization is not just the proclamation of Christ but also a process of incorporation into the Church. From this comes the sacramental link between Evangelization and the Eucharist. The community constitutes itself, in its sacramentality, through the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration. As Blessed John Paul II teaches:
Incorporation into Christ, which is brought about by Baptism, is constantly renewed and consolidated by sharing in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, especially by that full sharing which takes place in sacramental communion. We can say not only that each of us receives Christ, but also that Christ receives each of us. He enters into friendship with us: ‘You are my friends’ (Jn 15:14). Indeed, it is because of Him that we have life: ‘He who eats me will live because of me’ (Jn 6:57). Eucharistic communion brings about in a sublime way the mutual ‘abiding’ of Christ and each of His followers: ‘Abide in me, and I in you’ (Jn 15:4). (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 22)

I came across a VHS tape last night, a video that was taken of a sermon I gave at a very prestigious preaching course. (a miracle of how I was there is another story. I didn’t have the academic qualifications or any other for that matter)

Since finding it, I have been thinking about how I have changed in how I preach and teach in the nearly 20 years (this November) since I started that program. There is no doubt I am more capable, from no longer preaching in a monotone, to being able to understand the passage and my people.

That week in Garden Grove was challenging, and the words of my assigned mentor still ring in my ears. Rev. Juan Carlos Ortiz pointed out the illustration I used and said it was the sermon, and to preach as a storyteller. For it was there my sermon cut open his heart, and he forgot he was critiquing the sermon. The story helped him to understand God’s presence, and he urged me, “preach like this!” That made a huge change in how I preach, and even today I struggle to find the one illustration that ties the text to the heart of those who will hear or read it.

The other big change occurred when I became Lutheran and went from understanding the sacraments as my obedience, to what they really are, the means of Grace, the conduits of God’s mercy and love. It is from there, that like Moses and Joshua, the determination and confidence. It is there, receiving the grace of God, becoming part of the community, that I don’t worry about what I am going to say. It is there that I stop trying to convince people that they should listen to me, and simply share the news of God’s love.

Or as the quote in purple put into words far better than mine. Evangelization is not just telling someone God loves them or walking them through 4 spiritual laws, evangelism is assimilating them into the kingdom of God, helping them become part of the community of Christ as God pours out on us His mercy, and transforms us.

No wonder we adore Him! No wonder we are amazed as He gives us His body, broken for us, and asks us to drink of His blood, shed for the forgiveness of all our sin. This is where the evangelist brings people, it is where they become part of the body of Christ, it is where we find peace.. and hope… and healing.

So don’t be anxious, be determined, be confident, and share with people why you have hope. God is with you!


Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 15). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

A Lesson We Need to Learn. Church is not “Respectable”

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Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

The devotional thought of the day:

12 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. 13† Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”  Matt 9:12-13 Good News Translation (TEV)

Neither illumination nor contemplation but rather spiritual attack (tentatio) concluded Luther’s engagement with scripture. For him, when the Holy Spirit breaks our reason and reveals to us the true intention of God’s word, we are not drawn into some sort of heavenly realm or closer contact to the divine by our effort. Instead, all hell breaks loose. The flesh, the world, the devil and any other anti-spiritual power attempt to wrest from the believer the comfort of God’s unconditional grace and mercy. No wonder the psalmist cried out for deliverance from his enemies in Psalm 119!

One of the most serious temptations that lead us to break our contact with the Lord is the feeling of defeat. Facing a combative faith by definition, the enemy under the disguise of an angel of light will sow the seeds of pessimism. No one can take up any fight if, from the outset, one does not fully trust in winning. Those who begin without trust have already lost half the battle.

People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to by him. God’s visits to Adam and Eve in the garden, Enoch’s walks with God, and the face-to-face conversations between Moses and Jehovah are all commonly regarded as highly exceptional moments in the religious history of humankind.
Aside from their obviously unique historical role, however, these moments are not meant to be exceptional at all. Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us: God’s indwelling his people through personal presence and fellowship.

When 3 of my devotional readings go in a certain direction, it is not unusual.  When four do, when I see how they resonate,  the lesson just is about to burst forth, not from the readings, but through experience. So it is today;

I guess I will start with Luther’s thoughts, about this idea that the way we learn about God, is found in its last step in a fight, in the tension and battle that comes as all hell breaks loose, and Satan tries to wrest from us the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the comfort that is found in His cHesed, that incredible combination of love and mercy and peace that comprise what we call grace.

The fight is echoed in the words of Pope Francis, as we deal with an unnatural pessimism, a moment of despair and depression that is not like normal depression but is contrary to it.  As Satan tries to convince us that God wouldn’t care about us, that God sees us as riff-raff, as not worth His time or interest.  We know this is not true, yet, it is so hard to shut out the voice of the ones who are masquerading as messengers of God.

It is hard because we struggle to see ourselves as God does, as the beautiful, pure, bride, set apart as the bride of Christ, as one who deserves the respect and admiration of God.  Instead, we see ourselves as those who are broken, not worthy of a glance, nothing close to deserving respect.

Yet we often treat the church as if it is the place we have to demonstrate how respectable we are.  We might pretend, dressing us, smiling and saying we are okay when people ask, smiling and greeting each other as if every day was a party.  When what we really feel like is staying home, hiding under the blankets and ignoring the world.

I think this is enhanced by how we see what some call the heroes of faith, the incredible men and women we see described in the Bible. Except we forget that Moses was running from Egypt, a prince hiding out with sheep in the wilderness.  That Abraham was an exile looking for his home and future as well, that David wasn’t the hero, but the man broken by his sin, and then by the sins of his children.

As shattered as we are, yet…

Willard reminds us that they are examples of a normal human life and that God was present, and lived with them.   That God walked with them in their brokenness, even as He walks with us.   They are not exceptional, their walking with God, finding hope there, is our example, for we can as well.

After all, Jesus didn’t come to snob around with the perfect and respectful.  He came to draw outcasts, broken folk, exiles and those who struggle to get out of bed every morning.  Because He loves us…..

And Satan will unleash all of hell to stop us from experiencing this, and in that tension, we find God’s comfort, that He is our refuge, our sanctuary, and our hope.

We are His people, He is our God… and He is calling us to His side, so He can comfort and heal us, the children He loves.

Let us pray,  Heavenly Father, in the midst of trials, in the midst of brokenness, and when it seems all hell is breaking loose.  Help us to see Your glory, revealed in Your love and your comfort.  AMEN!

Wengert, T. J. (2007). Preface. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xiv). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 352). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

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

Do We Get That Church (the gathering, the mass) is a Celebration?

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Do we go to church for our benefit, or God’s?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Hallelujah!
Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly. 2 Let Israel celebrate its Maker;  let the children of •Zion rejoice in their King. 3 Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and lyre. 4 For Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the godly celebrate in triumphal glory; let them shout for joy on their beds.   Psalm 149:1-5

39 In conclusion, now that we have the right interpretation and doctrine of the sacrament, there is great need also of an admonition and entreaty that so great a treasure, which is daily administered and distributed among Christians, may not be heedlessly passed by. What I mean is that those who claim to be Christians should prepare themselves to receive this blessed sacrament frequently.

Since I started studying for the ministry in 1983, I have usually been taught two things about what happens when the people of God gather together. (You may call this a worship service, a divine service, church, or the mass; but I am talking about the main time a group of people are gathered by God together, where they sing, hear scripture read, a teaching time (called a sermon or homily) and perhaps (more about this later) sharing in our communion with the Lord’s Body and Blood.

Both teachings focused on service.  The difference is who is serving whom.

In the first theory, we go to church to serve God.  We go out of obedience to the commandment which talks about keeping holy the Sabbath. We go to church because it is our duty, and if we miss doing our duty, God will punish us, either actively, or perhaps by withholding the blessings He would have poured out for us.

The problem is that looking at this “active” view of church reduces it to mere duty, and then we start to ask how much is enough.  Can I serve God by going once a month instead of weekly?  Can I get by with once a year or one a quarter?  How active do I have to be to be a Christian?  Why can’t I just be with God at the beach, or in a forest?

The second theory is that we go to church to be served by God. That His servants exist to make sure we receive what we need through explaining God’s word and giving us the sacrament.  This breeds a consumer mentalism to church as well, as we go to the church that feeds us the best.  We want the purest doctrine, explained in an enjoyable way that drives away our sin and weaknesses and makes us stronger in our faith and the way we approach life.

Both of these ways make sense, and in part, they both are true., in that in a church service, in the mass, we should be serving God and He, most assuredly,, serves us.

But the reason we go to church, the reason we are gathered into the assembly of His people (and those that are becoming His people) is neither.

The reason we are gathered is that it is a celebration,  It is a time for us, as the Psalmist says, to sing and dance as we rejoice in the presence of our King, our Lord, our Heavenly Father! It is likewise a chance for God to take pleasure in His people.  It is, as one of my professors was known to utter, “the people of God gathered in the presence of God”

It is why our forefathers called it the “Celebration of the mass” understood as the “Gathering/Communion of the saints”.  Yet this gathering, this celebration is that not just of the saints, bit the saints gathered around and in fellowship with God.  That communion, that fellowship, that time where we and God are together, His people and Him, that is the treasure we find in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (which is why the passage from Luther’s catechism described it being offered daily!)

This church service/mass and Lord’s Supper/Eucharist isn’t a solemn occasion, though certainly, it is one we should treasure and celebrate with all we are. It is God and man, together, living as one, because of Christ.  It is a Thanksgiving feast, a celebration of peace with God, and the welcoming of the prodigal home.

It is a time we celebrate with an abundance of Joy, it is one God where God looks out on His people and is pleased.  It should be an amazing time, where we realize what God has done, adopting us as His kids, and we adore the one who loves us.

Celebrate this, my friends. and jealously treasure this time with the One who loves us, and draws us together.

Heavenly Father, draw us together with greater and greater frequency, with a hunger to know You, to explore and experience Your love.  We pray this all in Jesus name!  AMEN!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 451). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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