Devotional Thought of the Day:’
He has watched over your journey through this immense wilderness. The LORD your God has been with you this past 40 years, and you have lacked nothing.’ Deut 2:7 HCSB
It has become habit to read through the Old Testament every year, and changing translations each new year. There are times it seems a drudgery, a journey through this guy begat that guy or a recitation of all of the different ways to sin. (as if I needed a detailed list!) What will I find here, I wonder, that will make this habit worth it. Where will I find something that is nourishing in this wilderness?
And then I come to a verse like the one above, Tucked into the history of Israel’s rebellion and sin, a recounting of all the times they did what was right to them, completely disregarding God’s directions, given through Moses.
Go here, they go there. Do this, they do something else. It sounds like a group I would find myself some like-minded companions. People who struggle just the way Paul did, doing what they shouldn’t, and failing to do what they should.
As Moses tells them their own history, there is this incredible verse. He tells them that as they have walked through the Wilderness, their punishment, their discipline for the sin they have committed, where God was.
There. providing for them. For 40 years, He didn’t abandon them as He disciplined them.
That is an incredible thing to realize.
By no means should that continue to wander in sin, we need to confess our sin, trusting in God to forgive those sins, because Jesus came and died to pay for them.
But there is a comfort to know that God doesn’t abandon His rebellious children, that He desires, truly desires that all come to repentance and that this is part of the work of the Holy Spirit.
What an amazing, loving merciful God we have, that allows us to wander, that disciplines us, and yet provides for us during that time, giving us what is truly beneficial!
He is with us, even when we don’t see it, even when we don’t want to see it. When we are faithless, still e is faithful.
So if you are wandering today, you can’t escape Him, so it is time to come home, and confess your sins, and find the incredible love and mercy of God is yours. Come, confess your sins, and find that He is faithful, forgiving you of those sins, and cleansing you of all unrighteousness.
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
5 A man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 Jesus saw him lying there, and he knew that the man had been sick for such a long time; so he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 The sick man answered, “Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” 9 Immediately the man got well; he picked up his mat and started walking. The day this happened was a Sabbath, John 5:5-9 (TEV)
211 Lazarus rose because he heard the voice of God and immediately wanted to get out of the situation he was in. If he hadn’t wanted to move, he would just have died again. A sincere resolution: to have faith in God always; to hope in God always; to love God always… he never abandons us, even if we are rotting away as Lazarus was.
1 It is taught among us that private absolution should be retained and not allowed to fall into disuse. However, in confession it is not necessary to enumerate all trespasses and sins,2 for this is impossible. Ps. 19:12, “Who can discern his errors?”
XIII. THE USE OF THE SACRAMENTS
1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith. 2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith.
I often hear people saying they miss the way church used to be. They may indicate the music or the preaching. Mostly what they long to see are the full sanctuaries on Sunday morning, and church campuses that were busy every day and night of the week. In dact, for a couple decades we can see the phenomena of people moving from one church to another, looking for the one that is coming alive, that seems to have a new life about them.
We want revival, much like the man who was at the pool wanted to be made well, much like Lazarus, to his surprise, found himself alive at the command of Jesus. ( I love St Josemaria’s idea that he could have decided to stay there, as I think it is descriptive of many of us!)
But are we ready for it? Do we really desire it?
For what it will take is the sureness of our absolution. Revival and renewal, whether individual or parish wife, requires something. The realization that every one of our sins are forgiven! Revival, being brought to life in Christ means we know and depend on the promises that nothing, including that sin, can separate us from the love of God.
What an incredible thing these sacraments are, these sacred times are, when we realize that God is at work as He desires to be, awakening and strengthening our faith, our dependence on Him.
For that is what having a strong faith means, we depend on God more, not less. We realize His presence in our lives more, not less. We let Him guide our lives, much like a leaf caught up in a stream…drifts and goes where the current takes it.
This kind of reliance on God’s mercy and love, these things we call grace, is at the heart of every revival, every renewal in the history of the church. It is the hope that underlies the Lutheran Reformation, and the Catholic councils we know as Vatican I and Vatican II. This is Escriva’s “The Way” and what Luther preaches so clearly in his catechesis.
So Jesus says to His church today and to you and I,
“Do you want to be healed?”
“Do you want to be forgiven of your sin?”
“Do you want to be renewed, and revived”
It starts with trusting in God enough to pray, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!”
Holy Father, Lord Jesus, and Blessed Holy Spirit, in your mercy, help us to say yes, letting you in to cleanse us of all sin and unrighteousness, helping us not to fear coming clean as much as we fear to remain trapped in our sin, which drives us apart from you. We pray this in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 922-926). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Philippians 2:1-4 (MSG)
Some pressing difficulties can be remedied immediately. Others, not so quickly. But they all are solved if we are faithful: if we obey, if we observe what has been laid down. (1)
It may seem to some that my post title is said in jest, using the formula of the various x-anonymous groups.
I would have you know, it is not said in jest, I can be, and often am, as narcisstic as any person on the face of the planet, and while I am not proud of it, I must recognize it. I must confront it, cofness it, and pray to God that he would help me lay down the idol of “self”. And as with recovery programs, it is this very thing, admitting our need of God, that is our beginning step to healing.
You see narcicism is a pretty lonely life, at best, even if it is “safer” than investing ourselves in others. Fulfillment doesn’t come at the being the best we can be, if we are alone when we achienve it.
We weren’t made ot be alone, or to be he center of our own universes. We weren’t made to live on the defensive, paranoid and hardened against hurt.
We were made in the image of Christ. And we were re-created in that very image as well, created (Eph. 2:10) to be His masterpice, specifically set aside for living life as He did… sacrficially, doing good things He has planned.
It’s not easy, leaving behind our narcissism, confessing our sin, asking God to use as He designs…. It requires we see ourselves nailed to the cross, united with Christ’s death and resurrection. It requires that we live in Christ and die to self, to become living sacrifices. Yet this is what Romans is all about, and this great passage from Philippians, and Eph.5:21 and following as it deals with the relationships of husband and wife, parents and children, bosses and employees. It is what 1 JOhn is about, when it talks of us loving our neighbor, and James when it talks about faith and works. It is Christ’s life, and this life we who trust in Him are called and made right and holy to live. This is what, as St Josemaria says, is laid down.
There is a sense of irony here, for if the goal of the narcissist is self-fulfillment, self protection, to succeed at it, the narcissist has to set himself aside… drop the defenses, and invest themselves totally in others.
That is what our faith, our trust, our confidence in God enables us to do, for we find our life, alive in Christ.
Lord have mercy on us…. and help us realize that you separated us in baptism, from our narcissism.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1718-1719). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Who is more faithful to the faith? Wrong question! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- To prepare servant leaders… (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional/Discussion of the Day..
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)
At the same time, Evangelical Catholicism recognizes that, in offering everyone the possibility of friendship with the Lord Jesus, it is offering the postmodern world something postmodernity badly needs: an encounter with the divine mercy. As the God of the Bible came into the ancient world as One who liberates humanity from the whims and fancies of the Olympian gods or the terrors of fearsome Moloch, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and friendship with him liberate postmodern humanity from its burden of guilt, born of a tacit (if often intuitive and inarticulate) understanding of the awfulness that humanity visited upon itself throughout the twentieth century. By whom can that burden of guilt be expiated? To whom can that wickedness be confessed, and from whom can forgiveness be received? In offering friendship with Jesus Christ, Evangelical Catholicism offers postmodern humanity a path to a more humane future, absolved of the guilt of the recent past. 12 And where is this friendship with Jesus to be found? According to the evangelical Catholic proposal, this friendship is found in the Church, in the Word of God recognized as such by the Church in the Bible, in the sacraments celebrated by the Church, in the works of charity and service, and in the fellowship of those who have been “born of water and the Spirit” [John 3.5]. Despite the sinfulness of its members and their failure to live fully the meaning of friendship with the Lord Jesus, the Church is always the privileged place of encounter with the living God, who continually forms his people into the community in which the full truth about humanity is grasped.
In the last few days, I have had to deal with an increasing number of people who have struggled to have hope, to find hope. There have been a large variety of reasons, with a multitude of causes. Some are young with everything going right, some are more my age – and partially wonder about what is right still, still others, older and wondering if their life has any meaning, and if it ever did. The weight they bear – each again different, seems crushing. So crushing is the weight upon them, so much so that I struggle with just watching their struggle. As I returned to my office, to complete my sermon, I have to write this – as much as for those around those who are struggling, as those who are.
You see – when someone is severely anxious, severely stressed, when they can’t find the answers – they don’t need to know about Jesus – they need, desperately need to know Him.
All of the sound bite apologetics sound nice, and they may even give assent to them After all – we’ve heard them before – we’ve seen them posted on FB, they’ve made the rounds. They may have read the books where the quotes we all love come from. and actually know the context of the quotes!
Whether they do or don’t, they need to know the God who is there with them – they need to connect to Who they feel disconnected to, or from whom they disconnected themselves. They need a tangible and real connection to divine mercy, to the love of God that keeps them, literally guards them. They need to know the reason we have hope – and that is far more than knowing about Christ – it is about knowing Him deep enough sure enough, that we don’t just hope in Him the way we hope the tax bill won’t be enormous – but we expect Him, we trust Him to keep everything He has promised. That our trust in Him, based in knowing even the beginning of the depth, height, breadth and width of His love, because we know HIm, brings comfort to our hearts.
Simple because we know – He is with us! He is our Shepherd, our caring and providing and merciful Master.
I love how the quote from Weigel’s book identifies the source of that hope – is to be found in the Body of Christ – in the community He established, where He reveals His presence through His word, where He pours out that DIvine mercy in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and yes Confession and Absolution. (and I would include prayer – as the Apology of the Augsburg confession most assuredly tells us is sacramental)
You see, in word and sacrament ministry, we don’t just learn about Christ, we don’t just take notes on how God is promising to work, but we see HIm at work, we experience His grace, the miracle of the reconciliation that comes as God bring us to faith, as we begin to truly see what it is like to live – as we encounter His life, His mercy…
That Encounter – one which lasts all our lives, overwhelms any modern or post-modern theory. It crushes the idea that we are alone, that there is no meaning to life – no constant to hold on to, to base our lives upon.
That is what is needed…. and that is what we bring to the picture – and what we desperately need to be reminded of, even as we do….
Lord, show us the mercy you have and have had on us!
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 59). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- Will Jesus find us trusting Him? (Evangelical Catholic Evaluation V) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Church’s Answer to Post-modern thought…. Word and Sacrament (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Speaking of Evangelical Catholicism (nationalreview.com)
Devotional/Discussion of the Day
6 I am GOD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a house of slaves. 7 No other gods, only me. 8 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. 9 Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I’m a most jealous God. I hold parents responsible for any sins they pass on to their children to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation. 10 But I’m lovingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments. 11 No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name. 12 No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as GOD, your God, commanded you. 13 Work six days, doing everything you have to do, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day—no work: not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, your ox, your donkey (or any of your animals), and not even the foreigner visiting your town. That way your servants and maids will get the same rest as you. 15 Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and GOD, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength. That’s why GOD, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest. 16 Respect your father and mother—GOD, your God, commands it! You’ll have a long life; the land that God is giving you will treat you well. 17 No murder. 18 No adultery. 19 No stealing. 20 No lies about your neighbor. 21 No coveting your neighbor’s wife. And no lusting for his house, field, servant, maid, ox, or donkey either—nothing that belongs to your neighbor! Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (MSG)
We often talk of the above list as the Ten Commandments, (although I prefer to refer to them as how God has commissioned our lives – but that’s another blog entry) Violating these guidelines, whether intentionally or without conscious desire or knowledge is what we theologically call sin. Sin simply is living outside the way God would desire us to live, based on His wisdom, based on His love, His wisdom, His desire for our best.
I wrote as the title of this blog, that I love to deal with sin. I have had to deal with people who struggled with every one of the sins in the last two months, maybe even in the last few days… no definitely in the last 48 hours. And I love to deal with sin.
And I don’t like to not deal with it.
Let me unpack that. People like to deal with sin in the same ways they cope with trauma – or death. We go through the same kinds of phases.
We deny it is sin – it doesn’t matter whether it is missing church or Bible study, or engaging in sin that is outside the bonds of marriage.
We bargain – I won’t commit that other sin, if you God overlook that other sin…
We get depressed – as we realize that on our own, we are weak and helpless to overcome temptation
We get angry – often very angry as we crucify ourselves- or worse- those who try to help us through it – even though that means they have to make the mistake of pointing out the sin.
Or we accept that we are sinners – and just keep on… well sinning.
And in everyone of those phases – we don’t deal with sin at all. We smother it, we cover it, we celebrate it, but the very last thing we could possibly do – is deal with it. And if we fail to deal with it, we find ourselves in the place St. John talked about.
10 If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.
There is a way to deal with it – a very simple, powerful, wonderful, mindblowing way to deal with the sin…. it comes from the very same place as the quote a moment ago.
8 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9 On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-10 (MSG)
That’s how we deal with it – a simple confession, a simple proclamation of forgiveness – and it’s done.
It could look something like this,
Pastor, please hear my confession and pronounce God’s forgiveness in order to fulfill God’s will.
I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. My Lord’s name I have not honored as I should; my worship and prayers have faltered. I have not let His love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed. There are those whom I have hurt, and those whom I have failed to help. My thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.
What troubles me particularly is that . . .
The penitent confesses whatever he has done against the commandments of God, according to his place in life. The he concludes by saying:
I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.
God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith.
Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?
Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive You all your sins in the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Dealt with.. Done.
Sin is simple to deal with, so let’s deal with it... knowing the Lord has had mercy on us.
Devotional/Discussoin thought of the day:
“”Domine – ‘Lord’ Si vis potes me mundare – ‘If you will, you can make me clean!’
What a beautiful prayer for you to say often with the faith of the poor leper, when there happens to you what God and you and I know may happen. You waon’t wait long to hear the Master’s reply: “Volo Mundare’- ‘I will! Be made clean'” (escriva)
As I have been writing on brokenness this week, (and having to deal with it in my life, and in others, I came to this quote in my devotions this morning. As a pastor who knows the blessing of the sacrament of Confession and Absolution, it is in those italicized words that I see what needs to be heard. and heard loudly. When dealing with sin, there are three options.
The first is to claim it isn’t sin, that God didn’t really mean to label that as sin, and therefore it isn’t. Such is a lie, and will require many more lies and the hardening of conscience against that particular sin and many like it. It will eventually spiral out of control – and we will find ourselves at rock bottom. (Even there we may point to others and say they are worse off!) In the end, we have to remember that what we’ve done is sin…and that can be more painful, and harder to deal with. ( I would highly suggest that this is one of the benefits of knowing a good pastor or priest – who can help bring the comfort of Christ’s love as you peel back the levels)
The second is to simply ignore that it is sin, to revel in its pleasure, and to find the emptiness that occurs when the pleasure fades. This results in escalation, and broadening of the sin, looking to something that satisfies even more. Suffice it to say, this is the addictive bond that many sins have – as they are poor imitations of a blessing that is fulfilling and right, and God ordained.
The third is the most simple – and the best way, the God ordained way, to deal with those times that St Josemarie described as this, “when there happens to you what God and you and I know may happen.” St John in his first epistle talks of this:
1:7 But if we live in the light, as God does, we share in life with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus washes all our sins away. 8 If we say that we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn’t in our hearts. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.1 John 1:7-9 (CEV)
He can always be trusted to forgive us… always…ALWAYS…
My friends, we don’t have to play the games, we don’t have to deny our doubts our fears, we don’t have to hide behind words that betray us, clinging stubbornly to positions we KNOW are wrong. We don’t have to play the game that “everything is all right”, when our relationship are broken, when our lives don’t seem to be filled, when we are waiting – even fearful that everything is about to come crashing down.
Come and learn of the Lord, the One who doesn’t make you wait long to be cleansed, healed, and made whole.
Take it from someone who gets to help in that process, even as I am being healed myself.
We cry “Lord, Have mercy! Lord make us clean!” and we look at the cross, and as our sins is cut away and discarded…we realize that He has!!!