Devotional Thought of my day:
The LORD was like an eagle teaching its young to fly, always ready to swoop down and catch them on its back. Deut. 32:11 CEV
The Christian far oftener disgraces his profession in prosperity than in adversity. It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity. Oh, what leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God
This treatise is another example of Luther’s remarkable ability to withdraw from the heat of controversy into the pastoral atmosphere of serene devotion. The entire writing echoes his experience as a pastor and confessor constantly in contact with men and women who were terrified by the maze of popular customs and practices observed by the church in connection with death.
In reading the forward to Luther’s sermon on dying, I was struck by how often it was reprinted. His theology was still in the early stages of reforming, His battles with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were just beginning. And as noted, he set this aside to help a friend, one terrified by all the stuff that surrounded death. His friend and many others would listen, for they were in what Spurgeon calls the crucible of adversity.
That crucible doesn’t have to be related to physical death. The death of a dream, the death of a relationship, the termination from a job, or the fear of any of these things!
Spurgeon’s quote comes from a section about the challenges of dealing with abundance, the challenge s of dealing with prosperity, and yet he notes the blessings of adversity, of being oppressed, of being under pressure. I resonate with that, for I know the most challenging, the most severe temptations which I face, the places where sin appears to have it greatest grip on me, are the places where life is easier, where I am not running to God.
It is better for me to write from the point of my own despair, for there I find this passage from Deuteronomy to be true. God will catch me, I know he will, even as I struggle with the fears and anxiety caused by the fall.
Most of the time I don’t realize this, I am not looking for it, I am too overwhelmed by the impending crash. I forget how faithful His promise is because my eyes are on me and my situation.
But in the midst of falling, He is always there…
And eventually, I hear the Spirit’s call and know the comfort of God’s presence, a presence that is there anyway. As I grow old, I realize that I eventually will, and that too calms the frayed nerves, lifts me out of my depression, and helps me see those around me, who need ot be lifted up by those same wings.
Thank you Lord Jesus, for being there in times of despair, the times when the brokenness is too great. Sustain us then, when we can’t seem to realize Your presence. Sustain as well, when things are good, and we forget our need to depend on You,. AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 98
Devotional Thought of the Day
81 I am worn out, LORD, waiting for you to save me; I place my trust in your word. 82 My eyes are tired from watching for what you promised, while I ask, “When will you help me?” 83 I am as useless as a discarded wineskin; yet I have not forgotten your commands. 84 How much longer must I wait? Psalm 119:81-84a (TEV)
165 You, who for an earthly love have endured so many degradations, do you really believe that you love Christ when you are not willing to suffer—for him!—that humiliation?
I know it is not just me, other pastors and teachers of the faith will tell you this as well.
God prepares us for what we have to endure through the things we come across in our preaching, and in our personal study.
Preaching on a passage about Judas? Prepare to be betrayed by someone close. Or worse, prepare to deal with your betraying Jesus.
Teaching through 1 COrinthians, you might have to deal with some division, some self-centeredness, and some people who need to be taught that worship is about the community not the individual.
Been asked to give a message on missions and the need to go out into your community? Prepare to feel like Jonah at time.
It happens in our devotions too, and so when I come across passages like those quoted above… I shudder a bit. ANd then I look around figuratively and consider who do I know that is undergoing what the prophet Jeremiah and St. Josemaria are talking about.
In this case, who is overwhelmed, worn out, suffering under the weight they bear? Who is struggling and barely able to croak out a prayer asking God, “when?” WHo is feeling useless, so tired emotionally and spiritually they cannot even remember the promise that “all things work for good?”
St. Josemaria’s comfort comes across harsh, as if he is judging us as being thankless cowards, unwilling to suffer. I wonder if that is a translation issue? Working through his words for a few minutes, I see his point. Compared to our earthly loves, how much more God has done for us, and as we contemplate that, our sufferings become tolerable, they might even be forgotten.
This too is the Psalmist’s answer. In the midst of bottoming out, he comments that he hasn’t forgotten God’s commands. I don’t think he is just talking about the “do’s and do not’s” bt the words God has established things by, from “let there be light” to “you will be my people, and I will be your God”. Especially that last “command.” We need to remember that as we are in the midst of suffering, or in the midst of bottoming out.
“I will be with you,” “I will never forsake you!” These phrase are what we hold on to when we can’t find anything else, for they remind us that what we are going through.
That this time will pass, and we will see God.
This moment may last 10 minutes, or a few hours, or even a week or more. These times where we simply endure, knowing the Lord is with us. His presence will strengthen us, and allow us the freedom to ask for reassurance, and to be reminded that we dwell in peace, for He is God. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 515-516). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. 21 The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. 22 The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— 23 I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me. John 17:20-23 (MSG)
But the opposite can also happen: men, who are made for love, can find in this presence that is everywhere around them the security for which their whole being cries out. They can see therein a victory over the loneliness that no human individual can ever banish even though it is in direct contradiction to our being, which cries out for a You, for someone to share our life. In this secret presence, men can find a reason for the confidence that makes life possible for them. At this point, their response to the question of God’s existence acquires critical proportions.
Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him266 and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him,267 some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding “clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is”;1* but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him
My name is Dustin, and I am an extrovert. My vocation is that of being a pastor, where it seems I am constantly surrounded by people.
And I get lonely.
Even with an awesome church that doesn’t acknowledge the formal line between my being their pastor and being their friend! (this is a great blessing, an incredible one) Even with a great wife and incredibly bright son. it still happens.
There is time to be alone, but loneliness is a different thing. Being alone is needed at times, and is both restful and restorative. Loneliness is wearing, it is needing someone to relate to, of not wanting to be alone, of needing not to be alone.
Loneliness, Pope Benedict wrote, was something we can never banish. He also noted how it is in direct contradiction to our very existence. That creates a very ugly paradox, the one thing we can’t avoid is what robs us of who we are. The emptiness, the inability to express love, and ot know we are loved wreaks havoc with our psyche, with our soul. We are designed to share this life we live with others, which is why sin is so devastating, as it shatters our ability to relate to others. It devalues them, and without anyone to truly value us, the loneliness drives us further into despair, and into the bondage of sin and addiction.
I said I knew this struggle, as do many of those I know in ministry, as most people who are happily married. There are still times where the darkness of loneliness forms and tries to crush the individual.
so where do I find hope?
Among other places, I find it in singing a hymn in our liturgy. The words preceding it are “with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven, we praise and magnify your glorious name..even more praising you and singing” In that moment, I realize that friends that have passed away, and others that are singing it with me, and millions across the globe (along with angels ) are praising God together. Our voices are crying out to save us, (for this is what Hosanna means) to the One who can save us. Save us from the sin which divides us, from that which makes breaks us and leaves us unable to love, and unable to perceive we are loved.
We are, the very people the Spirit draws to Jesus, and in united to Jesus, we find our unity in God our Father, we are in Him, even a Jesus is.
As I read these words of mine, they seem too theological, to philosophical, to other-worldly to communicate the truth, the reality that I know. The presence of God, that should I remember leaves me never alone, and brings draws me out of the darkness, of my loneliness, and fills me with peace and comfort and joy.
This is why the gathering of believers around God’s word, and the sacraments where God pours out Hiss
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Devotional Thought for our days:
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)
817 The heart! From time to time, without your being able to help it, your all too human memory casts a crude, unhappy, “uncouth” shadow on your mind. Go to the tabernacle immediately, at least in spirit, and you will return to light, happiness and Life.
It seems like everyone is getting one everyone’s nerves the days. People are either ticked off at someone or getting ticked off at those who are ticked off at someone, or perhaps hurt that someone they care for is ticked off.
Or perhaps we are dealing with just our own brokenness, the fact that life isn’t the way it is supposed to be. Finances may be tight, work seems impossible, family demands/needs are being left behind and we can’t keep up. And the stress we are under causes us to struggle with those around us.
Life simply isn’t supposed to be like this.
St. Josemaria mentions this morning that our heart can cast shadows on our mind. He notes we are helpless to stop these shadows, our memories, as our brokenness affects our thoughts and how we live.
St Josemaria directs us to go to the tabernacle, a place where we are reminded of CHrist’s love, of His sacrifice, of His presence. Luther would have you go to your baptismal font for the same, my preference is the altar rail, where you receive Christ’s body and blood. where you are told your sins are forgiven because Jesus loves you enough to die for you.
These sacramental places, even if we only spend time there in our thoughts help us get our lives back on track, as we think about our Lord, His love, His mercy, His promise to never leave us or forsake us. It is at those places where our burdens are lifted, that the glory of God enlightens our soul, removing the darkness and all that the darkness it casts. These moments of sacred time are anchor points in our lives, the places
This is what Paul is talking about when he urges us to think about true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable. excellent and praiseworthy. It gets back to realizing that those things in life come to us because God is with us.
He is with us….
And nothing can separate us from Him…..
So go there, to the places where you know you will encounter His grace. Even if you cannot physically go, remember the last time you were there, and knew God’s peace. He’s still with you, wherever you are at…You just need ot know that!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3371-3374). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. 28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29 Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers. 30 And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. Romans 8:26-30 (TEV)
149 I must warn you against a ploy of satan—yes, without a capital, because he deserves no more—who tries to make use of the most ordinary circumstances, to turn us away, slightly or greatly, from the way that leads us to God. If you are struggling, and even more if you are really struggling, you should not be surprised at feeling tired or at having sometimes to “go against the grain”, without any spiritual or human consolation. See what someone wrote to me some time ago, and which I kept for those who naively consider that grace does away with nature: “Father, for a few days now I have been feeling tremendously lazy and lacking in enthusiasm for fulfilling the plan of life. I have to force myself to do everything, and I have very little taste for it. Pray for me so that this crisis may soon pass, for it makes me suffer a lot to think it could make me turn from my way.” I answered only: did you not know that Love demands sacrifice? Read the words of the Master slowly: “Whoever does not take up his Cross quotidie—every day—is not worthy of Me.” And further on: “I will not leave you orphans…” Our Lord allows that dryness of yours, which you find so hard, so that you may love Him more, so that you may trust only in Him, so that you may coredeem with the Cross, so that you may meet Him.
Though I am going to direct these thoughts along the way of St> Josemaria’s discussion of dryness, they could be applied to almost any time of struggle.
Too often I could be the person that St Josemaria was speaking to in the discussion above. Too many times I have been struggling, and don’t have the “enthusiasm for fulfilling the plan of life”, that is working to do His will, to see this world reconciled to Him. I recognize the need to force myself to do the things I love. Part of the struggle is that I feel like I am trying to bail the water out of the Titanic, hundreds of feet under the ocean. Part of it is that for every trauma where people know God’s peace, three more arrive. The work seems unending and overwhelming, and my emotional and spiritual batteries drain too fast…
Then I come across Romans 8, and wonder how in the world these times of struggle fit into the promise of God. How can times where my faith wanders, where I feel so weary and dried out, burnt out, and where God seems silent, how can these times actually work for good?
Or is it that I am not one of those to whom this promise was made? (Yes, I’ve thought that even as I try to make sure others know they are…. and I bet I am not the only one!)
That’s why I included more than verse 28 in the quote from Romans. We know that verse so well, but we fail to see the context is in the midst of a time of weakness, a time of brokenness, a time where even the Holy Spirit groans out in intercession, for the brokenness we endure is great.
But that prayer of the Spirit, that prayer the Holy Spirit interprets and pleads on our behalf with the Father is heard. The Spirit ensures the connection to God’s heart is there, a connection we need to realize is there.
The context also discusses God putting us to right with Him, indeed, as Josemaria tells us, sometimes these moments are necessary so that we realize the connection is viable, that God is caring. That He is here.
I would never say God causes these struggles, these moments when we don’t know what to even say in our prayers, but I do know how He uses them. It is just as Josemaria says, that there I can find the depth of His love, the unlimited faithfulness that sustains me. As well, it from those depths that I find my desire to help people find God as well, that they can find the peace, that they can know He is there. ( I only pray they don’t have to follow as far in my steps before they realize it.) That is how amazing this is, that is how I’ve come to know to trust Him, and even though I don’t like the periods of dryness and despair, I have come to appreciate them, and even (grudgingly at first) embrace them.
For I know He is with me, and with us, and that is not just enough, it is incredibly glorious! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 822-833). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 It is of the mysterious wisdom of God that we talk, the wisdom that was hidden, which God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. 8 None of the rulers of the age recognised it; for if they had recognised it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him; 10 to us, though, God has given revelation through the Spirit, for the Spirit explores the depths of everything, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NJB)
318 Place yourself before the Lord each day and tell him slowly and in all earnestness, like the man in the Gospel who was in such great need, Domine, ut videam! —Lord, that I may see!; that I may see what you expect from me, and struggle to be faithful to you. Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge
Yesterday they saw Jesus humiliated, they saw the results of the beatings, the interrogations, the whipping. They heard the crowd cry out, “Crucify Him”; whipped into a frenzy, a desire for blood that scared a Roman Governor to the point of submission.
They watched Him carry the beam, and then fall, and then when He wasn’t able to carry it any longer, they watched a stranger carry it for him. They didn’t volunteer, they didn’t go near Him. They rejected Him.
Just like we do at times.
But what did they do today? Where they so stunned they just sat behind locked doors? Did they spend time in prayer, as they had been taught? Did their fears and anxieties oppress them? Did their guilt complete the job, leaving them depressed and in despair?
What did they do?
I ask this because I think we live in a similar situation today. Jesus hasnt’ returned yet, and while we know scripture teaches it, while we know the prophecies and promises, there are days where it all seems like a nightmare, and the promises, well they are diminished by our grief, our pain, our anger, our denial. our guilt and shame. We live in this time, where our minds should remind us, but our hearts and souls are overwhelmed.
We need to see Jesus. As St. Josemaria advises we need to remember we are in HIs presence and ask Him to help us see that which we perceive. We need to let the Spirit reveal to us the depth of the wisdom of God, the wisdom that planned for our salvation, that planned to and did raise Jesus from the dead.
And with Him, we died and rise as well….
† Lord, have mercy upon us, and in these days when we are brought low, when we struggle to see Your face, open our eyes, remind us of your promises. We pray this in the name of the Father, † the Son, and the Holy Spirit, AMEN!
I will Trust My God!
† In Jesus’ Name! †
As the light of Christ’s glory shines in your hearts, may you know how great His mercy, how complete His peace, and how deep His love for you is!
Is it him, or me?
When we look at a prophecy in the Old Testament, there are some things we have to consider.
How was it in originally fulfilled.
Is it primarily about Jesus during the time from His incarnation to his
But there is a third application of the prophecy – whether it is just a lesson for us, revealing Jesus, or whether it is directly applicable to us. For example, in the 23rd Psalm, or in Psalm 51 or 139, the words are as applicable to you and me as they are to David.
But what about today’s selection? Is it like those Psalms that are more about Jesus, or the ones that tell us more about ourselves?
Are we the ones who were named by God before our birth, while in our mother’s womb known by God? Or is it Jesus?
Are we the ones hidden in the shadow of His hand, who serve God the Father and will bring Him glory, or is it only Jesus who is so aimed, whose words will cause people to know God’s decision that declares them righteous?
Who is this passage about? Jesus, our Lord, the one who brings the light of His glory into our darkness, or are these words of Isaiah about you and me?
Al – don’t say it!
Could He know the despair?
If I were to make the case that it is about us, what would seem to make that point is found in verse 4.
4 I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.
That sounds like something you or I would say, far more than it sounds like something the only begotten Son of God would say.
Think about those words for a moment. Do these words of despair sound like they would come from the mouth of the Lord Jesus? From the same lips that blessed bread and fish and fed thousands upon thousands? From the same lips that calmed storms, and called the little girl and the widow’s son and Lazarus back to life? Could Jesus, who forgave the adulteress, and healed the blind and paralyzed, could he have uttered such words of hopelessness?
Doesn’t this lead us to think these words, therefore, must be just about you and me?
Or is this what the writer of Hebrews means when he says,
15 We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. 16 So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Hebrews 4:15-16 (MSG)
If so, then this passage could still be about Him. If it is, then we have a God who doesn’t just look down on us, but can be there for us, knowing the challenges. He just doesn’t sympathize with us, this God who lights up our darkness with His light, it is His empathy that drives Him to do so!
If this passage is about Jesus, then it brings a whole different understanding to our faith. It isn’t n vain, and it isn’t a leap. Our hope is an expectation, just like Jesus’ faith is expressed back in verse 4,
“But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.
Somehow, Jesus was able to trust the Father, He was able to leave it all in the Father’s hands. Dealing with Peter and James and John and the wishy-washy disciples, dealing with Herod and the religious leaders who wanted to kill him. Dealing with the rich young ruler who walked away.
Did Jesus know those days when it seems like nothing works, that nothing makes a difference, and simply trusted in the Father’s will?
It is both, because we find life, in Christ!
So is this passage only about Jesus? Or can we utter those words as well? Can we leave it all in the hands of God, trusting in God to see us through?
Is He the only one who God formed to be his servant? Is he the only One who God uses to bring back those who’ve wandered off, to bring salvation to all who are far off, even to the ends of the earth? Who will see the powers and authorities of this world bowing before?
While it is about Jesus, it is about us as well, for we find our lives, the lives the Holy Spirit calls into existence, cleansing us from sin, in Christ Jesus. It is true of us because it is true of Him. For in the book of Acts Paul tells some gentiles in Athens that their poets had it correct when they said, “In Him we live and move and have our being”.
That is what it means to be in the season of Epiphany, to share in the glory of Christ Jesus. This is what it means for Him to be here, shattering our darkness. As we realize His presence anew every time we commune at the altar, every we time we hear His voice speak to us, as the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to create life within us!
We see this the last verse, where Isaiah says to those in Christ, it is the LORD, the faithful One, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you…
This is not about the one who is spoken too, it is not about their faith, but the faithfulness of the LORD who speaks. It is about His faithfulness in saving us, in lighting our way, in ensuring we endure, ensuring we hear His call of us, by name. The name for the church throughout scripture is this very term – the chosen or called ones. Called by name, kept in the hand of God, given a message to deliver to the nations.
This is our life, spent in Christ, our journey in the light of His glory, the glory that came when He came to dwell with man, and in our baptism as the Spirit comes to give us this wondrous life.
This is our focus during Epiphany, this is why we sing, as we recognize His glory has appeared here, where the Lord is with you! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”). Matthew 1:23 (TEV)
“… And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (TEV)
159 In my wretchedness I complained to a friend of mine, saying that it seemed as if Jesus were passing me by… and leaving me on my own. But immediately I thought better of it and was sorry. Full of confidence, I said: It is not true, my Love. Quite clearly it is I who have gone away from you. Never again! (1)
Yesterday’s church service was phenomenal. Even overwhelming as we considered the difference between life with and without the presence of God. To think of the difference of going from life being in ruins, to being delivered, redeemed, welcomed into the presence of God Almighty.
But today is Monday, and it started out as a Monday on steroids. I am not sure which is the dominant feeling right now, anxiety, frustration, grief, sadness. It is Monday, which perhaps should be renamed moanday.
I so resonate with St. Josemaria’s words this morning, I feel like Christ has come, spent some incredible time with my people and me/. But then, He has moved on now, leaving us on our own, leaving us to deal with life, its problems, its brokenness, its frustrations and that which causes us to grieve.
It seems that all the rest, all the spiritual nourishment that should have lasted me well into the week, that nourishment is gone before 9 a.m.
So what is next? How do I get my work done. How do I focus, how do I think outside my tiny section fo the world to see who needs to be pointed to the hope Christ gives, hope that I’ve seemed to misplace, myself.
Scripture helps, the words of a consummate pastor and shepherd help, the hug of a four-year-old, who came in the church/preschool office, and offered one helps.
What I have to realize is that this is a passing moment, and my heart is deceived. God is here; Christ is still the Lord and the one who shepherds our souls. He is here, revealing Himself, if I can but be patience, breathe, and shift my focus onto Him.
There is what I need on Monday…. to be still, to know He is God, my God, and I am one of His people. Therefore, I can be sure of His promise… sure of His presence, and mercy.
He is here! As the Son breaks through the moanday gloom, we find His peace…
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 754-757). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.] There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke. 3 What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone? 4 One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old planet earth. Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 (MSG)
Then suddenly, filled with a holy love, and a sober shame, in anger with himself cast his eyes upon his friend, saying, “Tell me, I pray thee, what would we attain by all these labours of ours? what aim we at? what serve we for? Can our hopes in court rise higher than to be the Emperor’s favourites? and in this, what is there not brittle, and full of perils? and by how many perils arrive we at a greater peril? and when arrive we thither? But a friend of God, if I wish it, I become now at once.” (1)
As I sit in my office this morning, looking at perhaps a busier week than last, I am overwhelmed with thought’s like Solomon’s this morning.
Older translations use the word vanity; all is vain. Others use futile, or emptiness.Most of us on Monday can easily sympathize, why are we here? Is it just to earn a small paycheck, to buy food, pay for a roof over our heads, and find our “escape” whether it be television, or a vacation, or something less positive, like drugs, alcohol, gambling or other addictions.
On Mondays, we tend to be more aware of this futility. Even those of us who work in “noble” jobs, which strive to help. The work is unending, the pain we observe just seems to move from one family to another.
Augustine’s recounting of a friend shows a similar revelation, as they realize their futility. Even if they rise to the highest of heights, there they find the probability that such a place is fleeting. That the favor of those they would count on could shift like the wind, and they could be on the way out, terminated by the boss. In their day, termination was more than going on the unemployment line. It was an actual termination, with prejudice.
So why do we do what we do? What is the end reward, besides simple survival? Occasional moments of pleasure which cost us more in the end?
Augustine’s friend found an answer, simpler than he ever expected, and something I need to remember as I struggle on Mondays.
Being a friend of God.
TO know that we are loved, that we are the children of a promise.
15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:15-17 (TEV)
To walk with God, to talk with Jesus, not as some great Lord, but as with a friend. To hear His encouraging voice, to know that He walks with us, His people. That He draws us together to be His family. What a blessing to be reminded by a hundred voices yesterday that God is with me, to hear them bless me, reminding me of the peace that is mine. To see God’s love revealed, through those who know the love of God!
I am, today, looking at a hard week, as I will deal with family after family struggling with death. It would seem vain, meaningless, even painful, where I not living in the shadow of Easter, the place where God proves His love for me, and for all those He yearns to call his friends. Because of that, I know why I work so hard, why I endure.
It is to give others the hope that all is not futile, that all is not vain, that it all will not just go up in smoke. It isn’t just a pastor’s job to do this, but the life of those who Jesus called friends, who someday He will welcome home.
As St. Peter said,
“simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts. Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you. 1 Peter 3 (Phillips NT)
And may you realize you dwell in God’s peace – a peace that goes beyond all logic, yet a peace where your hearts and minds are kept safe, guarded by Christ. AMEN
(1) Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine
. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 I was left there alone, watching this amazing vision. I had no strength left, and my face was so changed that no one could have recognized me. 9 When I heard his voice, I fell to the ground unconscious and lay there face downward. 10 Then a hand took hold of me and raised me to my hands and knees; I was still trembling. 11 The angel said to me, “Daniel, God loves you. Stand up and listen carefully to what I am going to say. I have been sent to you.” When he had said this, I stood up, still trembling. 12 Then he said, “Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer. 13 The angel prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone in Persia. Daniel 10:8-13 (TEV)
931 Saint Ignatius, with his military genius, gives us a picture of the devil calling up innumerable demons and scattering them through nations, states, cities, and villages after a “sermon” in which he exhorts them to fasten their chains and fetters on the world, leaving no one unbound. You’ve told me that you want to be a leader … and what good is a leader in chains? (1)
100 Let me tell you this. Even though you know the Word perfectly and have already mastered everything, still you are daily under the dominion of the devil, who neither day nor night relaxes his effort to steal upon you unawares and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against all these commandments. Therefore you must continually keep God’s Word in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears. For where the heart stands idle and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in and does his damage before we realize it.(2)
As I looked at our gospel passage for this Sunday, I realized it touched on something pastors and priests don’t like to talk about.
In it, a poor lady comes and asks for Jesus to free her daughter who has a demon. The passage is about God’s love, but it is demonstrated Jesus freeing the woman’s daughter.
He didn’t heal her from a mental illness, this wasn’t a medical or psychological problem. It wasn’t something that could be cured by becoing gluten free, or getting your sugar under control, or taking some supplements.
This was first class spiritual warfare.
Warfare that may be more common than we ever want to admit. More common than we eve want to face.
Heck we have enough trouble with those struggling through physical health issues or mental illness issues, dealing with cancer, dealing with being bereaved. Others whose marriages are challenges, those who are financially strapped, those whose families are damaged by criminal activity, people who are in bondage to alcohol or drugs. . It seems like the challenges to life grow and grow, peole are afficted, in ways that seem to frequent to be simply “coincidences”.
But how do you know which is a spiritual attack, and which is just “life” being a….pain. ( I so wanted to use a different word there!) I mean – there are attacks – really annoyances, just enough to distratct us from God’s presence. There are times of oppression – like the scene in daniel, and then there are the times more serious. The first two we might right off as coincidences, or just life being a pain. But the overwhelmi that darkness is looming, that God may have hidden his face from us, that isn’t just a coincidence. That is what Daniel experienced.
And we learn from his example how to deal with such times.
We pray and pray and then hear the voice of God,
“Daniel, God loves you. Stand up and listen carefully to what I am going to say. I have been sent to you.” and “Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer.”
The methodology for dealing with demonic attacks is and always must be to hear the voice of God. We must hear and know and depend on His promises to us. We have to realize that He loves us and nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not illness, not jails, not losing it, not all the trials of life. He loves you – start there, hear it often (hence Luther’s comments about church) Remember your baptism, feast on God’s word, and at His table, hear his words (Not the pastor’s or priest’s) that you are forgiven, that you are His beloeved chidlren.
Hearing this changes everything for Daniel, knowing the presence of God is what is needed, for Satan can’t stand against those words. Even for the exocrcists – those skilled in dealing with demonic, the presence of God is always what makes the difference, always the necessity. The guarantees that we celebrate in the sacraments are that what tells us that there is more than our clining to thoughts and ideas given to us from those who have gone before.
He is clinging to us. He loves us. That is the message we need to know, to depend upon, to trust.
For the Lord will always answer our cry for mercy. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2164-2167). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 378–379). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. cited fromt he Large Catechism Explanation of the Third Commandment