Devotional Thought for the day:
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15† so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, 16 as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Phil. 2:14-16 GNT
While the entire psalter and the holy scriptures altogether are also dear to me, as they are my sole comfort and life, nevertheless, I have struck up a very special relationship with this psalm, so that it must be mine and be called mine. It has worked quite diligently for me, deserving to become mine, and has helped me in some great emergencies, out of which no emperor, king, sage, clever person, or saint would have been able to help me.
You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God?
My daily devotions changed a few years ago, when I discovered a book called Celtic Daily Prayer (and now volume 2) and another book called The Way. Before that I saw devotions as a task, and as what a good pastor did, and tried to model to his people. I did the read through the Bible in a year, I even wrote the predecessor to this blog. Looking back, I am not sure I could have answered the question posed by the last line of the quote from Dallas Willard.
It wasn’t the books that changed my devotional life, they just showed up and in the right time and place. It wasn’t on a quest for holiness, that this process grew, nor do I see myself holier or more mature.
I may have grown in holiness, I may be more “devout” (I believe that is very much up to debate), I pray that I am more like Christ.
What I am is more aware of how much I need to depend on God. I resonate with Luther, about this passage and that ministering to me more than others. ( 1 Cor. 2:9, Ezekiel 26:25, Exodus 50:20, Phil. 1:6, Hebrews 12:1-3 Romans 12:1-3 ) for a few that have that effect) greeting me like old friends when I get to them. Jeremiah 20:7 as well, oh gosh has that saved me in despair more than once.
Yet it has been reading through scriptures and my other aids that have led me to those passages. The words of Escriva, Luther, Willard and Popes Francis and Benedict have help me see what I am missing, and far too often, what I encounter gives me the strength I need when something big is looming. (and it seems like something always is looming)
I am not doing this because I am a saint, or devout, or because I want to impress people. I am doing this because I need to, I need to remember that God is benevolent, and merciful, and loves me, and then that He loves those I struggle with, and desires that we all come to repentance.
It is why I encourage you to spend time in the word, like a miner digging for diamonds, trying to find those verse that will reveal God’s love to you so completely that you don’t recognize the change. But you cling to them.. oh.. do you cling to them, as you are comforted and healed by the Holy Spirit who uses them to heal your heart, soul and mind. AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity 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. 203). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances. 3 So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4 We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching.” 5 The whole group was pleased with the apostles’ proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6 The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
Acts 6:1-6 (TEV)
The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.
From the earliest days of the church, there was a priority set upon the time of those who shepherd God’s people.
A priority on prayer, and being in the word of God, of preaching and teaching about the Christ who has come to make His home among us. (John 1:14 NLT) To train up people to serve each other, (Eph 4:12)
Those were the priorities of the early church –
A question I have today is that our priority still? Is this were we want them spending their time. Or have we turned them into visionaries and managers, men who are skilled in managing all the work of the church as an organization?
Yes, logistics and planning are necessary, being good stewards of what the church has been entrusted with temporally is important. But only as it sets the church up to do its actual ministry – and to walk with God.
The members of a church and its leadership need to take this seriously. Out of the fifty to sixty hours a week he works, how many are spent in prayer? How many are spent in teaching and preaching and preparing for it?
How many are spent in meetings covering the administration of the church, and/or its school? Is it possible to free him up of some of that, so whe can dedicate himself as the apostles do? Is it possible to have him train others to do the work of service? Is it possible to create an environment where the talents of people can be harnassed? How many of our pastors have to be property managers, business officers, plumbers, and a thousand other roles.
Give him time to pray and spend time meditating on God’s word. – serious amounts of time. Give him time to prepare to teach and preach as well. for this work is necessary. Invest his time in training people to know the word so well that they can serve others, and while doing it, share Christ’s love. And give him time to get used to this freedom!
Be a good steward of his life… and time.
The blessing will be yours!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 104). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking o that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. Colossians 1:9-12 HCSB
890 You are distracted in prayer. Try to avoid distractions, but don’t worry if in spite of everything you’re still distracted. Don’t you see how in ordinary life even the most considerate children play with everything around them, and often pay no attention to what their father says? This does not imply a lack of love, or respect: it’s the weakness and littleness proper to a child. Look then: you are a child before God.
As I go through my devotional reading each day, I often highlight what I am reading. As I try to bring everything together, sometimes they click, and I see the instant connection, and sometimes they seem as alike as… I can’t think of anything diverse enough!
Today’s two quotes above fall into that latter group. They both resonated with me. The first from the perspective of this is a great goal for anyone who ministers to anyone. From pastors and priests to Sunday School teachers, to those who work behind the scenes, to the little old ladies who can hardly do anything in the world’s eyes, but are great assets – because they pray! Oh, how we need them to model their persistent prayer so that we can follow their example!
We need to pray, as St Paul did, for the people we pray for, even as we pray that their bodies be healed, that their problems at home and work are resolved, we need to pray that they are filled with the knowledge of God’s desire, that they would have the wisdom and spiritual understanding that leads to the strength to work in this world in a way that pleases God.
And I guess that is where the second reading comes into the picture. For even if someone is praying for me, that I would become all this, that I would realize what St Josemaria said.
I am still a child. I will still get distracted in my prayer time, I can try to avoid the distractions (as you can as well) and we should! But there are times where we are still His kids, we still are weak, though in Him strong. The distractions don’t mean we are not his, no longer blessed, no longer His holy people.
We are His children.
Sometimes I get ticked at myself when something distracts me for a moment in prayer, or in church. When I remember I have to write to someone or call someone when I realize I forgot to do this or that. I’ve learned to turn off the phone (most of the time I don’t remember) or try to ignore the messages that come. But I don’t always… and it annoys me and I deal with guilt about it. Shouldn’t I have the ability to endure like the saints of old? Shouldn’t I have the disposition to do what is right? Shouldn’t I, by force of will, be able to free myself from all, so that I may concentrate on God?
Yes, and no. (even now I was distracted! Sigh! )
St Josemaria’s words help me realize that the patience that Paul prays for can include patience with myself. They help remember I am a still a kid, and God will cause the growth. Do what I can to eliminate the distractions, but also realize that the name or face that comes to mind, may have been put there by the Spirit. And that God will be patient as well, as I grow in my appreciation for His presence and love.
Of course, if we were all mature, would there be a need to pray for each other as Paul prayed for the church? No…
So call yourself back, remember you are in His presence…and rejoice in His love!
P.S> if you don’t have people praying for you – let me know… and I will make sure you are! (
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2059-2063). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
13 “You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it. 14 “You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. 16 In the same way your light must shine before people, be so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16 (TEV)
Almost all those who have hitherto treated of devotion have had the instruction of persons wholly retired from the world in view, or have taught a kind of devotion leading to this absolute retirement: whereas my intention is to instruct such as live in towns, in households, or in courts, and who, by their condition, are obliged to lead, as to the exterior, an ordinary life, and who frequently, under the pretext of a pretended impossibility, will not even think of undertaking a devout life, believing, that as no animal dares to taste the seed of the herb called Palma Christi, so no man ought to aspire to the palm of Christian piety so long as he lives in the turmoil of worldly affairs. (1)
As I read the quote in blue, the thought resonated with me. I had found some interesting quotes from this book in the past, so I added ti to my devotional reading for the year.
Some many devotional writings are written to either people who spend hours a day in meditation and reflection, or they are 200 words or less that are to be read while driving one’s morning coffee, or while sitting at traffic lights as we hurry from place to place. The latter pacify our spiritual hunger,satisfying it, or perhaps numbing it.
Yes we say, I’ve done my devotions, as if to check them off a list, and not be concerned about God in the midst of a broken life. We’ve been taught that the prayers of those who shut themselves away are not as noble as those that live them out, but how many of us do? Even a generation after Luther, de Sales wrote that many think leading a holy and devout life to be impossible within the turmoil of worldly affairs.
So Francis de Sales wrote a book, very much along the lines of how I desire. There has to be a way to turn devotion from a duty into a life. To realize that devotion is a combination of adoration (being in awe of God’s love ) and mercy- showing that love to all we encounter. it is a way of life, a way of walking with God where we allow Him to transform us into His image.
It is the place where God is incarnate, so incarnate, so real that our hearts, souls, minds and strength resonate with love for Him, because we are sure we are loved. It is a place where joy overwhelms suffering or pain. It is a life set apart to God, for God has set Himself apart to us.
He is our God, we are His people, and we are more aware of this than not.
Being devoted to God, Holiness, Sanctification, living the baptized life, this is possible. Even in the middle of 2016, and as we approach 2017.
St Paul describes it this way
18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)
Lord have mercy upon us sinners, and help us to see the Spirit’s work in our lives. AMEN!
(1) Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional thought for the weekend:
16 He replied to him, “A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. 17 When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready.’ 18 But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 The servant went and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out and still there is room.’ 23 The master then ordered the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled. 24 For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.’ ” Luke 14:16-24 NABRE
3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:2-3 (NLT)
I’ve got to work! I’ve got responsibilities! I’ve got family obligations! (Though what obligation a newlywed has to his wife… or wait – nevermind!)
Following Christ doesn’t have a simple agenda. It can’t be planned out a month in advance. There are times it means that after a hard day’s work, you spend the night helping a neighbor, or helping (with love) to that obstinate, pain in the ass relative.
There will be long days, days where plans are changed, days where things are moved around. Days where our devotions may not happen when we want. There might even be a day when we have to miss church, not to go to a ball game, but to help a hurting person.
The temptation is just to skip it that day, to pick up tomorrow what we should have done today, and just push it all back a day. Been there, done that. One year – my read through the Bible – which should have gone November 1 to October 31st, well – I gave up mid-February as I was already a month behind! Guilt and shame set in, because I wasn’t giving God the proper response He deserved. I wasn’t a good disciple, and I wondered if I was so weak, why would people follow me as a pastor?
But I didn’t understand discipleship – and I didn’t really understand the purpose of devotional time, and that misunderstanding gave me the ability to set it aside, to declare it inconvenient. An inconvenience somehow excused the necessity, because the ministry was more important than devotions, or work projects were, or family and family…uhm… obligations.
I realized sometime in that year that I missed the reading, and the liturgy I entered into every morning. I realized I didn’t “do” devotions to prove that I was devoted to God! (Sometimes we do it to prove to Him, and sometimes just to prove it to ourselves.) I can’t prove my devotion, and too be honest, as long as was my motivation, I would falter and fail.
Devotional time is not about proving our devotion as if providing us improved us. I need my devotional time – because it proves His devotion to me. I need to know that, I need to know the love that won’t let me go, I need to be convinced that I can run to His arms, depending on a mercy that promises to forgive my sin, and cleanse me from the sin of a world that could crush me.
This is my time with my Father, to hear of His love, His mercy, His desire to rescue me from the brokenness of my life.
And so, if life made me miss, I get back and make it up, savoring the little steps I take with Him, as He points out a little more of the height, the depth. The width and breadth of His love for me, and for my people, and for the community of humanity.
I need this time, which comes all together as I write a blog, or a sermon, or just worship and pray. I desperately need it, so much so I can’t count it inconvenient to miss, I consider it theft, and do what I can to get what God would give me back….
You too need a time like this, not just to read, not just to pray, but to realize the blessing of God; that is in your life. No, that is your life.
Start simple – and as you begin to be in awe – add a little more….. and become hungry to know more and more of this Lord of life.
For this is His mercy… the mercy we sinners cry out for…
Devotional Thought for the day:
29 So the people of Israel—every man and woman who was eager to help in the work the LORD had given them through Moses—brought their gifts and gave them freely to the LORD. Exodus 35:29 (NLT)
63 But after a man is converted, and thereby enlightened, and his will is renewed, then he wills that which is good, in so far as he is reborn or a new man, and he delights in the law of God according to his inmost self (Rom. 7:22). And immediately he does good, as much and as long as the Holy Spirit motivates him, as St. Paul says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”8
64 This impulse of the Holy Spirit is no coercion or compulsion because the converted man spontaneously does that which is good, as David says, “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you lead your host.”9
In the world of today, when people are so burdened with duties and their problems, which oftentimes have to be solved with great haste, range through so many fields, there is considerable danger of dissipating their energy. Priests, too, involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.21
I remember back in the day there were those who thought Franklin Planners and Day Runners were the key to success. Just use all the little tabs, the priority tools, the calendar and you would be a success in business.
That is of course, assuming you were able to keep track of the $120 leather bound notebook! We complain about our cell phones being leashes these days! Those things took the place of God in our priorities!
Seriously though, as I read the Book of Concord and the words from Vatican II this morning I was taken back to those days, to friends who assured me that having a organized and structured life was the key to successful ministry, and those who insisted that instead it is a pastor’s duty to first spend extensive time in devotion and prayer. Not measured in minutes -but hours a day, a day a week – a week a year. That only then will a pastor be able to endure.
And of course, each was backed up by Biblical examples.
There are still those who put forth those answers today. That want me to read these books they found – by Steve Covey or by Dallas Willard. (representative of the two thoughts) I am torn between the two often – there are people that I need to go see, things I need to plan, and yet there is also the need – a desperate need, to be still, to know that He is God, He is my God, my loving, merciful benevolent Father, and I am his child.
So how do you strike a balance? Or can you?
I have tried for far too long, more than 3 decades tried to discern this balance.
And the answer is far more… simple.. and thus more overwhelming.
Follow Christ’s will….
There are going to be times we have to lay aside everything and go. There are times where we have to manage our time. And there are times – where if we don’t seek God’s face, where we don’t encounter His presence, we will be worthless.
How do I know the difference?
By being in tune with Christ, with knowing He is walking with me. To understand that I am not the messiah – and I draw my strength from knowing His mercy for me personally. (This is why I have absolutely no problem with a daily celebration of the Lord’s Supper!) I need to know His presence, I need to know His cleansing work within me.
Then it is simple to hear his voice, then it is simple to know how to give, how to spend that time.
It has to be the Holy Spirit who coordinates that – I can simply keep focusing on Jesus, and depend on Him to make it work.
And so He does.
That is what “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner” is all about. AMEN!
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print. Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration: II Free Will or Human Powers
Catholic Church. “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day
33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved. 1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1 (NLT)
15 Even if we grant the freedom to use one kind or both, how can they make the withholding of one kind mandatory? But the church cannot arrogate to itself the freedom to call Christ’s ordinances matters of indifference. (1)
On Saturday, I wrote a blog that stirred up a bit of controversy among some Lutherans. The proposition was simply, we share our hope in Christ Jesus because we are transformed to love others, as we live in Christ. I started with the opposite corollary; to not share the good news which gives us the ability to trust in God for our life, for our salvation, is nothing less than a violation of God’s plan for us not to murder, and the plan that we should love people.
Such was on my mind this morning as I went through my devotional reading. I came to the section of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession where the discussion was about the Lord’s Supper, and that people should be able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. This was a bone of contention back in the early days of the Reformation, and some in the Catholic Church mandated that the chalice, the blood of Christ was only for the ordained clergy. It was a bad enough that some forbid lay people the right to do so.
Not for a good reason, (say perhaps they didn’t have enough wine), or so the Lutheran writers tell us. The confessions make the case that this was because of a religious caste system. That somehow those who were ordained or pledged to a religious life were different, and the chalice was restricted to them.
BTW – this blog is not to question that practice (the Catholic Church has since clarified it), but a practice that is becoming popular in some parts of the Lutheran Church today.
Instead of denying the people of God the chalice, they deny the people of God the ministry entrusted to the church, the ministry of reconciliation. The ministry that Paul defined simply as pleading with people to “be reconciled to God.” For some reason, some clergy and some lay people would deny this grace, the ability to see God work through them, to lay people.
It’s not their responsibility, some claimed. Or you can’t make us do it! If we read your words and feel guilty, well then you are using the law to make us do it by guilt, another claimed. Ultimately the justification was that the ministry of evangelization belongs only to the clergy. So you can’t tell us that we have to do it, after all, the clergy doesn’t do it
And people who are broken, who desperately need to know the love of God, are denied it.
Ultimately it comes down to
1) We don’t see the grace of God, His mercy, peace and love to be so overwhelming, to be so healing that we realize that everyone needs it.
2) We don’t love them enough to respond to their brokenness.
In both instances, the issue isn’t clergy versus laity. It is simply sin.
We conveniently justify ourselves by laying the burden on pastors and priests, on religious workers and those who are “special”. It would be like seeing a woman bleeding on the side of the road, and saying, “I can’t help, but there are doctor’s and nurses, paramedics and others trained for this.” as you walk away without even dialing 911.
If this post is causing some stress, some tension in you, if you are getting angry at it, or coming up with ways to justify inaction, ways to define this as something other than a sin of failing to do what one should, I ask you to consider where that feeling is coming from.
Is it a reaction to theology that you don’t like, or
Is it the old Adam rising up again, trying to justify not doing what you know you should?
The idea of denying the ministry to all is wrong. Yes, there are ministries, preaching and administering the sacraments, which are the responsibility of those ordained to do that work. But Paul wasn’t writing to them when he wrote about imitating him as he imitated Jesus. He was talking to the entire church. And the context is clear – that some might be won to Christ, freed from sin. That is evangelistic, that is the ministry of reconciliation, that is the work God has prepared for those in Christ.
Look around you, see those broken by sin, oppressed by guilt and shame, traumatized and in need of someone to love them enough to reach out to them, and give them hope.
You are there, for this moment… reach out with the love of Christ. And find God’s grace and worksmanship bringing about what God has planned.. and find yourself more in awe of God’s grace!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 238). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of The Day:
28 About a week after he had said these things, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a hill to pray. Luke 9:28 (TEV)
42 They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (TEV)
551 Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God. (1)
There is a joke (at least I hope it is a joke) about an elderly gentleman and an odd sense of romance. He was asked by a newlywed how often he told his wife he loved her. The old guy thought for a moment and said, “the day we got engaged.” Seeing the shocked look on the young man’s face, he followed that up with, “and I told her if I changed my mind, I would surely let her know!”
I can’t believe there exists a woman for whom this would be satisfactory.
And so I wonder why many of us settle for that kind of relationship with God. It’s not that He doesn’t tell us constantly that He loves us, for He dearly wants us to know He loves us, to be aware of His presence.
That is what all of creation is about, about our relationship with Him.
Imagine for a moment that the old man’s wife told the young couple, “Oh, don’t worry about us, I am too tired to pay attention to my husband telling me he love me. It’s too much work to drop what I am doing, and read a loveletter he carefully wrote me. I don’t want his comfort, or for him to treat me special. Are our excuses for not spending time with God, with His people, any better?
Are our lives so perfect that we don’t need to be comforted by the Holy Spirit, that we don’t need to be encouraged by our brothers and sisters in the church? Are we somehow more mature than the early church, who gathered regularly to pray?
If this letter is producing some guilt, that is not its intent. We have been given an amazing gift, a blessing beyond compare. The presence of God, and in scripture, the proof of His love. A gift we need to use, a gift that is a life changer, to know we walk through life with God.
Spending time in prayer, in readying and stuyding His word wih others, in celebrating the Lord’s Supper – it isn’t about duty, it is about knowing we are love… about hearing and seein that love…. Together, as His family.. And there is nothing better…
1. Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.