Devotional Thought of the Day
23 I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign LORD, then the nations will know that I am the LORD. 24 For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. 25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
Ezekiel 36:23-27 (NLT2)
23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NLT2)
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. . James 5:16 (NLT2)
Sacraments are “powers that comes forth” from the Body of Christ,33 which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church.
18 A sacrament is a ceremony or act in which God offers us the content of the promise joined to the ceremony; thus Baptism is not an act which we offer to God but one in which God baptizes us through a minister functioning in his place. Here God offers and presents the forgiveness of sins according to the promise (Mark 16:16), “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” By way of contrast, a sacrifice is a ceremony or act which we render to God to honor him.
I saw a friend share part of the Ezekiel reading the other day, and my mind flashed back to a baptism 5 years ago this week,
A pastor I know and admire posted about baptizing someone yesterday in their front yard with family looking on from an appropriate distance.
I’ve talked to pastor and priest friends, who all agonize over not being able to provide the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper to those whose faith is so challenged in these days.
Sacraments are not some magical incantation, the words accompany the promise, and the means God promised real to those whom HE blesses in that moment.
That water, because God promised, because He is pour/sprinkling/immersing people with it, give what He promised – the cleansing of our sin, the change of heart (and mind) that we need, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
That bread that we place in their hands, it is the Body of Christ – given and shed so those people can realize GOd’s love, His mercy, His presence in their lives.
The words of forgiveness, which ring out, not because the pastor likes you, but because God wants you to hear them – YOU ARE FORGIVEN!
This isn’t about us doing the work, about our obedience, about our religious acts. It is about God coming into our lives, about God doing His work.
Those who are ordained to make sure these gifts are delivered are crushed, because we hear the need across phone lines, through texts and messages, and in the posts on social media. We can and are responding to some of those cries in person, but it is another thing to celebrate it all in person.
We look forward to the days when services and masses are the gatherings they should be. But this time helps a little I think. For we begin to understand a little more clearly what it means to cry out for Christ to return, for the great gathering that will happen, when He welcomes us home.
I think we take heaven for granted at times, as we might the Lord’s Supper or our baptism, or that moment when you hear your shepherd tell you that you are forgiven because Jesus said so. One has seemed so far away – a lifetime. The others, the sacraments have always been there, they always should be. Their removal, and the threat of death, combine to help us think of the biggest reunion.
We learn to yearn for the future, because of the absence of the present. We learn to look to eternal life, as we are reminded that this life is easily threatened. We long to have Jesus return to us in the sacrament, even as we are learning to yearn for His second coming!
Let me say it again, for it is worth saying! I long for the day when the people I pastor can re-gather, and celebrate Christ’s feast together. But even more, I am understanding why I should long for the feast to come when all of God’s people are welcomed home…and the celebration begins.
May God’s peace, poured out on you in Christ, nourished through word and sacraments, sustain you until the re-gatherings. This will happen, for He has promised, and He is faithful! AMEN!
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 289.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 252.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” 9 Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! Psalm 27:7-9 (ESV)
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
Hosea 10:12 (ESV)
540 You neither want to be an evil man nor a good one. And so, limping on both legs, you will have mistaken your way and filled your life with emptiness.
When I read the psalm above, I feel guilty. I resonate with the words in my heart, oh how I long to know the grace of God, fully in my life. ANd yet, I don’t seek his face enough. It is not as much God hiding his face from us, as we don’t look for Him as often as we should.
We try to get through life on our own, we try to act like we are mature Christians, we try to walk in His steps, but without His help. We are like the 3-year-old, trying on her mom’s high heels, (or his dad’s boots) And when we fall, we wonder why God abandoned us, why He allowed us to
We need to hear God, we need to take Him seriously on the fellowship He desires to have with us. It is how we need to live, really live. To live and walk with Jesus. To abide in the Spirit, to realize the righteousness, the holiness that rains down upon us.
God is with us, and the more we can seek Him, the more our brokeness is revealed to be a place where His comfort and peace powerfully is at work.
Stop what you are doing, spend a few moments seeking God, letting HIs mercy and peace wash over you, a demontration of the love …anad live a full and abundant life. For it is time
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2333-2335). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
When John the Baptist heard in prison about the things that Christ was doing, he sent some of his disciples to him. 3 “Tell us,” they asked Jesus, “are you the one John said was going to come, or should we expect someone else?” Matt 11:2-3 TEV
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a place of safety in times of trouble. 10 Those who know you, LORD, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you. Ps. 9:9-10 TEV
When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
from the hymn THE SOLID ROCK by Mote and Bradbury (in public domain)
Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand
questions of a pilgrim. Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.
Modern renditions of The Solid rock often change the verse above ever so slightly, changing “veils” to “hide”, and robbing the poet of the tie in the second occurrence of the veil.
I picture the sailing boat, anchored but with a thick fog, unable to see where its anchor rope even enters the water, unable to see what the anchor has grasped, but sure of its security, the people on the boat find rest, I also picture the rope, tied to the high priest, who moves from the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies, all hope of Israel tied to him, and the offering which will cover our sin.
And in my reading in the gospel today, we see the prophet John, weary and brutalized, sending word to his cousin, for his own strength no longer sustains him. He sends his men to ask for the words which will sustain him, the words which will assure him of the promise.
And so we can take refuge in the promises of God. We see hope revealed in His providing hold on us that will protect us in the storm, calming us amid the brokenness, even amidst the mess our sins have caused in our lives.
The Lord is with you… He is your God….He changes not, and so you know the love and mercy you experienced once is still there, even when you can’t see it.
Pope Francis, a man who has known a storm or two, takes this a step further. He notes that the pilgrim, the one who God has sent on a mission, can know a thousand questions, can be overwhelmed by them, and even struggle with doubt. Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it. ANd those questions are a form of doubt, I don’t know the answers, os how can I cling to what is so…spiritual?
His answer is because faith is not just a list of doctrines or even our identity based on our beliefs. It is more than that, it is a relationship, formed from encountering the living, resurrected, crucified Jesus. It is that relationship that withstands the questions, the foggy times in life, the times we can’t see the God who holds, protects and preserved us. But we can know He is there… and as we focus on His love, which word and sacraments refresh our experience of daily, we are free….
Free to reach out to those likewise broken, likewise struggling with sin, likewise wrestling with a thousand questions of doubt, and share with them, whether ancient believer, newly baptized, or those yet to encounter Him, that He is with you all. Doubt drives us from our own self-sufficiency to realize we need something…not someone more.
And He is here… for all.
Being missional is not about being happy and positive about everything. The missional Christian isn’t one who exudes confidence in himself or depends on her charisma. The missional person is one whom simply knows that God is holding them, while they cling to Him, for in Him there is hope, in Him there is healing, and as we encounter Him, we experience life as the ones He loves.
So the next time you struggle, the next time the fog hides His face, hold on to His promises, hold on to those encounters, as you realize He holds onto you, the one He loves. And grab hold of the next person floating buy in the fog, for that is your mission.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
50 “Go,” Jesus told him, “your son will live.” The man believed what i Jesus said to him and departed.
51 While he was still going down, his •slaves met him saying that his boy was alive. 52 He asked them at what time he got better. “Yesterday at seven in the morning j the fever left him,” they answered. 53 The father k realized this was the very hour at which Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” Then he himself believed, along with his whole household. John 4:50-53 HCSB
5 One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.”
8 “Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk!” 9 Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk.
Now that day was the Sabbath, 10 so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath! It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.”
11 He replied, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”
12 “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” they asked. 13 But the man who was cured did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. ” John 5:5-6 HCSB
For when a person no longer rises above himself in his search for God, he becomes changed—narrower, smaller. Essential organs become atrophied in him. His soul becomes coarser and less discriminating. Eventually he can no longer love the other or even himself.
My devotional blog usually comes from trying to see the place where my readings converge, To take three or four of them and see what one thought will impact my day, and sometimes my week.
As I look at the two stories from the gospel, something struck me as odd.
In verse 12 of the second story, we see that the lame man didn’t know who it was that healed him. In the last verse of the first story, we see the statement, “Then he himself believed” Which means he believed in the man believed in what Jesus said, but he didn’t believe in Jesus.
Wait, these two guys had miracles done for them, and they weren’t followers of Jesus? They didn’t believe in Him as Messiah, as their Savior?
This observation may amaze you, but it is just as likely that it will tick you off. Come on, be honest, why is it fair that this rich leader gets this son healed? ANd why does the wretch who didn’t stay around to find out who healed him get the healing?
There are so many good believers, both then and now, who, dare I say it, deserve to be healed? Okay, they are sinners too, but they need to be healed. This doesn’t seem all that fair to me. If God’s going to bless folk, shouldn’t there be a logic, a sense of justice about the healings?
Now let’s move onto the Pope’s description of a man who no longer searches for God. Who has become smaller, narrower, more self-centered? ( GK Chesterton has a lot to say about this kind of man) Here is a man who soul becomes coarse and dark, brittle and stiff. The man whose life is so irritable and fractured. WHo is consumed by anxiety and stress?
Is there hope for such a man?
I’m asking for a friend.
No, I am not. To be honest, I am asking for myself.
For life has become so overwhelming for those around me, I am so looking for the answers for their problems, that like the man looking for his son to be healed, I forget to believe in the Lord whose words I believed about healing someone I loved. And often I am like the lame guy lying by the pool, hoping for a miracle, but unable to help myself. Unable to think outside my box. (heck I didn’t even know I had one!)
The situation Pope Benedict describes I know all too well, and when I am there, when I forget or resist being drawn into God’s presence, time sucks, Life is stressful and anxiety.
Yes, even pastors go through this and go through it far too often.
Which is why I find such an amazing God who is revealed this morning, providing healing that is needed, that is prayed for, even when we don’t recognize Him at first. He provides what is needed, even when we aren’t sure. He is patient enough that we have the time to process it, to have the “aha” moment of realizing we were (and still are) in the presence of a loving caring God, who is at work in our lives.
Knowing this is the God who loves us, knowing this is the God who watches out for us, who cares about us, not just from duty. but because He loves us, is amazing. It is wonderful, it helps me know during those days when I struggle to rise above myself, when I know I am changing, God will come, and have mercy, and reveal Himself to me.
And to you.
God is with us! And He is patent, reminding us of His love… AMEN!
Do you always recognize God’s presence in your life? If you don’t, how do you feel? What do you do? DO you ever want to just give up?
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.
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 of the Day:
9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. Matthew 25:34 (NLT)
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:68-69 (NLT)
906 Et regni eius non erit finis—“His kingdom will have no end.” Doesn’t it fill you with joy to work for a kingdom like that?
A little over a year ago, I was at a funeral where one of my early mentors preached. He made a point very clear that we no longer preach about eternity. He asked me if I, no longer in that denomination, ever mentioned eternity in my sermons, and I indicated I did, and while I do, the conversation took a back burner for a while.
I do mention it in sermons, for it is the 2nd great promise of our baptism,, the first being the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is why the removal of our sin is so critical, for those who are counted as sinners, those who are bound by them, have an eternity that is not what I would call life. (hell does exist, but how it is clearly described is an existence that is not what we think of as life.)
But I think we put off eternity, we have defined it as a reality we cannot know until we die. It is “after-life” in many people’s thoughts. Not life right now, eternity and heaven are not visible we think. I believe this is, in part due to passages that describe the final judgment, and what theologians call the “not yet”.of the “now and not yet.”
We need to understand that there is a “now” to eternity. That even as we struggle to see it, the love we know now is no different than the love we shall know then. We will just be more aware of it, we will see it more clearly.
How different would our lives be if we could begin to realize the truth of Paul’s words to the church in Colossae,
12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 (NLT)
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)
Eternity has begun. It is hard to see at times, and yes, Satan and the world would love to obstruct our vision of Jesus, to diminish our ability to sense His presence and be comforted and consoled by it. As we realize that, our duty becomes reminding each other, teaching and preaching about our eternal life. Meditating on it, partaking in the sacraments, and celebrating those who enter this life by being united to Jesus in the sacrament baptism.
This is who we are…those living in Christ eternally… this is our hope, our trust, and dependence on God and His promises, including the love that will see us to the day when we see Him face to face.
Until then, as St. Paul says, sets your sight on the realities of heaven… for that is where you real life is, hidden in Christ. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2107-2109). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 On the Sabbath we went out of the city to the riverside, where we thought there would be a place where Jews gathered for prayer. We sat down and talked to the women who gathered there. Acts 16:13 (TEV)
14 And this Good News about the Kingdom will be preached through all the world for a witness to all people; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (TEV)
799 What amazes you seems quite natural to me: God has sought you out right in the midst of your work. That is how he sought the first, Peter and Andrew, John and James, beside their nets, and Matthew, sitting in the customhouse. And—wonder of wonders—Paul, in his eagerness to destroy the seeds of Christianity!
St. Josemaria’s words this morning about Paul get me to thinking.
Paul encountered God on the road, as he was journeying to do damage to the church. Paul would then go where he knew to go to persecute, but with a different purpose. Now he was there to bless, to share the mercy, the love, the very glory of God. The knowledge once used to persecute those who trusted in God was now transformed, and being used to bless them, and enlarge their numbers.
This is the work of God.
People don’t seek Him out as much as He seeks them out.
I’ve seen this in my own life, the very thing that torments me, that causes anxiety and pain, that has required so many surgeries over the years (Nost to change batteries) and odd hospital trips had caused me to often me angry with God, to question “why me”, to doubt.
It has also led me to be able to minister to others, to be able to seek them out, even when withdrawn. It has enabled me to minister to the nurses and occasionally the doctors who are over worked, overwhelmed and dealing with their own anxieties, their own problems, their own challenges. They needed someone there, and God brought me there, and everything seemed to work right.
It is amazing to see God encounter us, and then lead us to encounter others. It sometimes seems far beyond coincidence, and it is, these are divine appointments. SO don’t sweat the change of plans, He’s directing your day!
So look for God in your day, and look for those he’s sent you too…
Rejoice the Lord is with you!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1840-1843). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
He Will Do All the Good Things He has promised!
He will gather (JOY)
† I.H.S. †
I pray that the mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you, that all you can do is rejoice as you think of His coming…even as God does!
How Can I….Know this Joy
A pastor once wrote,
Day by day we encounter the world of visible things. It assaults us through billboards, broadcasts, traffic, and all the activities of daily life, to such an enormous extent that we are tempted to assume there is nothing else but this[i]
Sometimes I feel like that, like all of world that I encounter wants to assault me, attack me, trample all over me.
I so understand those words, that we assume there is nothing else but this….
And this week, when the darkness of the dark “blue” weeks of Advent are interrupted, as if a hint of a new day were peaking through, even as the darkness still threatens, we are encouraged to rejoice. Not just look forward to the day of rejoicing… but to rejoice.
Now, today, even as we struggle with world events, with national and local problems; as we struggle with our finances, or families or maybe it is just our personal struggles, we are urged to sing and shout praises, to be glad and rejoice with everything in our hearts and minds and souls. We are called to cheer up, and not be afraid.
Thank God that He gives us a reason too…
The people that rejoice in the presence of God are described in the following ways,
Those who need to be calmed, for they are afraid and anxious,
Those who mourn as they consider the state of appointed festivals like Christmas, and how they have become less about God and His people.
The people who will rejoice are those who are oppressed, to those who are weak and helpless.
Those who were chased away, or exiled.
This is referring to those who were run out of the camp in the days of the Exodus, who were cut off from the people of God because of their sin, yet will be welcomed back and restored.
Those who were exiled because of their sin and shame, for they too will be drawn back by God and restored.
Yeah, those who will rejoice in Jesus’s coming will include those who are burdened by shame and guilt, but who will be called by a new name, who will be given a new name, whose life will be restored. The prodigals who return, those crushed by their sin. For that is what Jesus does, as He was lifted up on the cross.
Lifted there because Jesus wasn’t just called a friend to tax collectors and sinners, He is a friend to them. And lifted up on the cross, the very image of God’s mercy and grace, He draws people to Him, as He desires.
Gather, for the Lord Will Live Among US
The pastor quoted earlier, who talked about the world assaulting us, following those words with these,
One single soul, in Pascal’s beautiful words, (your soul) is worth more (to God) than the entire visible universe. But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that you may see God’s presence in the world—change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world.
There is the key to seeing where our joy comes from, in the midst of a world that will try to make life a living hell.
Realizing the worth of a single soul, your soul, to God.
And that is why we are gathered by God together. For in this Old Testament prophecy, over and over it mentions this promise – six times! – the fact that God will gather His people together, that He will make things right, and twice more just so we understand, he explains that happens as God lives in the midst of His people.
God living among His people
God gathering His people together
God living among His people
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
The apostle John said it this way,
14 The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son. John 1:14 (TEV)
The hardest thing to get theologically is a concept known as “now, and not yet.”
Jesus has been lifted up, He has drawn us into Himself in His death, and in our baptism, bringing us into life everlasting. We celebrate now the feast that is the first taste of the feast to come. We can live free of the guilt and shame, free of what separated us from God.
We don’t see it yet, but we get glimpses of it. As we gather, and as we do, our hearts should cry out His praises, for He is our Savior. And I want you to hear one more “now and not yet
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Know this, like the prodigal’s father, our Father rejoices as we are gathered into His presence… that is His love and mercy… AMEN!
[i] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 391). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Is Spiritual Growth Necessary? The Benefit of Prayer, Meditation and Frequent Reception of the Sacraments
Devotional Thought of the Day
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (TEV)
9 For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10 Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-11 (TEV)
90 Optimism? Yes, always! Even when things seem to turn out badly: perhaps that is the time to break into a song, with a Gloria, because you have sought refuge in Him, and nothing but good can come to you from Him.
24 For the Old Adam, like an unmanageable and recalcitrant donkey, is still a part of them and must be coerced into the obedience of Christ, not only with the instruction, admonition, urging, and threatening of the law, but frequently also with the club of punishments and miseries, until the flesh of sin is put off entirely and man is completely renewed in the resurrection.
I started to write this blog yesterday, and then life seemed to get in the way. Life can be like that.
My devotional reading this morning again hammered it home, as Paul’s prayer for those who followed Christ in a city named Colossae makes clear. A life following Christ will be different than the life that doesn’t. It is challenging to hear those words of Paul, who desires we be able to live as God desires and that our actions please Him.
The challenge is seen in the quote in green, that our old nature, which we believe was killed off in baptism, continues to rise, challenge us and dominate our lives. And the Lutheran Confessions (you know – from the “saved by grace, through faith, no works folks – talk about the law still impacting and disciplining the believer. Of the sin-nature is put off entirely and the Paul mentions needing to discipline the body as well, and Hebrews talks of shedding the sin and everything that so easily ensnares us.
But what are those things that help us grow? What are the things in our lives that encourage the growth that transforms us more and more into those who resemble Jesus?
We see it in all the passages, perhaps most clearly in St. Josemaria’s words in blue. To, in the middle of the darkness of this world, break into praising and glorifying God, in Whose presence you dwell! We need to take refuge in Him, to seek the peace that comes from being brought back to the Father, cleansed and healed and transformed, conformed to the image of Jesus. (Think that Phil. 2:5-10 is in context with the first verses, the ones that talk about being of one mind, one heart.
It is that transformation that is spiritual growth, and so things that help us grow to know we are in God’s presence, God’s loving, transforming presence, are what cause us to grow in and like Christ. In Hebrews. This is described as fixing ou eyes on Jesus, who creates faith in us, and sustains it to completion. In Colossians, we talk about the knowledge of God. Not knowing about God as we know about Adam and Eve, or BioChemistry. But knowing Him, the knowledge of His presence, His mercy, His love.
So how do we grow in this? How does Spiritual Growth happen?
So obviously prayer fits in there, not just a casual Lord’s prayer, but a deep conversation, including listening.
Which brings us to meditating on God’s word, whether we scan a book, or meditate on one verse. Both have their time and place. And sharing scripture with each other, studying not in a vacuum, meditating on it with others, that we can encourage each other, teach, and pick up those who have stumbled off the past, or lost sight of Jesus. Even those who shepherd the people of God need not just to study scripture, but also pray through it, listen and meditate on it.
The sacraments also stimulate this growth, for they not only make us aware of God’s presence but remind us of what happens in His presence. That’s why Luther often talked of remembering our baptism, not just as a passing thought, but considering what God did there. How we were joined to Jesus Christ, to His death and resurrection. How our sins were nailed to the cross, and we were cleansed of them. How the promises of eternal life was guaranteed, and the Holy Spirit began o reside in us.
Communion, the Eucharist does the same thing, as we take and eat, take and drink the Body and Blood of Christ. As He invites us to His feast and again reminds us of how He gives himself for us. How welcome we are at the feast celebrating His work, His work not just saving us, but re-creating us, of His makin us the Father’s children.
I could go on and on, talking about the blessings of Confession, and hearing our sins are forgiven, of worship and praise, singing and celebrating, I could speak of the blessing of seeing a friend brought to God and made aware of HIs love, or of doing the same for an enemy.
This is the spiritual life, and it is found and grows in His presence…. learning to trust God, and entrust everything to Him.
There is His peace… and may you grow more and more aware of it, in your life, and may it spread from you into your community.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 594-596). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 568). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Is God Stalking Me?
† IHS †
May we revel in the presence of God our Father, who knows everything about us, and yet is determined to show us His mercy and love.
I could see you… WHAT?
You are walking up to someone, you have never met before. While the person is becoming famous, you aren’t sure why, matter of fact you are cynical about him.
You go to meet him, and as you are walking up to him, and instead of the meeting being all about him, he makes it all about you….
As He does, it becomes very, very personal….
So personal it is eerie…
We don’t know why Nathaniel’s attitude changed so rapidly in the gospel, or what he was thinking underneath the tree… yet…
It was so personal! it was so deep that Nathaniel only had two possible thoughts,
The first was that Jesus was stalking him… how else could he know…
The second was that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the one that Moses and the prophets promised, that Jesus was the son of God.
It is both frightening and yet comforting; to know that God knows each and every one of us that well.
The gospel reading this morning is a great illustration of the psalm, and this sermon about how well God knows each of you….
The depth of God’s knowledge
David’s psalm should frighten us a little
The psalm starts out with an amazing concept, that God has examined each one of us. The word there in Hebrew is rich! It pictures a legal investigation, not just the facts of the case. It is deeper than that, probing not just what we do, by why we do it. God examines our integrity, our heart, our emotions, and knows even those parts of us, that we don’t want to face. The parts of us that keep us awake at night, or cause us to shudder.
He knows those times…
God knows our movements, our thoughts, when we are praising Him and close, and when we try to rebel. God knows what we are going to say, and sing even if those words were going to be cuss words, or words that take His name in vain.
The one that hit me as I was reading it this time, was the phrase, “If I go down to the grave.”, or if I translated it, “if I took my place of rest in death”. The words of despair that King David knew all too well. This isn’t just a statement about location, there are words born of despair.
We can’t escape Him, we can’t get away from Him. Even though there are days we are so confused, so anxious, so in pain that we try to run…
We can’t get away!
He is here…. He is here…
Not to condemn, not to chastise, which we deserve, but as the Psalm says,
“You place your hand of blessing on my head. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!
It’s too glorious for me
You will support me
If God knows everything about me, if He knows everything, then why doesn’t He give up on us?
If He knows us in the midst of our anxieties, in the midst of our doubt, or depression; if he knows us as we are about to sin, and do so, knowing it is sin, why does He continue to seek us out? He continues to be ready to catch us, even seems obsessed with the need to care for us.
God, the creator, the Holy One, the One who determines what is right and wrong.
David, the prophet-king-worship leader described as the man who knew God’s heart, thought the reasoning was beyond him. No wonder I don’t have a clue as to why God loves us.
Seriously, I can’t tell you why God loves us, yet we know He does. We don’t know why He has chosen us to be His people. We don’t know why our salvation and the salvation of our friends, our family, our peoples is His obsession. Why He decided to love us, and pour out His mercy upon us.
We simply know He has.
We see that love in the cross, in the very coming of Christ, and the promises that tell us why He came. To bear the stripes and nails, to satisfy the very wrath we deserve. We see it as well, as God promises time after time, to call us by name,
He places His hand upon our head… and marks us with His blessing.
No wonder some make the sign of the cross, the sign of our baptism, with such meaning…. For it reminds them of the wonderful things God has done to us!
The promise of His presence, of His guidance, of His support!
Even more… and invitation…
The idea of God stalking us, of God being obsessed with us may seem a bit odd. Yet that is what He does. His thoughts are of us, Peter says He desires that all of us come to repentance.
Not all of us at Concordia…. All of us… each one of us. Peter tells us that He desires all will come to repentance…
But salvation is not just God knowing us, it is about us knowing Him. About our being as in love with Him, as He is with us. I love how St Paul puts it:
May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)
That isn’t what happens in sermons, but it is why we have them. It is what happens in the sacred times, especially the one we are about to share in…
Come my friends, to the table of mercy, and know something too wonderful, to glorious, something we struggle to understand, yet that brings us the greatest of comfort, the greatest of support, the greatest of joy.
God has examined you, and loves you, and calls you His own…. AMEN!