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Thoughts encouraging us to adore Jesus…

31 He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it’s taller than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.” Matthew 13:31–32 (CSB)

Sin can be forgiven but not corruption, simply because at the root of every corrupt attitude there is a fatigue for transcendence.
In front of God who does not get tired of forgiving, the corrupt person gets tired of asking for forgiveness.

Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts They are things that I whisper in your ear—
confiding them—as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won’t tell you anything new.
I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul.

We need, as a church, to spend more time meditating on the word of God.

Especially on His promises, thinking about the incredible changes those promises make in our lives. They are like that mustard seeed, and at first it seems small, anot not much. For example, the forgivesness of a little white lie, or some gossip or envy, or a moment where lust and desire take tht eplace of more noble thoughts. Realizing, being in awe of the grace poured out from the cross, we need to think on that – to realize how much God does love us!

The more we think on God’s promises, the more we see them happen, and we tire less on the journey. The more we spend time with God, the more we realize what He is doing, the more our faith grows and the reign of God grows, til is provides a safe place for many others.

This is who we are… His people- and what a wondrous thing that is!

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 234.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

An Odd and Meaningful Thing to Kiss?

A special place where God and people meet…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
 But there will be a Sabbath of complete resta for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the LORD: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You are not to reap what grows by itself from your crop, or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. It is to be a year of complete rest for the land. 6 Whatever the land produces during the Sabbath year can be food for you—for yourself, your male or female slave, and the hired worker or alien who resides with you. 7 All of its growth may serve as food for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Leviticus 25:4-7 CSB

Then our Lord rose from the dead and we have what we call the period of the preparation.… They had stopped their activity at the specific command of the Lord. He said, “Tarry! You are about to receive that which has been promised.…” Sometimes you are going farther when you are not going anywhere; you are moving faster when you are not moving at all. HTB024–025 O, my heart, be still before Him!

And here the Church has introduced the custom that the faithful should give one another the kiss of peace, to remind them that their hearts should be united in charity. Before giving the kiss of peace, the priest kisses the altar, to show that he cannot give the peace unless he has first received it from Jesus Christ, who is represented by the altar.

In these days of COVID, we no longer shake hands or hug each other during the passing of the peace. ( I am not one for giving others a kiss – but other acts suffice!) It was a very meaningful time in my church. One which I struggle with in every service…

Given all that, I was struck by the instructions given to my brothers who are Catholic priests, to first kiss the altar. The reason makes sense; we can only pass on the peace we are given, we cannot create that peace within our own lives, never mind between us and those we’ve squabbled with during the week.

So the priest pauses, and kisses the altar… on behalf of all of us. I like the imagery, and the slight pause, the realization that God is here… and from Him come all the blessings that create a life of peace!

It resonates with Tozer’s words, about a period of preparation, a moment to remember the role of God. Even as we look upon the Body and Blood of Jesus, we realize the peace that comes, as we realize our need for it, we are doing what Tozer says, progressing in our faith; while letting our heart before Him find stillness and find peace.

When we take a moment, or a day, or a year to realize that when we rest before God (the idea of a sabbatical – not to write a book or do a different job) we find ourselves resting in Christ, and we find ourselves at peace.

The side effect of that peace is being able to share it with others, It is not the primary result, but it is there. The same is true for being able to minister to people. All of these activities, all of these things we are gifted and called to do are side effects of our time with Jesus. We need to realize that, and we need to spend that time, paused, adoring the Lord.

Even it is just taking a moment, and kissing the altar.

Heavenly Father, help us to always realize Your presence, to acknowledge it, to embrace You. Help us to take the time to know we dwell in Your presence, in Your peace. And then, secure in Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, show us how to live. AMEN!


A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 54.

Revival: Revealed! The Power of His Promise

Revival: Revealed
The Power of His Promise
Isaiah 25:6-9


May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to trust in what has been promised to you, what has been guaranteed!

The Missing Feast

There is a promise in today’s Old Testament reading that means more to me that it did 7 months ago.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world.”

We’ve missed too many feasts.

Maunday Thursday, Easter Sunday Brunch, the Women’s Brunch, the combined service potluck. Family fun night meals.

And how many haven’t had the most important meal in our present lives, a meal they were used to every week of their life.

No, I don’t mean the doughnuts between church and Bible Study.

There is something about being gathered at the communion rail together, to receive His body and blood together, to know we are being healed and forgiven, together.

All these feasts we’ve missed in the last 7 months!  How many more are we going to miss in the months to come. 

It can be discouraging

demoralizing

heartbreaking.

It sucks the life right out of us… and we need to revived.

And that revival is realized when we hear this incredible promise of God.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world.”

What Has to Be Removed!

In order for us to have everyone back in church, back at the altar rail together, to feast together, there are a number of things that have to happen. First, COVID as a threat has to be minimized. We have to have everything in place, and the government has to recognize it.

Simple, right?

It is not as simple as what has to happen for the feast that God has planned and promised.

Let’s look what He h promised to do.

Isaiah, inspired by God, writes,
7  There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. 8  He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The LORD has spoken!

There is a cool description there, as God obliterates death and the threat of it. No doubt of it, death is crushed.

As it the grief it causes.

How does God do that? OF what has He spoken..

The Apostle Paul tells us,

56  Sin is what gives death its sting, and the Law is the power behind sin. 57  But thank God for letting our Lord Jesus Christ give us the victory! 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (CEV)

Without the power given to death because you and I have sinned, death can no longer separate us from God.

Your sin has been made of no effect, Christ died for it.

That is why not only has sin been made irrelevant, so has all the crud it goes with it. The tears, the mockery, the insults, all of the challenges that sin brings into our lives.

That is the picture in the gospel, as God the King sends His servants out into the streets – go get everyone you see God tells us. And God will fill this place with everyone good and bad alike!

Because He will take care of their sin, and it will no longer disqualify them from being there!

This isn’t just a hope, it is what is promised, and the more we realize that, the more we see it revealed, the more we are revived from all the stuff that sucks the life out of us!

On to the feast

But because of that promise, made before we were born, made before creation, we look to the cross, and realize it is true.

The feast will happen, and we aren’t just invited as guests, we are the church, the Bride of Christ!  The one the Apostle Paul wrote about when he penned,

26  He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water. 27  Christ did this, so that he would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws.    Ephesians 5:26-27 (CEV)

I would quote Paul again,

“What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!”  1 Cor.2:9

I want you to think of how it is going to feel when we can finally gather inside again. When all those who have had to stay away are home, how it will feel to see Wanda back in her seat, and Debbie and Tom back in their seat, When Tony and Myrna are able to walk in again, when everyone is back where they belong….

And if you think that is incredible, think of the days when we gather before God’s throne, and Pastor Meier and his wife are there, as well as the Lingos, and Al Anderson, and Warren, Hugh, Armando, and Ted jr. and Bonnie and Clyde… wait… that didn’t sound quite right.

Imagine that day… a day promised to you, a day of celebration and feasting a day when ever sin has been lifted off of us, and there is no more despair! 

This is what we are holding on for, this day when every promise becomes tue, just as they became true on the day Jesus rose from the dead…

My friends, Alleluia, Jesus is Risen!
(He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!)
and therefore we are risen indeed!  ALELLUIA.

This means we are in revival, a revival we realize because of the power of the promise of God! AMEN!

The King, the Missionary and the Priest walk into…

Devotional Thought for Today:
1  First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. 2  Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God. 3  This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Savior. 4  God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth, which is, 5  There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us. 6  God showed us this at the right time.
1 Timothy 2:1-6 (CEV)

“I think more of the place where I was baptized than of Rheims Cathedral where I was crowned.  It is a greater thing to be a child of God than to be the ruler of a Kingdom.  This last I shall lose at death but the other will be my passport to an everlasting glory.” (St. Louis IX, King of France)

746      From there, where you are working, let your heart escape to the Lord, right close to the Tabernacle, to tell him, without doing anything odd, “My Jesus, I love You”. Don’t be afraid to call him so—my Jesus—and to say it to him often.

In the same spirit of humility he directed in his will that the following inscription and noting more should be vut on his gravestone:-
WILLIAM CAREY, BOTRN AUGUST 17th, 1761.: DIED-
A wretched, poor, and helpless worm…on Thy kind arms I fall.”

The king and the missionary knew the same thing.

They understood what truly mattered in life. Both had amazing successes, and failures beyond imagination. They were known and loved by some of those they served, and hated by others. Neither was perfect, yet both knew what mattered in their life, to the extent that I would hold their words up to you, and ask you to come to similar conclusions.

The same conclusion that St. Josemaria urges us, even as we work diligently, to let our hearts escape into God’s presence, and declare boldly, “my Jesus…”

You see that is what the great missionary to India meant, as he fell into the arms of Christ. Nothing else in his life was worth recognizing, save that. The King, choosing more important the moment where the Father unites him to Jesus, in the death and resurrection of Christ, (see Romans 6, Colossians 2) says the same thing.

Everything that is critical in life boils down to to that point, where Jesus makes us His people.

This is what we need to pray, that as God is revealed to people, that they know His love, and His mercy, so shown to us at the cross.

It is the presence of God that we need in our lives. That is where everything changes. To realize that is what Jesus gave up to gain for us, to be welcome there in the presence of the Father, to be drawn into the glorious love in which the Trinity dances, this is everything.

That is the point of the religion we call Christianity. Not to just explore where we have come from as humanity. Not just to reign in behavior, teaching people how to be good to each other.

Our purpose is that everyone, from people in France and India, clergy and politicians and those they lead, know the miracle of being welcome into the presence of God!

This is why we pray for people, surely asking for God to help them in their times of being challenged, but that they might now Him as well.

So my friends pray for all… and pray they come to know the living Lord Jesus, and then together with Louis, and Josemaria, and William, find the peace that passes all understanding, as we experience the Love that goes beyond explanation.. and know I pray you know this too!.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Spurgeon, Charles. Morning and Evening – Morning, August 29, Logos Edition

Making Sense of It All

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the day:

9 In fact, we felt sure that we were going to die. But this made us stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting God, who raises the dead to life. 2 Corinthians 1:9 (CEV)

Each Commandment makes sense only when you see it in the light of love. Take the first, for example: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Why? Because God is an egotist? No, because God is a lover. What lover wants half the heart of his beloved? Also God is a realist. He knows that false gods simply cannot make us happy, however many times we are deceived into believing and acting as if they could. Love, of course, seeks the beloved’s happiness. It is God’s love of us, not self-love, that is behind His jealousy.

I have had a number of people ask me how I, as a pastor, cope with all that is going on in these days. I have pause for a moment because what I know is going on in people’s lives, I can’t always share. Matter of fact, that is too often the story.

I have my challenges, but they are nothing compared to those that people are experiencing. In the midst of that experience, I am trying to help them experience something else. What I want is for them to experience the love of God, which I know I can’t explain clearly enough.  There are no words for it, but that love sustains us through the most broken parts of our lives.

So perhaps it is good for people to ask me how I am coping. By being honest with the fact that I could not cope without God holding me up, perhaps they can know His comfort as well. Perhaps they can see, in the midst of my struggles, that God doesn’t give up on us, that He will comfort us,

This works into Kreeft’s observation about God’s jealousy, about the idea that He isn’t jealous for His sake, but for ours. God wants what is best for us, and being smarter than us (what an understatement) He longs for what is best for us. As Kreeft indicates, it is love, and a desire for our joy, that drives the jealousy of God

That is why Jesus hung on a cross for us.  It is why he spent years teaching and mentoring people like John and James, “the sons of Thunder”. It is why Jesus is not only merciful to sinners but is patient with us as well. And it is why He sens and equips apostles and pastors and missionaries and teachers to train us to serve others. As they train us like Paul did, training us by example.

Even when that example was tiring, frustrating, painful, and heart-rending. Because you, child of the King, need to know He is there for you in those times. If God was with Paul, and with me, certainly He will be there for you, for He loves you.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 45.

 

 

Don’t Assume God Can’t Use “Them”

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737
Devotional Thought of the Day:

49 One of the council members was Caiaphas, who was also high priest that year. He spoke up and said, “You people don’t have any sense at all! 50 Don’t you know it is better for one person to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed?” 51 Caiaphas did not say this on his own. As high priest that year, he was prophesying that Jesus would die for the nation. 52 Yet Jesus would not die just for the Jewish nation. He would die to bring together all of God’s scattered people. 53 From that day on, the council started making plans to put Jesus to death.  John 11:49-53  CEV

Beyond Caiaphas, I can think of Cyrus, who sent Ezra to re-build the temple and Artaxerxes who would send Nehemiah. There Balaam – who followed another God, yet couldn’t speak against God or Israel.

But Caiaphas’ prophesy has to be right there at the top of the proofs that God can speak through those who do not always follow Him. That God can use them to reveal His plan, His nature, and even His love.

I am really not fond of politicians and bureaucrats – especially those within the church.  Caiaphas was definitely one of those. I struggle with them, especially when they make rules they think have the power of laws, and do not apply them fairly.

That doesn’t mean God can not still use them, with or without their agreement.

It does mean that we have to be patient and weigh what they say, rather than simply dismiss it because of who they are, and their role in the church, the community, or the nation.

That seems counter-intuitive in these days when lines are not little lines in the sand but are lines drawn on political battlefields. When division is brutal, and we are looking at those brutalized by the “enemy.”  We won’t call them that behind their back though!

Seriously, we have to trust in God’s work, in His promises, including Romans 8:28.

That is what this really comes down to – not our trust in these people, not our frustrations with them, but our ability to trust in God. That is what it comes down to, to realize that God will work and speak can speak through them.

The only question is whether we will listen for God speaking through them, trusting that since God can even use us to speak for Him.

Listen, pray, and know the Lord is with you!

So Longed for…the Sacraments and the Return of Jesus!

church at communion 2Devotional 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.

It is Time…

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

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 gt hurt, why our lives are so empty.

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.


The Missing Piece in Missional Thinking: D_____ !

boats-lake-haze-fog-40877

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

 

The Man Who Won’t Search for God. Is There Hope for Him? (I’m asking for a friend)

DSCF1083Devotional 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.

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