He Knows My Name(s?)! Their Name (s?) too!
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the cross…
It was about three o’clock one afternoon when he had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius!”
4 He stared at the angel in fear and said, “What is it, sir?”
The angel answered, “God is pleased with your prayers and works of charity, and is ready to answer you. 5 And now send some men to Joppa for a certain man whose full name is Simon Peter. 6 He is a guest in the home of a tanner of leather named Simon, who lives by the sea.” 7 Then the angel went away, and Cornelius called two of his house servants and a soldier, a religious man who was one of his personal attendants. 8 He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they were on their way and coming near Joppa, Peter went up on the roof of the house about noon in order to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; while the food was being prepared, he had a vision. 11 He saw heaven opened and something coming down that looked like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 13 A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”
14 But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! I have never eaten anything ritually unclean or defiled.”
15 The voice spoke to him again, “Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the thing was taken back up into heaven.
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of this vision, the men sent by Cornelius had learnt where Simon’s house was, and they were now standing in front of the gate. 18They called out and asked, “Is there a guest here by the name of Simon Peter?” Acts 10:3-18 GNT
St. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, was a master wordsmith, who wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. It comes as a surprise then that he vacillates so much on St Peter’s name in this passage. Talking to others, the angel uses his full name – “Simon Peter.” Yet when addressing the the Lord in a vision, the Lord only uses the name Peter was given by God, “Peter.”
Is it only a curiosity? Is it only something with a hidden message, that only those who have been introduced to the full mysteries of the faith are to understand? Or is it a message to Peter, to prepare him for a lifetime lesson?
For sure Cornelius’ men don’t know – all they have been told is to fetch Simon Peter.
But for Peter to hear Simon again, the name he had before he encountered God, should have shaken him. It would be like me calling one of you Saint and Sinner, identifying the before Jesus you and the you who is being transformed by the Holy Spirit. But identifying you as well as the Saint you are becoming… and are.
For Peter it is the lesson in a microcosm – the vision retold, personally…
God declared Simon Peter clean.
And as Peter hears the voice from heaven speaks, it addresses him… not as Simon Peter, but simply as Peter.
Peter the cleansed, Peter the one restored to ministry after he denied Jesus 3 times. (John uses the same Simon/Peter description on the seashore in the same way)
Peter will go and minister to those God would declare clean – even though the world sees them as sinners. He understands what Luther noted,
“Hence, even though you see your neighbor so weak that he stumbles, think not that he is beyond hope. God will not have one judge another and be pleased with himself, in as much as we are all sinners, but that one bear the infirmity of the other. Christ also pleased not himself, hence we are to do as he did.”
As we look at equipping the saints in the churches we serve, understanding the sinner-saint dynamic will be important. We aren’t any better than Peter as we judge what we see in the brokenness of the churches and the schools we serve. We need to consider the work God can do with those who are broken, as we bear their infirmities, as they see God at work in our lives, so that they know that God can work in theirs.
We talk about the fact that we don’t have authority as ministers of the gospel. We only have the ability to influence people. And the greatest influence we can have… is helping them see how complete the work of Jesus is, in those weak enough to depend on Him.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 169.
What worship is… the place where souls are cured
8 Every Sabbath day this bread must be laid out before the LORD. The bread is to be received from the people of Israel as a requirement of the eternal covenant. 9 The loaves of bread will belong to Aaron and his descendants, who must eat them in a sacred place, for they are most holy. It is the permanent right of the priests to claim this portion of the special gifts presented to the LORD.” Leviticus 24:8-9 (NLT2)
The rites and liturgy of man acquire the power to evoke the divine mystery that eye has not seen, that ear has not heard and that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Words, therefore, become seeds of prayer and of contemplation, instruments of man’s transfiguration into the likeness of the Holy God Whom no one can see without dying. Words and symbols lie in the depths of man’s inherited store of knowledge and memory and even in the souls of men who have completely forgotten God these archetypal seeds of divinity and mystery still lie hidden, waiting to germinate like the grains of wheat laid away thousands of years ago, with a Pharaoh under his pyramid
Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?
Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on?
In order for the rites and liturgy of which Merton speaks do what he desires, we have to understand that the rites and liturgy of man means that he is an actor, a part of those rites and liturgies. He is not their controller, their guardian, their defender, or the one who manipulates them. They have to be Divine, the rites and liturgies that are soundly based in scripture and they must reveal Jesus to those who need healing.
Any other goal for worship, which deviates the attention of God and His people dwelling together as God heals hearts and souls, and bodies, that’s not liturgical worship. It doesn’t plant the word of God deeply in them, it doesn’t result in a spiritual connection. It blocks us from seeing what God is doing, replacing His actions with the actions man has done, or that the pastor/leaders want the congregation to do.
They may be highly motivated, they may be doctrinally astute, but that is not the purpose of worship. Worship is to give people what they need to know about Jesus, it is to comfort terrified and anxious souls (see the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV) The service provides the healing of souls, what has been called the cure of souls. It is what God is providing for His people, this miraculous work of His in our lives.
This is what Peterson is getting at – the difference between “running a church” and being a place where the “cure of souls” occurs. That cure results in a worship that is beyond just singing a couple of cool songs, it results in a transformation that is beyond words, and a peace that is beyond expression. Both a result of a love that is beyond logic.
And realizing that love, that mercy, that peace, is what we are to be doing…. and then responding with God’s people.
That’s what the scripture passage is really about – the fact that the offerings God’s people give are used to provide for …God’s priests. And since all believer’s now belong to the priesthood… God uses our offerings, our sacrifices – to care for us. (He certainly doesn’t need the $$) Again – a response to the cure of souls…
This is why God gathers us together, to care for us, to cure us, to make us whole, and wholly His.
Lord, help us to see Your work as we are gathered by the Holy Spirit, in Your Name! AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 60–61.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 70.
Why is Spiritual Growth such a Long Ordeal?
Thoughts that drag me close to Jesus
Three different times, I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Co 12:8–10. NLT
When the doctor’s (Luther) wife exclaimed, “How can people be so wicked and defile themselves with such sin!” the doctor said, “Ah, dear Katy, people don’t pray,” and then he added, “I think if God had commanded women to take on every man who happened along and in like manner commanded men to take every woman who came by—in short, if things were the opposite of what they are—people would earnestly have sighed for the institution of marriage.
Our lofty idealism would argue that all Christians should be perfect, but a blunt realism forces us to admit that perfection is rare even among the saints. The part of wisdom is to accept our Christian brothers and sisters for what they are rather than for what they should be.…
The Gift of Understanding reveals what is hidden in the major truths of Christian doctrine. The Gift of Understanding perfects, deepens, and illumines faith as to the meaning of revealed truth, adding new depths to the mystery to which we consent. For instance, it could be some aspect of the Holy Trinity or the greatness of God. It could be the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It could be the infinite mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In other words, it is not merely the affirmation of something we believe and assent to. A characteristic of the Gift of Understanding is that it provides a kind of living experience of the mystery.
Luther’s wife and Tozer would have gotten along well! Both of them could voice their frustration with people who don’t mature in Christ, who still struggle, and sometimes embrace the sin that defiles them. Tozer had to remind himself and the church that Christians aren’t perfect, not even the holiest of us.
This doesn’t mean that we use some trite phrase to excuse the sin and unrighteousness that we should have set aside! “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven,” is one of them, which seems to allow for Christians to have the freedom to go and sin some more!
Nor do I think we should use what Luther jokes about, a kind of reverse psychology/spirituality that encourages people to feast on their sins till they make them sick to their souls. That didn’t work when my dad tried to teach me the evils of drinking, it won’t work with sin either. Luther’s point is that it wasn’t the sin, it was that whatever is labelled good – whatever is encouraged, our sinful nature will rebel against it!
For me, the frustration of this is one of my weakest points. I am not the most patient person, and I hate seeing myself or others endure the consequences of our own sin and sin nature. TO watch this over and over, to watch people make bad choices for themselves over and over, leaves me dry, worn out, burnet out.
Oddly enough, that is when God works the best.
That is when those blessed sacramental, incarnational moments occur.
It is when people begin to live in the mysteries, especially the sacramental ones, where they experience the love and acceptance of God so profoundly that they (and their pastor/friend) are in awe, and lose the ability to talk.
Those are the moments when we realize how sufficient, how effective, how precious the grace of God is.
I only wish I could say with Paul that I always treasure my weakness, that when I experience them I know something astonishing is about to take place. I wish I could say that, and it is a lesson that is being taught to me, over and over and over…
And Jesus never fails to amaze me, as those moments that impact others come out of moments of my most profound ineptness, weakness, and sense of failure. In those moments, when God’s grace is so manifest – the spiritual growth is amazing as its lack was disturbing.
He is here! He is God! He is guiding and caring for us!
and in that, I can rejoice, and find rest, and praise Him.
I pray the same for you! And then I will rejoice in what God is doing in our lives. That is our moments of weakness, and in our moments of frustration with other’s weakness, we can remember God is at work… and He is creating masterpieces of our lives.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 415.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 209.
Revival Realized Sermon 3: The Power of Focus: Now
The Power of Focus: NOW!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so mesmerize us, that His presence in our lives consumes and transforms all our thoughts!
Desire – but how do we?
There is no doubt in my mind, that the people of Concordia know what it means to joyfully adore God. I’ve seen you do it.
I’ve even seen it in the hardest of times, when God’s joy overwhelms everything else we encounter in life.
And that is one of the marks of revival, this joy that lifts us up, that incredible joy that comes as we realize that God is here, that God is at work.
He is at work here!
In each of our lives, whether we are here in the courtyard, or watching it live right now, or watching it a year from now on YouTube, God is at work in our lives.
One of the challenges we face in realizing this revival is focus, and Psalm 27 is going to help us stay focused on the fact…
The Lord is with you!
At He is at work!
That is why the Psalmist wrote,
The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.
This is the attitude we have, when we realize God is at work, a work we name revival – bringing life into the church. When we see that, we want more, we can’t help it, we want to see God at work in our lives, and the lives of those around us.
So how do we stay focused upon this work of God? Where do we look for it?
Well let’s keep looking at the psalmist, who knew this revival.
5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. 6 Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.
David’s joy comes in the midst of troubles,
He tells us he realizes that not only is he in God’s presence during these times, but the reason why he does. He realizes that God is protecting him, that God has him, right in the midst of his holiness, for that is what it means to be in the sanctuary.
The Apostle Paul taught this to the church when he wrote,
Focus on His Call
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
Paul and David agree – even as we live in this world, our real reality is found in the presence of God, that is where we belong, and Jesus will make sure we get there. Remember that, rejoice in it, whether in the midst of COVID, fires, heatwaves, earthquakes, even as we mourn, or get anxious because of the world.
You can shout for joy, and sing and praise God with music….
For He has promised that everything will work out for you, and nothing can separate us from God!
Focus on His Promise
How do we do that? The psalmist helps us there as well!
Even in the midst of the Old Testament, here is the realization, we can hear God say, Come and Talk with Me!
Come and talk of your struggles, come and talk of the heartache, and pain. Come and talk of your dreams, asking God to bless them, to fine tune, them, even correct them, and our thoughts, come and talk to Him, here, even when we struggle with sin, or feel so ashamed that we can’t imagine Him calling to us.
The Lord God, creator of all, says, Tom, come and talk with me. Bob, come and talk with me. Debbie and Cyndee, come… come and talk with me.
And our heart learns …. to respond… Lord, I am coming!
And revival has been realized!
This is so mind-blowing
To realize God wants us to come to Him, to talk to Him, as a child should talk to a Father,
That time with God is so powerful, so incredible, so reviving and resuscitating that we can’t imagine life without it. This is what our last words from the psalmist testifies to…as He pleads with God!
9 Do not turn your back on me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me, O God of my salvation!
I don’t think this is really a fear, as much as it is a realization, hearing Him, hearing the invitation to come and talk with Him, knowing He will listen, knowing He will act brings such life to our lives, we have to ask, is this going to end….
And hear God’s answer.
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age!”
Matthew 28:20 (NLT2)
Assured of this, there is revival… and we realize it…
Holy Spirit, come open up our hearts, show us how you are reviving our lives, our church and the community in which we live. Re-kindle in our lives the joy of Your salvation! And may the revival You are helping us realize, change the world!
What Brings the Greatest Pleasure? A Concordia sermon on Ephesians 1:3-14
What Brings the Greatest Pleasure?
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you as much pleasure as you receive it and share it with others as it brings God!
The Pleasure of a Job Well Done
This week I had to drop off nine cases of books at Concordia University. Mark Siegert, one of the professors in the Cross-cultural Ministry Center and I used dollies to bring them from the car to the building, a distance of about 100 feet up a gradual hill.
As we finished, we both laughed. For we both managed bookstores before we got into ministry, he ran Concordia’s and I ran Pepperdine’s. Back in the day, we would unload with our crew, shipments of 200 plus cases. And barely be tired. That day, we were both exhausted after three simple trips! On the way back, I thought of those days, I remember the feeling after a long day shuttling cases of books, and watching the sun go down over the ocean, drinking a coke with my employees.
There is something special about doing a good job, and the sense of pleasure from accomplishing it with people you call your friends.
If that is so, how much more pleasure would God have, from accomplishing His greatest work, and celebrating it with those he loves?
The Job He Has Done
In Paul’s epistle to the church in Ephesus, we heard this morning about the work of God and the pleasure it gives Him. In fact, Paul was so impressed, he told us about this work of God in 12 ways, which I want to go over again.
1. He blessed us with every spiritual blessing as we are united to Jesus
2. He chose us to be in Christ to be holy and without fault, any fault, as He looks at us!
That I think is a bit of work! At least in my case!
3. He adopted us into His own family! He did this, again, by uniting us to Jesus, to His death and resurrection! This wasn’t just down to make us happy, to give us joy, but this is what said gave God the greatest pleasure! Making us His kids in every sense of the Word.
4. He poured out His glorious grace on us, for we belong to Jesus
5. He is so rich in Kindness He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son
We need to pause here, and stop and think that Jesus’s blood paid for that sin you committed on Wednesday, yes, that one sin you thought you could hide, that no one would know about. He paid for that sin, with the blood poured out, there on the cross.
We need to understand this, not just the thousands of sins that we commit over a lifetime, but that sin that haunts us, that we fear if it became known, it would ruin us. That sin, as well as all the others, paid for so that we could be adopted.
6. He will bring everything together as one, at the right time!
What a day that will be, no more division, nor more struggle!
7. Because we are united to Jesus, we have an inheritance waiting for us, we have a place!
8. Because He chose us, everything in life will work out according to His plan!
now there are days I don’t understand how everything works out into His plan, and I have to be honest with that. There are those times I don’t see it, yet, what gets me through those times is refocusing on His plan, on His desire that all would be with Him! When I refocus on that, the suffering is still there, but somehow its grip on me diminishes in strength. For the more we look to Him, the surer we are of His love, and therefore His promises
9. Even though others were saved first, God made sure that because we have heard His word, He has saved us as well!
Number 10 in this recounting of God’s work is amazing, and I wish we had hours to go into it.
10. He identified us as HIS! He picked us out of the lineup and said, you are mine, and He did this by giving us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, just as He promised long ago!
11. The Holy Spirit, given to us in baptism is the guarantee of the promises He gave us.
This wonderful comforter counted here as the guarantee of our salvation is just eh beginning of it. Again, another sermon series could be on each of these points that Paul is sharing with the church in Ephesus!
and the final one, something that expands on an earlier point.
12. He purchased us to be His people.
We are His people, and this is the work, the thing God has labored at, and suffered to see happen.
We are His, identified as His, adopted as His, united in Christ’s death where He paid for all our sins and freed us from them so we could have this wondrous relationship with Him!.
And someday, the sun will set for a final time, and all of us will arrive home.
This is what brings Him pleasure, not the
And find God rejoicing, with the largest of smiles, pleased at the work He has done, making us all His own.
Christianity is not just about getting us to heaven or avoiding hell, it isn’t just about doing good and not doing evil. It is about being in a relationship with God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ whose blood was shed so that relationship would become possible.
Not just for you and me, but for every broken person that Christ died for, for every person He would save, for every person that God would adopt, for we know the pleasure it brings Him.
May he work through each one of us, helping us to see many more come to hear His of His work in their life! AMEN!
The Bottom Line
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 When I came to you, my friends, to preach God’s secret truth, I did not use big words and great learning. 2 For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (TEV)
729 Each day, O my God, I am less sure of myself and more sure of you!
Back in my youth, there was a phrase used that described the attitude of many students in college. It went like this, “If you cannot blind them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit!”
With intent or not, that may have gotten many of us a grade or two better than we deserve. Like most sophomore (from the greek where we get the words wise and fool/moron) we thought we knew everything about everything, and we tried to impress others with those beliefs and impose those beliefs on them.
I don’t think those attitudes have changed all that much, even as I encountered them as an instructor in both computer information systems and in world religions in the last two decades.
As I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, and I considered all the fake news out there, I remembered the attitude and the bravado and crap that we typed onto papers and presented in class.
And I regret that past, for instead of shuffling data to look good and trying to impress professors and classmates, I could have been learning more about the love of God. The love revealed in the incarnation, in the life and teaching of Jesus the Messiah, in His suffering and death which frees you and I from sin, from the resurrection, which brings us to live in Him. I could have been looking for to the resurrection from the dead, and the life of the world to come.
For that is the bottom line in life. Nothing else truly matters.
We keep it simple, Christ came to save sinners. sinners like me. To save us from ourselves. To save us to himself. AMEN
Lord, help us each day to become less sure of ourselves, and surer of Your love and presence in our lives. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1711-1712). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Hardest Lesson: One We Can’t Learn on Our Own
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
9 Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. 10 If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. 11 If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself? 12 Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (TEV)
11 May our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus prepare the way for us to come to you! 12 May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow more and more and become as great as our love for you. 13 In this way he will strengthen you, and you will be perfect and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all who belong to him. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (TEV)
26 “The Helper will come—the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me. John 15:26 (TEV)
21 So it is with all idolatry. Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it. It is primarily in the heart, which pursues other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it receives comes from God.
Luther’s words about the first commandment are always convicting to me at first. For it is too simple to set up an idol. We can make them out of anything, ranging from money and worldly success to our dreams, to our honor.
Whatever we place our hope in, whatever we pursue as if attaining it will give us peace, that becomes our idol.
Even if it was something that was given to us by God for good. An example of this is the Bronze Serpent, a foreshadow of Christ, that brought healing to a situation, that people later worshipped. The same for Gideon’s ephod, and later relics and holy objects. These should have pointed us to God, but sometimes we forget the reality of God and focus on something that should remind us of Him. We can even do this with our church life, where we only want certain hymns or songs, or we want a certain kind of sermon or lesson. Because that is what gives us comfort.
Solomon’s words out of Ecclesiastes should help here, especially when taken along with Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit. Two are better than one, and when the One we are tied to is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, it is His immeasurable strength that holds us as one. The same with the promise in Thessalonians, the work God does in our lives to strengthen us.
This gets to the heart of faith, why it is more than simply knowing the facts. Faith isn’t depending on the facts, it depends on the God who draws us into Himself. Who cleanses us from all our idols (see Ezekiel 36:25).
Even in this sin of idolatry, it is too hard for us to overcome ourselves. Again, even as we struggle with this, God is at work, healing us, cleansing us, comforting us. He is incredible that way and has shown His continual patience, patience that wisely tempers His jealousy. Yes, God is jealous when you turn away from Him to idols of your own making!
We need to learn to trust and depend upon Him, We need to realize that He cares, that He wants to help, that even the things we don’t like that He provides, (like broccoli or the situations that cause growth!)
He is good, He loves you, more than you know, and the only way to grow is to experience that love.
So I pray you do this week… and that we all can learn to rejoice as idols are removed….
The Lord is with you! Rejoice!
What things do you struggle to trust God with? What things might offer more comfort than God at first glance?
as always, comments and discussions gladly accepted
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther: FIrst Part, The First CommandmentTappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 367). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Is Spirituality a Priority?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 Bodily fitness has a certain value, but spiritual fitness is essential both for this present life and for the life to come. There is no doubt about this at all, and Christians should remember it. It is because we realise the paramount importance of the spiritual that we labour and struggle. We place our whole confidence in the living God, the saviour of all men, and particularly of those who believe in him. These convictions should be the basis of your instruction and teaching. 1 Timothy 4:8 (Phillips NT)
282 Paradox: Sanctity is more attainable than learning, but it is easier to be a scholar than to be a saint.
I have been having the same conversation recently with a couple of friends. Both were asking about how Christians growth.
And as I talked with them a question started to grow in my mind. Do we even know what spiritual growth looks like?
If we cannot define it, how can we make it a priority in our own lives, and how can we lead others and help them grow and mature in their faith? As I look at my mail, and the various Bible Studies, Sermon Series, and other materials offered for sale to help me guide and shepherd my congregation, it is rare than the material is geared to help them grow, at least grow in more than knowledge.
For the record, I would use two words to describe spiritual maturity, dependence, and expectation. ( Or if you want to use “churchy” words, faith and hope. )
Dependence is simply trusting in God. It starts with trusting Him to save us from our sins and thereby giving us eternal life. But our dependence upon Him only begins there. We need to depend on Him in every moment of the day. We need to depend on Him when everything is… screwed up. We need to depend on Him when change occurs, or when He calls us to take on some mission, or reach out to people.
There isn’t a part of our lives where we don’t need to depend on God. To trust Him that all things work out for good for those who Love Him, who are called according to His purpose. This is especially true as we try and deal with our failures, our brokenness, our sin.
Expectation is what the other measure would be. What do we expect God to do in our lives, and what do we expect afterward Do we expect Him in our lives, do we expect Him to keep His promises, do we look forward to the day when He comes again? Do we base our lives on these expectations?
Those are the areas we need to grow in, to mature in, if we are to be spiritually mature.
It seems counter-intuitive, for most see maturity linked with freedom or independence. But with spirituality, true maturity comes from realizing that God is God, and we are His people. That means we expect Him to care for us, even as He cared for Jesus. That means we realize He is wiser and has promised to care for us, and depending on that care.
That is why being holy is so challenging, even though it is so easily attainable.
What area of life is the hardest to trust God with?
What expectations should you have of God, that you don’t think of often?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 747-749). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Wait for it…..can you?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The LORD gave me this answer: “Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance. 3 Put it in writing, because it is not yet time for it to come true. But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed. 4 And this is the message: ‘Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’ ” Habakkuk 2:2-4 (TEV)
Impatience carries within itself a punishment: sterility.
The impatient, by wanting it all at once, is left with nothing. Their projects are like the seed that fell on rocky soil: they lack depth; they are mere words without consistency.
I remember the movie theatre in my hometown would change movings on Saturday, in time for the matinee. Then it began that they would open on a new movie on Friday night, and now often, there is a midnight screening that you can go to, usually packed, so that you can be among the first to see the new movie.
We aren’t a very patient society at all, when we are willing to give up our health in order to say, “I was there” for a movie picture. (Heck – now they will bring the popcorn barrel and half a gallon of caffeine to your seat so you won’t fall asleep in the powered recliner.
Is it any wonder that we are not patient in the church? That we are so wanting the church to be what we envision the church to be that when there aren’t instant results we give up? When this program or that staff member doesn’t accomplish the goals we set (did we even ask God what His vision for our congregation is?), we simply get rid of the program, find another place, a better fit for the staff member, rather than finding the patience we need.
But that impatience leads to fruitlessness, it leads to a weak church that doesn’t take time to see God at work, the kind of work that is sound, that is based in spiritual growth, that depends on learning to live in the presence of God. That learns that true growth happens as we are left in awe of His love, as we adore Him, as we realize the change He is making in us, and the difference that change is from where we were.
Patience and its corollary, steadfast-faithfulness, doesn’t mean futility or stagnation. It doesn’t mean doing nothing, but rather dwelling in Christ. Not just going through the motions for religious reasons, but treasuring what we’ve been given for the way it reveals Jesus with us, and helps us experience the serenity that the Spirit brings us. It means rejoicing as we realize what we’ve been given, what has been handed down to us.
This isn’t always easy, especially for one like me that thrives on change. (the only stable thing in my life is the presence of change, I get nervous without it) Patience is not on my virtues, but neither is it for many of us. Which is a good thing, as it drives us back to Christ, it reminds us that only in Him do we have hope, the promise that all will work out for good for those who love God.
God is with you, be at peace, and wait for it!
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. Print.
O Come! O Come, Emmanuel! ( are you ready for this?)
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. 15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” 16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1:14-18 (NLT)
When we feel the presence of God in our daily lives, we can only say “God is here”and the first thing to do is to fall on our knees.
In the closing prayer of the [former Christmas Vigil] Mass, the faithful ask God for the grace, through the celebration of his Son’s birth, to “draw new breath”. Why and in what sense they wish to “draw new breath” is not explained, and so we are at liberty to understand this expression in the human and simple meaning of the words. This feast ought to let us draw “a breath of fresh air”. Admittedly, given the way we have burdened this feast with busyness nowadays, it much sooner renders us breathless and suffocates us in the end with deadlines
I wonder how clearly we hear the words we sing?
Are we ready to be thrust into the presence of God, to be in awe, and even tremble as we gaze upon as beauty, are we ready to be overwhelmed by the sight of His glory, and humbled by the purity of His love?
Are we ready to be so overtaken in that moment that our knees weaken and our bodies collapse?
How can we prepare for that moment? Can we be better prepared than Herod, the shepherds, and the angels were the first time Jesus came? Only two elderly people were well prepared for that, ready to behold the glory of Christ incarnate. Two old people who spent their days in prayer, and yet, they were still in awe of God with us.
There are ways to build our expectation, and to get a glimpse of what we are about to encounter. We find that “preview” in the Eucharist, the Feast of Christ, where we commune with His Body and His Blood. That moment we realize how much He is present in our lives, preparing us, cleansing us, setting us apart for this incredible eternity He planned for us.
Church should remind us of this, giving us that “new breath,” that fresh air that we need! It does when the love of God, in all its height and depth, width and breadth is revealed to us in Jesus.
O Come to us, Emmanuel! And until you come in all your glory, fulfill your promise to come to us through your word, to draw us into yourself in the sacraments, and sustain and prepare us as you never leave us alone! AMEN!
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. Print.
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.