Devotional Thought of the Day
And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The LORD Is There.’” Ezekiel 48:35b (NLT)
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT)
Being saved means being loved and only the love of God can purify damaged human love and restore the network of relationships that has been fundamentally alienated. (1)
7 First of all, there is in this article no disagreement among us concerning the following points: That it is God’s will, ordinance, and command that believers walk in good works; that only those are truly good works which God himself prescribes and commands in his Word, and not those that an individual may devise according to his own opinion or that are based on human traditions; that truly good works are not done by a person’s own natural powers but only after a person has been reconciled to God through faith and renewed through the Holy Spirit, or, as St. Paul says, “has been created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
In church gatherings following what is called the traditional liturgy(3) there are two phrases, a statement, and a response, which I have come to treasure.
The pastor/priest/bishop says, “The LORD is with you!” And the people respond, “And also with you”, or perhaps in some forms, “and with your spirit”.
As I write this, the 1001st blog on justifiedandsinner, I can think of no better phrase, nor better promise to explore. If justification is the core doctrine in theology, this statement is the heart of theology. In fact, it is the sole reason for justification. Justification exists in order to draw and unite to God, a people who weren’t a people, to create His family, to give those who did not have a real god, but followed idols, a God that loves and cares who heals and forgives, who is merciful, and therefore just.
That is what it means; that is the bottom line promise throughout scripture. It was the promise in the Garden, and the promise of the Exodus, the promise of the restoration of Israel, as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretold it. Though we can’t realize it, this promise was fulfilled and made real at the cross. The promise was restated as Jesus promised at the Ascension that He would never forsake us, and at Pentecost where the Holy Spirit came to abide in those God called and made His own. In the people, God is transforming and making into the image of His son.
This freedom from sin God gives us has a dramatic effect. It changes us into God’s workmanship – not just someday, but even now. That is what repentance is, not just some heartfelt apology, but the transformation of our mind, the putting on of Christ.
Side effects of the Lord being with you are well described above, but few highlights
- We are clothed with love Paul says, not as a command, but as the promise of our Baptism, a love that flows out to others. This isn’t some matter of force, or of obligation. It is a transformation God works inside us, the effect of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in us.
- We become those who walk in good works, as the Lutheran Confessions describe. Again, it is not a matter of obedience of our will, but the effect of reconciliation and renewal.
- We see relationships in a new light – that they are healing and healed by the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead
These are incredible blessings, things beyond our ability to see and lay hold of perfectly. That again proves it is not ours naturally, but still something that becomes more and more our transformed nature, the effect of the trust in God the Holy Spirit works in us. It is part of what this idea that God is with us means.
But it is not the primary, glorious meaning to the Lord is with you….
The primary, glorious meaning of this simple phrase, is the phrase itself…..
HE is with YOU!
Revel in that, knowing that nothing can separate you from His love. AMEN!
1) 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. 221). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 552). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(3) What traditional liturgy means fluctuates greatly over time and denominational affiliation -but the basic outline is similar.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
18 And I told them how God had been with me and helped me, and what the emperor had said to me. They responded, “Let’s start rebuilding!” And they got ready to start the work. Nehemiah 2:18 (TEV)
1 Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart. (1)
When elected President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy directed the citizens of the USA to ask themselves a question. Occasionally, I’ve heard that question adapted to the church, especially when a church is low on funds or wants to start a new ministry. The adapted question reads something like this:
Ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God (or at least for His church).
When I hear such motivational malarky (an old-fashioned word for bullshit) it irritates me slightly. Okay, more than slightly. Not because God’s people shouldn’t be active in ministry, they must be. But the reason for such activity is not to do something for God as if to earn His favor. Or to do something for God, as if to repay some debt. Our living as Christians isn’t something that has to be manipulated.
I’ve heard a similar question asked about church. Do we go to church to serve God or to let God serve us. Matter of fact, there are great debates about this, with judgment being poured out on those who think otherwise. Both sides take up their positions, prepare their defenses, pump up their disciples, and start tossing cliche’s and one-line statements of wisdom.
It is the same question – do we serve, or are we served? Is it all about pleasing God, or do we expect to be made happy.
It is neither. Both sides of the question have overlooked the obvious.
it is not about who does what for whom.
It is about communion. It is about knowingly living in the presence of God. As Nehemiah wrote, “God had been with me”. as St Josemaria wrote, “with the fire of Christ you carry in your heart” For them, what is to be done pours out of that intimate relationship with God. Not from demanded obedience, but from hearing Him, (Greek and Hebrew scholars who are struggling with this, go look up the word for hear.)
Whether it is giving a thirsty man a cup of cold water, buying a homeless lady breakfast, visiting that person who is bedbound and can’t live a normal life, or kneeling and receiving the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you; our actions aren’t about who benefits. it’s not a God scratches our back, we will scratch His.
It’s about walking with God, about rejoicing in His presence. To use an old phrase, it is about abiding with Christ or practicing the presence of God. (Except it isn’t practice!)
It is a Heavenly Father, walking through life with His children, even when our Father has to pick us up and carry us, because the road seems too tiring, to long.
So don’t ask what God will do for you, or what you will do for God. Don’t go to church expecting to be served, or struggling with whether your service will be acceptable.
Simply be in the presence of God, enjoy His company, let Him be your Father and know you are His children.
The rest? It will become obvious.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 “Israel, remember this! The LORD—and the LORD alone—is our God. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (TEV)
1 It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded, but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God. (1)
296 Learn to praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Learn to have a special devotion to the Blessed Trinity: I believe in God the Father, I believe in God the Son, I believe in God the Holy Spirit; I hope in God the Father, I hope in God the Son, I hope in God the Holy Spirit; I love God the Father, I love God the Son, I love God the Holy Spirit. I believe, I hope and I love the most Holy Trinity. This devotion is much needed as a supernatural exercise for the soul, expressed by the movement of the heart, although not always in words. (2)
I wish there was a way to study the human soul, but there is not, at least from our perspective.
Simply put, there seems to be a movement away from intimacy with God that is becoming more and more apparent. It reveals itself often in our attitude toward faith and works, as I’ve written about recently.
Some just want a list of behaviors to enforce, a way to measure righteousness that is completely divorced from the soul. A list of publicly viewable sins (as opposed to the sins of our mind, or those we do in private) that can be used as a checklist.
Some want no accountability at all, and use theology to try and prove the behaviors prohibited in the Old Testament aren’t binding, and the behaviors commanded are not either.
In my branch of Christianity, in our basic doctrinal statement, note that works are the production of faith and such works we must do The reason isn’t so God will approve of us, or that they merit God’s graces, we have that already because of Christ. Nevertheless, the works need to blossom from our faith. Obedience needs to come, not forced or coerced, but naturally.
How does this work? I would say it comes from see the Bible passage in red above become our reality. To love God with everything we are. To desire His presence the way a couple desires to be In each others presence. To adore, to be devoted to God, as He reveals Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, even as St Josemaria advises us.
It is from this love, that treasuring the words of God begins. As we revel in His love, in His sharing His life and our lives, that good works can blossom and grow. Good works don’t come from our own strength, they can only come from being in the presence of God, of knowing His love so well that it becomes our nature as well. The kind of closeness to God that makes us uncomfortable, that causes us to be distant at first….even as it did to those in the past. z
yet it is His intimate presence that changes everything, His love that creates in us the ability to love, and the desire to love beyond our ability.
Knowing this, it is no wonder that St. Paul prays,
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And 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 3:16-19 (NLT)
May it be so in all our lives today…..
Even in the lives of our enemies.
(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 31–32). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. (Augsburg Confession Art. VI
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1201-1206). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! 5 Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. 7 And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9 (TEV)
116 Fill yourself with good desires, which is a holy thing, praised by God. But don’t leave it at that! You have to be a soul—a man, a woman—who deals in realities. To carry out those good desires, you have to formulate clear and precise resolutions. And then, my child, you have to fight to put them into practice, with God’s grace. (1)
Since Adam and Eve left the garden it seems, there have been discussions about doing good works, about purity of thought, about living a life that would please God.
I realized something about such conversations, they are rarely practical.
They can be theological, discussing how faith and works interact. Or how works and salvation are related. Most say that works aren’t necessary for salvation, but the arguments occur after that seemingly go on forever. The same can be said about the laws of God, and the Law of God. How does it impact believers, are we bound to first use of the law, or is there a third use.
Nice academic exercises.
One of my parishioners recently hit me hard with a comment, showing what conversations we don’t have. She mentioned that I explained the what well, and the why well, but often leave out the how. I thought about it, and I think she has a major point. It reminds me of one of my greatest fears. Trying to teach my wife, or my son, how to drive a stick shift, a manual transmission. It is about sensing, not thinking, and therefore it is hard to explain. Well, that is my excuse, and I won’t stick to it.
So here goes…. how to accomplish good works
When it comes to works, the first step has to be internal. You can’t do what is right, if our minds are always focused on what is not.
Which is why Paul tells us to fill our minds with things that deserve praise, the good things in life. Think on these things, On God’s love, on mercy, on His presence and peace. Don’t just think about them for thirty seconds, but often dwell on them. Think of Christ’s example, or that of apostles or those who’ve gone before us in the faith.
From dwelling on these things – to the point of desiring them in your life, desire them. Think of the good you can do, and for everyone this is different. It might be holding the hand of someone who is stressed and anxious. It is always praying for people, not just saying that you will keep them in prayer. It may be offering help, physical, financial, more often emotional. POinting them to that which will help their anxiety fade, pointing them to what will strengthen their faith. (An example – asking them why we commune, or what their baptism means – and reminding them that God is in their life..reminding them of passages like Romans 8:28-38)
Desiring to spend more time walking with God is the key, hearing Him, knowing Him, realizing the peace He brings, That is the key to doing good works, and yes, in Christ we can… for our lives, our souls are God’s good work, as He transforms us and guides us in doing what He has planned….
So think on Christ’s love, often… let it dwell in you richly… so much you sing about it unconsciously…..
Oh and the necessity of doing this? Try it for a while, then you will understand….for what happens is beyond our understanding….
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 610-613). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.