Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. 28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29 Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers. 30 And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. Romans 8:26-30 (TEV)
149 I must warn you against a ploy of satan—yes, without a capital, because he deserves no more—who tries to make use of the most ordinary circumstances, to turn us away, slightly or greatly, from the way that leads us to God. If you are struggling, and even more if you are really struggling, you should not be surprised at feeling tired or at having sometimes to “go against the grain”, without any spiritual or human consolation. See what someone wrote to me some time ago, and which I kept for those who naively consider that grace does away with nature: “Father, for a few days now I have been feeling tremendously lazy and lacking in enthusiasm for fulfilling the plan of life. I have to force myself to do everything, and I have very little taste for it. Pray for me so that this crisis may soon pass, for it makes me suffer a lot to think it could make me turn from my way.” I answered only: did you not know that Love demands sacrifice? Read the words of the Master slowly: “Whoever does not take up his Cross quotidie—every day—is not worthy of Me.” And further on: “I will not leave you orphans…” Our Lord allows that dryness of yours, which you find so hard, so that you may love Him more, so that you may trust only in Him, so that you may coredeem with the Cross, so that you may meet Him.
Though I am going to direct these thoughts along the way of St> Josemaria’s discussion of dryness, they could be applied to almost any time of struggle.
Too often I could be the person that St Josemaria was speaking to in the discussion above. Too many times I have been struggling, and don’t have the “enthusiasm for fulfilling the plan of life”, that is working to do His will, to see this world reconciled to Him. I recognize the need to force myself to do the things I love. Part of the struggle is that I feel like I am trying to bail the water out of the Titanic, hundreds of feet under the ocean. Part of it is that for every trauma where people know God’s peace, three more arrive. The work seems unending and overwhelming, and my emotional and spiritual batteries drain too fast…
Then I come across Romans 8, and wonder how in the world these times of struggle fit into the promise of God. How can times where my faith wanders, where I feel so weary and dried out, burnt out, and where God seems silent, how can these times actually work for good?
Or is it that I am not one of those to whom this promise was made? (Yes, I’ve thought that even as I try to make sure others know they are…. and I bet I am not the only one!)
That’s why I included more than verse 28 in the quote from Romans. We know that verse so well, but we fail to see the context is in the midst of a time of weakness, a time of brokenness, a time where even the Holy Spirit groans out in intercession, for the brokenness we endure is great.
But that prayer of the Spirit, that prayer the Holy Spirit interprets and pleads on our behalf with the Father is heard. The Spirit ensures the connection to God’s heart is there, a connection we need to realize is there.
The context also discusses God putting us to right with Him, indeed, as Josemaria tells us, sometimes these moments are necessary so that we realize the connection is viable, that God is caring. That He is here.
I would never say God causes these struggles, these moments when we don’t know what to even say in our prayers, but I do know how He uses them. It is just as Josemaria says, that there I can find the depth of His love, the unlimited faithfulness that sustains me. As well, it from those depths that I find my desire to help people find God as well, that they can find the peace, that they can know He is there. ( I only pray they don’t have to follow as far in my steps before they realize it.) That is how amazing this is, that is how I’ve come to know to trust Him, and even though I don’t like the periods of dryness and despair, I have come to appreciate them, and even (grudgingly at first) embrace them.
For I know He is with me, and with us, and that is not just enough, it is incredibly glorious! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 822-833). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. 12 Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Psalm 51:10-12 (TEV)
326 Invoke the Holy Spirit in your examination of conscience so that you may get to know God better, and yourself also. In this way, you will be converted each day.
71 The old man therefore follows unchecked the inclinations of his nature if he is not restrained and suppressed by the power of Baptism. On the other hand, when we become Christians, the old man daily decreases until he is finally destroyed. This is what it means to plunge into Baptism and daily come forth again.
The words sound familiar, they have been part of the liturgy for centuries, They were sung over and over in the 80’s and 90’s, as they were one of the beloved praise songs.
Yet I wonder if we’ve forgotten the words, forgotten the consuming desire to be holy. We’ve forgotten the fear and the wonder which comes from finding ourselves on Holy Ground.
We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, not just so we can see miracles and manifestations that are supernatural, but because we need the Holy Spirit to make us Holy, to cut away the shame, the grief, the hatred, the anger to remove from our hearts the sin that so easily oppresses us and robs us of life.
This isn’t something that happens in the theological classroom, it happens in the midst of brokenness, as we realize that without the Holy Spirit’s intervention we are hopeless. It is the cry of a heart weary from injustice, from the weakness of our heart in regards to temptation.
It is both a cry of despair and a cry of that keenest faith. Despair because we realize what we’ve let fade away, and faith, because we know, to see our hope and joy restored.
The church needs this, each one of us who calls themselves a Christian, a follower of Christ needs this, More than just a quick prayer at the beginning of our services, or after a sermon that tugs on our heart strings. Escriva and Luther tie this into the work of the Holy Spirit, the promise of our Baptism (also see Titus 3:2-8), a work that goes on every day of our lives.
That is critical to know and understand – this work of transformation isn’t a simple snap of a finger, although the promises are ours. This is why Paul tells us to strive, to work out our salvation, why Peter warns us to be on guard because the Devil is wandering about trying to find someone to devour.
Even as I write this blog, names and faces come to mind, people who need to see the Spirit working in their life, bringing them to the point where they are cleansed, where they are healed of their brokenness, where they are comforted because the Holy Spirit is at work, overcoming their sin.
SO let us pray, asking God to renew our hearts, asking Him to cleanse us, asking Him to remind us of His presence.
And let us rejoice in our salvation!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1296-1297). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print. LARGE CATECHISM
Devotional Thought of the Day:
49 One of them, named Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, said, “What fools you are! 50 Don’t you realize that it is better for you to let one man die for the people, instead of having the whole nation destroyed?” 51Actually, he did not say this of his own accord; rather, as he was High Priest that year, he was prophesying that Jesus was going to die for the Jewish people, 52and not only for them, but also to bring together into one body all the scattered people of God. John 11:49-52
9 Without boasting, it is manifest that the Mass is observed among us with greater devotion and more earnestness than among our opponents.
7 Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.
2 Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people.
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ. (1)
Today Jesus might, at first glance, appear to be boring and not so exciting, but in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and charity, all the richness of love, faith and hope.
In the words of Caiaphas, I find some hope this morning.
He didn’t realize what he was doing, and yet, he pointed tho the cross of Christ, and our need for the death of Christ Jesus. He pointed to Jesus, who would die for all of us, to bring us together in one body, all of us scattered across the world, all of us scattered across time, all of us scattered across 42,000 denominations.
Sometimes we who preach and teach, are more like Caiaphas that we want to admit. We intended something else, and the Holy Spirit made it work just like it did with Caiaphas. We speak of Christ, we teach people what they need to know about Christ. They are drawn to the sacraments, they find in them the comfort and peace the world and their sin doesn’t offer.
We had one job, and our desire to astound people with knowledge, or convince them of our political position, our pragmatic superiority of mission, or even to give them a “lutheran (insert your own denominational/non-denominational tag) identity” twists the message, and imparts something extra. Something different that what should come out of our mouth did.
And we rejoice in God working, not at all realizing that we had one job, and only one, and we screwed it up.
We didn’t give them Jesus, that wasn’t our intent.
He came to them anyway! While we were patting ourselves on the back, praising each other for the job we did, and celebrating as if our sermon or blog, our podcast or summit was all our work.
Like Caiaphas, the Holy Spirit worked through us, and we didn’t see it, and let’s be honest, we might not have heard it.
This is one lesson that is taught over and over as I teach people about ministry. It is found in the section from the Augsburg Confession above. I bastardize it a little, changing the word on occasion to ministry, or pastoral care, or even life. And I change the word teach to the word give, so it ends up as,
The chief purpose of all ministry, all life, is to give/teach people what they need to know about Jesus.
There is our job, whether we are a pastor, a priest, someone who facilitates the response of people to God’s love (what we call worship leaders) or someone having coffee with a friend. They need to know Jesus, heck we need to know Him, and giving/teaching others about Him answers that need.
This is orthodoxy at its best – worshipping and giving glory to God for what He’s really done. What Pope Francis says, finding in him the treasures of charity and wisdom, the incredible love, faith, and hope.
That’s what we need…. that’s what we need to know about Jesus. More than anything.
We don’t have to be like Caiaphas, we can remind each other, encourage each other, pray for each other, and correct each other when we needed. All to accomplish our one job….
To give all people what they need to know about Jesus.
That He answers our prayer, “Lord, have mercy on us sinners”, by coming to us, cleansing us, and the Lord is with us! AMEN!
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 “Make certain you do not perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do. If you do these things publicly, you will not have any reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it, as the hypocrites do in the houses of worship and on the streets. They do it so that people will praise them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. 3 But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. 4 Then it will be a private matter. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 (TEV)
693 It hurt you not to have been thanked for that favor. Answer me these two questions: Are you so grateful toward Christ Jesus? Did you really do that favor in the hope of being thanked for it on earth?
There is a part of us that cries out to be appreciated.
To hear someone say “thank you” seems only right, and when the thank you isn’t given, we are disappointed, even hurt. We may wonder about their manners, question how they were raised, even harbor a bit of resentment that our hard work and sacrifice was taken for granted, even ignored.
Examining our own expectation of that “thank you” never enters our mind, does it? Do we question our desire to hear that thank you? Or wonder if that announcement of appreciation was our motivation? Or why its lack would cause us to be bitter and resentful?
Or as the eminent theologian Jack Sparrow was noted to say, “The problem isn’t the problem. Your attitude about the problem is the problem.”
I think St Josemaria has an interesting point here. Are we as appreciative for what God has done for us, as we expect others to be for what we do for them? I am not asking this to create a guilt trip, precisely the opposite.
You see, our acts we want noticed and appreciated are actually how we show our appreciation for the work God has done for us. This life we live, is the fulfillment of Ephesians 2:10. What we want to be appreciated is the very life God planned out for us, as we’ve been recreated in Christ Jesus….a life lived in appreciation of His love.
I think as we realize this, then the appreciation of man becomes something that is nice, but not a need. The “thank you’s” are nice, but their lack becomes less noticed, as our actions become more something we are in awe of, as we realize they are done because of the Holy Spirit….. something that is holy and not our norm.
God is working in us! God is using us to bless others! What an amazing thing!
He has given us a place in life, and it is making a difference in others lives! And so our attitude changes a bit, and we begin to understand what Jesus said in Luke,
10 It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say, ‘We are ordinary servants; we have only done our duty.’ “
Luke 17:10 (TEV)
What happens then, is we desire that He be praised, that He be appreciated, that He be loved… and when that happens… we are content… and thankful for the opportunity.
Praise be to our Lord!…. and thanks for reading this!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1616-1617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Breathe on Me, Breath of God
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, breathed out into you as the scriptures are read, remind you that you dwell in His peace!
A Cute and False Statement about the Bible
Maybe 20 years ago I started seeing bumper stickers and tee-shirts with one of those cute Christian slogans on it. The slogan is pretty popular, and somewhat cute, but it is wrong, and spiritually, it is not just false, it is deadly.
It is wrong because it reduces the exhaled words of God into a rule book, a guide by which we could live the perfect life.
Yet many of us, including me, have used the inaccurate acronym a time or two, not thinking that it could lead people to frustration, and turn them into either hypocrites, or worse, causing them to give up on the church.
First – if you look at it as a rule book, a guidebook, it is anything but “basic”.
I mean the Old Covenants has over 613 commandments, – that doesn’t sound, “basic”.
And the summary found in the New Covenant – Love God with every part of you – heart, soul, mind and body, and to love your neighbor, not the one you like, but the other one, as you love yourself.
Does that sound like easy, simple instructions?
And do you think you can achieve that level of maturity prior to leaving earth?
So I think we need to understand what it means that God gave us His word, and what He makes it useful for.
What Paul sees as an urgent need
In the second paragraph, Paul urges Timothy and all who read this letter to announce, to proclaim, to teach others the word of God. To bear witness to it, because of the hope it gives to those who will hear it.
He is insistent on it, he urges us to do so because the need to hear it is urgent. We don’t urge people to do something that is common and simple. We urge them to do something that is critical, that is needed.
And he urges us to be ready, whether it is convenient or not, even when it requires us to patiently correct people, to even rebuke them, and to encourage them with our teaching.
Not easy tasks, but ones we are urged to do, because this is why we have scripture, and it will make a difference in their life, and ours,
A difference that God wants to bring about urgently.
Because He loves us, and He wants us with Him, to know His love, to share in His glory.
By “us” I mean us all!
All, no matter what language we speak, no matter where we were born, our what languages we speak, or what political candidate we support or criticize.
God would have them hear of His love, and Paul reminds us of this and urges us to do it, for these are people Jesus died to save.
What scripture does – Gives specific wisdom
This is the message of scripture, the message that Timothy learned, the lesson that made him wise, and that wisdom was for a purpose –
to be saved.
Saved from, but more importantly saved into a relationship where we can believe in, trust, and depend on Jesus Christ.
This is what scripture teaches that we are to remain faithful to, the very things that were passed on to us, and o which we pass on to the next generations, even if it means we suffer in order to do it.
This isn’t basic, and it isn’t just some instructions – as if you have to assemble it.
It is revelation, an unveiling of reality, that affects our lives here and now, and from this point forward into all of eternity. The Holy Spirit uses these God-breathed words to breath life into us, to give us faith.
This salvation is worth it, this being brought into the presence of God is that amazing.
Not just to be cleansed of all sin and shame
Not just to be freed from all guilt and resentment
To know we are loved
To know we will spend all eternity with our beloved Lord and Savior.
And that is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, our comforter.
This is what scripture teaches us, this is what we rejoice in, this is the life which God reveals to us, as He breathed out the scriptures, and they breathed life into us.
This is where we remain faithful, depending on these promises. This is where we stand, whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether we prosper or suffer.
For in Him, we have found a peace that is beyond all understanding, and we are guarded, our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
38 *“You have heard that it was said,x ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 yBut I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. 40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile,* go with him for two miles.z 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.a
Love of Enemies.* 43 b“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’c 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?* 48 So be perfect,* just as your heavenly Father is perfect. NABRE – Matt 5:38-48
24. Yet man must respond to God Who calls, and that in such a way, that without taking counsel with flesh and blood (Gal. 1:16), he devotes himself wholly to the work of the Gospel. This response, however can only be given when the Holy Spirit gives His inspiration and His power. For he who is sent enters upon the life and mission of Him Who “emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave” (Phil. 2:7). Therefore, he must be ready to stay at his vocation for an entire lifetime, and to renounce himself and all those whom he thus far considered as his own, and instead to “make himself all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22)
This Christ calls all sinners to himself and promises them refreshment. He earnestly desires that all men should come to him and let themselves be helped (2)
I have heard many people define holiness over the years. Some confuse it with purity, a lack of sinlessness and being completely remote from the world. But those who promote this view do not know how to deal with Jesus eating with whores and tax collectors, filthy sinners and fisherman.
Others would discuss holiness in view of martyrdom, the peaceful testimony of Christ in the presence of persecution and death. But most of us will only be inconvenienced because of our faith; if that is the real reason for people taking a dislike to us.
Others will look upon great acts, the work of those who are steadfast in the faith, who have this or that gift, who spend hours locked away in prayer, or tending to the poor and needy. As if holiness is some kind of heroic virtue, instead of a life we are called to live.
The last group treats holiness with little concern at all, saying in reaction to those above, that holiness is a virtual impossibility, that no one can attain holiness, that it is impossible by our own strength or power, and that God doesn’t really care, as long as we depend on Him to forgive our lack of holiness.
This last view is the most dangerous. It steals from us our hope in this life, and it convinces us that how we live, what salvation is about, isn’t living dependent upon God. It denies, faith, hope, and love. And it justifies our self-centeredness, our Machiavellian-inspired theology and practice, and our apathy towards evangelism and service.
In one of the greatest calls to holiness – in the Gospel reading above, Jesus tells us we need to be perfect, (other translations use “holy” here ) even as God is perfect and holy.
It is not an impossibility. If so, Jesus wouldn’t have commanded it, nor would the Father hold us to that standard.
The context provides the measurement of such holiness as well, the love The love of our enemies, and the love of those who you aren’t connected to, recognizing the fact that in Christ Jesus you are connected.
Those who would do evil to you, those who would demand more than is their “right” of you, those who you would say are your enemies.
Holiness is loving them.
Holiness is caring for them.
Vatican II notes this with the call to work in the vocation of the gospel – without thought or cost – even if it means a lifetime of service. It means living this way at the cost of renouncing yourself, or the people who are “yours”, serving instead “all men”, yes, including those aren’t “ours”
That they aren’t our religion, our countrymen, out ethnicity, our race, our culture, our family, or our friends; even so, we are to love them as if they are! We are to love them because they are.
This is having the attitude of Jesus, the attitude Philippians 2 tells us to have – as described in the great hymn that we love in verses 5-10. The preceding verses tell us we are to have this mind, this attitude, this same servant’s heart, and love those who are different from us.
NO option. This is what the people of God are to do.
By now – you are tempted to stop reading this – to write me off as naive, or pelagian, or some kind of fanatic. A blogger who obviously is so heavenly minded he can’t be of benefit.
We think we aren’t capable of that kind of holiness. We cannot possibly love like that, can we? Can we actually care more about our enemies and adversaries as much as those like us? Can God expect us to love our enemies and lay down our lives for them? WOuld any many?
Well, any man not nailed to a cross and who rose again three days later?
If we say we cannot, we miss the work of God. For He calls us, inspires us, and empowers us. This si the refreshment and help that the Lutheran Confessions describe as well, ad walking with God that is daily and practical, and incredibly effective. I
Holiness isn’t walking alone, it is walking with God, moving with Him. Loving as He loves, serving as He serves, bringing healing and trust as He brings it to us. Such is our calling, and such is our life
(1) Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 495). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Discussion thought of the Day:
15 I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate. 16 Since what I do is what I don’t want to do, this shows that I agree that the Law is right. 17 So I am not really the one who does this thing; rather it is the sin that lives in me. 18 I know that good does not live in me—that is, in my human nature. For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. 19 I don’t do the good I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do. 20 If I do what I don’t want to do, this means that I am no longer the one who does it; instead, it is the sin that lives in me.
Romans 7:15-20 (TEV)
11 In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins;
Colossians 2:11-13 (TEV)
7 But if we live in the light—just as he is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:7-10 (TEV)
The problem of sin is one that has stalked mankind since the beginning.
We may try to hide it, sure that people won’t see through our careful concealment, our spiritual camouflage. We may deny it, or let it rip our souls to shreds. It is there, lurking, stalking us.
As pastors, we see its effect in our people, as they struggle with every aspect of life, from work to marriage to raising their children. I’ve watched it nearly destroy a church, and I know it has destroyed churches and even denominations. We’ve watched it destroy our brothers in ministry, and yes, we know its dark powers all too well.
Yes, sin is a problem in the church, and being a real church means we try to deal with it. We can’t really hide it, denying it and the bondage it puts people in is.. well asinine in that we are committing people to hell on earth, and hell eternal. We cannot camouflage it and hope it blends into the background. For in all of those options we see the warning of John, indicating that we make God a liar.
So how does a Christian, whom we teach has been cleansed of sin in baptism (see Ezekiel 36:25ff, Titus 3:2-8, 1 Peter 3, Romans 6 and Colossians 2) struggle with the fact that they still sin? How do we find comfort knowing t How do we find comfort in the wrongdoing that has been done to us as well, that we will fall prey to Satan and commit a sin, or two, or twenty? For sin and unrighteousness paralyzes us, it inhibits our faith, especially when Satan tries to convince us the pain is real.
Note: When talking about sin and wrongdoing, it is important to note that the sin is our wrongdoing, and the wrongdoing John mentions is the wrongdoing, the sin done to us. When we are declared righteous, when we are purified – both are dealt with. Yet there is a struggle. For we don’t always see this done and we live with the pain of sin.
In talking this over with a friend, and thinking through the passages above, and of note the underlined sections, I came up with an analogy.
I had a friend who lost a leg, and he often talked of (he never complained) of phantom feelings in his missing limb. Sometimes it felt like it was asleep, or it itched, or it even caused him great pain as it felt like it was cramping. The feelings were not “imagined”, they were documentable and real. Sensory nerves were firing, motor nerves were wanting to direct movement. The brain registered it all.
The symptoms were real, the effects on the body were real, the source? It wasn’t real. It was cut off completely, removed, and thoroughly as something is removed in a circumcision. This paradox defies explanation.
Spiritually, the paradox is much the same. It may seem like sin controls us, the actions, the results appear much the same as they did before our “circumcision.”( I love Ezekiel 36 on this – as the Spirit removes our stone dead heart and replaces it with one living, and home to the Spirit) That sinful nature died on the cross – that is God’s promise. Surely our sin was forgiven, and the sin of the world was stripped away from us, as if God somehow combined a brillo pad with ivory soap… and could scrub us, without damaging us.
So why does it still feel like we can’t stop sinning? Why is there despair that is so deep, and so powerful that it could be labeled a black hole?
It’s that paradox again – the phantom power of sin, the illusions that the demonic can try to cast. Yes we still sin, yes we still don’t do what we should and do what we shouldn’t. Yes, there are days we feel like a wretch, and our ability to condemn ourselves will run high. Where we wonder if there is hope, if we will ever be righteous and holy and good.
It is then we have to realize the power of spiritual circumcision – that the sin we are battling is the cause of the sin. (this is NOT and should never be an excuse) The way to defeat it is to go and confess, and hear God has forgiven us, to hear that He has healed us. That He has purified us. That He has cut away this sin, and though we feel its effects, its pain, it itching… it isn’t us.
We live in Him.
Dealing with the phantom pain then becomes realizing how real it is, and isn’t, and running to the one who confirms it isn’t, and letting His promise mean more than our struggle. To trust Him, to depend upon Him, to let Him support us, even as we walk through life, missing that which would have destroyed us, but for His action, His love.
This is our life… in Chirst.
Knowing He has had mercy, even as we cry out fo it!
God’s peace to you, forgiven child!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 From the very beginning the Word was with God. 3 Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. 4 The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. 6 God sent his messenger, a man named John, 7 who came to tell people about the light, so that all should hear the message and believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came to tell about the light. 9 This was the real light—the light that comes into the world and shines on all people. 10 The Word was in the world, and though God made the world through him, yet the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to his own country, but his own people did not receive him. 12 Some, however, did receive him and believed in him; so he gave them the right to become God’s children. 13 They did not become God’s children by natural means, that is, by being born as the children of a human father; God himself was their Father. 14 The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son.
John 1:1-14 (TEV)
“Our desire to advance in theological knowledge, in sound, firm Christian doctrine is sparked , above all, by the will to know and love God. It likewise stems from the concern of a faithful soul to attain the deepest meaning fo the world, seen as coming from the hands of God. “( St Josemaria Escriva, Christ is passing By)
I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith. In this Church, He generously forgives each day every sin committed by me and by every believer. (Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism)
Theology has the hardest job of any science.
Yeah, you read that right, I called theology a science. It is a logos; it seeks to exist in the world of logic and reason, of in-depth study and observation. It is full of hypotheticals, and that which is proven, though we argue about which things fall into which categories.It has to balance general revelation with documents which claim to be specific revelation from a divine, omniscient source. It is up to us to discern which books are divine, which are simply good, and which are absolutely false. Just for clarification sake, “us” is inclusive of people of every time, and of nearly every culture, from every continent, with no special wisdom given to those of any particular heritage.
The problem is that Theology has failed miserably, because theologians on every part of every spectrum have forgotten the basic reason for the existence of theology. Some still get it, but they are marginalized, more about them later! Unlike other sciences, theology has long ceased to benefit humanity; it seeks simply for a truth divorced from meaning.
The reason for this is that theologians distance themselves from the objective, expressed by St. Josemaria Escriva as to know and love God. This should be the Theologian’s greatest joy, to do what Paul prayed for, for all the people of God.
14 For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God.
Ephesians 3:14-19 (TEV)
This is where a theologian lives, it is where a theologian would thrive, and it is as the theologians share the wonder and joy of knowing this love, that a theologian learns to know and love God, and where the theologian begins to understand the deepest meaning for this world. It is where John 1:1-14 goes from being nice philosophy to something that is mind-blowing and life-altering.
It is where theology becomes the science which benefits people, those who hear and listen and end up becoming the children of God.
That is what theology is for, that is why we preach, that is why the church sacrifices all it has to make known the love of God.
May theologians from every culture, every language remember why they are called to this task. Our existence is predicated on knowing and loving God, and as we return to that, knowing His love for us, may we see the Breath of Life empower and guide our efforts.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Who will set a guard over my mouth, an effective seal on my lips, That I may not fail through them, and my tongue may not destroy me?e Lord, Father and Master of my life, do not abandon me to their designs, do not let me fall because of them!
2 Who will apply the lash to my thoughts, and to my mind the rod of discipline, That my failings may not be spared or the sins of my heart overlooked? 3 Otherwise my failings may increase, and my sins be multiplied; and I fall before my adversaries, and my enemy rejoice over me?
4 Lord, Father and God of my life, do not give me haughty eyes; 5 remove evil desire from my heart. 6 Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me; do not give me up to shameless desires. Sirach 22:27- 23:6 NAB-RE
11 *Give us today our daily bread; 12 and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
13 and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:11-13 NAB-RE.
309 Doubts assail you, temptations, with that gloss of elegance about them. I love to hear you say how this shows that the devil considers you his enemy, and that God’s grace will never leave you unprotected. Keep up the struggle!
As I am working through the book of Sirach, I am amazed at the prayer life on display, and the hope of repentance he depended upon God granting him.. The prayer in the first quote above is an example. It is a prayer that would answer James’ discourse on the tongue, and Paul’s plea for a rescuee from this body of death in Romans. It is the plea for the fruit of the Spirit to develop in our hearts and minds.And it echoes the prayer Christ has taught us, in asking God to help us avoid temptation, to be delivered from the evil one, and that hard challenge of not striking back against those who’ve sinned us again, but forgiving them.
We would all say that we long for such a Christlikeness to be developed in our lives. I think that most of us would eagerly respond to that call, and the desire to live life walking with Jesus, and imitating Him.
But will we invite God to make it happen? Will we let Him set a guard over our mouths, will we let him discipline our tongue, mind, heart, eyes and desires? Will we accept His chastening and rebuking, recognizing it as His love? Will we make such a prayer our own, knowing the result of God’s law, the work of the Holy Spirit that we call sanctification?
Letting the Holy Spirit put to death the deeds of our body will not be easy, I cannot promise it will be painless. (Romans 8:13) Matter of fact, I am sure it will hurt, as war wages over our soul, and our sin which was nailed to the cross tries to keep us ensnared. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
But our hope is found in looking to Christ, in trusting the Holy Spirit to work within us, to comfort us, to comfort and quiet our souls, and to help us understand the work of Christ, which is our promise of sharing in the glory of Christ.
So, join with me in prayer, and ask God to transform us, that we would reflect the light of Christ to others who need to be healed and freed. And know this, through it all, your Master is with you!!!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1247-1250). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Glory of God and Human Worth
† IN the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit †
May the Holy Spirit make us more and more like Jesus Christ, causing us to reflect His glory into our broken world.
A precious lesson to remember
I’ve been doing a bit of thinking since I realized that this summer will make it 30 years since I was a pastoral intern. Some of that pondering has been in awe of what God has done, other moments have brought tears. It has been especially rough as this year has seen some dear people pass away at each of the churches I’ve served at. Nor does it help that in my devotions I’ve read Job recently, and presently am reading Ecclesiastes, where Solomon’s chorus seems to be,
All is meaning-less.
And there are days that I hear this!
Over the thirty years I’ve also learned to disregard that attitude, to know that even when I don’t see how everything will work out, that I am assured of God’s promises, and can rest secure knowing He is faithful.
That’s not where this sermon on Psalm 8 is going, well, not directly, but that is part of the background. Thirty years ago, actually thirty-three years ago, a phrase was drummed into my mind. It took 3 years to make sense, and a lifetime to implement. It is a great guideline for theologians and preachers, and it helps those who listen to sermons and try to apply it to their lives.
These are those words,
You cannot fully understand any Biblical truth until you have reduced it to a corollary of the idea of Covenant.
or to put it in the way I came to understand it,
You can’t clearly understand any doctrine, in Christianity until you understand it in view of the relationship God calls us into with Himself, as described in the New Covenant.
Which includes the incredible glorious mystery we celebrate today, that God is One, and God is, simultaneously three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What we call the Trinity the merger of the words Tri and Unity. Until we understand that in view of God’s relationship with us, His relationship that He calls us into, the result is meaningless.
Failure to Understand the Relationship
So how does this work? Why can’t we understand the idea of the Trinity, the doctrine that God is Triune, if we don’t include our relationship with God in contemplating it? Why is understanding the Covenant necessary to understanding this?
The answer is somewhat simple, we can’t understand the Trinity until we are actively involved with it. To understand the Trinity, we must move and live in unison with God, in sympathy with God. It is as if we are dancing with Him, moving as His partner.
And if we don’t understand this, it is as if we are standing in the corner of life, just observing His glory, yet not able to understand it.
We end up with a partial picture of Psalm 8,
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers, – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?
From a distance, this is how we see God, all the incredible beauty he creates, the skies, the mountains, a smile a joy filled laugh. It is glorious for sure, it is beyond the scope of our ability to describe, but we still don’t understand God, we still don’t know Him. We think we know all about Him, but we do not know Him, and we cannot see the fullness of His glory, His majesty, His love.
It is as if we are a high school freshman, at his first dance, looking at an incredibly beautiful girl. He can describe her dress, her beauty, but until he is dancing with her, looking in her eyes, he really doesn’t understand her beauty.
Neither can we understand the Father, Son and Holy Spirit until we are moving with God. Our lives lived in Him, and He dwelling in us. Until that point it is an academic exercise, one were we put ourselves in the place of judgment, as if we are the experts in judging His glory, because of our great understanding. The understanding that is merely theological, that is merely from a distance.
Which means we read this psalm and say -God doesn’t think about us, He couldn’t care about us! He has a universe to run! Like desists we think that God is far off, that He isn’t involved, and that it is up to us to run our own lives.
That gives us freedom, to go after what we want, to do what seems good to us. It means we can justify our sin, thinking it doesn’t really matter to God, that He doesn’t really care, and that we should just enjoy life.
Ultimately, sin is nothing more than choosing to remain in the corner, distant from God, unengaged with Him. We refuse to walk with God, preferring to stay at a great distance, able to describe Him, and creating explanations for what we do not understand. Explanations that encourage sin, and encourage living life to what we think is the fullest.
That separation leaves us unfulfilled it doesn’t satisfy the hunger, it just makes it greater, and it enslaves us. And once enslaved, with sin pulling us further and further away, our “expert” view of God becomes more blurred, and often more hostile.
Until we agree with Solomon, that all is simply meaningless.
Sure, God is three, and He is One, but what does that matter if my life is spent against the wall, alone with my speculation and philosophy and theology books?
Trinity understood through Covenant.
When we reduce the doctrine of the Trinity (not the Trinity itself) to a corollary of covenant, when we see this incredible mystery of Three in One from the point where we engage God, when we see it defining who we are, we begin to understand this,
This is my God, and I am His child!
It is like looking into the eyes of your beloved as you dance together. You may not be able to describe what you see, heck, you may not be able to speak. Eloquence evades you, but you know your beloved at a level that transcends truth. This is when we begin to understand how much God does think of us, how much He truly cares.
It is when the Psalmist begins to understand the answer to his question,
what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?
You made them only a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority.
The answer is simply understanding the Trinity in view of our relationship with God.
For we see the Trinity involved with us from the beginning, as God makes us just a little lower than Himself, making us in His very image. In our creeds, as we describe this glorious Trinity, we see God the Father, the Creator at work,
And then God crowns us with glory and honor. This is the work of Jesus, the Son. of the Father, and our Lord. It is His redeeming us, pulling us out of the corner, bringing us to dance with God. This is Jesus, our righteousness, whom we are untied to in baptism, made one with, as He cleanses us from all sin and all unrighteousness. His very birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension affect s our lives, from redeeming us to being our advocate, proclaiming us Holy and deserving of the crown and righteousness.
And then the Spirit sanctifies us, setting us apart, conforming us to the image of God’s son. We are revealed to be in Christ Jesus, the Spirit dwells in us, and gives us the role of God’s trusted children, trusted enough that He puts all things under our authority, our responsibility, as we walk with Jesus. This is what it means to be holy, to be sanctified, to walk with God,
And so we see God, in all of His glory, working in our lives. Creating us. Redeeming us, Sanctifying us. Making us His people. That is what the creeds describe the Trinity doing, simply engaged with us, thinking about us, caring about us so much that God invests Himself fully in our lives. His is what we confess; it is what we believe. It is our Credo – why we depend on upon God.
It is a description of our faith in God who reveals Himself in this way to us,
This is why Paul can preach as the He describes in Colossians,
For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing in His glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)
This is how we are to understand God, not with high minded philosophy from afar, but moving in unison with God as our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us, and the Holy Spirit who will bring to completion our transformation into the children of God. He thinks about us, He cares for us, HE LOVES US!.
As we come to know the Trinity this way they share with us the peace that surpasses all understanding and will share the glory of eternity. For this is true!
We are His people; He is our God… AMEN!