Devotional Thought for our day:
15 I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. 16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
John 15:15-16 (MSG)
In an effort to embrace the intimacy between the Savior and the sinner, the difference between the holy and the sinful was lost, the distinction between the sacred and the mundane was greatly blurred. To affirm that the Lord Jesus has gone before us so that believers might “approach the throne of grace with boldness” (Hebrews 4:16) doesn’t make the “throne” a cozy loveseat or a beanbag chair. The only reason Christians can enter “with boldness” into God’s presence is because they are invited and because Jesus, as the mediator of both the invitation and the distance, has gone before them. Access to the divine may be unfettered by the mediation of God’s Son, but it is still access to the sacred, the holy.
I am not sure which word, describing what our relationship with God looks like is more intimidating.
The challenge is that these words are often positioned as contrary to each other. As if intimacy cannot be holy, and holiness wants nothing to do with intimacy. (This may be vestiges of a mindset vexed by platonic, gnost and victorian thought – but that is a thesis paper, not a blog) If we can only get past the fear of these two words, and the panic that sets in when people (especially men) hear them, I think the church would benefit.
What is really ironic, is that these words aren’t in opposition, they have a similar meaning. For holiness means to be set apart, to be saved for some special purpose and not defiled by doing some other thing. Think f the chef who has different knives for different tasks, each honed a special way. Or the professional athlete, whose contract prohibits him from doing things, often stupid things, which would put his performance at risk.
Holy – set apart for a specific purpose. Intimacy is being involved deeply in that purpose, being involved with every part of us, body (which we often restrict intimacy to) mind, ssoul, and spirit. It is beyond being focused, or sold out on something, it is defining yourself within the relationship. It is not thinking of the relationship as part of who you are, but the relationship is who you are.
Castleman tries to negotiate this above – noting that while we are invited, the place we are invite too is holy, and that means something. But what i think he is leading to, he stops just short of – we are not just invited by Jesus, we enter that holy space with/in/united to Jesus. The holy and intimate relationship that we are defined by means we belong there. Remember Paul talks of us “sharing His glory,” (Romans 5:2,Col. 1:27, 2 Thes. 2:13) a profound thought that is both intimate and holy – in a way beyond our belief. Castleman does have the right idea in saying we need to embrace this intimacy, even as it reaches our very core, shaking our perception of who we are.
We are His…
Now live, knowing every step you take is on holy, intimate ground because the Spirit indwells in you. AMEN
Castleman, Robbie Fox. Story-Shaped Worship: Following Patterns from the Bible and History (p. 74). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. 15 Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. 16 The scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16 (TEV)
250 I listened in silence as you said to me, “Yes, I want to be a saint”—although generally I have little respect for such a broad and vague assertion.
In Juan Carlos Ortiz’s classic book “Disciple”, he tells a story of a man who wanted to be God’s, who was in shock as God revealed to him what that meant, as God stripped him of everything, step by step.
His car, his home, his belonging, even his clothes, and well himself.
If he was to be God’s, fully sold out to him, then that is what is what God would give him. Eventually, the man’s vision had God entrust all back to him, to help him realize that all the man had been blessed with, he was accountable to God to use for the ministry God has entrusted to us.
Just as Jesus used all He was, to care for us.
I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting at, in the quote in blue above.
Being a saint, being holy isn’t a vague description, It can’t be determined by a broad overview of our life. Taking our 50 or 70 or 90 years as a quick glimpse, and recalling just the good things we have did.
Being a saint is seen in the small things, in the thoughts and words that betray what we do. In the moments when no one is watching, and in the moments when our hearts and souls are stretched tightly, ready to snap.
It is at that moment that sainthood is revealed, as we turn to God and cry out for mercy, as we cry out for help. It is then when we realize that faith isn’t just about the doctrines we believe, but the trust and dependence that God will see us through the time of trial. A cry that happens without thought, an automatic response to the oppression. A response of trusting God, no matter what happens.
But that doesn’t happen if we talk about being holy, about becoming a saint without seeing God touching every part of life, without knowing His love, and realizing it is beyond all that we could ever expect. It comes from realizing that love, about receiving in regularly in word and sacrament, in letting the Holy Spirit transform us, as we see Jesus, as we explore the dimension of His love.
We become holy, even as we confess our sins ( yeah – even that one!) and believe they are forgiven because Jesus for joy bore the cross for us. For confession happens when we trust God to love us, to be merciful and faithful to us.
Be holy my friends, cry out to the Lord for mercy… and as you receive it, as you relish and rejoice in being made clean, as you rejoice in being His, you will find, He has declared you to be, and made you into a saint.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 668-670). 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 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)
485 At times, someone has told me: “Father, I feel tired and cold; when I pray or fulfil some other norm of piety, I seem to be acting out a farce…” To that friend, and to you, if you are in the same boat, I answer: A farce?—What an excellent thing, my child! Act out that farce! The Lord is your audience—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Trinity is contemplating us in those moments when we are “acting out a farce”. Acting like that in front of God, out of love, in order to please him, when our whole life goes against the grain: how splendid, to be God’s juggler! How marvellous it is to play one’s part for Love, with sacrifice, without any personal satisfaction, just in order to please Our Lord! That indeed is to live for Love. (1)
It is Monday, the day after a long work day. Church was phenomenal, but then a meeting at another church drained me, and knowing that this week is booked absolutely full, I started on my research for this week’s sermons. One of my best friends I woke up early to pray with, as he faces surgery, and I am concerned for several others facing trials. I also have some pounding going on above me, and other issues of frustration.
It’s monday, and my devotional time is dragging. Let me be honest, I am to tired emotionally, I am to anxiety laden, I am overwhelmed and I don’t really feel like writing this blog, or spending time in prayer, or doing my devotional reading. (which happened to be on confession and absolution…. gee thanks God!) I don’t really feel like being holy today. I don’t want to just go through the motions either, and pray, and read and worship. If I don’t feel like being holy, setting apart my time and my life to God, I really don’t want to just fake it.
Maybe I should skip it my devotional time. After all, it’s only one day. I’ll be in a better mood on Wednesday, or maybe Friday. My blog hasn’t been read much anyways (writing this is part of my discipline ), and I’ve got a ton of work to do. Three extra services, picking up some of the work my friend would do, people recovering that I need to visit. I could so easily justify skipping this once….
Then of course, as I drag through my devotions, I found the above quote from St Josemaria. Tell you something – sometimes I really dislike how much a Catholic Saint who died nearly 40 years ago knows me. I feel like a farce, a fraud a hypocrite, even as I highlight things in my reading, and the meditative thoughts the word of God kicks into motion. I warm to some of it – but Leviticus? Really? And the part about worship was awesome, but the paragraph upon paragraph that drudged on through the book of concord…. sigh
Escriva notes that there is an option between doing this enthusiastically, and doing it as a hypocrite. It is doing it, admitting the struggle, but knowing the love and mercy of God the Father that will become more and more apparent. Being a living sacrifice is an act of love, even when I am not sure why I keep going. To strive to keep interested, to strive to see how Christ is revealed, to wait and the blessing He has for us.
To adore Him enough to trust Him that this time together will be cleansing, refreshing, empowering, but most of all peace-filled, glorious rest in His presence. To drink deeply of His love.
it is in the dead times, even perhaps more than the rebellious times, that I need to offer myself to God and keep moving with Him. That I need to realize His presence, His promises, His comfort. The kind of things that are apparent in His word, that the saints who’ve gone before us lived and died to pass down to.
It is such time when saints are made…. and sustained.
So cry out Lord, I trust you, help me to trust you!
And know His answer… come, follow me.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1858-1866). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought of the day:
It is a line from our creeds, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” Many believers – even a majority say such a phrase at least once a week, as we are gathered together by God, in His presence, in His Name.
Yet do we desire that which we state we believe in, that which the Holy Spirit creates as He calls and gathers us and sets us apart as His people. For the church is simply that – in Greek – “the called”, or “the chosen”. And many of us desire that the church be one, whether it is the church across the world and across all denominational boundaries, the church as in our particular denomination/synod/sect, or whether it is the church as in our own local expression of the church – the congregation – those gathered together in one place, where God put His name – so they can pray and know they are forgiven, and that those who don’t know God can pray, and they can know He is.
When the creed was composed, the idea of “one church” was obvious – both the word “one” and the word “catholic” testify to the church. But our forefathers in the faith were quite wise in adding the other words, “holy” and “apostolic”. For there we find some of the things which express our unity together.
Holy is much misunderstood these days – as if someone who is “holy” is a goody-two shoes, the person who never makes an error in morality, never doubts, always is serving others – an ideal saint. But if you look in history, saints were pedestal people (well – except for the Stylites…but that’s another story) They were common people often, who had to deal with anxieties, who had to deal with family issues, and financial struggles, who were challenged by their governments, and somehow – realize that the answer was not within themselves, but found in realizing that God was God, and God loved them. Their trust in God and HIs promises, was the the foundation of their strength, they would become attune to the direction of God, and while they would still sin like the rest of us, they could be assured that even there God was working.
The work of making them holy – wasn’t their discipline, it was and is the Spirit working in them, sanctifying them – making them saints. Setting them apart for God’s work, no matter whether the work is baking bread (like the lay-brother who wrote “practicing the presence of God – or the new baker whose work with provide for and subsidize a new seminary in the Sudan) or whether it is preaching and leading others deeper into dependence on God as priests and pastors and missionaries and Sunday School teachers.
And that brings us to the other word – we are an apostolic gathering of people. The question I’ve asked – is tha apostolic as in hearing the apostles teaching, or is it apostolic as in the idea that we – like the many people talked about as apostles in the New Testament (besides the 12 ) are sent into the word, to reflect the glory of God, and be His ambassadors to bring hope to the world. I tend to think it is both, but more the latter. And that is where the church is seen by the world, as it brings hope for healing -healing of relationships, healing from the damage of sin, healing of families, as we realize that Christ is healing us.
one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church – the body of Christ that is set apart to be salt and light in the world.
When you see it occur, you know it, and it is truly amazing….. God’s people, knowing the glory of His love and mercy and peace… and their reflection of that – drawing people into that very glory.
May we cry, “Lord have mercy” and find that He has…together.
What will you do now…
having encountered the Lord?
† In Jesus Name †
The grace of God, the abundant love, the incredible mercy, the peace that comes from being in the presence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is yours!
928,000 hits for hell, 597 million for heaven
If you look up two words on the internet, one word will return some 597 million references – web pages that deal with the subject in part or are on that topic – just for that one word. The other word is even more astounding, some 920 million web pages reference it. A combined total of 1.5 billion webpages referencing these two words.
The first word is heaven…
It amazes me that there is more attention paid to that second word, half again as many webpages referencing something that by definition cannot be compared to heaven, except to say that everything heaven is not, Hell is.
I wonder if humanity is more comfortable with the second word than heaven, and therefore uses it more, because it doesn’t take any imagination to picture what it is like. We witness hints of it everywhere, as we see suffering lived out, as we witness the broken lives, as we hear the lyrics of music, country, rock, hip-hop – it doesn’t matter the style,
But heaven? How do you imagine it, much less describe it? Even St. Paul, who indicates that he was taken up to heaven in a vision, when he writes to the church in Corinth struggles, and describes it this way..
What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him; (NJB)
Perhaps, because we cannot visualize it, our mind cannot comprehend being in the presence of God, in all of His glory… we struggle to tell people, to describe to them this relationship that we have with God, and what we expect of eternity, walking with Him.
Our knowledge of what heaven is like comes from the brief glimpses of it in scripture, the brief times where God reveals a little of our what heaven looks and sounds like. I think we deal enough with the other place way to much – so today – let’s spend our time in heaven, and see what happens when we encounter God in all his glory.
It’s a bit… overwhelming
As Isaiah describes where God resides, the incredible, majestic, throne room of God, there is one word that I think describes his emotions better than any other.
Isaiah cannot even describe the Lord God Almighty who we have praised in song – about the closest he comes is describing the hem of his robe – he quickly describes the angelic beings surrounding the throne, singing the praises of God, praises that ring so loud they shake heaven and earth! Which leads him to focus to God, for the focus point of their body, their voices, everything they are focused on Yahweh – the sight is so awe-inspiring that the translators have always replaced God’s name – YHWH, with His title, for it seems so wrong to address One who is the purest form of holiness by His name.
Isaiah, overwhelmed by it all, all of a sudden remembers that he is part of this picture, In this midst of all this purity, in the middle of the hosts of heaven adoring God in all His intimate majesty! There stands Isaiah, whose “woe” is a phrase that escapes his mouth, before he can control it – one which leads him to identify himself as a man of “unclean lips.” Unclean being a reference to a flow of mud or sewer waste that has infiltrated your home, something that no matter how hard you try to clean it, infests and infects every part. Because that is what sin is – no matter how hard you try to clean it – to fix it – you cannot!
Any of you out there dread public speaking and standing before 1000, 10,000 people? Or have you ever had one of those nightmares where you find yourself at center court of a basketball game, or in the middle of a mall on the day after thanksgiving clad only in an old torn pair of underwear? Yeah… that’s pretty much how Isaiah feels, as he realizes the only sin in heaven at that point… is him.
No wonder, as he gasps, that Isaiah confesses that he is a man of filthy lips – not because of anything that he ate – but because of what has come from him! Such a statement calls to mind Jesus words regarding that it is not what goes into a man that pollutes him, but what comes out reveals how rotten we can be inside.
Like with most of us, having one’s sin revealed is never easy, it is as overwhelming as being found in the presence of God….yet it is then… as Isaiah is standing there, that something incredible happens…
It’s incredibly healing
For being found in God’s presence in not just incredibly overwhelming, it is incredibly healing.
Even as the Heavenly choir is singing the Sanctus’ holy, holy, holy, even as Isaiah realizes how exposed he and his sin is, an angel who knows God’s heart, who grasp His desire takes action. From the altar something is taken, it touches the lips of the man of unclean lips, and those lips are purified, as is the heart and life of the man. Those lips are cleansed and can praise the God who created them, and cleansed them. That heart no longer fears being found in the presence of a holy and righteous God, but stands in awe… and basks and rejoices in the love of the Lord God who reveals Himself to us, in order to bring us back to Him, to restore the relationship!
The sewerage, the uncleanness that once polluted us, is diverted, it cannot reach Isaiah, it cannot reach us.
Our is atoned for – an incredibly deep word picture there – as it is removed and the wounds it caused are covered as they are healed! You see, the roots of the word attone is tar or pitch – the kind used on trees when you remove a diseased or broken limb – and cover that which remains, so the weak bare would cannot be infested!
That is what God’s love, revealed to us in the shedding of Jesus’ blood does to us – is cleanses, and heals and covers and protects. It’s that simple – takes that ugly spots out of life and makes us whole…just as the fiery coal in Isaiah’s vision did, so does Christ do, as He enters our lives.
But what is best about what God does in our lives – is that He makes us comfortable in His life – in His presence. The “woe” disappears and the question of Isaiah falls aside, no longer even needing to be considered!
That is what our faith, our religion, what walking and trusting and believing in Christ is all about my friends. We need to grasp that because what God has promised us in His word was clearly revealed in Christ – that we now know His love – and that name of His – is ours to use, to call upon, to praise – to ask Him to deal with all that burdens us –that we may know He is God – our loving father!
Wait…there are people
Note – they too will be overwhelmed…
As we realize this incredible promise is not just Isaiah’s but ours – we hear the same words as Isaiah does – the Lord’s voice crying out – who can I send? Who is going to let the people of La Palma, and Cerritos, and Artesia, and Norwalk and Torrance, those who work with the students at Cal State and USC, and in hospitals and at the senior center and even in St Louis – who will God send? Who else needs to go to the people of unclean lips and unclean lives and tell them that there is cleansing, there is healing, there is life?
As you respond – for you know what God has done for you – and you realize their need for it – realize that their reactions will be as yours were – overwhelmed by the presence of God, in fear that their sins, their struggles in life stand out. Going out with the message isn’t easy, and people’s reaction will be one of struggle – yet, because of Christ, the lamb that was slain, the message that comes from the heart of God’s altar – the message that cleanses – it will cleanse and heal, and cause them to do as we do…
To find ourselves in the presence of God, cleansed, healed – and able to in the midst of a broken world know a peace and rest that is unexplainable – yet calls us to look to an eternity of peace, as we adore the God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has made us His own…..