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Spinning Your Wheels at Work? Not Making a Difference? Maybe You Are…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

20 So I came to regret that I had worked so hard. 21 You work for something with all your wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and then you have to leave it all to someone who hasn’t had to work for it. It is useless, and it isn’t right! 22 You work and worry your way through life, and what do you have to show for it? 23† As long as you live, everything you do brings nothing but worry and heartache. Even at night your mind can’t rest. It is all useless. Eccl. 2:20-23 GNT

5 I would like for all of you to speak in strange tongues; but I would rather that you had the gift of proclaiming God’s message. For the person who proclaims God’s message is of greater value than the one who speaks in strange tongues—unless there is someone present who can explain what is said, so that the whole church may be helped. 1 Cor. 14:5-6 GNT

I once thought that when I left management behind to become a pastor, I would leave behind the feeling of futility that often plagued me.

You know, the feeling of having to juggle three balls at once, and then someone throws in a torch, and another person toss in two pieces of your wife’s china, and then another person tosses in three sticks of TNT?

I mean you know you can do a little, but you keep on thinking the torch is going to hit one of the pieces of TNT and then…

I don’t care if you pastor a church of 150 or 1000, or administer a computer system, or a washing dishes on graveyard shift at a Denny’s. There are times where you feel like you are spinning your wheels, and you being to regret that you work so hard, and it all seems useless. And if you are about to go on vacation, and are struggling to get it all ready, and your daily Bible reading gets to Ecclesiastes, you are probably feeling this way!

God does have a sense of humor!

And the feelings Solomon writes about are very real. Most of us have to deal with them on a regular basis. Anxiety, heartache, feelings of unfulfillment, uselessness and even the idea that while you don’t gain from your dedicated work, someone else will – all these feelings can crush us. And they often do.

Yet, in the midst of that stands our “proclamation”. And in all of those places, in 1981 at Denny’s in New Hampshire, (and again in 85-86), at Pepperdine, and as a pastor, I’ve seen God at work in the lives of people. It’s not about certain vocations proclaiming Christ, or even people of a certain age. It is about being in the moment, and recognizing the grace of God, and sharing it, “proclaiming” it, to those who need to see it as well.

I heard a long time ago, that while we work, we are ultimately there because God sent us there. The pastor said that while we are employed by Company X (I think it was Ford) who we are representing is God. Therefore we work in a way that would bring glory to God) So while we are devoted to our job, (washing dishes, analyzing financial and security reports or preparing a sermon or study) and work hard, the ultimate reason we are there is to bring God glory, and as appropriate, proclaim how great His love and mercy are.

It is those moments we cherish, the moments that make a difference. For example, as you help the guy at the counter sober up, and go home to talk and pray with his wife, because there is now hope that God can bring healing to his broken marriage. Another example could be the young college student, who thought their world was over because their boyfriend dumped them, or they didn’t get a good grade in that class. Because God had someone there, they knew that God wouldn’t forsake them. The stories live on, and even to this day, I don’t remember what I said or did, I remember the look in their eyes, and the release of all the tension built up in their bodies. It is how they left, knowing that they were there as well, in the presence of God

So look for those moments, look for the people God has sent your way this day. Find ways to share with them, as St Peter advised, the Reason your have hope in the midst of a broken world. Pray for them, and as you have the opportunity, pray with them.

This is what matters, this is what makes a difference, and this is what is not vain. You are sent were you are, by God, in order to be a blessing to others. To help them, slowly at time, to discover the love of God. As they do, the joy you will know, is beyond words.







Have You Ever Played God? What if I Said There Were Times to Do So?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

12  Job, have you ever in all your life commanded a day to dawn? 13  Have you ordered the dawn to seize the earth and shake the wicked from their hiding places? Job 38:12-13 (TEV)

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23† If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 GNT

23 For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, 24 gave thanks to God, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.” 25† In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.” 1 Cor. 11:23-25 GNT

There are a lot of times we want to “play God”. Where we want the wisdom and more importantly His power to yield and do what we think is right.

It might be to bring healing to a sick friend, or comfort a child who is inconsolable. It could be to clean up a messy, shattered relationship, it could be to bring peace to a war torn community.

It could be for a less noble goal, to improve our financial outlook, or how content we are with our lot in life. It could be to influence people or make them change into a person that is better fit for us. (In other words, they serve our needs better) Or maybe it is to praise our favorite politicians and political positions, and condemn all who are contrary to them.

Playing God is a sin, it is a violation of the first commandment, and is the source of all other sin.

Except….

There is one place where the church is told to have its ministers “play God”. Roman Catholics indicate the priest is acting “in persona Christi”, Lutherans talk about being “in the stead (the place) and (acting) by the command of Christ.

In those moments, not for their own benefit, priests and pastors have the responsibility to do something only God can do. To show mercy, to forgive sins, to declare that someone is holy, righteous, a child of God. They are in the role of Christ when they do so, The gift of absolution, like baptism and the celebration of the Eucharist, (what is also called the ministry of reconciliation) is the most powerful act anyone can perform. It is God’s work,

Though it is not “playing” we do act in the role of Christ, saying what He has instructed us to say, what He has empowered us to say.

Not for our sake, but for the people who hear our words, no, not ours, the words are His. The words are the words of our Lord, Jesus the Christ, spoken to His people, spoken for His people.

I pray we do so, with all the reverence and joy they deserve.


Imitation of Jesus: Are You Ready?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. 1 Peter 2:23 (TEV)

1  Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)

The reception of communion too requires faith in the grandiosity of what is about to happen—the Lord comes to me or rather coming to me, He embraces me and wishes to transform me into His very being. It is not just a mechanical act of reception of a piece of bread—something done in an instant. It is this invitation to be in communion with the Lord: invitation to love.

I remembering hearing a sermon about “imitating Jesus” when I was in Bible College. The thoughts that ran through my mind were about imitating Jesus as He taught, as He trained the disciples, as He did miracles, even as He “officiated” at the first communion service.

I didn’t think about the suffering, or even the insults he endured from those who should have been his closest followers. The pains caused by his family who didn’t understand. The loneliness when even his closest disciples didn’t understand His ministry. The times that were so challenging that He needed to go away and pray to the Father… alone.

Are we ready to imitate Paul as he endured, as He imitated Jesus who endured through all of this?

Can we forgive the insultm? Can we show mercy to the one who threatens us? Can we love the ones who cause us to suffer, either deliberately, or accidentally?

That too is part of the call to imitate Jesus.

Can we do it?

I believe it is possible, but only as God has a relationship that is, only one word works here, a relationship that is intimate.

A relationship where He is able to transform us, a relationship where He is able to cleanse us thoroughly. A relationship where He is able to descend to a darkest place, where fears and anxieties form and control more of our life than we can explain.

A relationship that is that intimate.

A relationship that is nurtured at the altar, when Jesus comes to us, where we come face to face with the Lord who died for us, even though we didn’t deserve it.

It is there, in the midst of His grace being poured out on us, that we realize what God is doing, and how complete the change is that He is crafting in our lives. We become more and more like Him, and we may not even realize it. His desire that people would come to know His love, that the Spirit would grant them repentance becomes far more important than our revenge.

Such a transformation is the result of, and only possible because we encounter Jesus. For then, we see the final judgment of God, and His work in all of us, making reconciliation possible. Our being reconciled, as well as those who offend us.

This is our hope, this is His work.

In us.

Ranjith, M. (2012). Addressing Objections to Adoration. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 162). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

A National Pastime that Needs to Go!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

10† We must not complain, as some of them did—and they were destroyed by the Angel of Death.
11 All these things happened to them as examples for others, and they were written down as a warning for us. For we live at a time when the end is about to come.
1 Cor 10:10-11 GNT

The word of God—primarily the gospel of his kingdom and of the life and death of Jesus on our behalf—enters our mind and brings new life through faith. As we open our entire life to this new power and to those sent by God to minister the word to us, the word moves into every part of our personality, just like the water and soap move through the shirt’s fibers. God’s word pushes out and replaces all that is false and opposed to his purposes in creating us and putting us in our unique place on earth.

What would facebook look like if we were able to filter out all of the posts that were complaints? What would it sound like to sit down and talk to people if there were no complaints uttered?

We complain about politics.
We complain about referee and umpires calls in sports.
We complain about the traffic on the way to work, or to the store
We complain about our bosses, the people we work with, our parents, our spouses, our children.
We complain that we haven’t had time for our coffee, and then complain that people want us to function without our daily dose of “happiness.” (Are we complaining about their complaints about our complaining?)

The Apostle Paul wrote that we must not complain, and this command sits not to far from a discussion on idolatry, and along with a discussion on sexual promiscuity and putting God to the test – both forms of self idolatry.

So is complaining idolatry, not much more than an adult form of a child’s temper tantrum. Yes. Because it boils down to our not getting things arranged our way. It calls into question our will and our wisdom, for if we are complaining, doesn’t it mean we think we know what is best?

What complaining is, when it comes down to it, is questioning God, and His ability and action. A complaint rests on the assumption that God isn’t providing what we need, and that the life He has called us to live is not sufficiently abundant.

But complaining is a national pastime it seems, if not an international one. (even as I write this, someone asked how I was doing, and I started complaining!) It is an ingrained part of our nature.

So ingrained we can’t stop ourselves….

We need help, we need to be transformed, we need to see the Spirit doing this transformation, as the word of God is used by the Holy Spirit to clean us, even at our deepest most internal points. The places were the sins of stain are so dark we can’t stand to look at them, the places where our narcissism doesn’t even attempt to hide.

God is there, cleansing us, transforming us. THe word and sacraments doing for us what we cannot do ourselves. what God has promised to do in our lives.

25  “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26  And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT2)

This is our hope, the presence of God, using His word to cleanse us, as He declares us to be His holy people.

A people who live in awe of His love, so in awe we forget to complain about life around us…

Lord, help us to see Your love for us, revealed in the cross of Christ. Fill us with Your peace and glory, the abundant life You have promised. AMEN!

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Dad, Why Does God Allow Earthquakes?

Twenty five years ago, yet as real as yesterday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21  the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:18-23 (NLT2)

4  What about those eighteen people in Siloam who were killed when the tower fell on them? Do you suppose this proves that they were worse than all the other people living in Jerusalem? 5  No indeed! And I tell you that if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did.” Luke 13:4-5 (TEV)

If we have an openness and are willing to learn, we can come to recognize the voice of God with assistance from those who are familiar with the divine voice from their own experience. On the other hand, we should understand that it is in Satan’s best interest to make an inherent mystery of God’s word coming directly to us. In this way the power of God’s specific word for our lives can be hindered or lost. Without qualified help working alongside our desire to learn and readiness to cooperate, God’s direct word may remain a riddle or a game of theological charades.
This is generally the condition of the church today, I suspect. This would explain why there is such great confusion and difficulty about what it really means to walk with God
.

As a father, yesterday I wonder if I failed yesterday.

We had a nice rolling earthquake as we were watching a movie. 100 or so miles away, it must have really rocked and rolled. But for us, it was a long drawn out thing, enough to cause us to wonder what was coming next.

The day beforehand, I panicked with a similar long distance quake. I flashed back to January 17, 1994, and our apartment in Canoga Parker/Warner Center. Not far from the epicenter of the Northridge Earthquakes. THat too was a longer quake, but we were closer, and the damage to our apartment and community was intense.

Here is where my failure occurs, as we tried to calm down after yesterday’s rolling quake. As we talked, as I mentioned my almost moving to Arkansas after Northridge ( I would have moved anywhere after that – even Texas!) I think my fear and anxiety affected my son.

And the 12 year old child I struggle to see as a child, (he is 5’11.5″, 170 lbs and has a IQ like Einstein) got anxious. Enough so at bed time he could relax, came into my bedroom and we talked. Plate tectonics, distance from epicenter, fault effects, etc. And then the question…

“Why does God allow earthquakes?”

I stumbled to remember where the Tower of Siloam passage was above, and tried to show the law and the gospel in it. We need to keep our relationship with God a priority, the priority, because we don’t know what comes next. And while God doesn’t cause the earth to groan. Thanks to Apostle Paul for that reminder – that creation is subject to God’s curse, and it groans under the pressure of the sin it is subjected to! Such “groaning” God will use to remind us of the shortness of life, and that He is indeed with us.

He is there, in the darkness, in the anxious times, in the times were we shake or the ground does. in the moments where we don’t get that He is, and He is with us. In the moments where our kids pick up on fear and anxiety, and we fail to be the strong, wise, shameless heroes we want to be for our kids, God is with us there.

Willard is correct, theology can often become a charade, an act we ut in place when we can’t find the answer. When we are as shaken as the land our in Searles Valley. (an odd connection to my home back east there) Theology, and Biblical guidance must point us to the presence of God, that we walk with Him, that we depend on Him when our anxieties mount, when we ourselves fail. Whether it is when we don’t see what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to in scripture, or how to react to trauma, or frustration.

He is there, bringing comfort and peace, love and mercy and forgiveness…

Walking with us. Even standing in the doorway, or seeking protection under a table, or sitting on a bed trying to explain what doesn’t make sense, He is there! And depending on Him is the answer we need to come to, and know this. God will bring us to that answer, that He is the answer.

Lord Jesus, remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, in our lives. When we are full of anxiety, fear, or just don’t have the answers, Lord bring us peace, and help us to be a peaceful presence in others lives. AMEN!



Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Faith conquers our sin…

Devotional Thought for the Day:

23 But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. 24 What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! Romans 7:23-25 GNT

We, on the other hand, teach and comfort an afflicted sinner this way, and we console the afflicted sinner: “Friend, it is impossible for you to become so righteous in this life that your body is as clear and spotless as the sun. You still have spots and wrinkles (Eph 5:27); nevertheless, you are holy.” You, however, say, “How can I be holy, when I have sin and I perceive it?” “It is good that you perceive and recognize sin. Give thanks to God, and do not despair. It is one step toward health when a sick person recognizes and admits the disease.” “But how will I be liberated from sin?” “Run to Christ, the Doctor, who heals the contrite of heart and saves sinners. Believe in him. If you believe, you are righteous, because you give glory to God that God is omnipotent, merciful, truthful, etc. You justify and praise God. In sum, you attribute divinity and all things to God. The sin that still remains in you is not imputed to you but pardoned for the sake of Christ, in whom you believe and who is perfectly righteous in a formal sense. His righteousness is yours; your sin is his.”

Faith is likewise a Yes to God in Jesus Christ, who looks upon me, makes me open, and enables me ultimately to entrust myself to him. Faith penetrates to what is most personal and most interior in me and, in doing so, responds to the Person of Jesus Christ, who calls me by name.

Sin is a serious issue.

The brokenness it causes is even far more serious. It shatters individuals, friendships, marriages, churches, communities.

It rages like a forest fire, and it often seems we are helpless ot do anything about it. We struggle to confront it in our own lives, and we are afraid to deal with it in others.

Rather than do so, we compromise, and settle for the brokenness, even embracing it, for the cost seems to high. Except the cost of NOT dealing with it is higher.

Paul demonstrates that in his plea to be rescued from death, a cry of hope that brings him to the only hope. We have to let Christ deal with it. We have to let the Holy Spirit cut us open, and the mercy of God penetrate to the most personal, intimate, secluded places where the brokenness has taken root.

As the Holy Spirit uproots the brokenness, He plants faith, the ability to entrust ourselves to Jesus, and to grow in our dependence on His work, trusting Him to pardon us, to declare that we are righteous and belong in the presence of God the Father.

Even though the struggle goes on, even if the struggle is magnified by our realizing how deep our sin and rebellion is buried, that very realization is proof of God’s work, unearthing it so He can heal us.

Healing is painful, coming face to face with the pain we thought we had buried, that we had gotten past, burying it deeply within. Yet that pain needs to be truly dealt with, by the only one who can. God.

And He has at the cross, and as you were baptised, and every day of your life, as the Holy Spirit cleanses us deeply, comforting us, healing us, making us the Holy people of God, the children He has call to dwell in His presence. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 168). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 214). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Am I Just “Going through the motions?”

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought for the Day:

23  How I wish that someone would remember my words and record them in a book! 24  Or with a chisel carve my words in stone and write them so that they would last forever. 25  But I know there is someone in heaven who will come at last to my defense. 26  Even after my skin is eaten by disease, while still in this body I will see God. 27  I will see him with my own eyes, and he will not be a stranger. Job 19:23-27 (TEV)

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. Romans 8:26-27 (TEV)

57    Get to know the Holy Spirit, the Great Unknown, the one who has to sanctify you. Don’t forget that you are a temple of God. The Paraclete is in the center of your soul: listen to him, and follow his inspirations with docility.

On Monday, at sometime between 7:30 and 8:30, I read the first scripture passage above, from the book of Job. It is a favorite passage, one I love to just think about, especially when life is “job-like” ANd it was in the rotation of readings that were assigned for me that day, by the software that helps me read through the Bible in a year.

The problem is, I don’t remember reading it. Not at all.

And so yesterday, that bothered me a lot. how could i miss such an important passage? How ow could I not have seen it?

What is sadly ironic is that I really needed to see it, not just read it. It is one of those seasons of trauma, those times where I wondered if Job and I could trade places for a couple of hours.

My mind on Tuesday kept beating me up. HOw could I have missed what God had obviously put right in front of me, for that time, for that moment? How could I just go through the motions, reading but not seeing, hearing but not absorbing the word of God?

Am I getting to the point where I am just “going through the motions when it comes to the daily readings of scripture?

Will that start to seep into other parts of my spiritual life, other parts of what I do? That is perhaps the greatest point of fear I have, that how I lead worship, that how I preach, how I administer the sacraments simply fades into a mechanical application of what I have done before.

The feelings move into high gear, alternating between anxiety and guilt, between how have I gotten myself into this place and will I ever get back to “normal” spiritual mode? Then I realize I have not wasted one day, but two…

By God’s grace as well, in this morning’s reading I came to St Josemaria’s words in purple above. My heart focused on the phrase about the Holy Spirit being the one who has to sanctify us. As that resonated and comforted me, the words of the apostle Paul flashed into my head. I realized that while I missed the words Monday, and struggled on Tuesday with the absence of seeing the words, the Holy Spirit didn’t let me forget them.

As I went back and read them again, without the distractions and lack of attention that plagued me Monday, or the guilt and anxiety of Tuesday, I finally saw what I needed to see. Because of the tension, it hits home even more strongly, even being chiseled into my crushed and broken heart and soul.

I will see God, and He will not be a stranger.

No matter how dark my day, no matter how much I’ve bottomed out, the Holy Spirit is there, comforting, sanctifying, even interpreting our prayers, and making everything work out for good…. even the days when I can barely go through the motions.

God is faithful, the Holy Spirit is here… and if I can cling to that promise…I can survive the days when I don’t soar like a spiritual giant, but crawl like a cockroach.

He is here, He is not a stranger..

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 299-301). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

This is US!

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Because I love Zion, I will not keep still. Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent. I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn, and her salvation blazes like a burning torch. 2  The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the LORD’s own mouth. 3  The LORD will hold you in his hand for all to see— a splendid crown in the hand of God. 4  Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride. 5  Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. 6  O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the LORD. 7  Give the LORD no rest until he completes his work, until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth. Isaiah 62:1-7 (NLT2)

Let the orator expound on this topic, and one will see that faith is something omnipotent and that its power is inexpressible and infinite. It attributes glory to God, for whom nothing greater can be done. Moreover, to attribute glory to God is to consider God truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and almighty. In sum, it is to know God as the author and giver of all good. Faith does this, not reason. Faith fulfills the deity and, I might say, is the creator of divinity, not in the substance of God, but in us.3 For without faith God is for us diminished in glory, wisdom, righteousness, truthfulness, mercy, etc. That is, God has no majesty and divinity where there is no faith. Nor does God ask anything more from us than to attribute glory and divinity to God, that is, not to have God as an idol, but as one who has regard for us, listens, has mercy, helps, etc.

As I read the passage from Isaiah this morning, I thought about the description of God’s people. It is truly a glorious description, and yet, it seems so far from our reality.

For me seriously far.

To be honest, dealing with the brokenness is the world and in my world, somedays it does seem like we should be called desolate and forsaken. I am not sure God would say he delights in us, for how could he delight in churches that are more interested in fighting and arguing with the world and each other than in reflecting the glory of Christ to the world? How could He love a church that tolerates sin, and can even approve of sins that serve their purposes.

How can Isaiah be talking about us.?

Yet this is the reason God can’t keep still, this is the reason He can’t be quiet. This is His work, and it is why we praise Him and glorify Him. It is knowing that God is the source and provided of the healing that makes us good that leads us to worship. And that knowledge is not reasoned out, it can not be logically stated.

Logically, i could never state the vision Isaiah casts includes me, and I would think I am not the only one who struggles with this. Too many of us know our sin, or in some cases, have had it constantly pointed out in sermons, blogs, memes and people who condescendingly point them out to us. If not, our own guilt and shame crushes us, for we know who we are.

Or we think we do.

But faith takes hold of this simple truth that Luther points out, we have a God who has regard for us, who listens to us, reveals an impossible amount of mercy and love and heals us.

He cannot keep silent or still, Isaiah reminds us, He will heal us and hold us up, the people He loves, the example of the skill and care He puts into His creation. His beautiful, holy bride. God delights in us, and only faith can experience and understand this! Because the Holy Spirit reveals it to us, and gives us the ability to depend on GOd’s promise that it is true.

This is US, the people of God who Isaiah describes!

Lord, though we believe, help us when we struggle to believe. Help us to depend on Your promise, the description of our identity because of the work you do in us. Help us to realize that these promises are true now, as we dwell in Christ Jesus. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 162). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

A Chance to Relive OUR Deliverance! A sermon on Luke 8:36-39

A Chance to Relive our Deliverance
Luke 8:36-39

† I.H.S. †

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to go all through your community and tell them everything God has done for you!

A Map of our Journey

Today’s message is a little different than most of those I deliver.  I am going to take you on your life’s journey, seen through the eyes of the man who had been possessed not by just a demon, but whose life had been a plaything for thousands of them.

For most of us, such a journey is difficult, because, well I could joke and say it is because we are at Concordia, but because, as one philosopher once said, “life is suffering”  Or so it can seem!  Especially when Jesus seems like he’s moved on from us.

So let the journey begin.

The journey begins… alone and in darkness

Before we knew Christ, and even some days now, our lives seem like that of the man who found Jesus on the side of the lake.  We may not live among the gravestones, or actually be the property of a horde of demons, but our lives may have been as dark.

Sin can dominate and rule us as certainly as demons, and they aren’t afraid to haunt us with temptations that seek to ensnare us 

Like the man, in those dark days, we barely know anything except the emptiness.  We may feel quite distant from people, and though we love them, there is a grave disconnect, as if we aren’t sure they understand us, or “get” us. 

We might even hear their words of love and care as them trying to control us, to force us to change from who we are, for the brokenness we experience seems to be who we are.

When we are in bondage to sin, like when the man was haunted and owned by  demons, there is this sense of walking around in the fog, disconnected from the world.

Even God seems a bit hard to communicate with.

Did you ever notice Jesus doesn’t talk directly to him at first?  He addresses that which haunts him?

Joined on the Journey

On this broken journey, that is what happens next, we all of a sudden find ourselves standing in brilliant daylight, freed from what has hounded us, what has caused us to be disconnected, 

We are no longer alone, as the light sines from our partner in our journey, the one that makes it come alive. The brokenness seems, for the moment to be mending, and people notice as well, something is different in your life. 

Some may even be overwhelmed by the change, like the community where the man who the demons were forced to free were overwhelmed.  They didn’t know what to make of it, and were so afraid, they couldn’t adjust to the glory of God that was transforming this broken man’s life and making him whole and healthy.

No wonder all the man wanted to do was to sit at Jesus feet, to hear Him speak of the Father’s love, to dwell in the sweetness of the moment, to just enjoy the peace and freedom that is here.

I think that is why little kids love to come to this rail and just sit here… I know that is why here, at the altar, or even over on the side, hiding behind the pulpit is the place where I feel the most at home in the entire world.

It is so radically different from dwelling in darkness, hounded by sin and despair.

To just sit here and know, the Lord is with you, and that because Jesus has risen, so we are risen indeed!  ALLELUIA

He wants us to go where?  WHY?

It is then we hear the words of Jesus, as He leaves where He found us, and began our healing, and showed His love, and the life that His gives us, freed, forgiven, and healed/

We want to stay here, we never want to go without Him, and He says to us, as he did to the man, “No, go back to your family and tell them everything God has done for you!”

Uhm, Lord, if I walk away, what happens if the demons return?  What If I can’t handle it, and I fall into temptation and sin reaches out and gets me? 

I can imagine these things went through his mind.  Why?  Because they can go through my mind, when I forget the most important truth in my life, that the Lord Is with me.

Then there is the fear, if I was this man, I would phrase It this way.  “Lord, send me to anywhere, but please not back to the people that know me and my weakness so well. Not back to the people that rejected me, and who I have hurt.  I could come up with 1000 reasons, but the bottom line is that I would rather be here, in them moments to come.

I even wonder if Jesus wasn’t accepted by his family, why I would ever expect my family and my community to listen to me.

Even so, having delivered us from what oppressed us, and as He is healing us, He sends us out, to those who will recognize the change God has made in our lives, to those whom we know need what God has given us. And as we share what God has done in us, we realize the depth of His love even more, and we realize what it means that because He died on the cross, and rose from the dead, we have risen indeed, and were are given new life and the companionship of the Holy Spirit who resides in us.

The more we experience this love, the more we seek to share what God has done, and that is something we can share…. Reliving again and again what He has done, as we share these blessings… and are in awe of His love.

Let’s pray,

Heavenly Father, help us to realize the incredible done in our lives, help us to live our lives, among those whom You have sent us, sharing all the mind-blowing things You have done for us.  Help us to praise Your name while sharing it with those around us who need to escape their darkness.  We pray this in Jesus name.  AMEN!

God, You Showed Them!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

8  O LORD, our God, you answered your people; you showed them that you are a God who forgives, even though you punished them for their sins. 9  Praise the LORD our God, and worship at his sacred hill! The LORD our God is holy. Psalm 99:8-9 (TEV)

The temptation, for a seminarian or priest, to reduce Christ to an abstract idea is most destructive of the spiritual life. It leads to the loss of his own identity and prevents him from accomplishing his first and most important mission of leading the faithful in his care to a knowledge, love and service of Christ as He is alive for us in the Church.

The tempation that is descibed in Burke’s words above is quite real. Those who minister to others can spend so much time styudying Jesus, studying His word, that we can forget to interact with Him. That leads to our treating Him (and God the Father and Holy Spirit) like an abstact idea, something to study and observe from afar, something to comment on, much as an editorialist comments about the events and people of his day.

The result is our preaching becomes filled with illustrations and quotes, refering to what others tell us about Jesus. Their observations are far sharper, and sometimes we resonate with them, but don’t understand them. We resort to meme’s written by those whom we are told are “great thinkers.” Catachesis and discipleship become more about instruction than helping people see Jesus revealed to them, evangelism and apologetics become more about debate than sharing a journey,

And as Jesus becomes someone to be studied, what disappears is what Paul desired for people, what he described in this way to the believers in Ephesus,

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. Eph. 3:16-19

So how do we prevent this from happeneing? How do we realize Jesus is a person to talk to, and not just talk about? It is to see what He promised, that He is here, disciplining us when needed, but always ready to forgive, to show His mercy, to pour out His gifts of love upon us.

In our present journey thorugh Ezra Nehemiah, there is an incredible prayer, describing the journey of the people Israel. It mentions the times of blessing, and the times where God disciplined them, it is honest about their failure. But it isn’t a lecture, it is a prayer. We would do well to do the same, to consider how God’s been faithful to us, telling Him how we are greatful, and remembering in our rebellion and sin, how He was faithful to us.

I often do this while contemplating the incredible mystery in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, How Jesus comes again to us, and provides a feast celebrating our being forgiven and restored, of God’s revelation of His love for us, shown in the very Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for us.

He showed us, and we experience that love when we partake, eating and drinking His body and blood. He shows us, as prayer becomes more than a duty, but a deep conversation, as we hear His voice. Worship comes alive as we realize we participate in its dance, again celebrating the fact that He is here, with us.

And that changes everything in our lives. including our study of scripture as we desire to know more aobut the Lord who loves us, who interats with us.

Lord bless us with the conviction that You are with us, and as You are healing us, help us to know who you are drawing to Your side, and help us reveal to them Your incredible love, mercy and presence in their lives. AMEN!



Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 144). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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