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Don’t Confuse Church with Heaven…

Thoughts to urge you closer to Jesus… and to adore Him!

6  I am quite confident that the One who began a good work in you will go on completing it until the Day of Jesus Christ comes. Philippians 1:6 (NJB)

They dream of a church as righteous as Adam was in paradise, though the wrath of God was revealed from heaven against him when God said, ‘Adam, you may eat of every fruit, but if you eat of this tree you shall die.’

The Eucharist received in Holy Communion awakens us to the permanent presence of Christ within us at the deepest level. The Eucharist, like the Word of God in Scripture, has as its primary purpose to bring us to the awareness of God’s abiding presence within us.…

There are times where being a part of a church is overwhelming.

It might be because of conflict.

It might be because people have expectations that they place on the church, but not on themselves as part of the church.

It might simply be because of too much truama.

Simply put, church is not heaven on earth. We might want it to be perfect, we may think it should be, we will get angry when it is not heaven on earth, when people in it disappoint us, and even hurt us.

People may think churches are built on holy ground – and I will argue they are! But that doesn’t mean everything that happens within it is holy and perfect. For sinners in need of grace find a place there, and God begins His work in someone’s life, as the church is gathered together, and shares in the words of God, and the sacraments through which He pours out His love.

Keating is right – church is where God reveals Himself to His people, especially through the Eucharist! He is here as God’s people are gathered – whether in stately cathedrals, simple wooden buildings, caves, or at the local starbucks.

But Luther is also correct – in this midst of these groups, there is sin, and sin that God must purge or punish, cleanse or condemn. ANd sin means people get disappointed, hurt, betrayed. They fail and yes, they sin.

Here is why – the work of sanctification happens there – as God continues His work – and will continue it, until we are are completed when Jesus returns. That means there is always work going on, sins being confronted and cleansed, reconciliations occuring where there was only brokenness, life becoming real and glorious, even as evil is dealt with, and people who are muddied with sin being cleansed. If these things aren’t happening in a church, it isn’t the church.

Church isn’t heaven…. but it is the place where we see glimpses of it, as we see God at work. It’s full of broken people – and that can be frustrating – and even depressing – and it can even break you. But it is also where you heal, where you find God at work, where you find hope and rest..

So keep looking to what He is doing – and become part of it…. and be patient with His work, and not dismayed that it is needed. In fact, rejoice as you see it being accomplished – for it means God is at work…. around you and in you. And He will complete it!


Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 54. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

Hope for the hypocritical… (that means you and me)

Thoughts to Encourare us to Love Jesus

The chief priests took the silver and said, “It’s not permittedh to put it into the temple treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 They conferred together and bought the potter’s field with it as a burial place for foreigners. 8 Therefore that field has been called “Field of Blood” to this day. 9 Then what was spoken through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: They tookC the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him whose price was set by the Israelites, 10 and they gaveD them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me. Matthew 27-6-10 CSB

But don’t forget that we are not the source of this light: we only reflect it. It is not we who save souls and move them to do good. We are quite simply instruments, some more, some less worthy, for fulfilling God’s plans for salvation. If at any time we were to think that we ourselves are the authors of the good we do, then our pride would return, more twisted than ever. The salt would lose its flavor, the leaven would rot, and the light would turn to darkness.

They were the chosen ones, the religious leaders of the day, set apart to point people to God, to assure them of the forgiveness of sin. Blessed by God, for the good of the people, they still sinned, as was evident not only in giving Judas the 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus, but by refusing to put the same money back where it came, labelling it sin money. We maybe thinking – what a bunch of zealous hypocrites… and we would be correct, well, mostly correct. Even in their hypocrisy, they served the poor and disenfranchised, creating a place where those deceased could be laid to rest.

He was one of the elite, on the the 12 disciples who was sent out to preach, to heal to cast out demons, and he did. But he couldn’t cast out his own . Most would account him amonf the most evil in scripture, forgetting that he did preach the word effectively.

And in judging the the priests and Judas, we show our own twistedness, our own evil.

St. Josemaria mentions the paradox – the more we credit ourselves with being holy and righteous, with doing our best, the more our pride pushes aside the work God is doing, the more we return towards the darkness we endured without Jesus. The Apostle Paul struggled with this as much as we do, read Romans 7.

For it is never our work that counts, but the work of the Holy Spirit within us that brings otheres to know Jesus, that helps them understand their forgiveness, that helps them rejoice in God’s presence.

And here is the amazing thing, that even when we deal with our brokenness, God is there, working tthrough us still. Even as He ministered to the poor and aliens with the money from the betrayal – as they fulfilled and ancient prophesy. So when we are drawn back to where we belong in Jesus, we find the work of God, and can be amazed.

This is the blessing of knowing Jesus…of living blessed, as we grasp the dimensions of His love, mercy and grace. To realize the depth of the promise that all things work for good, for those who love God and are called according to HIs desire.

You are one of those… if dwelling in the light – praise Him for His love, which courses through you. I sliding back into the darkness, if feeling guilty of you hypocrisy and betraying God, come and be healed again.

The Lord God is with you!

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Do I Know the Difference Between “Them”?

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on

Devotional THought of the Day:

19  My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20  let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (CSBBible)

20  So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT2)

To the church in the proper sense of the term belongs no wicked person, no hypocrite, no unregenerate, no heretic.
Scripture Proof
Thus writes St. Paul (Rom. 8:9): “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Whoever does not belong to Christ is not a member of the true church, which is His spiritual body.
So also writes John in 1 John 2:19 of the hypocrites who finally also left the fellowship of the church outwardly: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”
Again our Lord says (John 15:6): “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered.”

Walther groups together a bunch of passages, passages I have often heard used to ostracie people, to justy why the church gave up on “them.” Especially when “they” are on the other end of a spectrum in regard this this disagreement, or that one. They are the one’s that are not His, they are not with us, so we should cast them out…

And yet James calls us to retore our brothers and sisters who are straying, are these not the same people? Paul gives us the example of pleading with people to come back to God….

So how do I know who to write off, and who who to plead with? Who I should just shake the dust off my feet and walk away from, and who to invest time in prayer, and in working with them, so that they can see God’s mercy.

How do I know the difference? How do I make the choice?

How do I apply Walther’s Theological Treatise in a pastoral manner, and teach my people to do the same, as we together try to imitate Christ Jesus. How is my pastoral practice accurate theologically?

Or do I just make it simple and write everyone off, as is tempting some day!? (just kidding – what I meant was write everyone off but you, dear reader!)

I think that Walther’s point is not pragmatic for the moment. It is a general overarching comment that looks at things eternally, as God judges people on Judgement Day. Until that point, God is patient with them, not wanting even one of them to perish. We have to leave the doors open for them, we need to keep praying for God’s mercy for them, we need to be there, and to let them know we will be there, when they need, to point them back to Jesus.

It isn’t our call to determine who is part of the true church and who will never be. Our challenge is much simpler – to cry out to everyone, Be reconciled to God.

Remember you dwell in God’s peace as you are there for them… and they for you!

C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 34.

Churches that are full of sinners… can be a great blessing to you!

Devotional thought of the day….

 15  This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16  But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT)

What compassion you feel for them!… You would like to cry out to them that they are wasting their time… Why are they so blind, and why can’t they perceive what you—a miserable creature—have seen? Why don’t they go for the best? Pray and humble (original mortify)  yourself. Then you have the duty to wake them up, one by one, explaining to them—also one by one—that they, like you, can find a divine way, without leaving the place they occupy in society. 

Yes, I know, churches are full of hypocrites and sinners – spectacular and plain.  Some of the most obvious are those that are at the microphone – the pastors/priests, the worship directors, the singers, and those guys that make announcements.

Some people have used this as an excuse to not go to church – they don’t want to affiliate with a low life sinner like me.  And that is with only partial knowledge.  Only God knows exactly how sinful I can get… even I can’t calculate that.

It may sound odd — but the fact that you can recognize me, a pastor, as a sinner is a good thing.  Because if you combine that with the fact that God has promised that my sin won’t count against me, that what i’ve done, ans said and thought isn’t beyond forgiveness, that means  that your forgiveness is as assured.  Look at it this way, the greatest leader of God’s people in the Old Testament was David.  An adulterer, a murder, a politiician who used his office to be able to do all these sins- and as God worked in David’s life, David became a man know as a man after God’s own heart.   This was God’s work in him.   (side note – that we are such doesn’t justify our continuing to sin)

If God can work with that kind of material, God can work with you – and this is God’s desire.  It is what God wants.  If God can initaite  a relationship and wanted to reveal Himself to a murderous pharisee like Paul – He can do the same with you – and desires to do exactly that.

The same thing – if the guy in the pulpit, if the people surrounding you as you sit in the pew are sinners, and we all are, then this is the place where you belong.  For if God can call us saints, if He calls us, despite our scars His children.  Then you know He will accept you to, that He will adopt you as well.  That He will, through word and sacrament, bring healing to your brokenness, and peace to your soul.

A church full of sinners and hypocrites – that’s my kind of place.  Come and join us…please?

English: The Last Supper of Jesus Christ

English: The Last Supper of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 974-978). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Charity (love) and being discipled/trained to love as Christ?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

“Loving souls for God’s sake will make us love everyone: understanding, excusing, forgiving… We should have a love that can cover the multitude of failings contrived by human wretchedness. We have to have a wonderful charity, veritatem facientes in caritate, defending the truth, without hurting anyone.” (1)

As I hear people talk about the lack of need in their spiritual life for “church”, I grieve for them, and for the church.  It is a loss for both, for we were not meant to have an “individual” relationship with God – and more than the Trinity has relationship apart from the entire Trinity.  We are meant to abide in Christ as a family, a body, a group called out together.  The people of God, since Adam and Eve were meant to be in community, as they walked through the Sinai, as the encamped around the tabernacle, as they rejoiced at the Temple – offering sacrifices and celebrating the putting off of their sin – together.

Yesterday I wrote about restoring the word “charity” as it helps us focus the nature of the love (which is a synonym of charity when its the highest form of love) and today’s comment from my devotions likewise uses the word.  (Surprise!)  As I noted then – charity is not about giving our cast-offs – our no-longer used, or giving from our abundance – it is just the opposite – its giving from our need – to care for those we are called to love. (not just those we decide to love – there is a big difference)   The relationship between the people of God is supposed to amaze others – and extend out from the church… to bring the world into it.

The church then – as a body is the tool which God uses to demonstrate how to love in such a complete, even sacrificial way.  For indeed, He demonstrates such charity/love towards us, as He graciously cleanses us, heals our souls (and yes sometimes our bodies) as He marks us as His children, as He gives us new life, (see Titus 3).

He does call us to then love others, even as He loves us… that’s charity – and the church is a great training ground.  For some of us are harder to love, some are indeed great challenges.  And there are a multitude of failings, which need to be corrected with discipline, even as we do it in love.   This isn’t easy – and yet – as we learn to do it in safety, with the other brothers and sisters in Christ, we find ourselves showing such love/charity to those in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our very lives.  Let me put it bluntly – the church isn’t a place where every one is easy to love – because we are a bunch of hypocrites and sinners. But then – it is the ability to love even these, that God demonstrated in Christ, and desires us to show as well.  God had St. John explain it this way…..

16 And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17 Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18 There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21 The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.  1 John 4:16-21 (TEV) 

The people at your church such as you struggle to love them?  Rejoice – you have some wondrous opportunities to depend on God, and to see Him work through you ahead!

ANd remember – you can always cry out….

Lord Have Mercy!

Be assured that He does!


(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2099-2102). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Deliver us, from our complaining and judging!

Devotional thought of the day:

5:9 Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. 10 For your example, brothers, in patiently putting up with persecution, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name; 11 remember it is those who had perseverance that we say are the blessed ones. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and understood the Lord’s purpose, realising that the Lord is kind and compassionate.
James 5:9-11 (NJB)

In my devotion today ( i read some scripture – and then one of several devotional books) I came across this quote:

“Many false apostles, in spite of themselves, do good to the masses, to the people, through the very power of the doctrine of Jesus which they preach—even though they don’t practice it.

But this good does not compensate for the enormous and very real harm they do by killing the souls of leaders, of apostles, who turn away in disgust from those who don’t practice what they preach.

That’s why such men and women, if they are not willing to live an upright life, should never push themselves”forward as leaders. “(Escriva, Josemaria . The Way (Kindle Locations 1024-1028). Scepter Publishers.

I have to confess, I have my own list of such false prophets, men who do preach Christ crucified that people come to know the love of God, but then whose lives are filled with things that don’t quite resemble the God-man who gave up heaven to come down and live humbly among us and die, that we might live.  Or those that encourage us to try and obey God, and then call for the stoning of those who don’t live up to the expectations they have placed on others.  Such hypocrites (the greek for judge is krites btw) do, as Escriva points out – cause much damage – even as God uses what they planned for evil, for good.  (see Gen. 50:20 for the first time someone planned evil and God used it to bless others- the cross is another example)

To me it is amazing that God can and does use their words to bless people.  But hear Paul’s words about this:

1:15 It is true that some of them are preaching Christ out of malice and rivalry; but there are many as well whose intentions are good; 16 some are doing it out of love, knowing that I remain firm in my defence of the gospel. 17 There are others who are proclaiming Christ out of jealousy, not in sincerity but meaning to add to the weight of my chains. 18 But what does it matter? Only that in both ways, whether with false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and for that I am happy; [19a] and I shall go on being happy, too,
Philippians 1:15-18 (NJB)

What really begins to get me – is when I realize – that when I condemn those I consider hypocritical, i am acting exactly as St. Escriva describes.  That is, my judgment and condemnation simply is living very inconsistently with the message I preach – for I proclaim clearly that the hope of sinners is found in Jesus’ love, in His cleansing them, and that there is hope.  Yet when I condemn these men, (not just warning them, or warning others to stay away from them and why) when I bitterly judge them, when I gossip about them, or even compromise and do not confront them (if such is my responsibility) then I have become the kind of pastor I loathe most.   It was once said that we need to preach about real sin – not the sin of those unlike me, but the sins that assault and tempt me and mine.  And condemning those who preach and are hypocritical – in a way different than mine, doesn’t bring healing of my own sin-wracked life.

It is then, i need to hear what every hypocrite does – what every false prophet does.  That there is no reason to delay our repentance, that God is willing to forgive and does.  Then, refreshed by His forgiveness, encouraged by His love – we can return to preaching about Him, and living in Him.  ANd perhaps, knowing my own hypocritical nature is forgiven, I can help others find that same forgiveness,… and peace!

“Lord Have mercy!” we cry!  To our great relief, even as we cry it, we realize He promised to… and has!

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