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Are You Tired? Wondering if you are on the right road?

Devotional Thought for the Year:

You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. 4  I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe. Psalm 23:3b-4 (CEV)

I love to speak of paths and ways, because we are travelers, journeying to our home in heaven, our Father’s land. But don’t forget that, though a path may have some particularly difficult stretches, and may occasionally involve wading across a river or passing through an almost impenetrable wood, as a rule it will be quite passable and hold no surprises for us. The danger lies in routine, in imagining that God cannot be here, in the things of each instant, because they are so simple and ordinary!

I am tired.

In the last year, almost 10 percent of my congregation passed away. Not one from Covid. And that was only a small part of the trauma my people endured…

This year seems to be competitive so far. Yesterday, I received news of a mentor whose health is failing. Then, a message that a staff member’s sister is in ICU after a drunk hit her head-on. I was with my mom, who had a procedure that confirmed another complicated procedure is needed. Four other people with other serious health issues came to my attention.

I am tired.

Did I say that?

If I am honest, there are days I wonder if I am on the right path. One of my elders joked that we change the church’s name so that trouble and trauma would have a more challenging time finding us. I wonder what I had done, which caused all this mess and all this trauma. Am I the bad luck charm that causes all the trauma, all the stress, the crap that invades the world around us?

This path that St. Josemaria mentioned is one that is one that has particularly difficult stretches. It seems that we are going through such a time right now. Like the forests in a Tolkein novel, the forest seems impenetrable, the dark valleys where things that terrify surround us. ( I think those show up in his novels because he endured them as he journeyed with Jesus.)

It is those dark valleys that David walked through that caused Psalm 23 to be written. The CEV translation broke the sentences a little differently, which hit me this morning. For before and after the mention of those dark valleys, there is the assurance of the presence of God. Hie leading, His protection, His PRESENCE.

Amid the weariness, hearing this is so needed. St. Josemaria notes that danger is found when we imagine God is not there… that He is not in each instant. I know that, but I need to hear it as well.

He is here… HE IS HERE!

Realizing that I can find the rest I need, even if it is only for a moment in a praise song, in a word that reminds me of His love, His mercy, His presence.

When we realize that, our weariness changes form. It changes, no longer communicated by groans, to that with sighs of peace For we know the hope created by our destination; and we know Who it is to guide us on the journey.

Be still, find your rest in Jesus, with whom we have died at the cross so that we are raised in His glory and peace.

If you don’t understand this, please give me a call – or drop me a message. These days, this forest is too challenging to take on, on your own.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 149). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition. (taken from Friends of God by St Josemaria Escriva , p 313-314)

“Lord, I can’t do this anymore” and other prayers the prevent burnout

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15  May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16  Let that man be like the cities the Lord demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17  because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18  Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame? Jeremiah 20:14-18 (CSBBible)

It can’t be otherwise. It’s annoying when one has the best of intentions but things don’t turn out well. Surely this is murmuring. I do the same, and I can’t banish the thought from my mind when I wish that I had never started [this business].88 So likewise when I wish I were dead rather than witness such contempt [for the Word of God and his faithful servants].89 Accordingly it is only speculative theologians who condemn such impatience and recommend patience. If they get down to the realm of practice, they will be aware of this. Cases of this kind are exceedingly important. One should not dispute about them in a speculative way.

14         “It’s very difficult”, you exclaim, disheartened. Listen, if you make an effort, with the grace of God that is enough. Put your own interests to one side, you will serve others for God, and you will come to the aid of the Church in the field where the battles are being fought today: in the street, in the factory, in the workshop, in the university, in the office, in your own surroundings, amongst your family and friends.

I resonate with Luther’s words in purple far more than I want to admit. When he questions his very life because of what he observed, his writings hit hard to things I dare not admit. (for friends readings this – not today)

He’s not the only one – Jeremiah 20:7 is a favorite passage, and has been for over 30 years. Yet, only over the last decade have I learned to give voice to that without feeling guilty and ashamed.

It is good to know at least Jeremiah and Martin Luther understand this – and were able to give voice to it… and still trust in God.

You see, it takes more faith to pray in this way, to be this honest, this transparent. To depend on God to be with us in the places where we are exhausted, the places we don’t have the answers, or the answers are not pleasant to consider. The points where God calls us to action in the ways we can’t imagine.

Once we give voice to it, once you’ve come to trust God in that moment, then the wisdom of Escriva’s comments make sense. Depending on that grace, we find the abiltity to set aside our own pain, and minister to those around us.

This isnt to deny it, but to trust God with it. Embrancing and moving past it, we find those scars a critical element in our ability to serve, in our ability to praise God.

Jeremiah would do that – continuing his prophetic ministry through the rest of this book and Lamentations as well. Luther would move forward in minsitry, even more resolved to help people understand the grace of God. He would come to the point of taking action, finding it was the time for impatience, not patience. It was time to act, knowing the presence of God meant He would be sustained.

That’s the key in these things – find your refuge in Jesus…find your rest in Him and you will find yourself ministering to others.

That is the miracle and the paradox….

That is walking with Jesus.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 30–31.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 294-298). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Where is the Church, When it Matters?

The Church, stands as darkness is shattered

Devotional Thought of the Day:
18  “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19  The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20  The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22  The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23  The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Matthew 13:18-23 (NLT2)

Ambrose: “There is the church of God in which God reveals Himself and speaks with His servants”

We place a piece of iron in a fire and blow up the coals. At first we have two distinct substances, iron and fire. When we insert the iron in the fire we achieve the penetration of the iron and we have not only the iron in the fire but the fire in the iron as well.… Two distinct substances … have co-mingled and interpenetrated to a point where the two have become one.
In some such manner does the Holy Spirit penetrate our spirits. In the whole experience we remain our very selves. There is no destruction of substance. Each remains a separate being as before; the difference is that now the Spirit penetrates and fills our personalities and we are experientially one with God.

This is precisely what Jesus does when he comes to a soul in the Holy Communion. He sees that she is a wall too weak to be able to resist the assaults of hell; therefore, by the virtue of the sacrament, he fortifies her with bulwarks of silver, that is, with his divine light. He sees that she is a door inclined easily to be corrupted, and he renews it, adjusting her with planks of strength and perseverance, as is signified by cedar, which is a strong and incorruptible wood; that is, with the gifts of holy fear, with detachment from creatures, with the love of prayer, with supplications, with holy desires, and still more with the gift of divine love, which are the support of holy perseverance: Bread strengthens man’s heart

As I’ve looked at the events of not just the last few days, but the last year, I keep on struggling with a question. “Where is the church in all of this?”

I know God’s there; if I didn’t, the little hope that remains would be gone, and life would be without any meaning.

But where is the church? Where are the people that are focused on God?  Where are the people to whom He reveals Himself? Where are the ones who hear His voice and are in dialogue with Him?

I hear many monologues from pastors and other Christians.  They speak from both sides of the political spectrum, eager to cast judgment on those whose sins are simply more visible than their own. Some of them have even “switched sides,” echoing the word they challenged 6 months ago and cast judgment on their former ways. The amount of angst they are dealing with leads them to speak out of that pain, that emptiness, and I do not fault them for it.

The answer will come in the way Tozer pictures when we are iron glow as the fire of the Holy Spirit penetrates our spirit. When the Holy Spirit tempers and forges, purifies, and marks us.

de Ligouri uses the illustrations of the wall and the door. We are too weak to resist the assaults of hell; we are even challenged by the assaults of our times. This is where we are at, this brokenness that only God can address.

We need to become like the ground prepared for the seed, that has seen enough fertilizer that has been tilled and turned over, that the word of God can dwell in us richly. That will allow us to detach from that which offers no support and cling to Christ and the hope offered by Him. That seeks Him out, finding how He reveals Himself through His word and through the Sacraments. This is how He has always revealed Himself to His people. God always speaks to them. He always infuses them and prepared them, even as He has prepared us and walks in us through these days.

And at this time, we need to encourage that to happen. We need to pray for each other, as Paul did…

19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)

Here is the answer to where the church is, where it must be in these times. The church, you and I, must be in the presence of God, in awe of His love and mercy, for then it will bear fruit from its broken, tilled and fertilized ground.

Lord, in this time, before we speak our peace, before we react, help us return to You, and find refuge and sanctuary there. Help us see You revealed, and give us the patience ot hear Your voice. Even as we do Lord, be at work in us, healing those who are likewise broken, and drawing them to dwell with us, in Your glory. AMEN!

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), 75.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 96–97.

How Should the Church Position Itself in These Days?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

And today the LORD has affirmed that you are his own possession as he promised you, that you are to keep all his commands, 19 that he will elevate you to praise, fame, and glory above all the nations he has made, and that you will be a holy people to the LORD your God as he promised.” Deuteronomy 26:18-19 CSB

27 The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 (CSB)

We will never be where we ought to be until we go back to those old paths and learn to find God. [Then] we will cease to be bored with God.…[W]e will center our affections upon God and Christ … and become specialists and experts in the realm of the spiritual life.
It is amazing how little outside stimulus we need if we have that inward stimulus. It is amazing how much God will meet our needs. It will not be God and something else. It will be God everything.

My soul, why art thou so timid and fearful at the sight of the goodness and infinite love of thy Lord? why such distrust? Now that thou art made worthy to receive within thee Jesus Christ, let thy sentiments correspond to this grace, by confiding in that goodness of God, who gives thee all himself. Truly his judgments are terrible, but they are terrible only to the proud and to the obstinate; but to the humble and penitent, who desire to love and please him, his judgments are all mercy and love, emanating from a heart full of compassion and kindness.

Tozer’s words struck me this morning.

There is a lot of talk about how the church needs to position itself, what it needs to do to survive and grow in these days of crisis.

I think Tozer is on to something in these words. What are the old paths where God was found? He wrote this not long after the time some think was the “golden age” of the church in America – the 1950’s, so he didn’t mean then.

There have been similar calls throughout history: Barton Stone, John Smith, and Alexander and Thomas Campbell in the 1800s. The work of the Wesley’s before that. Luther and some in the Counter-Reformation. Francis, Augustine, and Anthony, and Athanasius. All sought God and turned ot the times when people did walk with Him.

The time of the gospels, the time of Acts. The good times in Jewish history. The places where they found “the God of Old.” The God who didn’t have to be searched for long, for He made himself apparent to His people.

The times where He comforted them. The times where He rescued them from enemies, or the times He rescued them from idolatry. The times the Lord confronted their sin and healed them of it.

We need to come across, in our own words, the feelings de Ligouri speaks of, where we see God’s compassion and kindness.

This is a time where humility is the only option. We don’t know which doctors to believe; we don’t know which politicians or news media to believe. The pressures caused by trauma are becoming more and more intense.

There is one place the church needs to position itself in this time. In the arms of God, in His presence, for He is our Fortress, our refuge, our strength. We need to find those altars where He has placed His name, where He feeds His people His Body and Blood. The altars from which the declaration that our sin is forgiven comes.

That is what makes us the church… let’s get back to it.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 85–86.

The Vision of Joy! A sermon on Isaiah

The Vision of Joy
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11


Jesus, Son, and Savior

May you enjoy the grace and glory of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

What was Going Through His Mind?

The Old Testament Reading this morning was the basis for a sermon before. In fact, the sermon was one of the shortest sermons in history.

It is recording in Luke’s gospel, chapter 4.  And after reading the first two verses from Isaiah, the preacher said this,

“The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Luke 4:17-21 (NLT2)

I would have thought this would have caused great joy… but it did not that day.  They decided to kill the person who read the passage from Isaiah….who dared to give them a Vision of Joy…

I wonder what was going through Jesus’ mind as He looked forward to that sermon, knowing the joy that He set before Him. Was there a massive smile on His face, knowing He came to do was now, finally going to happen?

Imagine if a scientist had to break the news that he had discovered a simple, easy cure for COVID.  Imagine the smile he would have on his face as he approached the microphone that all the challenges it has caused were over!

Yeah, what Jesus had come to do… was a billion times better.

And I get to show you that today!

What He Had Observed

Consider what God looked down upon, that Isiah describes,

There were the poor,
There were those whose hearts were shattered
There were people who could not leave the horrid situation they found themselves in…
There were people who lived, prisoners of their own choices, of their own sin, which was crushing them.
There were people mourning,
There were people in despair,
There were people living in lives lived in ruins

Sounds like 2020, doesn’t it?

One of the points we have to understand is that when we are crushed like in this time, by what is going on around us and what is going on inside us, God knows…

That is why the Apostle Paul says,

8  We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT2)

Been there, done that.

And then I forget it and start the process all over.

I need to hear Jesus calling; I need to hear Him describe what He will do again.

The Vision of what was coming

Usually, I focus on the bringing good news, the comforting the brokenhearted, the release of those locked in and the freeing for those imprisoned, and the other ways our salvation is shown.

But today, I want to look at a specific one of the changes that happen because Jesus said that this prophecy is full.

Everyone will realize that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” 10  I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me in the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.


This is the greatest thing ever.

To realize that we are the people the Lord has blessed! What an incredible realization –  we are the people the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, has blessed! 

Even more than that – look at the excitement of Jesus’s words,


He’s overwhelmed with joy because of what God the Father has caused to happen.


Jesus is as happy as the groom; he awaits the wedding and life that is to come with his bride.

Kevin – you are the most recent groom around here… how did you feel in the moments before the doors opened, and you saw Susan there? 

That is how Jesus felt as He preached that day… as the relationship that He had been waiting for since the worlds were created through Him finally was here.

No wonder Jesus was looking forward to the crucifixion for the joy set before him

As he was handed the scroll..the anticipation began to build, as He red the words, oh my the joy that began to spread, and continued to, until that point, when nailed to the cross, Jesus would say…

It is done… it is finished …..

the same thing that he said that day in Galilee….will be said at the cross. 

And He says that to us today… today hear the good news, you are free from whatever crushes you, for you can see God, and you are free and blessed, for He is your God. It is done this day – to you.

Rejoice! He is your God, the God who blesses you… Today, He has done this… AMEN!

Evangelism and the Toboggan Tape…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
18  You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19  When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20  For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:18-20 (NLT2)

For a Christian apostolate is something instinctive. It is not something added onto his daily activities and his professional work from the outside. I have repeated it constantly, since the day that our Lord chose for the foundation of Opus Dei! We have to sanctify our ordinary work, we have to sanctify others through the exercise of the particular profession that is proper to each of us, in our own particular state in life. . . . We have to act in such a way that others will be able to say, when they meet us: this man is a Christian, because he does not hate, because he is willing to understand, because he is not a fanatic, because he is willing to make sacrifices, because he shows that he is a man of peace, because he knows how to love.9

There is a great modern error which I want to mention: it is that the coming of the Spirit happened once for all, that the individual Christian is not affected by it.… This error asserts that the coming of the Holy Spirit is an historic thing, an advance in the dispensational workings of God; but that it is all settled now and we need give no further thought to it. It is all here and we have it all, and if we believe in Christ that is it, and there isn’t anything more.…

Somewhere in New Hampshire there is a cassette tape that would bring a smile to the baddest of Scrooges, that would make a Grinch chuckle uncontrollably. And it is the perfect illustration of Evangelism.

I may have been 5, my brother 7? When we descended the stairs on Christmas morning, there were the usual stockings filled with lifesavers books and other things. New underwear, new socks, a new shirt or two. But there were two special gifts that we had to share. A Radio Shack cassette recorder and the TOBOGGAN!!!

The first thing we were to record was what we got for Christmas. My mom wanted us to record our gifts, beore we tested the big gift out. So I started that. I would mention the lifesavers, and Steve would yell – and a Tobaggon, I say new pajamas, and a TOBOGGAN, a new hot wheels car, and A TOBOGGAN. This went on for 10-15 minutes, with TOBOGGAN becoming a comma, but louder and louder each time.

So excited was my brother about going out on the Tobaggon, that it was all he could think of! ( I knew who would be dragging it back up the hill each time… so I was excited, but I wasn’t as excited!)

Our mission, our apostolate has to become like my brother’s determination to mention the Tobaggon as the greatest of gifts he had ever received! (Uhm … Steve – it was given to us, by the way!) We have to be that excited, that we just tell people about the Lord who has come to us,

That is the impact of the Spirit (when we aren’t theologically quenching Him) as He works in our life. Showing us a fortaste of the glory of God in which we shall share, comforting us, making all things work for good for those in love with God, because we know He loves us.

That is why we don’t have to worry, because we have been so aware of the presence of God, the words come right out, as we share with people the reason we have hope – because of the love of God… because He loves US?!!!! How amazing is that?

We are as enamored with His love, as a child is with Christmas presents. The way to do this is simple, compare what life is like without Jesus to what it is now> Now you are assured your sins are forgiven, that you are no longer broken and alone, and that eternity, celebrating with God is coming…

Hear the Spirit, open your eyes and see what the scriptures reveal to youabout Jesus and you!

And may you truly be as excited about His gift, as a child receiving a tobaggon!

Quoted from Escriva, Josemaria, Christ is Passing By, in Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 109). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

How Do I Know the Difference Between “Them”?

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

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)

THESIS II
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.

Does the Church Still Think This Way? Should it?

If it be Thy Will…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:
For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22  Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23  I am torn between the two. I long to depart and be with Christ — which is far better — 24  but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25  Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26  so that, because of my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound. Philippians 1:21-26 (CSBBible)

Self-denial consists in the voluntary renunciation of every thing which is inconsistent with the glory of God and highest good of our fellow men.

Thus Luther writes: “Christians are a special, called people and are denominated not merely ecclesia, church or assembly, but sancta, catholica, Christiana, that is, a Christian holy people that believes in Christ, for which reason it is named a Christian people and has the Holy Spirit who sanctifies it daily, not only through the forgiveness of sins (as the Antinomians2 foolishly assert), but also through the putting away, purging, and destroying of sins, wherefore it is called a holy people.

The mission necessarily puts us in contact with the cross of Christ. This is the sign that the mission is in accordance with the Spirit of God. It is only by “dying” to everything else that we understand what we are asked to do and thus discover the right ways to do it. “I can assure you that if the grain of wheat that falls to the ground does not die, it remains alone; but if it dies it gives much fruit” (Jn 12:24).

As a Lutheran pastor, I often talk about the people of God, being drawn to the cross. We are cruficied there with Christ, as we are united to His death and resurreciton.

But there is something there that happens, a transformation that I am not sure we talk about enough. For if we did, and if we depended on the work of the Holy Spirit, how different would the world look?

What if we were only concerned about this life, because it was necessary for the sake of others? What impact would we have if we were far more invested and desiring eternitym than being concerned about out rights, and our happiness. We are called to imitate Jesus, but somehow He’s been replaced by Narcisus. And we are enslaved by temptations that cater to our pleasure, to our preferences, to our theories of how life should be.

Our only hope is found in the work of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit circucises our hearts, purging from us that which is not of God. This is done as we are drawn to the cross, and crucified with Christ. That is why St. Paul writes, 13  For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” Romans 8:13 (NLT2)

This is what the church needs today, people compelled by the Holy Spirit to choose to live, not for its own sake, but for others, all the while looking forward to the day when we see our Lord face to face. We need to be freed from Narcissis, and be found in Christ. Thank God, that move is not up to our will andability, but is found simply depending on Jesus.

This is where we need to be…crucified with Christ.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

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), 30.

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), 366.

Where is Jesus in THIS Scripture?

Do we realize God’s attitude toward us?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26  Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? 27  Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. 28   They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt. 29  When Reuben went back to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not in it, he tore his clothes, 30  and returning to his brothers, he exclaimed: “The boy is gone! And I–where can I turn?” 31  They took Joseph’s tunic, and after slaughtering a goat, dipped the tunic in its blood. 32  Then they sent someone to bring the long tunic to their father, with the message: “We found this. See whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” Genesis 37:26-32 (NAB)

As I was working through my devotional reading this morning, I was thinking of Luther’s claim that Jesus, and the Gospel is on every page of scripture. You see above part of my reading for this morning, and I tried to see if I could see Him there…

And I did, and obscure vision of Him for sure, the kind that lends itself to Luther’s explanation that people worship God, but fail in that they do not know God’s attitude toward them.

The brothers sinned against Joseph. No doubt about that, and if their father found out, they would lose everything. Perhaps they sold him because they thought their father would love them more if he was not around. Maybe they were just tired of his getting the best of everything. Maybe his visions, shared in a condescending way, were just to much. So they stole his life from him, or at least they tried.

In trying to deal with the consequences of their sin, they chose to cover it up, to conceal it, to hide it from their Father. So they killed an animal, and its blood was what concealed their sin. It meant the Father would never, ever find out what they did, and they could find a way to live with the other guilt, if they felt any at all.

Of course it didn’t work! They would eventually be found out, they would eventually bow to their brother, and dad would find out what they did….

But they had an idea, that the shedding of blood could cover their sins…

And in that we see Jesus in this passage. His blood, shed to cover sins, cleanses, not just covers. The writer of Hebrews explains,

“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, 14  how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” Hebrews 9:13-14 (NAB)

If only they had understood God’s attitude toward them! If only they had known their heavenly Father would not only provide the forgiveness, but arrange for the resonciliation with Joseph, and with their dad, Israel. If only they had know how much God longed for them to not dwell in sin and its companions, guilt and shame. They almost had it… if only they had realized the blood that would do what they needed.

God would free them, just as He frees us…as He reveals His glory, that is His love and mercy, that are active in our lives, right now, today, even as you are reading this….

Heavenly Father, help us see and experience Your love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus. Help us to know we don’t need to cover up our sin, we don’t need a scapegoat, we don’t need to throw someone else under the bus… for You are with us. AMEN!

Have You Tried Talking WITH Him?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD. Gen. 4:26b

Once the Holy Spirit’s work in our heart begins, grace, forgiveness, cleansing take on a form of almost bodily clearness.
Prayer loses its unmeaning quality and becomes a sweet conversation with Someone actually there. Love for God and for the children of God takes possession of the soul. We feel ourselves near to heaven and it is now the earth and the world that begin to seem unreal.…

Doing some reading for a class I am taking, there was a comment that the number one of the thing pastors can do to sustain good ministry is to engage in regular spiritual discipline. (the Lilly Foundation was credited)

It should be common sense, if our goal is to connect people to God, to help them encounter and experience His love, we need to engaged in that dialogue with Him. That is the sweet conversation Tozer describes, what gives meaning to actual prayer. Without the confidence that God is listening, prayer is simply the recitation of words, a philosophical incantation done ot offer a placebo.

But because the Holy Spirit is there, teaching us to call on God… everything changes.

To deny this, or to neglect it, is tragic, for how can we neglect hat God has created, the ability to talk with Him, as was given in the earliest days, as God gave to men and women the ability to talk with HIm directly.

Luther would note this too, as he explains in the large catechism about prayer. It is part of our lives, not just and after thought. ( I highly suggest reading this!)

The other point Tozer made is based on the reality that is expressed in Colossians 3, “For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3 (NLT2) Prayer helps us realize that Gid is present, and our relationshp with Him is the basis of reality. Who we are, what we are, we are defined by that relationship with Him, and nothing else is as real as that. Nothing else transforms us that way.

So pray, just start, ask the Spirit to guide you… and rejoice.. for God is listening…

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

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