Devotional Thought of the Day.
The LORD told Moses 2† to say to the community of Israel, “Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
4† “Do not abandon me and worship idols; do not make gods of metal and worship them. I am the LORD your God! Lev 20:1-2 GNT
7 Keep yourselves holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8 Obey my
1 Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. 2 Happy is the one whom the LORD does not accuse of doing wrong and who is free from all deceit. 3 When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. 4 Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. Psalm 32:1-4 (TEV)
It is there in the wounds of Jesus that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. I have seen so many people
who find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him,
“Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds
and wash it away with your blood.”
And I always see that God does just this: He welcomes, consoles cleanses and loves.
Throughout scripture, we hear this theme over and over again. Be perfect, be holy, be mature, imitate me as I imitate Christ,
If you know church history, you know that there have been several seasons where this was the focus of the church. It drove the earliest monastics, it found roots in the immigration from Europe to America, we see it in the Welsh Revival and the Azusa Street revival also comes from a holiness movement that resulted as well in the formation of the Nazarene churches. and before that the Wesleyans. The Catholic and Lutheran Churches as well had their moments of pietism, often forced, guilt-driven pietism. Even the moral majority was a passing thought to see the image of holiness cast on our nation.
But all these movements, as movements, eventually lost their momentum. You can only drive holiness into your people so long before they will abandon it, the guilt and shame too hard to handle. Or again, harassed by an unreachable goal, they opt for the image of holiness, (the appearance of Godliness – see 2 Tim. 3:5) often creating a pharisaical system which focuses on some minute behaviors while ignoring others.
But the failure to maintain the appearance of Godliness, the failure to be truly holy is not an admission that we can’t be holy, that we can’t imitate Christ Jesus. Indeed, if anything, these failures should help us realize we go about being holy in a way that is the cause of our unholiness.
Our holiness isn’t about us. It isn’t about our effort, our determination, our will being broken and tempered correctly through this practice, or that book, or following these spiritual exercises. Ultimately, these things can be beneficial, if they help us understand the secret of holiness.
The secret is found in the first two readings
Don’t abandon God…. and I am the Lord your God, I make you holy!
There it is, the secret to holiness.
Let God do it!
Just relax and focus on walking with God. Revel in His presence, rejoice in His promise, as often repeated throughout scripture, of forgiving, cleansing, us of all sin, making our lives right, restoring our lives which were broken. Reconciling, redeeming, declaring us innocent, and righteousness. Removing the burdens of guilt and shame, all these things He does makes us Holy
As God does all this, what is left, is simply….. holy. It has been sanctified.
And if you look at the early works of the great revivalists, this freedom, this joy of being freed from the burden of our sin, would result in people restoring that which was stolen, reconciling with those they sinned against, and finding the sins and temptations of the world as what they really are, unsatisfactory, destroyers of peace.
Know my dear friend, that you are forgiven. Stay in the
You will be holy, for this is what God does. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 20). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Be Full of Joy
† In JesusName †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ leave fill you with more joy that you can imagine! AMEN!
There are in life some very irritating tunes.
You know, the ones that get stuck in your head and remain there for hours?
A few years ago it was songs from the children’s movie frozen, specifically “I want to be a snowman” and “Let it go!” And anyone who has ever been to Disneyland knows how long this next song sits in your mind. Here, I will give you the first word of it… and see if you can get it…
“It’s” (a small world after all…
There are a few of those in the church as well, though thankfully the ’70s are over and we rarely sing them.
Song’s like, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy…(down in my heart) and even worse, “rejoice in the Lord always..” (Missy please note– these songs are never to be sung here unless I am on vacation in New England and Bob is preaching…)The latter praise song, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” is just the same words over and over, and over and… you get the picture. But what made it worse was that it was called a round… so, group, a would start it, then group b, then group c, so basically you were getting overwhelmed with this idea of having to
and sometimes we are not in the mood!
Dang it, sometimes you just don’t want to rejoice, you know, because sometimes life… is challenging. (What did you think I was going to say sometimes life sucks?)
And to be assaulted over and over with people saying “rejoice always” (which is how some old translations state this passage… shortens already short, frayed fuses.
One of the reasons I like this translation is passages like this, that makes it less about us, and talks of being filled with joy.
Things that joy needs to replace.
But if we are going to be truly filled with joy, we have to get rid of the just that is in the place where joy is supposed to be. Heck most of us have our lives so filled with these things, that we have not room for a chuckle or two, never mind full-blown, life overwhelming joy.
The things we are anxious about, the things that our minds dwell upon that cause us great stress. Getting rid of that junk will give us a lot of room in our lives for joy.
Then, of course, are the things we need, or that we think we need in our lives. Those
Then there are the things we pray for because we are so desperate that we turn to God. I am not sure we always do give it to Him, but we at least say we have, yet we still let the situation burn a hole in us
I could go on and talk about the guilt and shame that we live with, the things that cause us to fear death or consider the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in a way that isn’t full of joy and expectation.
For we should look at God’s returning, with the same kind of eyes that kids have, as they see presents with their names on them begin to be placed under the tree. For Christ’s return and what happens next are described with these favorite words from all of scripture.
9 What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him; 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NJB)
And this thought should help us see the joy that God would fill us with if our lives can be emptied of anxiety, and our needs, and desperation and guilt and shame.
How did I come up with the list?
Our conversation with God revolves around these important things
So where did I come up with that list, the things that fill us instead of the joy God would so lovingly fill us with? Where did I get anxiety, needs, despair, guilt, and shame?
From the passage of course. Though I changed the words slightly.
Worry for anxious – the idea is to have a dueling mind, or two separate minds, at war with each other. Some translations actually use “be anxious over nothing”.
Pray comes from the word for desire – it is to lay before God all the things that cause us despair, and then we are not just to tell God, but we are to makeGod intimately aware of our needs, so that we can trust Him to take care of them, so we can empty ourselves of these burdens, and allowing Him to gill us with joy.
He does this when we come to the realization that Jesus return is what we truly need. We set aside our guilt and shame, or more accurately, we realize He has set it aside, thinking of the joy God has planned for in our homecoming, in our finally seeing Him face to face.
We don’t empty ourselves of these things, we need to trust God to do this, understanding that it is His desire to do
For as we heard Wednesday night, the prophet Zephaniah revealed the God delights in our homecoming, even more than we do. You see the joy we are filled with is His joy, the joy God has when He sees His people knowing they are loved, and able to fully experience it.
His joy is contagious, and His joy is found, and always has been found when He and His people are together when He’s been able to provide for them something beyond anyone’s capability to understand. or explain…
That which Paul prayed for His people and I pray for you, that emptied of all that can be replaced by joy, I pray you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. And know this, His peace will guard your hearts and minds, as you live in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Let Nothing You
Dismay! – An Advent Prayer
Week 3 – The Day of Delight is Coming!
† IN JESUS NAME †
May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed to you, that the idea of dismay or disillusion be simply impossible, as you experience the dimensions of His love.
Announcement Will Be
As we consider the old hymn’s line, God rest you merry gentleman, let nothing you dismay, as we look at the advent readings out of the prophets about the day of Christ, we’ve see something incredible so far. These prophecies were all about a day that was to come, the day that Jeremiah described as the day of promise. Last week Malachi described it as the day of returning, and next week, Micah will talk about the day of peace.
But tonight we’ve heard from Zephaniah, and we will explore the day he was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write about….
The Day of Delight!
Delight, the greatest of joys. The kind of joy that leaves us unable to speak.
A video is circulating on the internet, of this kind of joy. People born color blind are given these new special glasses, that enable them to see color for the first time in their lives. And these people’s body language and the tears of amazement are something to see.
So I think I will show you…
That’s the kind of joy, the kind of delight the prophet says God has promised on that day.
This is Amazing…
But what we really need to realize, is that he didn’t promise this delight to you and I. We aren’t the primary ones to know this joy, this delight.
Hear the passage again,
17 For the LORD your God is living among you. He
He will take delight in you, Al, and you Tom, He will take delight in you therein the back, yes you Doug and Frank, and you over hiding there behind
God will, on that day, take delight in you! Think back to the joy of the color blind man… can you imagine
I mean I get the idea that with all of our burdens we will know a
God finding that kind of joy, joy inexpressible, when we show up?
That’s what the prophet promises! He even says it again, hear this!
With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
The Hand of Judgement is removed
This is the incredible promise we have to understand, that as much as we findGod’s mercy incredible, as much as we are amazed when we hear our sin is completely forgiven, as much joy we find as we experience the width and breadth, the height and depth of God’s love for us, revealed in Jesus…
He finds the greatest joy in restoring us to Himself, reconciling us, cleansing us from all sin.
All of it.
Zephaniah tells us that God will remove his hand of judgment, he ends all
Where we will see God rejoice and sing and be delighted, as He makes His
Not yet? Or Now?
Now the really mind blowing part of this… this day when
God finds such delight in our presence, the day when He rejoices over us with
songs of joy…
While this will definitely be something that we see completely revealed on the day of Christ’s advent, this time has already happened, for John’s gospel tells us,
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14 (NLT2)
And in Luke’s gospel
that the time of the LORD’s favor
has come.” 20 He rolled up
the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the
synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then
he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled
this very day!”
Luke 4:19-21 (NLT2)
In Christ’s incarnation, the thing we celebrate at Christmas, as Christ came, this truth became real, God again found great delight in His people, in dwelling with them. Even through the suffering, the death on the cross, we find that Hebrews tells us it was for the joy set before Him that Christ endured the cross, and in the resurrection, and at the day of Pentecost and every day someone is baptized since, this promise becomes true,
God delights in His people, in you’re and I,, and He rejoices over us with songs of joy!
So let Him cleanse you once again, as we gather together and share in the Lord’s Supper… AMEN!
Devotional Thought off the day:
28 “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!” 29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven.
Acts 5:28-31 (NLT2)
383 In governing, after considering the common good, one must
I have often heard those in ministry talk about the pressure to please others. It is one of the things that contribute to clergy and lay ministry burnout.
Sometimes, we get so tired of being there for others, of trying to meet their expectations, that we decide to only please and look after our own needs. with a similar attitude, I have heard pastors and others justify their own attitudes that precede and accompany such burnout. I am going to please no-one – just be faithful to the scriptures, using a passage like the one above from Acts. In reality, the attitude is not one of a shepherd, but one of a scribe, using the law to condemn, rather than an agent of reconciliation
Let me be blunt, most of the times I have heard, or even said such a thing, the idea of pleasing God was not on the mind of the one spewing it forth. They might have been in burnout, they may have been overwhelmed, or tired of feeling attacked. But we weren’t trying to please God…
We were trying to find some respite, perhaps a little peace, and in a perverse way, the pleasure of telling someone off. We want karma (…err… God’s wrath) to bite them in the … well you get the picture
If we were trying to please God, we would hear the rest of the passage and realize what pleases God.
People being transformed, people having their minds renewed, for this is what repentance is. His goal and greatest desire is to see people forgiven and to be drawn into a relationship with Him. A relationship based in love, not fear. That is God’s end-game, it is His desire, it is what pleases Him.
One more thought, if we are patient and strong enough in our faith to strive for their reconciliation, if we depend on God for the words, the wisdom, the heart to see their redemption through, then we will have provided them with what will please them more than anything else we could ever do.
So work to please everyone, working not for the false pleasure of the world, but the real pleasure that is the result of God and His people, rejoicing together! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1747-1750). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the day:
32 If the bull kills a male or female slave, its owner shall pay the owner of the slave thirty pieces of silver, and the bull shall be stoned to death.
Exodus 21:32 TEV
The Eucharist is not a private business, carried on in a circle of friends, in a club of like-minded people, who seek out and get together with those who already suit them; but just as the Lord allowed himself to be crucified outside the city wall, before all the world, and stretches out his hands to everyone, thus the Eucharist is the public worship of all those whom the Lord calls, irrespective of their personal make-up. It is particularly characteristic of him, as he demonstrated in his earthly life, to have men of the most diverse groupings, social backgrounds, and personal views brought together in the greater whole of his word and his love. It was characteristic of the Eucharist, then, in the Mediterranean world in which Christianity first developed, for an aristocrat who had found his way into Christianity to sit there side by side with a Corinthian dock worker, a miserable slave, who under Roman law was not even regarded as a man but was treated
It always amazes me when I read the value the priests of Israel put on the life of Jesus. Thirty
Mankind, uncontrolled, would gore and trample Jesus, and they paid the penalty in advance, to the one, no really, one of several who would betray Jesus.
But in paying the price of a servant killed, there is another message. Jesus is the servant of all, and that is seen as we look at those He gathers together. People, as is noted in the second quote, as different as can be. From every economic class, from every culture, from those who people look up upon, and those that are looked down upon by society.
He gathers us all, cleanses all of us of the sin that would entrap us, heals us of our brokenness.
This is the service Jesus renders, even as we dismiss him as insignificant. As we dismiss Him as someone who just was there, whose value was not visible, despite the healings, the miracles, the teaching.
Despite the death and resurrection.
It is time now to realize His value to our lives and praise Him for the way He loved and served. To know that and be sure of that more than anything else. To experience value the love he pours out and the way He mercifully serves us.
And to do this together, with the people we have only two things in common with, sin and a Savior.
Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 108). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.
Genesis 6:9 (NLT2)
All of us, in this era when public life is being more and more Americanized, are in the grip of a peculiar restlessness, which suspects any quietness of being a waste of time, any stillness of being a sign of missing out on something. Every ounce of
You can suffer from a desperate hunger to be loved. You can search
long years in lonely places, far outside yourself. Yet the whole time, this
love is but a few inches away from you.
It is at the edge of your soul, but you have been blind to its presence.
We must remain attentive in order to be able to receive.
Our primary goal, then, is not just to hear the voice of God but to be mature people in a loving relationship with God. This will result in our living a certain kind of life—one
As a child, my favorite times were when I was alone. Alone to read, along to wander the woods behind our home, alone especially in a church, an hour or two before mass.
Something happened as I was growing up, somehow, I turned into an extrovert, which is kind of awkward, because socially, I am pretty awkward. I can’t find contentment, or satisfaction, or peace easily when I am alone anymore. Which is pretty good considering my vocation as a pastor, but not okay really, because spiritually, there is a huge need to be alone.
Well, not really alone, for in Christ, we never area.
The quote from O’Donohue above (from the Northumbrian community daily devotions at https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/) struck me first this morning. How often
For as Pope Benedict notes, there is a mystery that occurs as we are still, we grow and become, we find our reality, we relate to God.
Willard reinforces this as well, as he notes we aren’t just made to listen toGod, to hear His voice, to praise Him in unison with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. We are
Which means we have to find the quiet times, not to be disciplined, but to
So set the time aside, learn to love the moments of peace that finally set in…learn to leave all the distractions behind.
Meditate on the fact that He
Lord, may all those who read this,
 Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 386–387). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
 Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the day:
20 He who gives his testimony to all this says, “Yes indeed! I am coming soon!” So be it. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with everyone. Revelation 22:20-21 (TEV)
8 And now there is waiting for me the victory prize of being put right with God, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day—and not only to me, but to all those who wait with love for him to appear. 2 Timothy 4:8 (TEV)
The believer has in essence already received God’s favorable verdict. Now, as at the future judgment, he or she stands clothed only in the righteousness of Christ and for his sake is assured of life. Thus, the fear of condemnation disappeared for Luther, and, instead of holding out the return of Christ as an object of terror, he could exhort his parishioners to pray for the speedy arrival of the lieben jungsten Tag, the dear last day, when the riches of divine grace, invisible to the eye and accessible only to faith in this world, would be revealed in the kingdom of God.
I grew up in the midst of a hysteria about the end times. Even as the revival and renewal of the 60’s and 70’s guided people back into the church, part of that renewal was based on fear, and false teaching about the tribulation, the horrors of God’s wrath powered an evangelistic fever, and a desire to make sure our family, neighbors, and friends were safe.
End times, much like in the time of Luther, were pushed as something to drive people to God in fear of his wrath.
And salvation became a salvation from the extreme power of sin, and Satan, and the power of death.
Men like Tim LaHaye, Chuck Smith, Hal Lindsey, and Jack Chick became experts in this presentation of end times, and of using what Freud called Thanatos to motivate people’s going to church, and buying books and tracts.
We all grew to fear the second coming, and what preceded it, we studied the news with as much emphasis as studying scripture, and eventually, many burnt out on this fear-of-the-end-driven religion, and many more turned off, as we tried to scare and shame them into our form of Christianity. (and we were often proud of our “evangelistic efforts” being rejected, as proof we were doing the right thing!)
And as the day delayed, the church lost its grasp on people, the fear diminished, as did the fervor to save them from something, for we forgot to teach them what they were saved into…
Luther had this going in his days as well, though instead of buying books and tracts, they bought indulgences.
As I was reading this morning, the passage above from a book on Luther’s Spirituality again helped me to see a different approach regarding the end. One I’ve come to appreciate on its own but didn’t make the connection of it to Luther.
I want the end to come! I pray that Christ will return
Sometimes for the wrong reasons, for the end to all the trauma, I see, especially in the church. Sometimes so there is finally an end to the trauma and pain caused by our sin, that spiritual illness that we are powerless against.
But the real reason to desire the end, to desire the judgment is that we know what Luther knew. Because of Jesus, we are already judged as righteous, as holy as able to walk into the presence of God, glorifying Him for doing the impossible. For He has declared and made us as holy, as special as Jesus.
And that makes heaven a homecoming, that makes heaven an entry into something beyond our imagination, beyond our ken. To see God in all of His glory, and to know we belong in His presence. To hear our welcome, to hear with delight (and still the attitude of “who? me? really? when Lord?”) the Lord welcoming us into His presence. To have answered the prayer that my mornings begin, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, and this is what I seek.: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,; to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to seek HIm in HIs temple”
May we all learn to desire this, to pray for it, to realize how real that day is, and rejoice in the thought it is nearer than before. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Taken from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ (psalm 27:4
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests. Zeph 1:7
Unfortunately, although Christianity is not a department store that must anxiously gear its advertising to the tastes and desires of its clientele because it has merchandise to sell off that it neither wants nor needs, it is all too often compelled to act as though it were. But if this were its nature, we could confidently predict its imminent bankruptcy. Actually, however, the Christian Faith is rather (to use an admittedly one-sided and weak image) the divine medicine that should never adapt itself to the wishes of its clientele and to what pleases them, for that would be to destroy them utterly. Its role must be to require them to turn away from their imaginary need, which is in reality their sickness, and to entrust themselves to the guidance of faith.
I just spent a few days with guys who are called to be pastors. In many ways, they feel like they’ve been drawn ot the ministry, they seen the people’s needs and the call of the people for them for shepherds. I was on a team that had as its goal the task of assuring that these men were ready to take on this burden, and/or what steps would prepare them for it.
They, with one or two exceptions, are called to serve smaller churches, in most cases groups of 20 or 30 people that gather around God’s word, that receive the promises of God delivered through them, as they speak God’s word, and as they feed them the Body and Blood of Jesus. These churches would possibly close without these men or someone like them. But these men need to revitalize these churches, they need to see life breathed into them. Their churches, like mine and every other church I know of, need to have the vitality and life of the bride of Christ.
And of course, in my readings this morning, I come across two passages that deal with revitalizing our lives.
The second one is more obvious than the first. While there is a necessity to understand a church’s context and ensure the church is speaking to the people instead of at the people, all too often that takes the nature of a marketing plan. It requires compromise in the nature of the mission. Marketing cannot compromise the mission, and methodologies cannot change the message, the messenger, or change what the means of change. That is it cannot change the grace, God’s love and mercy delivered to sinners to heal them and give them life, shared in the peace with God. If you do that, you have changed the mission.
Pope Benedict is, in this Lutheran Pastor’s opinion, absolutely correct. We have the medicine, delivered through word and sacrament, that treats what really has broken people. God’s love binds them to Him, having cleaned them of sin, and of its shame and guilt. It also heals us of the anger and resentment that has broken us, as we’ve been the victims of sin.
We can’t change that. To do so would be to fail to deliver what people need the most, Jesus. Nor can we hide it, causing people to need to discover it, and then decode our language and actions we tried to protect and hide it within.
All this brings us to the first, and far more important quote. It brings us to the point of this devotion. And while it is what you and I need to do, right now, and often each day, It is what these pastors (de jure and soon de facto) need to do to revitalize their church.
Realize you are, right now, in the presence of God.
God who is drawing all things together through the blood of Jesus. For that is what the Day of the Lord is, for Christ has become our sacrifice, prepared to deliver us from the power and oppression of sin.
ANd to consecrate us, His guests, to make us holy as we have been drawn into His presence. To be set apart for this relationship with our Heavenly Father, our Almighty God. To be re-vitalized, freed of all that weighs us down. Healed of all the damage a life of sin can cause, restored to be who we were created to be.
This is who we are, in congregations and parishes that make up the Church, His Church, His beautiful bride.
And be in awe… incredibly aware of the glory and power and love of God, which makes this all possible. AMEN
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 340–341). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow o in His steps. 22 He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; 23 when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. 24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25 HCSB
189 The way Jesus called the first twelve could not have been simpler: “Come and follow me.” Since you are always looking for excuses not to keep on with your task, there is one consideration that fits you like a glove: the human knowledge of those first apostles was very poor, and yet what an impact they made on those who listened to them! Never forget this: it is He who continues to do the work through each one of us.
I remember a couple of decades ago when everyone started wearing “WWJD” merchandise. Not many knew that the question was part of a fairly popular novel of the previous century. In His Steps is a fascinating book, the story of a pastor and a church that tried to dedicate itself to asking what Jesus would do, if He made the decisions that they were faced with, every day in life.
It’s a good book, one in which the struggles of living a Christian life are seen in how we use our time, our talents, our influence, even the pains in our lives.
I might not agree with every decision, but the exercise is not a bad one.
The passage the story wraps around is the one above, from 1 Peter, urging us to walk in His steps, urging us to be as holy as Jesus was holy, as focused on doing what is right as Jesus is.
Or at least that is how following in His steps is portrayed.
The passage goes on to describe how Jesus lived, how He calls us to follow Him in that lifestyle. An example that is pertinent today, He did not revile in return when He was reviled. That is a pretty hard standard to live up against, as we so blatantly see in our world today.
If this is just giving us a list of standards we are to meet, if we expect our lives to simply be clones of Jesus, we will fail. Just as the apostles, who were invited to follow Jesus also fell, often.
Following in HIs steps is more than just putting one foot in front of the other, It requires our focus be on Him, and How He lives. It is about hearing His voice, about heeding the encouragement He gives to us. It is about letting the Spirit form us into His image. This isn’t tracking steps outlined in the sand 2000 years ago, or even last week. It is about letting Him lead us, here and now.
Look to Jesus, the author and one who brings about maturity as you depend on Him. Look to Jesus, and let the Spirit transform you as you reflect His glory. He moves, move with Him, for He is the guardian and shepherd/guide of your souls.
The Lord is with you!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1004-1008). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)
A good communicator is sensitive to beauty, perceives it and does not confuse what is beautiful with what is fashionable or only “nice” or simply “neat.”
Because it is human, sometimes beauty is tragic, amazing, touching; it sometimes pushes us to think what we do not want or unmasks our errors.
One of the challenges we face, whether we are with friends and family at a meal, or if we are before the church preaching the gospel, is communicating the beauty that is our relationship with God.
We can’t describe heaven, and I think that is intentional, for heaven is not about the location as much as it is the presence. The presence of the people of God in the presence of God. No sorrow, no tears, no pain, rather we will know the purest of joy, the most incredible peace. These are things that cant be described in words, we just will never find ones that significantly portray this beauty.
Not that we understand beauty all that much.
A pretty girl in a bathing suit may be considered beautiful by most, year, does that compare to a picture of a wounded soldier, being greeted and welcomed home by his family? Or a picture of Mother Theresa embracing a poor victim of leprosy in the streets of India? What about a rainbow, coming out on the edge of a storm,
I think the most vivid thing we can communicate, the most beautiful thing we can describe is the scene of redemption, the prodigal being embraced by a father, whose tears of joy wash the young sinner. The face of Peter, as Jesus reminds him, despite the betrayal, to feed the sheep. The face of Moses, a stubborn pessimistic, man hiding from his destiny, in awe at the bush on fire that doesn’t burn. The sinner at the communion rail, who finally understands the words, “for you…” and doesn’t want to leave the only place they have found peace. The old man, who with severe memory problems, looks for meaning in the church, decides to study for the diaconate and preaches an incredible sermon of our need for God, and the fact God was with us. (the amazing tears that flowed from his wife’s face, as she was convinced that he actually could do this… I cry just thinking of them. ) The little six-year-old, who begs and pleads for the body and blood of Christ, and lights up at her first communion
These things are beautiful, and though not perfectly described, give us a hint of the beauty that awaits us, as the redemption, as what is broken in our lives is healed. THere is beauty, a beauty that is found in the incredible transformation as we go from being alone to being in a relationship with God. As we realize that is our existence, our meaning in life.
God with us… nothing more beautiful in this life, or the next…
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 302). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.