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Oh, You’re here?

Devotional Thought for the Day:

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17 But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” Gen. 28:16-17 GNT

While communication with God would be a stretch for many, there is still more. In the progress of God’s redemptive work, communication advances into communion.
Communication often occurs over a certain distance, even amidst possible opposition. We can still communicate with those with whom we are at war. God communicates with us even while we are his enemies, dead in our sins. When communication between two people rises to the level of communion, there is a distinctness but also a profound sharing of the thoughts, feelings and objectives that make up our lives. Each recognizes the thought or feeling as his or hers, while knowing with joy that the other is feeling or thinking in the same way.

Often out journey through life is reflected in the journeys we see in scripture. Or perhaps our journey is simply following in their steps.

Jacob grew up in a house of faith, and yet his life didn’t reflect it, at first. Though there would become a time where God would define himself as the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, that time was only just dawning at the point the passage mentions above. He will still need to wrestle with his God, he will still need to reconcile with his brother, but the work has begun.

God has made his promise known to him. The relationship will begin to deepen and make the change from communication to communion. To the point where feelings that once had to be expressed are now known. Jacob’s heart and mind will slowly begin to resonate with God, as the repentant man slowly is transformed, becoming one of our fathers in the faith.

Communion is what prayer really is about. It’s not just communication, it is so much more. It is more than talking, more than just telling God what you and others need. It is complete sharing, letting him heal the heartache, letting His cleanse out you life, replacing the old stone heart with a one that beats in the Spirit’s time, conforming our mind to that of Christ.

We have to remember this is a journey, that it takes time, that we will stumble along the way. Jacob doesn’t go from Sinner to Saint in one night. We struggle with the old person trying to pop back up, even though crucified with Christ. Jacob will see this as he will still have to deal with his uncle, and his wives, he will still live in fear of his brother. Yet he will grow, as we will.for God is at work.

We see it when we have those “aha” moments. When we realize we have been standing/sleeping on Holy ground. When we suddenly realize what we should have known, the Lord is here, and we didn’t ever know it. But now we do, now, in the moment, there isn’t a doubt.

The Lord is with you…

Those aren’t just words in that moment, this is our existence. In the presence of the Lord who loves us, who comes to dwell with us. Not just to be studied, not just to talk to, but to commune with!

He is here! AMEN!



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

Get Off Your “But” and Follow Jesus!

Get Off Your “But” and Follow Jesus!
Luke 9:57-62, 1 Kings 19:19-21

† I. H. S. †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you as you walk “in His steps”

Are you listening?  Are you understanding?

Have you ever asked someone if they were listening, and 30 seconds after they replied yes, they ask you “what are you talking about?”

I think that happened to Jesus, far more than it happens to us.

It does today, as one man offers to follow Jesus, and two others responded to His invitation to follow him, but they then realized they had a problem.  They all had a big “but!”  Uhm – that’s but with only one T.

As we look at the call to follow, as we begin to really hear Jesus, I pray we come to understand what it means to follow Him, or as the apostle Peter wrote,

21  For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT2)

The Big BUTS

So the first guy tells Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go!  Jesus tells him, “okay, here is the challenge, we have no support, no place to stay, no place to sleep.”  Oddly we don’t’ hear from the guy again.

Following Jesus isn’t easy or comfortable.

The second and third guys clearly describe their “buts”.

One wants to go home and take care of his dying Father. The second wants to go home and make significant arrangements for his family’s care, cutting off their need for his involvement in their life.

How many of us would have similar issues to deal with?  I mean, before Jesus asks us to go with Him to China, or Jordan, or Papua, New Guinea?  And how many of us have relationship issues that would make leaving with Jesus complicated?

Those “buts” aren’t easy to deal with, and to turn down an invitation to go with Jesus is heartbreaking, or it should be.  I mean if you knew Jesus was going to be at the ordination I am officiating at this afternoon, would you drop everything and come with me?  What about if you could meet him on Pastor Bernie’s next trip to the Sudan, but you had to leave today?

What if it required moving to Turkey and working alongside Christina for the rest of your life? Never ever returning to the U.S.A. but you knew for sure you would encounter Jesus every day?

Could you show Jesus your “but”?

This isn’t theoretical for the people in the gospel!  They had BIG BUTS, major life concerns, as they truly desire to travel with Jesus.

It’s what some would call a First commandment issue, a problem with prioritizing who is our God, who is most important in our life. Who is most involved in it.  For if we can’t listen to God and respond obediently to Him, are we really in a relationship where we realize He is the God who rescues us, and we are the people He listens to, cares and provides for, and loves?

The problem is simple to fix, we just have to get off our “but” and follow Jesus.  Follow Him, not travel with Him. If the people had listened to what Jesus said, they would have understood the difference.

What’s the difference?  Glad you asked!  

The Elisha Example!

In the Old Testament passage, we see Elisha also responding to a call to follow, as Elijah makes him his successor.  That’s why he threw his cloak over him, that is what you symbolically did back in those days. 

But Elisha goes back to his people. He takes care of business, and isn’t rejected by Elijah, the way it seems Jesus rejected those who had big “buts”.

But look at what Elisha did carefully, and you will see he was already following Elijah as he goes back.  He takes his old stuff, the plow, the oxen and uses those things to minister to people.

What the invitation really is

You see, the word for follow doesn’t mean travel with, it means begin to imitate Him.  To become like, to gain the attitudes and heart and desire of the person you “follow”.  There is a word to walk with, but this is far more, it is another word like disciple, or apprentice.

It is to know Jesus is on the journey with us, shaping us, forming us, sending us out to where He would have us minister.  Like the man he delivered from the clutches of demons, often the place is where we call home, sharing the news of God’s mercy with those we love and care about, with those whose lives are broken, and spiritually dead.

Following Jesus is not just physical, it is more, it is transformative, it is incarnational, it is beholding His glory and knowing He dwells among us.

This is what His invitation to believers is about, it is life lived in His presence, hearing His voice, learning to care for and love people as He does.  That is what it means to walk in His steps, to live life the way He does, and we do that by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lord, help us see the “buts” not as challenges to following You, but as places where You bring us to minister and care for other, with you at our side.


Broken Vase: The Writing of a Good Friend

Can we face our brokenness? Can we turn it over to God?

A friend of mine, who has endured a lot in life sent me this devotion she wrote for the staff at her church. It is a good devotion, one that resonates with much I write. But what is amazing to me is her ability to trust God enough to share these things that run so deep. Facing brokenness is never easy, and sharing it so others can heal… is beyond amazing!
For that, I am incredibly thankful to God and proud of my friend!
And so, for only the third time, I turn my blog over to someone else…. knowing there are others who need to hear T’s words.

Broken Vase

Last night I was driving home and the song You Say by Lauren Daigle came on. One of the lines in the song says, “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough, Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up”, spoke to me in a very profound way. One of my daily battles is fighting the tape in my head that tells me

• I am stupid
• I am fat
• I am ugly
• I am unworthy of love
• I will never be enough

I grew up being told all of these things and more, so my tape player is strong.

Imagine for a moment that you knock a priceless vase to the ground and it shatters. What do you do? Do you try to put the vase back together as it was? Do you collect the pieces and drop them in the trash, as the vase is a total loss? Or do you pick up the beautiful colored pieces and glue them back together?

I am like that broken vase, that has been glued back together. I still retain the shape of the vase, but I am fractured. For many years I believed that those cracks made me not only damaged but broken beyond repair. Then I met Jesus, and at the age of 26 I was baptized, reborn with the promise of salvation. In time I began to realize the tape in my head was a lie. It was someone else’s story, not mine.

This is not to say I don’t still struggle, but I am able to remind myself to look to God for the truth of who I am.

Lauren’s song continues with “You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing, You say I am strong when I think I am weak, You say I am held when I am falling short, When I don’t belong, You say that I am Yours”.

And I know I am HIS!

We are all broken in some way, broken dreams, broken relationships, broken lives. So, what do we do with the broken pieces? Take those broken pieces and use them to make something new turn yourself into a colorful mosaic, reach to God and turn what is broken into beautiful, pieces, by sealing the cracks with lines of gold.

Jesus promises us that we as broken people will be better than new. Let that soak that in for a moment, WE WILL BE BETTER THAN NEW. 17 Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Don’t let the lies that swirl around and whisper to you in the deepest parts of your soul in the weak moments define who you are When you feel like you have lost your grip, and things come crashing down reach for Jesus.

It is Jesus that tells us that we don’t need to hide our scars. Our brokenness has not rendered us useless in this life. God breaks through all of those lies. He tells us that we are never beyond healing or too broken for restoration.

Don’t be ashamed of your scars, of the deep crevices that line your soul, or the broken places of your life. They have an amazing story to tell. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT2)

Let’s pray,

Dear Father, I pray that we remember each and every day that the only thing that matters is finding our worth in you. That we are able to lay everything at your feet knowing that we don’t have to carry it ourselves. AMEN!

Don’t say a little prayer before sharing your faith. Instead, try…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

They loved human approval rather than the approval of God. John 12:43 GNT

5 “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me. John 15:5 GNT

The dynamic ‘from Adoration to Evangelization’ represents, in fact, the only real and possible path for an authentic witness which is capable of knowing how to ‘overcome the world’.
An Evangelization which is not born from an authentic, prolonged, faithful and intimate relationship with God will bear fruit only with difficulty. Even more difficult still will be its ability to captivate the men of this age.

For years, before I go and make a call, whether, in the hospital or someone’s home, I say a quick prayer. This was a practice drilled into me decades ago when I was a young Bible College student and my pastor and I were part of Evangelism Explosion. (we didn’t get great results… but we tried to be faithful!)

I am starting to think that is not a good and proper practice.

We shouldn’t pray before engaging in outreach.

We need to do more. We need to bathe ourselves in worship, in adoration, in meditating on the incredible dimensions of God’s love. We need to be in awe of His glorious mercy. We need to have given Him all of the challenges we are facing, entrusting to Him everything that causes us to take our eyes off of Him.

The priest whose words are recorded above in purple, could not have explained why evangelism efforts, whether formal or informal are successful or not. Simply put, if you haven’t spent significant, intimate, authentic time with God, and seen Him addressing your brokenness, how can you dare think you can share His love with others?

If we can’t reflect God, we are reduced to our own logic and strength, we omit the blessing of the Spirit, and what we are craving is human approval. We want to win people on the strength of our logic, on our ability to manipulate them into the Kingdom, rather than let them be drawn into the healing, cleansing glorious light of Jesus.

We don’t just need that intimacy to power our evangelism efforts. In truth, that effective empowering our sharing our dependence on God is a secondary effect, it is what happens as the Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Jesus.

We need Him to change us, to reveal to us the work He is doing making us saints, making us the people of God. And the more we see that the more adoration becomes a reaction, and a necessity in our lives because of how amazing God is.

So take some time, be still, dwell in His peace, meditate on the cross, on the blessings of Baptism and the incredible gift of the body and blood of Christ Jesus, praising God with all your heart and soul, mind and strength; then go out and make disciples of all nations.

Lord, help us hear and rejoice in Your presence and love… and then let us shout it so loudly through our lives that the entire world knows! AMEN!

Piacenza, M. (2012). Homily for the Solemn Mass of St Aloysius Gonzaga. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 68). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

How are you investing your pastor’s time?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances. 3  So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4  We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching.” 5  The whole group was pleased with the apostles’ proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6  The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
Acts 6:1-6 (TEV)

The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.

From the earliest days of the church, there was a priority set upon the time of those who shepherd God’s people.

A priority on prayer, and being in the word of God, of preaching and teaching about the Christ who has come to make His home among us. (John 1:14 NLT) To train up people to serve each other, (Eph 4:12)

Those were the priorities of the early church –

A question I have today is that our priority still? Is this were we want them spending their time. Or have we turned them into visionaries and managers, men who are skilled in managing all the work of the church as an organization?

Yes, logistics and planning are necessary, being good stewards of what the church has been entrusted with temporally is important. But only as it sets the church up to do its actual ministry – and to walk with God.

The members of a church and its leadership need to take this seriously. Out of the fifty to sixty hours a week he works, how many are spent in prayer? How many are spent in teaching and preaching and preparing for it?

How many are spent in meetings covering the administration of the church, and/or its school? Is it possible to free him up of some of that, so whe can dedicate himself as the apostles do? Is it possible to have him train others to do the work of service? Is it possible to create an environment where the talents of people can be harnassed? How many of our pastors have to be property managers, business officers, plumbers, and a thousand other roles.

Give him time to pray and spend time meditating on God’s word. – serious amounts of time. Give him time to prepare to teach and preach as well. for this work is necessary. Invest his time in training people to know the word so well that they can serve others, and while doing it, share Christ’s love. And give him time to get used to this freedom!

Be a good steward of his life… and time.

The blessing will be yours!



Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 104). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Do we understand what “rest” is?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

You have six days in which to do your work, but remember that the seventh day, the Sabbath, is a day of rest. On that day do not work, but gather for worship. The Sabbath belongs to the LORD, no matter where you live. Leviticus 23:3 GNT

“Ever since he was a child,” he replied. 22 “Many times the evil spirit has tried to kill him by throwing him in the fire and into water. Have pity on us and help us, if you possibly can!”
23 “Yes,” said Jesus, “if you yourself can! Everything is possible for the person who has faith.”
24 The father at once cried out, “I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!”
25 Jesus noticed that the crowd was closing in on them, so he gave a command to the evil spirit. “Deaf and dumb spirit,” he said, “I order you to come out of the boy and never go into him again!”
26 The spirit screamed, threw the boy into a bad fit, and came out. The boy looked like a corpse, and everyone said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took the boy by the hand and helped him rise, and he stood up
. Mark 9:21-27 GNT

445         If you abandon prayer you may at first live on spiritual reserves… and after that, by cheating.

So, as the holidays come to a close, as Advent’s focus and the joy of celebrating Jesus coming into the world begines to wane, a number of people have asked me what my plans were.

Actually, they phrase it like this, “go get some rest pastor!”

Then they ask, where I will go, to get the rest! What plans do I have, what will my family and I do.

As if rest is a synonym for travel and vacation. As if spending all day getting tired doing “fun” things provides what our souls need. Please note, I am not saying we shouldn’t take vacations, but rest is something very different.

Rest is what the boy and his dad gained, as Jesus freed them from the grip of demons. It is the time when we step aside from life, ot remember God is with us, to celebrate His presence, to remember His mercy, to let Him free us from the demons that afflict us, and the trauma that so assaults our hearts and souls.

That is what rest is, a time for our lives to relax, and leave everything in the hands of God Almighty, (and not giving him instructions and timelines!).

It enables us to truly pray, which enables us to truly live, and to know that God is here, with us, right now. That allows us to set aside the masks that hide our brokenness, the hypocrisy that everything is perfect in our lives, and the idea that we are saints, by our own power.

Taking this rest in Christ allows us to be human, forgiven, healing from the brokenness and even the demonic activity around us, as we depend on God, who has promised to care for us.

That’s the rest we need, and that is why I believe the place of greatest rest is at the altar rail, as we feast on the Body and Blood of Jesus, as He strips us of our sin, and heals us..It is there I am most aware of His peace, of the presence of God where He pours out all His love on us.

So I had my rest, and maybe we’ll sneak in some vacation time as well…. after I get past my traditional new years cold.

May you allow God to grant you the rest that your souls need!


Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1975-1977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Escaping the ghost of Monday’s past

Jesus asks, “can i cleanse your past? can i redeem it for you”

Devotional Thought of the day!

15  Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16  redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17  Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17 (ASV)

365         You became very thoughtful when you heard me say: I want the blood of my Mother the Church to run in my veins; not Alexander’s, or Charlemagne’s, nor that of the Seven Sages of Greece.

When human time is no longer tuned to God’s time, it becomes repetitive, boring, unbearable, infinitely long or too short and, what is worse, deadly “times.”
Economic deadlines, for instance, do not consider hunger or the lack of schools for children or the unhappy situation of the elderly. Technology produces a kind of time so instantaneous and full of images that it does not let the hearts and minds of young people mature. Political time often seems circular like a carousel where the free-ring ride is always taken by the same people.

As I read the words of Pope Francis this morning (the words in green) the phrase “redeeming the time” came to my mind.  

Too often we lose time, worrying about things like our personal economic situations, or by those in the world.  By political maneuverings, by wasting time on technological pursuits.  

Our time isn’t tuned to God’s time, and I don’t think that Pope Francis is exaggerating when he talks of such time becoming deadly.  Such time lost is dead, whether it is stolen by anxiety, or wasted in pursuit of some escape. 

It’s gone, we can’t get it back, and even if we did, would we make the most of it this time? 

Most modern translations don’t talk about “redeeming the time”, they talk about making the most of it. But looking at the word in greek, it is definitely redeeming, of buying it back, to pay the ransom to see it returned. 

That may seem impossible, we can’t go back in time, we can’t purchase the time machine.  It seems more logical, what the modern translations advising us to make the most of the time we have in front of us.  

Except that isn’t what it says.  It talks of redeeming the time, not just the present, or preparing to do so for the future, but redeeming the past.  And in context with the light of Christ, His glory shining upon us, revealing all. 

And in that glorious light of Christ’s love, we can find our pasts redeemed, the sin and unrighteousness that cause our brokenness touched and healed.  We begin to see that even there, in the past, God is able to use that past for good, because that is what He does. Redeeming the time isn’t about our making the nest of the future, it is about letting Christ has our past, our present our future.

FOr He is the God of Abraham, and Issac and Jacob, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning, and the end.  And as we allow Him to redeem the time in our lives, free of what haunts us, we find an amazing thing. 

He is with us, now….

I added in the comment by St Josemaria, this idea of the blood of the church running through our veins, rather than the blood of leaders, or the wise.  But rather the blood of the church, Christ’s blood, poured out to redeem everything, to create everything anew. That is where we begin to realize this, in those moments of sweet communion, when God simply reminds us that Jesus died…for us.

So redeemed the time… let God have it, and watch what he does with it.

Even last Monday.

God’s peace flow over you my friend…know He is with you, and has promised you great things!


question for you to consider (and even answer)
What is the challenge of letting God bring healing to your past?

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1677-1679). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Reformation wasn’t a call to war…..but a call to a life of repentance

Large Catechism  COmmunionDevotional Thought of the Day:
37  Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” 38  “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
John 18:37-38 (NLT2)

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter. In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I wish I could have seen the body language and tone of voice of Pilate when he asked, “What is Truth?”

Was it from exasperation?  Did his non-verbals betray a sad sense of fatalism or sarcasm?  Did he really want to know the truth, but feel that his search was so in vain?

He was face to face with God’s revelation of the truth, and couldn’t see it. He heard it, but he didn’t realize it. 

Approximately 1500 years later, Luther was struggling with the truth as well.  He found the truth, and the mercy it promised so much like chasing after the wind.  What he had been taught obscured it, to the extent that he knew deep despair and depression. 

The hammering of the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg wasn’t a call to arms, it wasn’t the equivalent of the first shot of the American Revolution, it wasn’t a cry for the downfall of the Roman Catholic Church. 

It was a plea to examine what was believed, and compare it to scripture, in the hope of finding out the truth of God’s love.

My denomination celebrates this day, and I am not sure I do.  I don’t regret the work of Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz and their brothers, but I do regret the necessity.  And I, even more, regret that we’ve lost the focus, that the events surrounding Luther’s search for and finding grace are lost in the triumphalism, in the “we’ve shown them.”

You see, in my mind, the reformation should still be about redirecting us to the mercy of Christ, and to the fact we need it.  It should be about the hope we who are broken find in the healer. It must be about Jesus.

That is why the first thesis read.

Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

To remember the beginning of the reformation means we remember the call to a life of repentance.

And that means we have to admit where we are wrong and be willing to be questioned regarding our presuppositions, about our theology and practice. We have to accept the invitations to discuss where we have obscured Jesus, and be willing to repent.

That is reformation, that is putting Christ first, and seeing Him at work, redeeming and reforming His people.

 

Luther, M. (1996). Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the power and efficacy of indulgences: October 31, 1517 (electronic ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Faith in Action: Know! Psalm 46

Faith in Action:  Knows
Psalm 46

† Jesus, Son and Savior †

May the gifts of mercy, of love and of peace from God our Father, which Jesus pours into your life, help you know Him, and may that knowledge allow your soul to find rest!  AMEN!

People who have faith need to pray

I came across an interesting quote this week from a guy from Boston, a professor of philosophy named Peter Kreeft,

How long should we pray? At least as long as it takes to relax in His presence, to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10)

Professor Kreeft has a pretty good answer there, that prayer isn’t just a few words, uttered when we are in need, it’s not something we do out of obligation either.

It is a time to relax, to know God intimately, so deeply that everything else in life falls away as we find we trust and depend on Him, and then, as that happens, we are able to relax in His presence… as we realize what it means to be still and dwell in the peace of God.

As we look at our reading in Psalm 46 this morning, we see David’s urging us to find ourselves in that moment of peace. Safe where God dwells, for He is our refuge, our sanctuary.  He is our peace.

The challenge to know God… for faith that is active has to know God

Not just about knowing about Him, but being still enough to realize that He is God… and calm enough to think through what it means.

Obstacles to knowing God

I don’t know about you, but I tend to struggle with fear, or the word that comes closest to it this day, anxiety.

It doesn’t take the earthquakes and oceans going crazy that David describes in the Psalm.  It’s more like this lack week, where for a couple of days I was on a committee with the 1st and 2nd Vice President of Synod, guys I don’t always agree with, trying to help deacons and churches who are served by only those deacons.

Anxious because I might say the wrong thing…

Or anxious over a doctor’s appointment.

Or anxious about any of million things that could go wrong in life, or the complications of when things go right!  (Sometimes I am more worried and scared by things going right. )

And then as I am dealing with the anxieties, I realize that I had forgotten all about God’s presence, and I get anxious about my lack of focus on God, and my obvious lack of faith. Causing more anxiety and fear to build.

Is such anxiety sin?  If I even start down that thought process, it’s only going to get worse, causing more guilt, more shame, and our normal reaction will be to run away from God.

You see, we often buy into the fact that we have control over whether we sin or not.  And therefore, when we do take our eyes off of God, we find ourselves alone as the earthquakes, or we feel like we are drowning, or all alone in the middle of a battlefield.

The answer to this is not to flee God, or fight him, but to run to Him, to speak and listen to him, to know He is God, and as we know what that means, find the ability to remain still.

So how does this happen?

Come and see the glorious works

There is an invitation to the world in the middle of the passage.

Come and see the glorious works of the Lord!  See how he brings destruction upon the world!

The first part seems like a great invitation.  Observing God’s glorious works!  How awesome!  How incredible!  Hearing that my mind goes to the idea of miracles and healings, of baptizing people by the hundreds, and Concordia becoming a major influence in our community, even in all of Los Angeles.

And then I get the second half and go “wait…

BRINGS DESTRUCTION ON THE WORLD?  WHAT?

Uhm, how is that going to end up giving me the ability to be still?

I mean, the DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD?

I mean our world may be broken, evil might seem to be apparent, but destruction? Total destruction of the world?

Well, in the physical sense of the word, everything on the day of judgment will be destroyed because it will be renewed.

But that happens in our lives at baptism, as we are united with the death of Christ in the water of baptism, God promises and makes sure our brokenness is destroyed, it dies with Him there on the cross.

That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote,

4  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.
Romans 6:4-7 (NLT2)

It takes a while to work through this, that the anxiety caused by sin’s guilt and shame, the anxiety that is caused by not knowing the presence of God, and not knowing God is removed….

Even so, our old nature dies hard, as does the anxiety it can produce in us.  In fact, you and I can only find peace when we God’s presence draws us into His glory, into His love, and causes you to be still, and just know He is God…

And know..

That happens as we know His presence, in places like this, a place we are drawn together, to know He is God. As we pray together, leaving every burden before Him, every anxiety, every moment becomes one of peace. A place where we see life end and begin, as people are baptized into Christ.

As we share in the body and blood of Jesus, as we realize we are united to Him, as we share in His death… and even now, in His resurrection.

And we find ourselves still and rest…knowing the God who loves us.

And our dependence on God, our faith becomes active, because we know Him!  AMEN!

The Secret to the Revitalization of the Church, or a church

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

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.

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