devotional thought of the day:
20 Herod was afraid of John because he knew that John was a good and holy man, and so he kept him safe. He liked to listen to him, even though he became greatly disturbed every time he heard him. Mark 6:20 GNT
The biblical term shalom, which is usually so translated, implies much more than the absence of armed conflict; it means the right order of human affairs, well-being—a world where trust and friendship prevail, where neither fear nor want nor treachery nor dishonesty is found. Yet the song of the angels first lays down a precondition, without which there can be no lasting peace: God’s glory. This is the message of peace at Bethlehem: peace among men results from God’s glory. Those who are concerned about the human race and its well-being have to be concerned about God’s glory first of all. God’s glory is not some private concern, left to the personal choice of the individual; it is a public affair. It is a common good, and wherever God is not honored among men,
9 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in trouble; my eyes are tired from so much crying; I am completely worn out. 10 I am exhausted by sorrow, and weeping has shortened my life. I am weak from all my troubles; even my bones are wasting away. Psalm 31:9-10 GNT
We are all like Herod.
And even as I say that I prove it is true.
I recoil at the thought, I am not as evil as he was, I console myself. But yet, if someone is preaching about my sin, I am disturbed, I am very uncomfortable, I feel like he’s laid my brokenness out there for everyone to see. I may even be a bit pissed off, and wanting to strike back as the pain of having my brokenness revealed causes that.
Which is hard when I am the
But there is something comforting as well, I like listening to the promise that even thoguh I have sinned, that there is the possibility, the potential of being forgiven, of being healed and made whole. I may think I am not ready for it, but I need to know it is there.
I need to cry out with the Psalmist for God’s mercy, and I need to know He will answer. I need to know there can and will be peace.
I sandwiched the quote from Pope Benedict in between the gospels for a reason. There is our key to why Herod (and we) like the presence of God and God’s spokesperson in our lives.
The Glory of God which leads to peace, and the promise of that peace. For while we see God’s glory as something to be in awe of, even scared of, for those who know Him, for those who listen to Him, that glory has another name.
That name is “love” and “mercy”, It it glorious that God is compassionate, sympathetic, and in Christ, even empathestic to our brokenness. For while Jesus didn’t sin, He bore the wieght of that sin, and its wrath on the cross. Revealing that glory is something that leaves us unexplainably at peace, knowing God can cleanse us and heal us.
Will we let Him, how much more do we need endure of our brokenness before we shall?
Praying that it not be long… but rather we would find ourselves at home in His glory, experiencing His love, and dwelling, finally at home in His peace!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 409). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 “You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name. Exodus 20:7 (NLT2)
7 ‘You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name. Exodus 20:7 (NJB)
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT2)
63 In addition, you must also know how to use the name of God aright. With the words, “You shall not take the name of God in vain,” God at the same time gives us to understand that we are to use his name properly, for it has been revealed and given to us precisely for our use and benefit.
64 Since we are forbidden here to use the holy name in support of falsehood or wickedness, it follows, conversely that we are commanded to use it in the service of truth and all that is good—for example, when we swear properly where it is necessary and required. So, also, when we teach properly; again, when we call on his name in time of need, or praise and thank him in time of prosperity, etc. All this is summarized in the command in Ps. 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.” All this is what we mean by calling upon his name in service of truth and using it devoutly. Thus his name is hallowed, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.
If you compare the first two quote (actually the same exact passage, but from two different translations, and do a bit of research, you will find something very, very ironic.
The first one, like most other translations, fails to use God’s name when they translate the command about not using God’s name! They replace the Hebrew YHWH with the letters LORD (Adonai in Hebrew). The use of all caps in the word LORD is supposed to alert you to the holy precious name of God, (YHWH) is used there.
Why? Because of a man-made tradition that says it is better not to use the name of God, rather than misuse it!. You see the same irrational fear in people today who drop the letter “o” out of the word God, (which is a title) and take pride in using G-d. Some have even taken to doing it with LORD.
And in doing so, they miss the very essence of the command. That God has given us the permission to use His name and expects us to call upon Him in prayer, in praise, to use it in Baptism, to use it to bless others.
To use it. Abundantly!
Now, I am sure that God doesn’t mind us translating it, Or using generic titles like God, Theos, etc, but there seems something wrong with deliberately avoiding His name. Especially when we avoid using it the way He asks because we fear that we might misuse it accidentally.
If we don’t understand how to use His name and fear His wrath from using it incorrectly, we don’t understand the forgiveness offered, and the cleansing of sin that God promises to those that call on His name.
If fear is what motivates us, if we are scared to use His name, we don’t really understand the love and mercy of our God. We don’t’ get that He longs to gather and protect us, as a hen would gather its chicks. We need to know the Father that would let the prodigal walk away, knowing the lesson he would learn as the prodigal finally comes to his senses and comes home. We need to know the joy that is seen when one of his children comes home when He can create a masterpiece of our lives as we trust in Him and His grace.
To put it simply, to not use God’s name properly, is to misuse it..
My friends, use His mane, call upon Him, He is our Abba (a term of endearment for one’s father) DOn’t be afraid, but as Hebrews 4:16 says, come boldly into presence, that we may His richest gifts, and help in times of need.
He is your God, you are His people.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 373). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; 48 because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant. Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, 50 and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him. 51 He has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart. 52 He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly. 53 He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty. 54 He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his faithful love 55 —according to the promise he made to our ancestors— of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever. Luke 1:46-56 (NJB)
When faith takes hold of Christ, the mediator, the heart is at peace and begins to love God and to keep the law. It knows that now it is pleasing to God for the sake of Christ, the mediator, even though its incipient keeping of the law is impure and far from perfect.
It is called by many in the church, The Magnificat this song by a teenage girl who was pregnant before she was married. Her name was Miriam, or as we know her, Mary. Back then, being pregnant would be a serious offense. Cut off from her family, mocked and scorned by all, sent away from her family to a distant relative. We need to remember what she faced, as we hear her song.
For her song is one we need to hear, it is one that the world needs to hear. When life is broken, when life seems unfair, when we can’t really understand all that God is doing, we need to hear this song!
Go back and read these words again, hear the voice that is broken, yet whole because the Lord is with her. Note as well that this song isn’t just about God providing for her, but it includes God providing for those who He raises, who He saves, who He feeds, and helps.
This song isn’t about a personal relationship with God, it is about God caring for all His people, as He has promised those who came way before Mary. In the translation I used, not all the italics, those are the words woven in that were the words of others, words of prophets and leaders, words that were interwoven as good, no better than any preacher or theologian could ever do.
This song is about God’s faithful love, His faithful love for Mary, and for us.
And it has an effect on us, an effect that is described in the other quote, the one from the Lutheran Confessions. When we start to perceive Christ’s faithful love, when know He’s got a hold of us, and is saving us, things change. The peace of Christ envelops us, just as it did Mary. We learn to love God (and therefore love those He has created) Our souls can’t help proclaiming the greatness of our Lord…for we see His mercy… and His love!
So sing with Mary, sing your heart out, for God has come to you, to help. because He loves you and is faithful. AMEN!
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print. Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Article IV
The Brutal, Honest, Real, Faith
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and our Risen Lord Jesus so reveal His love for you that you know with all your heart and mind that He will sustain you and that you will share in His glory!
When Words aren’t enough:
On Friday, I stood next to a man, as he spoke at his son’s funeral. He talked about how time after time, his son was simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The final time, it resulted in his death, as he was shot along with a married couple.
The grief was as overwhelming as anything I have seen. The despair in the sanctuary of a church was beyond anything I have experienced for a long time because they could not imagine a God who would answer their cry for help.
And as I looked at my outline for today’s sermon, as I looked through these words of a prophet with a name you can’t say ten times fast, I understood Habakkuk’s pain, and the despair of his cry,
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. 3 Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. 4 The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.
The prophet’s words, his cries, his pleading with the Father, these words are brutal, they are honest, they are so real and even apply to today’s world.
And they only way to hear God’s answer is found in a Brutal, Honest, Real, Faith.
The faith God gives us, that He plants in us, that He nourishes is us.
I love reading the Old Testament prophets, not because they are so uplifting – they are not. But because they aren’t standing around pretending the world is okay, they call their listeners out on sin, but they also grieve.
They know how God has called us to live in peace, to know His live and to have faith in God. They also see the world dealing with the consequences of ignoring God, and it breaks their heart. They weep, they cry for what is, and what should have been.
How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
We look around us these days, and it seems like it hasn’t changed much. We still need a lot of help, the world is still violent, and it seems daily we hear about violence, not just overseas, but in our communities. The deeds that are evil, they still exist, whether those deeds are sorcery and idolatry, or murder/abortion, or sexual immorality, or unethical business, or gossip and envy. The world is still dealing with destruction, with misery, with injustice, and the wicked still outnumber the righteous.
Some of that, which we cry out for God to rescues us from, is our doing, our unrighteousness, our guilt, and shame.
Yes, some of the sin and unrighteousness in our world is because of our sin.
No pleasure in people turning away –
Just depend on Him
The key in reading the Old Testament, in fact, all of the scripture, is to no to a take a passage without considering the rest of the chapter, the rest of the book. There are times you have to keep going, such as this passage.
In the midst of his grief, Habakkuk says he will look – he will wait on God for the answer that must come. He will, despite his despair, continue to look to God for an answer.
And the Lord answers, and not only will he answer the prophet, the answer is to be etched into stone. So that all will hear and see these answers.
That is what verse 2 says,
And here is the answer,
3 If the vision is delayed, wait patiently, for it will surely come and not delay. 4 I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away, but the righteous person will live by my faith.*
if you don’t God working, He’s got it all in His timing, and that timing is perfect, As Habakkuk and all the Old Testament prophets waited for Christ Jesus to come, so we wait, trusting in His work at the cross to deliver us into the presence of the Father.
Peter certainly knew this, for he would paraphrase this passage
9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)
Peter will note this about Paul as well,
15 And remember, the Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— 16 speaking of these things in all of his letters.
2 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)
It is a hard answer to hear that God will be patient, that things are going to be fixed right now, in our time, because God is at work, through us, reaching out to other people. That is what the cross is all about – that no one should ever die without knowing that God would forgive them, that He would draw them to Himself, that He loves them. God delays the recreation of the world, just to save one more, jut to rescue one more sheep, to find one more who was lost, to give one more broken person the hope of His healing them.
That’s a brutally honest, real answer. It’s one I don’t like at first, as I see and know of so much pain, so much suffering, as I witness sin and the bondage it keeps people in, and the hope it robs of those created by God to walk in joy.
When you see that person given faith in God, who comes to know they can depend on Him, who finds themselves cleansed not only of their own sin but the righteousness of the world, the wait is worth it! As we see those we love, whom we pray for, whom we often struggle with and against – there is the Holy Spirit, drawing them to Jesus, where they find healing and peace. This is why there is a delay, so those we love- and those we are called to love, can be reconciled to Jesus.
For we do so in Christ Jesus, and that means we do so know peace that is beyond all understanding, as Christ is the foundation of our hope.
Devotional Discussion Thought of the Day:
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. Galatians 5:16-17 (NLT)
346 Loyalty demands a real hunger for formation, because you are moved by a sincere love and you do not wish to run the risk of spreading or defending, through ignorance, principles or attitudes which are very far from being in accordance with the Truth. (1)
In a few hours, I will be officiating at the wedding of a cute couple, both incredibly passionate about each other. It will be fun, as was most of the pre-marital counseling I subjected them to undergo.
Some may think such a day is the best day of their lives. My prayer is that this is just the beginning of a relationship that will know much joy, much peace, even as they will undoubtedly have trying days. They might have a fight or two, they will definitely misunderstand each other, and the very passion that can result in incredible tenderness, incredible hunger for the other (in every way including sexually!) , can also turn on a dime and be focused on betrayal, or a perception that they are betrayed. For passion, and words, are meant for us to use positively,
It is not unlike our relationship with God. We should be passionate in our relationship with God, but I have often seen such passion turned against God when God doesn’t deliver what we think should be delivered. In btoh our relationship with our spouses, and our relationship with God, our sense of self-preservation and selfishness can misinterpret the One (or the one) we love.
This is when we need to realize that a major component of love is loyalty. Both the Hebrew cHesed and the Greek agape see loyalty, dedication to the “other” as the true nature of love. To desire and use everything that the one has to achieve what is best in the relationship.
Escriva is right, and it is applicable in our intimate relationship with God and our intimate relationship with our spouse. Formation is key, because it is there when we encounter love at its most incredible level. It is revealed to us, this love that sustains us, that empowers us, that purifies us. It is as we get to know the other (whether God or our spouse) that the relationship takes on such value that we would never want to risk damaging it. When such damage does occur, we need to grow to where we run to see it healed.
That is what formation does, it trains us, it helps us grow, it brings healing with it, for growth can’t occur if we are damaged beyond our ability to even seek healing. Formation is encountering mercy at its sweetest, at the moment it is unexpected.
For then it is revealed to be love.
Such love draws us to God, such love will bring a couple through anything that could occur.
I pray we all find those who will encourage and guide our formation with God, and for those who are married, I pray that your being formed with God provides the strength to really set aside your own needs, to meet the other’s needs.
Lord, in your great love, have mercy upon us.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria, The Furrow
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 (NLT)
May you realize the blessing of Christ making His home with you…the love and mercy and promise of eternity!
My friend Chris ( our Minister of Worship ) and I were talking last night between services, of the ride we and our friends have had over the last sixteen or seventeen months. There has been so much trauma, so many tragedies, so much going on physically, emotionally, spiritually, that it hasn’t seemed like we were singing and playing and leading worship n Christmas Eve.
There seemed to be a disconnection, a hard to believe gap between the calendar and our minds. It just didn’t seem like Christmas yet…..
It’s like being away from home to long, there is a sense you belong there… but it takes a while to get acclimated. I felt this even more going back to New England this year, taking William and Kay to see where I grew up, to walk where my family lived and played and grew up.
Yet home is here, especially here at this altar. Home is here, with the people of God. It is odd to have two homes, especially two so radically different.
In the gospel this morning There is an amazing line.
The theologians will talk about the importance of the first three verses, where I focus on the last two.
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.
Some older translations will phrase this – and dwelt among us. But the words in Greek talk about setting up camp, your base, where you and your family dwell. It talks of setting up the place you call home.
Jesus came and established His home with us.
He whose first home was with the Father and Holy Spirit, makes His home with us, in our midst. He who is used to hearing the angels singing praises, whose home is a place we can’t even picture, we can’t even imagine the sound, our hearts cannot even conceive of the glory there…..
He leaves that home, and He just walks into our lives, uninvited, and makes Himself at home. He belongs here, with us.
27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)
Jesus made His home with us.
Normally a Lutheran sermon would include the law, a look at how we’ve broken our relationship with Him.
No need to do that here – we realize how odd it seems that a pure, holy, sinless God would tolerate our presence.
Much less make His home with us….
But that is why He has come……
To make His home with 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 (NLT)
That we would realize we have another home, one far different that this home….
For our home is with the Father in heaven…
And may we walk all the way home, at the side of Christ…
Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:
4 “But he endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne. All the while we thought that his suffering was punishment sent by God. 5 But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received. 6 All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his own way. But the LORD made the punishment fall on him, the punishment all of us deserved. Isaiah 53:4-6 (TEV)
10 The LORD says, “It was my will that he should suffer; his death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness. And so he will see his descendants; he will live a long life, and through him my purpose will succeed. 11 After a life of suffering, he will again have joy; he will know that he did not suffer in vain. My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased, will bear the punishment of many and for his sake I will forgive them. 12 And so I will give him a place of honor, a place among the great and powerful. He willingly gave his life and shared the fate of evil men. He took the place of many sinners and prayed that they might be forgiven.” Isaiah 53:10-12 (TEV)
23 For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, 24 gave thanks to God, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.” 25 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.” 26 This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (TEV)
56 Another man of faith wrote to me: “When you have to be on your own, you can notice clearly the help of your brothers. Now, when it comes to my mind that I have to put up with everything ‘all alone’, I often think that, if it weren’t for that ‘company we keep from afar’—the holy Communion of Saints!—I would not be able to preserve this optimism which fills my heart.” (1)
I have served as a pastor for 15 some years, and as a Chaplain prior to that. In that time I have preached in churches of a number of denominations, and have been settled where I am now, in the Lutheran Church, for a good deal of that time. In both groups. (the Restoration Movement/Christian Church/churches of Christ and the LC-MS) the practice has been that of communing often, though “often” is up to local interpretation. (Some celebrate weekly, others bi-weekly, some more often than that!)
My own preference is as often as possible, even to the extent that if a number of people wanted to celebrate it daily, I would, and would rejoice over it.
Read the passages above. Hear of the love of God, the desire to form with us a community, and the extent to which Christ would suffer and die, in order to make possible this relationship. In participating in this feast, in proclaiming the death of Christ until He comes again, we proclaim a depth of love that extends through every part of our live. We come humbly together, before the throne of God, we celebrate the grace of God, the gifts of God.
We feast with Him, a foretaste of the promised feast to come, because we have been made His children, because He took on every one of my sins, every sin of every person at the altar, who I serve, as I give the Body broken for them, as they take this cup of the New Covenant, shed for the forgiveness of sin. As we with angels and archangels, with all the company of heaven, with everyone who has every trusted in God’s promises made to them, revealed in the scriptures.
As we celebrate His presence, His love, His glory, which we begin to see, simply as we find rest for our souls, as we are gathered.
I love the TEV’s words from Isaiah…. read them again..
We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received.
11 After a life of suffering, he will again have joy; he will know that he did not suffer in vain. My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased, will bear the punishment of many and for his sake I will forgive them.
How can you not desire to realize this often? How can you not be comforted by these words, this remembrance not just of the suffering and death, (and resurrection!) But the comfort of the words that reveal to you the love of God who promises to never leave us, never to forsake us.
How can we not proclaim this death, this love, this Lord of Life’s love, and how can we not desire to, often?
It’s our very life… as His people. (this is where I find the greatest source of strength, as I realize His love is for all of us)
Lord, have mercy on us, and teach us to treasure that mercy!!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 456-460). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
Last night, as a couple of friends and I were talking about the gospel reading for this week, we struggled with the message that will develop out of it.
Because it challenges our idols, it challenges the things we cling onto for support. And if we are to preach it clearly, we will have to destroy and idol or two. This isn’t easy, and the reaction of the man in the story is what we, as those who are tasked with what is fancifully called “the proclamation of the gospel” fear. The man came to Jesus, desiring eternal life, willing to bend his knee and honor Jesus, and at the end of the discussion this is what happens.
“he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving,”
He went away, rather than accept the invitation to accompany Jesus, in reality to do exactly what was at the heart of the question – to experience heaven, to be in the presence of God. For if he had given all that restrained him, all that bound him, this young man would have walked with God, just as Enoch did, just as Abraham and Moses and David… and Peter and James and John. What he wanted was right before his eyes! And he walked away, turning down what he wanted most. And not only did he turn away, he left broken and stumbling and….grieving.
While he went his way, Jesus went away, for the joy set before Him. A joy that would lead him to the cross. For this young man, into whose heart he looked, and loved, and would die for, gladly. He would endure the cross to break the power of sin, in this case, the sin of idolatry, and by breaking those bonds, the man would be able to do that which he most desired, to live in the presence of God. He would be able to do, that which we cannot do. Jesus would come to him the next time, and free him of that sin, and unite with him.
A good summary of the lesson for us would be this prayer….may we each pray it today, embracing the pain that being separated from our idols will bring, for the joy that was set before Jesus….that caused Him to give up everything that had to do with Himself, that He could share with us that glory and love.
“”Lord, grant me the grace to give up everything that has to do with myself. I should have no other concern than your Glory… in other words, your Love. Everything for Love!” (1)
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1038-1040). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.