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The Search for Who I Am. Why is it so difficult…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2  then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5  Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
Philippians 2:1-5 (MSG)

947         May you acquire the custom of concerning yourself every day about others, and give yourself to the task so much that you forget you even exist!

Many of us live in our own world, A world, that though we are broken, is chock full of stuff that gives us little chance ot be who we are. In reality, it gives us little chance ot find out who we are. And finding meaning in our lives? After so many years, it seems useless, and perhaps, even a waste of time.

I think part of our problem is trying to determine who we are from some theoretical, philosophical or even psychological study. These tools can tell me a lot of things about me, but they don’t tell me who I am. For example, my MBTI personality type is ENFP, and as I read the description, I resonate with it. It describes aspects of my personality, of my traits and behaviors.

However, I am more than that.

Ultimately, we are the children of God, the men, and women that Jesus says He no longer addresses as servants, but as friends, beloved friends. We are, as the church and as individuals, being transformed into the image of Christ, therefore the image of God.

And His nature should begin to be seen in us.

That is what St. Paul is talking about, this idea of being like Christ. Not that we have to or we aren’t saved, our merits gain us nothing in view of salvation. We are like Jesus because of the incredible love and comfort He pours out on us. If you have experienced this love, this fellowship with Christ, then we do begin to lose ourselves in Him, caring for those who He has brought into our lives. As we realize His love for us, that love is passed on to others, even to those the world tells us it is impossible to love. It is what happens

And our life is saved by losing it. By taking up the cross and following Him.

That is what St. Josemaria talks about as well, as we minister to the various broken people, ministering to the least of these, the sick, the imprisoned, the widow and orphan, the brokenhearted, to mourning, the hurting, the lost. We do it because as we are in fellowship with God, there is no other option, it becomes natural. (see article VI of the Augsburg Confession)

This is how we find “ourselves,” this is how we know who we are.

We are His.



Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3843-3845). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

More Blessed to Give Than Receive

Concordia’s Service on Sunday May 12, 2019
https://youtu.be/R6SQ4TMMvQs

More Blessed to Give than Receive!
Acts 20:17-35

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform your life, that you just don’t know it is better to give than receive, but that you give yourself completely…

Mother’s Day

If there is a day that I don’t have to look far for a sermon illustration, today’s sermon passage from Acts 20 is it. Here is the primary verse for the passage…

“It is more blessed to give than to receive”

and then think

Mother’s Day. 

Hmmm… could there be a connection there? You know, those ladies who have given so much, and whom most of us have benefited from,

Most of us struggle to really understand this passage but if there is a group of people who do, it would be moms!  Been watching a lot of pics on FB this week, of friends whose kids are graduating college.  The largest and perhaps the quietest, proud smiles are on the faces of the moms.  Heck, half the time, they are the ones taking the picture! The same for my cousins, putting up pictures of their sons and daughters at recitals or ball games!  I think they find more joy at the moment than their children do, and the sacrifices, well are forgotten.

Mom’s give a lot, and some of them, when their children succeed, or simply have learned that lesson that was so hard to teach them, find their reward, and know the sacrifice was worth it.

So they have a small grasp on what it means when Paul mentions Jesus’ teaching on “it is more blessed to give than receive.” 

And yet, there is more to it, as we shall see.

The struggle and the answer

The challenge of understanding these simple words is that most of us don’t recognize when someone is sacrificing something in order to help us.  We didn’t see our mom’s at the end of a long day, cleaning the house, or doing the laundry. 

We don’t understand why they would work so hard, or our fathers would work so hard, until we faced the same thing, until we wanted something for our children, for those we care for… then sacrifice became the norm, often without even thinking.

Yet prior to that, we assumed that was our mom’s role.  That is what parents do, they are supposed to wrap their lives around us kids.  They are, along with our grandparents, supposed to spoil us rotten.

And when they disciplined us, we never understood the phrase, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you….”

But it did….

Well, I think it did!

But we have to encounter the need to sacrifice out of love, we have to have it happen naturally before we understand it… or at least experience it. It has to get by that part of us that wants to get, get! Get!!

That part of us that is sure what we want is best, that we know what is right, and that throws a tantrum.  What?  You don’t think adults throw tantrums? 

We are quite good at it!

Look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or listen to conversations at Starbucks or a bar if you don’t believe me!

Remember, we are called to love.  Love our moms, our spouses, our families, our friends, neighbors and enemies…

That means we can grow in this blessing of giving more than we receive.

Let me give you an example.

Susan, last year when Ethan one of your preschool students ask you to be his sponsor when he got baptized.

Did you think about how much you and your teachers invested in Ethan?  Of the time you taught him about Jesus, or held his hand on the way to chapel? Or were you just in awe of being asked?

That is what it means, that it is better, it is more of a blessing to give than receive!

Context! Context! Context! 

And that brings us back to the context of our passage. 

You see, Paul isn’t talking about being a mom to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. He’s talking about shepherding them, about their need to shepherd the people God entrusts to them…. About our sharing Christ’s love, no matter the cost, with the people God brings us into contact with.

He says this,

24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

Ultimately, that is our job, to help all of “our” kids know that God isn’t going to “get them” when they screw up, but that He wants to fix what they’ve broken.  A relationship, a level of trust, their own internal life. 

Because that is what the cross was about, the ultimate lesson in the idea that it is more blessed to give than receive.

For we received the forgives of sin, and the promise of everlasting life, the ability to know that God will be there for us, with us.

And Jesus gave His life so that God the Father would gain a family of saints.  Including all that depend on Him.

For that is what faith is, realizing how much God has promised, and depending on Him to provide it.  The forgiveness of all sin, the promise of eternal life, and the promise of His walking with us now.. even as we learn to give the gift of salvation to others.

This is what Paul wanted to give everyone the knowledge of, and as he did, as Susan did, as I have done, we realize what it means that it is more blessed to give than receive. 

As we do we realize, as we see it over and over become real to others, that it is in giving that we realize how precious the peace of God is that He draws us into, a peace that goes beyond all understanding, even as, like a mother hen, He protects our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!

50,000+ reads, 578 subscribers, 1866 posts, and a thought

This underground church blessed m with great peace…
I pray my blog has helped you experience it over the years.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” John 11:37 GNT

The third part is the body with its members. Its work is to draw upon and apply what the soul understands and the spirit believes. To use an example from the Bible,17 Moses built a tabernacle with three different courts. The first was the holy of holies; here God dwelt, and in it there was no light. The second was the holy place; here stood a lampstand with seven arms and seven lamps. The third was the outer court; it was open to the sky and to the sun’s light. This is a metaphor for the Christian person, whose spirit is the holy of holies, God’s dwelling in the darkness of faith without light. For the Christian believes what is neither seen, nor felt, nor comprehended. The soul is the holy place with its seven lamps, that is, every form of reason,18 discrimination, knowledge,19 and understanding20 of bodily and visible things. The body is the outer court that is open to everyone, so that everyone can see what one does and how one lives.

First of all, thank you. Thank you for the reads, the comments (especially those) and the time you have taken. Thanks for the patience with my poor typing skills. Thank you mostly for returning to listen, and maybe be drawn closer to God.

This blog actually started in a different place, and has been home here since 2012. It started back when a friend from Washington would ask me for my sermons, and send them out to hundreds of her friends. Another friend once raead a journal entry I made, and declared that I should share it. So “asimplechristian” was born. justifiedandsinner followed a few years after when the host company of the first address couldn’t provide reliable service, then when the address was freed I got it back. It is compromised mostly of sermons and my devotional summaries, with the quotes that give birth to the thoughts.

Lots of thanks to God for those whose writings spawn those thougths. St. Josemaria Escriva, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, the writers of the Book of Concord and the writings of 2 Vatican Council provide some 80 percent of that.

And here we are, 50,000 reads later (not counting the subscribers who get each post in the mail. (I don’t know if you read it. but you get it!) From over 140 countries.

There is one question I struggle with a lot over the years, and it showed up in the gopsel reading this morning.

Why doens’t God bring about the healing and/or conversion of the ones I love? Why do I have to watch them struggle, knowing that God could take care of them in an instant?

It sounds like the question is about Him, but I think the question is more about me.

You see, I know God is God, and I spend so much time telling people what I know and believe about Him. His mercy, His love, His being there for them, as He rescues them, cleans them up and heals them, comforts them.

Theologians have great canned answers as to why this person is healed and not that one. Why this person responds right away, that one doesn’t, and a third struggles in between. But those answers don’t calm the tears, or ease the broken heart.

That’s when I needed to hear Luther’s explanation this morning, Taken from his explantion of the Magnificat of Mary, found in Luke’s gospel. He uses the illustration of the three holy places, and I get it now.

The outside, which everyone can see, I am a pastor, a strong believer who has been able to depend on God in some crappy situations.

It is the middle section, where i think my reason enters into it, that there is a problem. I get frustrated as I can’t understand it all, I can’t reconcile the glory I see to what appears to be inaction on God’s part. And the dissonance is challenging.

Where I find the resolution is the Holy of Holies, the innder court where God draws me into His presence, with you and a billion others. Luther says there is no light there, but there is something more. There is God, and in His presence there is no need for light. There is awe that overwhelms our intellect, our ability to reason, and as we spend time there, we are conformed to the image of Christ. There we find what it means to adore, to worship God, and there our hearts and minds find the peace and take it back out to the Holy Place, and to the outer court to share with others.

That is where I hope these posts have drawn you, into that Holy of Holies, into the presence of God who longs to dwell in you, and with you.

Thanks for coming- keep going, keep exploring the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love for you, revealed at the cross, in Christ Jesus.

AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 99). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.


Forgiving them for your sake? That is not Godly forgiveness!

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thoguht of the Day:

7 Go and preach, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8 Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid. Matthew 10:7-8 (TEV)

For if a work is not oriented toward serving others or toward suffering under another’s will (as long as one is not forced to act against God’s will), then it is not a good, Christian work

All good things flow into us from Christ, who accepted what we are into his life, as if he were what we are. These same things should flow from us into those who have need of them. In addition, I must place even my faith and righteousness before God for my neighbor, so that they cover my neighbor’s sin, and then take that sin upon myself, and act no differently than if it were my very own, even as Christ did for all of us. That, you see, is the nature of love when it is genuine.

Every once in a while, we pick up on sayings and make them our own. They resonate with us, and eventually, we give them the exalted status of being scriptural. Or at least we assume they are scriptural.

One of those sayings comes across this way.

You need to forgive them for your sake, if you don’t the only person you affect negatively is you.

The saying comes across in many forms, but it teaches that we forgive, not for the sake of the person that is indebted to us, but for our own sake.

Nice sentiment, and surely reconciliation blesses us as well as them, but forgiveness must be an act of love, an act of giving to the person who sinned against you.

Luther nails this when he talks of works not directed to the best interest of others not being “good Christian works”. As Jesus is quoted by Matthew, the point is made, – freely receive? Freely give! And as he hung on the cross, there wasn’t thought of his burdens being lifted by forgiving us. There was love, and the desire to minister to us and heal us.

This certainly makes forgiveness harder, relegating it to what it is, an act of love, an act that is Christlike, taking on the burden of sin, and releasing the person who committed it. It’s not going to be easy, it is not going to be full of warm fuzzies. It is a work that takes a dedicated decision to love.

Even our enemies.

Which means that is is an act of faith as well. Not trusting the sinner, but trusting that God can heal us of the pain caused by the sin, by the betrayal. It is going to take realizing the healing and love that God pours out on us, even as He forgives us a million times in our life,

And knowing we are loved, knowing He is healing us, knowing He is the righteous judge, we learn to forgive as He did. Forgiveness which testifies to a love greater than sin. It doesn’t happen as quickly or easily as we would wish.

But it can still happen. As w dwell in the peace of God which passes all understanding, guarding your hearts and minds as we dwell secured by Christ.

Heavenly Father, help us to forgive as Jesus did. Send your Spirit to comfort and empower us, and build in us the desire to love people enough that forgivness is a natural reaction, and the desire for reconciliation is our hope and prayer. AMEN!



Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 89). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Is God Serious about this? He can’t mean this, can He?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26† “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. Luke 14:26 GNT

676         Have you noticed how many of your companions know how to be very kind and considerate when dealing with the people they love, whether it is their girlfriend, their wife, their children or their family? Tell them—and ask it of yourself too— that the Lord does not deserve less. They must treat him that way! Advise them, besides, to continue practising that kindness and consideration, but do it with Him and for Him,and they will achieve, even here on earth, a happiness they had never dreamed of.

Is God really serious with this?

That I have to love Him, be more devoted to Him that to my wife, my son, my mother, my friends?

Other translations phrase it more bluntly, indicating that we have to “hate” those relations. The root word can extend from the hate that is actively working against the person to simple indifference, where the blessing we could be is neglected, to refrain from being in the person’s life.

I have to admit this, I don’t like these words of Jesus.

I struggle with them.

I can try to rationalize a million reasons why Jesus didn’t mean what he said. From talking about our responsibilities under the fourth commandment ( Honor thy father and mother) to talk ing about the witness we need to have with our lives, as we care for those God has put in our lives. And I know people that have done as the Pharisees and discounted their parents out of religious obligation. Jesus talks about them as well, calling that practice wicked.

Yet these words will not disappear from scripture.

And as much as we are shocked by them, we need to hear them. We desperately need to hear them. We need to admit how we too often turn these relationships into idolatry When we live through them or define ourselves first as a husband, dad, son, brother, cousin, friend. When the devotion we should have towards God is sacrificed on the altar of these relationships. When we tolerate sinful behaviors or brokenness because we are afraid of hurting the relationship. When we are more worried about losing this person’s favor than we are about losing the love of God.

And there is the problem, this idolatry of relationships, this giving of the place that God designed in your life, so that you can know His love, that you can know His care, that you can realize His presence.

Yeah, He means it. not out of some self-centered jealousy and need for self-affirmation, but because of what He can provide for us, that no one else can.

As we learn to live in that love, as that relationship defines us, we even find out our care for others becomes more like God’s, truly loving and not just caring for what we get out of it.

A hard lesson to hear, a harder one to live out. Yet so necessary…

Lord, help us to receive Your love for us, and help us to respond to it, living in it, letting it define who we are, and how we live… AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2824-2829). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Thoughts about Our Need of the Lord’s Supper..and preparing for it.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26  This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27  It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:26-32 (TEV)

651         You sometimes allow the bad side of your character to come out, and it has shown itself, on more than one occasion, in an absurd harshness. At other times, you do not bother to prepare your heart and your head so that they may be a worthy dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity… And you invariably end up by remaining rather distant from Jesus, whom you know so little. If you go on like this, you will never have interior life.

For the Fathers of the Church, the Eucharist is considered as the medicine of eternity. It is a remedy. Jesus continues to touch the sick with His Eucharistic Body. St Thomas Aquinas understands the Eucharist as the bread of the soul: as bread sustains the body, the Eucharist sustains the soul. As bread repairs the body, the Eucharist repairs the soul. As bread increases the life of the body, the Eucharist increases the life of the soul. As bread gives joy to the body, the Eucharist gives joy to the life of the soul, sometimes even to the life of the body, as it is given to us to see.
In refusing to go and draw from the Eucharist the source of healing, many of our contemporaries are tempted to seek out pseudo-healings in false spiritualities.

“He was insistent that the church, and the teachings of the church, not be the subject of evangelization but that Jesus be the sole focus of evangelization. Jesus is the Message that should be taught, and not the church, which is the vehicle for the message.”

We stand there, kneel there, wait there…

So many come who are so burdened, so broken. Even though they confessed their sins not long ago, you can see the weight of their sin, and even the sins of their community, their world, weighing down on them.

And Jesus comes to them again, giving them the nourishment and grace that they need. They are not there to prove their holiness, their piety, they are there because they need to experience the love of God.

If, as Girzone notes, the church’s evangelization is in the message revealing Jesus, if our role as God’s people is to reveal His glorious love and mercy to the world, then the altar is a time where this happens.

It is why the fathers of the church, from Clement to Augustine to Francis and even Martin Luther put such a value on the sacraments. The means of grace where God reveals and pours out His love on us. Where we find ourselves in the presence of God. This moment, when the veil between heaven and earth is transparent, where the soul and heart realize what the mind assents to when it responds to “the peace of the Lord is with you!” and thunders back “AMEN!”

So how do we prepare for this? How do we not take such a great salvation for granted? How do we recognize that Jesus giving us His precious body, His blood which covers our sin?

It is not by perfecting our lives, for we cannot do that.

It is not by pretending to be holy, or deserving.

It is by realizing we need this medicine, that our souls need to be revived, that our hearts need to know God’s promise is not in vain, that He has forgiven us, that this sacrifice of Christ ~2000 years ago was done, to make you and me the children of God.

We prepare for this great gift, this means of grace, by realizing our need and expecting God to deliver what He said He would give us. We prepare for it by realizing our hunger and our need and rejoicing in the gifts of God, given to the people of God.

So come, and join us, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and give thanks and praise to the Lord who serves us, in love. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2732-2736). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 8). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Girzone, Joseph. (2011) The Homeless Bishop, Orbis Books , Maryknoll, NY

In Ministry, whom do we please? A different perspective!

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 realise that both in spiritual and in civil affairs it will be very rare for a law to displease nobody. There is a popular saying: The rain never pleases everybody! Yet you can be sure, that is not a defect of the law, but an unjustified rebelliousness of pride and selfishness by a few.

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.

Being “Not Ashamed” of the gospel, is harder than we think

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.   1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)

16  I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17  For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”   Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)

Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross! She will become only a “polite social” institution in her sterility. This is, ultimately, the price paid, and indeed it is, by the people of God for being ashamed of the gospel and giving in to the fear of giving witness. If we do not confess Christ, what then would we be?

Jesus’ Last Supper was not one of those meals he held with “publicans and sinners”. He made it subject to the basic form of the Passover, which implies that this meal was held in a family setting. Thus he kept it with his new family, with the Twelve; with those whose feet he washed, whom he had prepared, by his Word and by this cleansing of absolution (Jn 13:10), to receive a blood relationship with him, to become one body with him.3 The Eucharist is not itself the sacrament of reconciliation, but in fact it presupposes that sacrament. It is the sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family. That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment. We have just heard this, in very dramatic form, from Paul: Whoever eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgment on himself, because he does not distinguish the Body of the Lord

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.


For decades, the two gospel passages above have been burnt into my mind.

This is what we do, or what we try to do.

Preach Christ crucified, and we do it in a way that proves we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

Being not ashamed of the gospel is harder than we think.  It is not being a hire-powered, no holes barred evangelist.  It is about letting our souls be laid bare so that we can be healed!

And yet, to preach Christ crucified we have to deal with our guilt and shame. And it may be that we are afraid of, no terrified of, our shame.

To preach the cross of Christ, means we have to realize something else is there, something God has to deal with, for we cannot.

6  Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call!
Romans 6:5-6a (MSG)

There we are. preaching the cross of Christ, knowing that on that cross our sins are nailed there, with Him.  All of our dirty, shameful, secrets lifted up on that cross for Him to bear.  Our sin was nailed to the cross with Him, and such a way that we are not ashamed of admitting it. 

Our confession is not that we trust in Him, but that we confess our sins, we give Him permission to deal with them, to heal us of our brokenness. 

That is what faith in Christ, depending upon Him boils down to, our recognition that He will help us deal with our brokennes, that he will take and remove our sin. 

And the power of that salvation is such that we are not ashamed to depend upon Him for that. 

Pope Benedict’s words have an incredible meaning here. For in clarifying that the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) is not the sacrament of reconciliation, He reminds us of the intimacy of this feast, and the celebration of His Body being broken, His Blood being poured out, the action which brings us, a holy and healing people into the presence of God.  We need to go to the cross, face our sin, and see it nailed there, that is what discerning the Body and Blood means. 

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is my hope, to deal with my brokenness, and to help me help you with yours. (and at times, vice versa)

It is this that is most ironic, that my shame, that yours, can be dealt with in a way of which we are not ashamed, but that brings joy and peace. 

Lord Jesus, draw us to the cross, draw us close to Your side. Help us to not be ashamed of being there, help us as we not be ashamed of handing over all our sin, all our brokenness, letting You remove their hold on our souls. Lord, help us to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit so that we realize Your presence.
Help us as well, to be willing to help others deal with their guilt and shame… knowing how You deal with ours. And then, lead us all into the Father’s presence.  AMEN!

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.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (pp. 59–60). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

*this helps us to understand the difference between a pastoral form of close communion, and the denominational practice of closed communion.  The latter simply says you aren’t like me, you can’t be part of the feast, the latter looks at the common dependence on Christ’s mercy, the discernment of that need, and the desire to see God continue to heal us. 

A Lesson We Need to Learn. Church is not “Respectable”

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

The devotional thought of the day:

12 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. 13† Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”  Matt 9:12-13 Good News Translation (TEV)

Neither illumination nor contemplation but rather spiritual attack (tentatio) concluded Luther’s engagement with scripture. For him, when the Holy Spirit breaks our reason and reveals to us the true intention of God’s word, we are not drawn into some sort of heavenly realm or closer contact to the divine by our effort. Instead, all hell breaks loose. The flesh, the world, the devil and any other anti-spiritual power attempt to wrest from the believer the comfort of God’s unconditional grace and mercy. No wonder the psalmist cried out for deliverance from his enemies in Psalm 119!

One of the most serious temptations that lead us to break our contact with the Lord is the feeling of defeat. Facing a combative faith by definition, the enemy under the disguise of an angel of light will sow the seeds of pessimism. No one can take up any fight if, from the outset, one does not fully trust in winning. Those who begin without trust have already lost half the battle.

People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to by him. God’s visits to Adam and Eve in the garden, Enoch’s walks with God, and the face-to-face conversations between Moses and Jehovah are all commonly regarded as highly exceptional moments in the religious history of humankind.
Aside from their obviously unique historical role, however, these moments are not meant to be exceptional at all. Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us: God’s indwelling his people through personal presence and fellowship.

When 3 of my devotional readings go in a certain direction, it is not unusual.  When four do, when I see how they resonate,  the lesson just is about to burst forth, not from the readings, but through experience. So it is today;

I guess I will start with Luther’s thoughts, about this idea that the way we learn about God, is found in its last step in a fight, in the tension and battle that comes as all hell breaks loose, and Satan tries to wrest from us the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the comfort that is found in His cHesed, that incredible combination of love and mercy and peace that comprise what we call grace.

The fight is echoed in the words of Pope Francis, as we deal with an unnatural pessimism, a moment of despair and depression that is not like normal depression but is contrary to it.  As Satan tries to convince us that God wouldn’t care about us, that God sees us as riff-raff, as not worth His time or interest.  We know this is not true, yet, it is so hard to shut out the voice of the ones who are masquerading as messengers of God.

It is hard because we struggle to see ourselves as God does, as the beautiful, pure, bride, set apart as the bride of Christ, as one who deserves the respect and admiration of God.  Instead, we see ourselves as those who are broken, not worthy of a glance, nothing close to deserving respect.

Yet we often treat the church as if it is the place we have to demonstrate how respectable we are.  We might pretend, dressing us, smiling and saying we are okay when people ask, smiling and greeting each other as if every day was a party.  When what we really feel like is staying home, hiding under the blankets and ignoring the world.

I think this is enhanced by how we see what some call the heroes of faith, the incredible men and women we see described in the Bible. Except we forget that Moses was running from Egypt, a prince hiding out with sheep in the wilderness.  That Abraham was an exile looking for his home and future as well, that David wasn’t the hero, but the man broken by his sin, and then by the sins of his children.

As shattered as we are, yet…

Willard reminds us that they are examples of a normal human life and that God was present, and lived with them.   That God walked with them in their brokenness, even as He walks with us.   They are not exceptional, their walking with God, finding hope there, is our example, for we can as well.

After all, Jesus didn’t come to snob around with the perfect and respectful.  He came to draw outcasts, broken folk, exiles and those who struggle to get out of bed every morning.  Because He loves us…..

And Satan will unleash all of hell to stop us from experiencing this, and in that tension, we find God’s comfort, that He is our refuge, our sanctuary, and our hope.

We are His people, He is our God… and He is calling us to His side, so He can comfort and heal us, the children He loves.

Let us pray,  Heavenly Father, in the midst of trials, in the midst of brokenness, and when it seems all hell is breaking loose.  Help us to see Your glory, revealed in Your love and your comfort.  AMEN!

Wengert, T. J. (2007). Preface. 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. xiv). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 352). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

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

Is Jesus your Lord? Is that all? That’s a problem!

Jesus_knocks_on_door_heartDevotional Thought of the Day:

In that day— this is the LORD’s declaration— you will call Me, “My husband,” and no longer call Me, “My Baal. (my master)”   Hosea 2:16 HCSB

Faith needs intellect if it is to be understood and practiced. But it needs, above all, an intellect that will not only be productive but will also be able to understand what is proper to it. It needs an intellect that hears.

There is a big difference in the relationship between a husband and wife, and a master and his servant. Even in the days of Jesus, or in the days of Hosea, there was a huge difference.

And yet, for many today, the idea of a relationship with God is one where we are the slaves and God is the Master. While Jesus is indeed Lord of Lords and King of Kings, for the people of God there is a relationship that is more important,

Far more important.

Far more meaningful, far more amazing, far more, dare I say it?

Far more intimate. (not in a sexual way, but a spiritual/emotional manner)

Hosea talks of God as our spouse, noting the incredible change from our identifying His as Lord, to identifying Him as our spouse, our beloved. That is the nature of faith, of a relationship in which we learn to depend completely on God, on His presence, His mercy, His incredible deep love for us all.  We need to learn that God desires to spend time with us, desires that we know the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love!  That He wants us to experience it, even if we can’t explain it.  (Modern forensic apologists and theologians take note!)  This is the God who calls us His own, who makes us His own, no matter the cost, and shows the greatest love, in dying that we might live.

That’s not the love of a master, a lord, a Ba’al.

That’s the love of a husband,  who adores His precious bride. (see Eph. 5!)

We know from scripture that even demons can see Jesus as Lord. (Mark 5. Matt 8, James 2:19) and that many will identify Him as Lord, whom he doesn’t know.

But He knows the ones He loves, and who love Him. He knows those who hear His voice and walks with Him. (this is why Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger talks about the need of the theologian to hear God to properly understand Theology.)  We need to hear him, to hear of his love, to hear of His care, to know He is with us.

So rejoice in the love of God!  Talk with Him, listen to Him, and rejoice in His presence!

And if you don’t know how to do that, let’s talk and listen and see what His word, His self-revelation to us says.  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.) (p. 329). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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