Devotional Thought of the Day:
33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 11:22-12:4 (NLT)
258 What a beautiful prayer for you to say frequently, that one of our good friend praying for a priest whom hatred for religion imprisoned: “My God, comfort him, since it is for you he suffers persecution. How many suffer, because they serve you!” What a source of joy the Communion of Saints is! (1)
I read the 11th chapter of Hebrews today, from Abraham through the prophets, from judges to kings and apostles, and I wonder how they achieved the trust they had, the level of faith that sustained them in times of dire need. I consider the saints since, the brilliant ones like Chrysotom, Augustine, and Melancthon, Walther and Benedict XVI. I think of those who’ve changed the world like Luther or Craenmer or St. Josemaria Escriva or Billy Graham, I think of those who withstood tyranny and proclaimed Christ, who would die rather than worship a false God. I think of those like Francis and Mother Theresa and the many unknown who serve those whose health is poor, who live in darkness. Whose names are unmentioned, but their work changes lives. I think of King David and Bede, Beethoven and Mozart; Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, John Michael Talbot, Michael Card, and hear the wondrous praise they have composed.
And I wonder, do I belong in their company?
My head tells me I do, because of the theology I know and preach… that Christ came to have mercy on sinners like me. This is what my soul counts on, more than anything.
Yet in my heart I wonder, will I simply be in the last row in heaven? In the folding chair, brought in at the last moment for those of us standing around, not quite sure I belong there?
After all, I haven’t the wisdom, or the skill, and I especially don’t have the patience of those who endured before me. I haven’t done anything noteworthy, never gotten a million hit, heck a thousand hit blog post, or wrote a song picked up by some great singer. Never served communion to more than 150, or baptized 5 people in a day.
Sometimes I wonder if I will be the last one picked, like in a sandlot baseball game. God shrugs – yeah – I will take him, I guess I need a millionth string holder for the place kicker.
In my mind I would love to be listed there, one of those who did something that was an amazing demonstration of my trust of God, even more a demonstration of how much God is worthy of all trust. How much God will sustain His people, through the worst of storms, through martyrdoms, even as they forgive the sins of those who oppress them.
But I am not, just a simple guy, trying to shepherd simple people. People who still struggle with sin, people who still on occasional doubt. People who learn about God and haev to re-learn about His love. People who still struggle with wanting to do things their own way, seek their own pleasure.
First 40 is amazing to spend some time thinking about;
40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
Without us. Without you and I.
God has something in mind… that we will join them.
These heroes of the church, are waiting, by God’s command, for us…..
And because of this great crowd, bearing witness of Christ, who’ve demonstrated to us the faithfulness of God, surround us, we know we can do as they did. Set everything else aside, just drop it there, and look to Jesus. He is why we have faith, and why our faith will be sustained. He will finish what He began in us. . That is why we will be part of the cloud, it is why they are part of the cloud…..
they are sinners just as we are, and they are saints like us because He is.
We do that, we find we are part of the team, those who know that are life is hid in Christ. And that we are part of that great cloud of Witnesses…
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1081-1084). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:4-9 (NLT)
862 When darkness surrounds us and our soul is blind and restless, we have to go to the Light, like Bartimaeus. Repeat, shout, cry out ever more strongly, Domine, ut videam!—Lord, that I may see… And daylight will dawn upon you, and you will be able to enjoy the brightness He grants you. (1)
When darkness hides His shining face, I’ll rest on his unending grace….. (2)
I’ll admit, even as a Christian there are times when darkness settles in, where my soul is restless, anxious, stressed. Where the struggles of life get to me, and I can’t abide the stillness I need, the quiet I need to be able to listen, and hear the still small voice of God. To be able to see through the blinding darkness, to be even able to see enough to fire off an emergency flare.
This world’s evil can do that to us, as can grief, as can unresolved brokeness, and unreconciled sin. We live as aliens in this world, and it is a world that is plunged into darkness.
Because we have been in the light, these momentary (compared to eternity) moments scare us, frighten us, disorient us. We don’t know how to deal with it, because we know life, the life we have been given in Christ. This isn’t it.
Yet out of such times come hymns like “A Mighty Fortress”, “It is Well”, “Amazing Grace”, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand”, the great Psalms 8, 51, 139, modern praise lament music by people like Michael Card, Tori Hunter, and Casting Crowns. (Can anyone hear her?) All are written from insid e the darkness, even as the faint ligtht is seen, even as the cries we’ve poured out with all that is within us come to being.
We might recognize this on our days in the light, but it takes a trust that is well acquainted with God’s nature, that has experienced being pulled out of the darkmess to relax, to be still, to know that God is there, even when we can’t feel it, even when darkness is suffocating us. And even then, in those first moements when the storms crash, when the waves threaten, when darkness coalesces and gains strength, we can lose sight of who we know, and His history of rescuing us from sin, and Satan’s attacks, and the anxiety of death.
It is at that time we need to remember that we can cry out, that it is not a sign of surrendering to our problems, or the darkness, but a realization that only God’s light can penetrate it, only His light can alleiviate it. Only His love can bring us the assurance that we are in His care. The situation may not change, but His light, His promises, His word, His presence makes all the difference!
So we learn to wait, with expectation, with the knowledge that God’s plan will see you through the time. Hear the voices of people sent to minister to you, to bring that light. Be still, know He is God…. and that His light will indeed shine.
- Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3533-3536). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Lyrics to On Christ the Shining Rock
Devotional THought to End the Year:
1 Praise the LORD! Sing a new song to the LORD; praise him in the assembly of his faithful people! 2 Be glad, Israel, because of your Creator; rejoice, people of Zion, because of your king! 3 Praise his name with dancing; play drums and harps in praise of him. 4 The LORD takes pleasure in his people; he honors the humble with victory. 5 Let God’s people rejoice in their triumph and sing joyfully all night long. Psalm 149:1-5 (TEV)
950 We should indeed respect things that are old, and be grateful for them. Learn from them by all means, and bear in mind those past experiences, too. But let us not exaggerate; everything has its own time and place. Do we now dress in doublet and hose or wear powdered wigs on our heads? (1)
As a minister, as a servant of Christ and His church, I have had the chance to stand in awe, as I’ve observed God work. Last year, as I was in China, and saw people hungry for the gospel, as I saw pastors and church leaders hungry for training. As I visited missionaries and saw in them a hunger to be minister to, a hunger so met, that a simple worship service was fileld with tears, with incredible joy, with incredible love. I’ve seen it here at my church, as those who needed God’s comfort and peace in times that trusting in God and knowing HIs presence shuold have been challenged, were comforted and able to pray with a quiet confidence. As people approach the altar, leaving burdens dropped, and receiving in exchange, the Body and Blood of Jesus, and treasuring that joyous moment.
He is amazing, this God of ours, and we should stand in awe of His presence. A presence we should melt in, not from fear, but in awe of His love that I can only use terms like passionate, and intimate, not because of it being erotic, but because of its power and completeness.
A love that is the stuff of song, a love that creates in the musician, the artist, the poet, the wood and metal worker, the blogger, a new work as we find ways to express that awe.
Others have done this in the past, as they have used their heart and minds and hands to create masterpieces in every form, visible, audidble, tactile, They give us examples of what can be done, they can help keep us focused on Jesus.
Without such awe, Luther would have never realized what a place of rest God’s presence is, and written of Him as our Mighty Fortress. Augustine wouldn’t have penned tomes, exploring the fullness of theology. St Francis and Mother Theresa wouldn’t have found His beauty among lepers, Pascal wouldn’t have written of the fire that burns. And people like Michael Card, John Michael Talbot, Matt West and Mark Hall and Chris Gillette wouldn’t be writing music now. To express the joy that is found in knowing God’s presence here, in that awe inspiring us to worship Him.
You see, God didn’t stop inspiting people after the sixteenth century, He didn’t stop working in people’s lives after the death of the apostles, Or after the publication of any hymnal. When we cling to these things, and demand that they are the only way to properly worship God, it can be admission that we don’t see Him working today, that nothing He is doing leaves us in awe, and we create an idol out of past. We stand in awe, not of God, but of their experience, their awe. We end up like the sons of Sceva, trying to rid people of what oppresses them by incanting God because of someone else’s relationship.
Do you see what God is doing now? In your life? In the life of your family, the church, and in your community, which He longs to bring into Christ, through your love demonstrating His?
God;s presence recognized now means that people will need to express their awe, people will need to use their words, their instruments, their talents within their culture, within their time, to do so. Learning from those who’ve gone before, listening to ensure they do not stray, yes. But the people of God need to praise God for what He is doing in their lives, Lives that are claimed at the cross, year lives we lived in 2013, and soon in 2014. The Lord is with us! Rejoice! Be in absolute awe! With all you are, respond in joyous praise!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3851-3854). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- A New (Church) Year’s Challenge to Pastors, Priests, Liturgists, and Worship Leaders…. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Let us worship Him (poetryjoy.com)
- I Got Nuthin… or do I? The Hard Lesson of Trusting (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44 (TEV)
17 If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. 18 Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. 19 Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it. For the scripture says, “I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.” 20 Instead, as the scripture says: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame.” 21 Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 (TEV)
8 To conclude: you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another, and be kind and humble with one another. 9 Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give you when he called you. 10 As the scripture says, “If you want to enjoy life and wish to see good times, you must keep from speaking evil and stop telling lies. 11 You must turn away from evil and do good; you must strive for peace with all your heart. 12 For the Lord watches over the righteous and listens to their prayers; but he opposes those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:8-12 (TEV)
59 They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died. Acts 7:59-60 (TEV)
12 Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Matthew 6:12 (TEV)
Yesterday morning – my cousin posted a picture on Facebook – as they walked toward the finish line of the Boston Marathon from Fenway.
A couple of hours later – the news flashed across my computer that evil had again occurred, as bombs disrupted the peace, the joy of accomplishment, at the finish line. Though I haven’t seen her in a few years, my heart became quite anxious – as I waited for her response , as I waited to hear word that she was safe. Eventually we did… they had stopped to look at some work out clothes on the way.
BUt as I watched the pictures of ambulances and rescue crew – as I saw the pictures, as I watched the numbers scroll as they tallied the numbers of those who were physically hurt, I wanted to strike back, I wanted to find the minds that created this horror. And I know the damage is far worse, for no tally can ever be made of those who are spiritually and emotionally bruised and battered by such and event. My anger was fueled, as I began to see people from “both sides” try to turn this into a political issue, trying to cause division where there was no division. The anger pooled, and grew – as people gave voice to their fears, their anxiety and called for retribution now – even before all the facts are known. External Threats were named, internal threats, conspiracy theories abound. I began to fear what happened to a doctor who new, shortly after 9-11 he and his wife were attacked for being part of those who attacked our country – even though they were not Arabic or Muslim, but Indian and Christian.
And my heart broke.
For my hatred, my sin, for the sins of those who wanted to be in on the revenge, for those who lost control.
What will it take, in moments like these – to really hear the Voice of Scripture, calling us to love, calling us to pray, calling us to urge our enemies to be reconciled to God? To let God decide on whom to pour out wrath on (for many would condemn those who perpetrated this evil to hell)
The above passages aren’t optional responses to evil – they are the responses that those who trust in God above all else are to have. To demonstrate the kind of love that goes beyond all logic – to show the love of Christ. In our readings for the class I am teaching this week- the author, Michael Card, noted that one of the definitions of the Hebrew word “cHesed” is “to love your enemies”, or to love those who have failed you.
It’s hard isn’t it?
But it isn’t about our relationship with our enemies. It is about our trust in God, our faith in Him, our ability to see that He is God.
and let’s be honest – in our flesh we hate it. We hate this idea that we have to forgive, to pray for, to love… even as Christ loved us,
Yet we are called to it.
As we pray this day, as we pray for the victims, for their families, for my beloved city of Boston, may we as well cry for mercy for ourselves, for healing, for God’s comfort – and for His strength… for as His people, as the Father’s children, for we desperately need His mercy… to show mercy. And may we pray that those behind this – that God would turn they hearts and minds toward Him.
And even as we pray – may we know the peace of God, which passes all understanding, in which our hearts and minds are kept, guarded by Jesus Christ.
- Conversion and “Repentance” Evangelical Catholic VI? or VII? (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Great Apocalypse in upon us! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Boston, Tragedy, & My Plea with Jesus (tothatisaywalkamile.wordpress.com)
- We Don’t Lecture about Christ, We proclaim His Love and Crucifixion (justifiedandsinner.com)
Discussion thought of the Day:
“The wilderness is still the place of worship. (as it was for Israel) But for you and me ist is a matter of dunes and dry ground. In fact, it may be deceptively gree. Our Hunger and thirst are more spiritual realities than physical ones. The desolation we often experience involves our yearning for a more palpable feeling of the Presence of God. We need spiritual bread every it as much as they needed the manna in the wilderness. Our deep need for Living Water is as intense as any thirst their parch throats ever knew.
As so we look to the One whose coming incranated for us the Manna, the Living Waterand the presence of God. Jesus has entered into the wilderness of our wilderness and found us…. ” (1)
In a few hours I will be mentioning this passage in class. This morning – as most morning goes – the revelation that Michael Card mentions above was why we gathered for church. And even there, as I preached about the bondage caused by sin, and talked about our helplessness and need for Christ, I could “see” those who were burdened for others or by their own problems. We are, in many ways – so similar to Israel wandering in the desert – awaiting a promised land.
I wonder how many of us realize the fertile ground that exists in the desert – just a little water – and it blossoms with plants and flowers, incredible beauty – in the midst of what was thought to be barren. It just takes the touch of heaven to bring it forth.
So to in our lives….I’ve seen it too many many times to count. There is great beauty in the wilderness – there is a dance that comes from mourning, there is always life and reconciliation where we thought there was only darkness and despair. The key… simply is worship – worshipping the One who invades our wilderness, who brings light into the darkness. Who comes with compassion and comfort.
And in that darkness, in that solitude – as we find Christ finding us… we find life – and a life that praises – that glories – that begins to recognize the healing brought to us. …
And oh – how we need it. O how I need it – even though I know it is there…
If I can help you find it – this hope, this incredible mercy, this love and the presence of God, I would love to….
For as I see you find it – I am reminded it is there for me as well.
Lord Have mercy on us, and help us realize Jesus, that you have!
(1) Michael Card, The Sacred Sorrow – page 24
Devotional thought for the day:
“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’, he said, ‘what I have done to you? 13 You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. 14 If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.” John 13:12-15 (NJB) (
Consider listening to this song –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I47c29GvFY while reading this blog
The church has been designed to be a community, a place where people have learned to lay aside their wants and desires, and serve others, to nurture others, to imitate Christ’s life, and the blunt clear lessons like the one in John 13 – where he washes the cracked, dry, smelling feet of men who hadn’t learned yet to love, to be in a relationship – not just with their Lord, but with each other. THe lesson is harsh, and convicting, how often are we willing to get down on our knees, and deal with the muck those we are called to love have walked through?
It cannot be done, not in our own strength at least. Their burdens are too heavy, their pains too deep, the crap in their lives can, indeed cause us to turn away, spiritually and physically nauseated, disgusted. Or we wonder why, as Michael Card sings, we have to do this day after day, after day…..
So where do we find the strength to obey? Where do we find the power to live lives in this holy manner?
A catholic priest once wrote:
“When you start out each day to work by Christ’s side and to look after all those souls who seek him, remember that there is only one way of doing it: we must turn to the Lord. Only in prayer, and through prayer, do we learn to serve others!” (1)
That’s the answer – through prayer – through intimate conversation, through communion/fellowship – through letting Christ wash our feet,through letting him, remove our burdens, through letting Him still – clean up those parts of our lives that have gotten dry, broken, blistered, smelly….. through letting Him be God. It is the only way, as St. Josemarie told us, to find the strength to serve, to be there for people, to bring healing and love to their lives. We don’t have the strength
We have to let Jesus do that to us….cleanse us, heal us…
and then, the Holy Spirit will work through us to do the same for others.
And oh the joy, oh the inexpressible joy that comes from seeing others cleansed, and counted holy and righteous.
It sends you right back in prayer, to the throne of God, to praise and glorify Him!
Lord, show us Your mercy… even as You work through us to bring that mercy to those we serve around us!
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 474-476). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.