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Dare I Demand What Is Mine by Right?

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devtional Thought of the Day:

17 If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. 18 What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News. 1 Corinthians 9:17-18

Grant, my Lord, that before I die I may do something for Thee!

The apostle does not belong to himself/herself, but is buried with Christ
(Col 2:12).
Any other way is to be ashamed of Christ and, therefore, to face
the eschatological consequences: “If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, also the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels” (Mk 8:38).

The Apostle Paul writes something to contrary to our culture today.

He preached Christ crucified, and if that meant surrendering his rights, he did.

Even to the point where he would welcome chains, for then he could share the love of God with those guards to whom he was chained.

I wonder how many of us would be willing to do that today?

How many of us pray with de Ligouri that we could do something for God before we die? What suffering or sacrifice would we accept and embrace if that desire could be come true?

If you think I am trying to pour on the guilt to try and motivate you to serve God, to love your neighbor and your enemy, I am not. If you are feeling guilt over this, go back to the cross, go back and look at the love that Jesus has for you there, as He embraced the guilt as He removed your shame, as He embraced that cross for the joy that He would come to know, as you walk with Him in your life.

That is what it means that you aren’t your own, that you belong to Jesus. That you were untied to Him in His death, burial and resurrection, THat guarantees God is at work in and through you, the queston is do you see it?

THat is the job of pastors and priests, daecons and elders, Bible teachers, and 4 and 7 year olds who remind you that Jesus is with you…

at which point, thoughts about our “rightes” mean nothing, not compated to the love God has for us, as He trusts us to invite others into this divine fellowship.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 140.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 57.

A New Chapter…and a Restored Hope!

Devotional Thought of the New Year

5  Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD.” Suddenly the pressure was gone— my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. Psalm 32:5 (MSG)

Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter.
“Tell the backslider,” says the Lord, “I am married unto him.” Was there ever a tenderer message?


My beloved Jesus, I am not yet perfect; but Thou canst make me perfect. I am not dear to Thee, and it is my own fault, because I have been ungrateful and unfaithful; but Thou canst make me become so, by inebriating me this morning with Thy love.

Gracious and Exalted Savior, we are not worthy to receive the mercy and goodness which Thou dost give us, and on account of our sins are far too unclean and weak rightly to receive this salutary gift. Sanctify us therefore in body and soul by Thy Holy Spirit; prepare us and adorn us with grace to draw near Thy holy Table.

What a way to start a year… with such refreshing prayers of de Ligouri and Loehe, a Catholic Mystic and a Lutheran Pastor. Add in Tozer quoting Brother Lawrence, a protestant quoting Roman Catholic lay monk, and the message is reinforced again. And yet, that is the only way to beging a year….

To realize our imperfection, and our hope!

Such is the way of Christ, who knew our sin, and still died for it. He knew our struggling with it, and sends the Holy Spirit.

It is no wonder deLigouri talks about God causing us to be inebriated to be drunk on the love He pours into us. To be dressed in the very grace of God, to be clothed with jesus.

This has been the way… it has been planned since the beginning, and sinners have become holy by experiencing the giddiness, the feeing lightheaded, that happens as the burdens of guilt, shame and resentment are lifted off of you.

This is how we need to start the new year. This is what you need to experience throughout 2021… It is what I need more than anything as well….forgiveness, pressures and burdens lifted….

God with us…

Rejoice!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 89.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 31–32.

How Should the Church Position Itself in These Days?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

And today the LORD has affirmed that you are his own possession as he promised you, that you are to keep all his commands, 19 that he will elevate you to praise, fame, and glory above all the nations he has made, and that you will be a holy people to the LORD your God as he promised.” Deuteronomy 26:18-19 CSB

27 The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 (CSB)

We will never be where we ought to be until we go back to those old paths and learn to find God. [Then] we will cease to be bored with God.…[W]e will center our affections upon God and Christ … and become specialists and experts in the realm of the spiritual life.
It is amazing how little outside stimulus we need if we have that inward stimulus. It is amazing how much God will meet our needs. It will not be God and something else. It will be God everything.

My soul, why art thou so timid and fearful at the sight of the goodness and infinite love of thy Lord? why such distrust? Now that thou art made worthy to receive within thee Jesus Christ, let thy sentiments correspond to this grace, by confiding in that goodness of God, who gives thee all himself. Truly his judgments are terrible, but they are terrible only to the proud and to the obstinate; but to the humble and penitent, who desire to love and please him, his judgments are all mercy and love, emanating from a heart full of compassion and kindness.

Tozer’s words struck me this morning.

There is a lot of talk about how the church needs to position itself, what it needs to do to survive and grow in these days of crisis.

I think Tozer is on to something in these words. What are the old paths where God was found? He wrote this not long after the time some think was the “golden age” of the church in America – the 1950’s, so he didn’t mean then.

There have been similar calls throughout history: Barton Stone, John Smith, and Alexander and Thomas Campbell in the 1800s. The work of the Wesley’s before that. Luther and some in the Counter-Reformation. Francis, Augustine, and Anthony, and Athanasius. All sought God and turned ot the times when people did walk with Him.

The time of the gospels, the time of Acts. The good times in Jewish history. The places where they found “the God of Old.” The God who didn’t have to be searched for long, for He made himself apparent to His people.

The times where He comforted them. The times where He rescued them from enemies, or the times He rescued them from idolatry. The times the Lord confronted their sin and healed them of it.

We need to come across, in our own words, the feelings de Ligouri speaks of, where we see God’s compassion and kindness.

This is a time where humility is the only option. We don’t know which doctors to believe; we don’t know which politicians or news media to believe. The pressures caused by trauma are becoming more and more intense.

There is one place the church needs to position itself in this time. In the arms of God, in His presence, for He is our Fortress, our refuge, our strength. We need to find those altars where He has placed His name, where He feeds His people His Body and Blood. The altars from which the declaration that our sin is forgiven comes.

That is what makes us the church… let’s get back to it.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 85–86.

The Challenge of Finding Joy…on Mondays, During Covid.

The Patriots Play football,
I do this…
I got the better gig!

Devotional Thought for this Day:
9  Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10  And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11  And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12  So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)

“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.

Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.

Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.

It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.

It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.

It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.

Preach on Joy! That was our call…

Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.

That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.

The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.

Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.

THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…

My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 12–13.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 64.

Theology is NOT an Academic Subject…it is far more than that.

The word of the day:
Theologian

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

39  “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40  Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. John 5:39-40 (NLT2)

Yet experience alone makes the theologian.

For many liberals the scientific worldview functioned as a norm by which to measure the credibility of Christian claims. As I once heard someone say, “How can the church ask you to believe something that you otherwise think is not true?”

I have a Master’s Degree in Theology, and am working on my doctorate. An yet I know the title of this blog is accurate.

Theology is far more than an acdemic subject, or an academic/intellectual pursuit. I have seen children and those with barely high school degrees who are better theologians than those who teach in seminaries and BIble Colleges.

That is because education has nothing to do with whether someone is a thoelogian or not. Yes, there are some theologians who are academics, but it is not necessary. And whether conservative or liberal, advanced degrees don’t make you a theologian.

Luther was correct – theologians are made by experience. And Allen points out an essential necessity, you have to set aside your disbelief and depend on what scripture reveals about Jesus. The claims are credible, it is inability to see that, that is the problem.

Just as seas don’t split open, a man dead for 60 hours doesn’t start breathing and walking around – with his wounds gaping open for all to see. Man can’t take 5 loaves and 2 fishes and feed 12-15000 people, or take bread and wine and declare it to be His Body and Blood … and it is. We can’t prove it, our minds may scream these things are untrue… but they are true.

The challenge is seeing that every scripture is about Jesus. That every page of scripture declares His glory and His power and His love for us. A love that planned for our salvation before we were born, but not before He was.

And here is the experience you and I need, to become theologians, (and hear it, dear reader, as my prayer for you!

19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)



Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 7.

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 24.

Do We Need Escapes or Sabbath Rests?

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. 2  When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. 3  For I am the LORD your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you. I will give up Egypt to set you free; I will give up Ethiopia and Seba. Isaiah 43:1-3 (TEV)

Christians often want to die when they have any trouble. Ask them why, and they tell you, “Because we would be with the Lord.” We fear it is not so much because they are longing to be with the Lord, as because they desire to get rid of their troubles; else they would feel the same wish to die at other times when not under the pressure of trial. They want to go home, not so much for the Saviour’s company, as to be at rest. Now it is quite right to desire to depart if we can do it in the same spirit that Paul did, because to be with Christ is far better, but the wish to escape from trouble is a selfish one. Rather let your care and wish be to glorify God by your life here as long as he pleases, even though it be in the midst of toil, and conflict, and suffering, and leave him to say when “it is enough.

In the class I am taking, there is the usual insistence on pastors and those in ministry taking time to rest, to take a sabbath, a vacation from all the stresses that we encounter. They point o Jesus going away, sometimes with the disciples, sometimes alone. He went off to pray to the Father, and one to converse with Moses and Elijah.

It hit me, as I was reading the words of Spurgeon in blue above, that we can want those times of rest for the wrong reason. We want them, much as we might long for death, as an escape from life. An escape from the problems.

We need to change that, we need to re-orient and want these times as a sabbath, a time of rest in God, a chance to be nurtured and to see the healing. We need to remember what God is communicating through Isaiah this morning, that God saves us.

We may not be comfortable in the fire, or in the storm, or in the midst of the troubles that we are caught up in at the moment. We may weep, and cry, and struggle, and yes, even want it all to end. It is in those moments, we have to see the cross, we have to see the love, we have to cry out, “Lord have mercy,” and find our rest, in Him.

We need to learn ot run to Jesus, not just escape, but to glorify Him, as we realize His love for us all. The love that will sustain us, even in these times.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Helping others Deal with Brokenness, Stress, Anxiety, ( like teaching them to drive a stick)

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!  Psalm 46:1-3 CEV

The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

COMFORT WHEN FACING GRAVE TEMPTATIONS
First, such a person1 must by no means rely on himself, nor must he be guided by his own feelings. Rather, he must lay hold of the words offered to him in God’s name, cling to them, place his trust in them, and direct all the thoughts and feelings of his heart to them.
Second, he must not imagine that he is the only one assailed about his salvation, but he must be aware (as St. Peter declares) that there are many more people in the world passing through the same trials [1 Pet. 5:9]. How often does David lament and cry out in the Psalms, “O God, I am driven far from thy sight” [31:22], and, “I became like those who go into hell” [28:1]. These trials are not rare among the godly. They hurt, to be sure, but that is also in order, etc.

As I was trying to care for someone yesterday, who was worried and anxious, part of my prayer was a reaction similar to the title of this blog.

Actually, it was said to him with a bit more colorful language, and with, I must admit some anger.

Over my lifetime, I have needed to vent in more than once… and I know God can handle me, much as He did the Prophet, Jeremiah. (See Jeremiah 20:7)  Yet, knowing I can vent it, knowing I can get past it, it is not easy to teach this.

Teaching others this, and helping them be patient with themselves as they wait on God’s action, is like teaching someone to drive a manual transmission. YOu have to let them do it, you have to let them drop the clutch at the wrong times, you have ot encourage, and help them make the tiniest of corrections until they feel the shift until it becomes intuitive until it becomes natural.

When we learn to drive a stick until we realize the moments of high anxiety and stress will resolve, as God does what God does, and as we learn to trust Him, life s like those early times of driving a stick. We get jerked all over the place, stall a lot (and still do on occasion), and make very little progress. But then it all comes together, and we can begin to move, as we sop thinking of on it, and simply focus on where we are going.

Spurgeon and Luther help us realize this,  as help us realize that struggles don’t necessarily diminish as we mature, as we grow more dependent on our Lord, and on the presence of the Holy Spirit. How I wish it was the case that life gets easier!

Yet because it doesn’t, we can sit beside those trying to deal with the clutch, trying to learn, or absorb the challenges, and still keep their eyes focused on God.  We can encourage them, and comfort them, and smile as they start to move smoothly again, as they resonate with the love of Christ.

This is our mission… this is who we are..

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 183.

The Myth Of the Protestant Work Ethic

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16  Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NLT2)

When you want to do things well, really well, it’s then you do them worse. Humble yourself before Jesus, saying to him: Don’t you see how I do everything wrong? Well, if you don’t help me very much, I’ll do it all even worse! Take pity on your child: You see, I want to write a big page each day in the book of my life. But, I’m so clumsy, that if the Master doesn’t guide my hand, instead of graceful strokes my pen leaves behind blots and scratches that can’t be shown to anyone. From now on, Jesus, the writing will always be done by both of us together.

One of the greatest challenges in life has been living up to the standards I have set, to live up to my expectations. As a result, I’ve battled self-esteem issues. and I’ve felt like a  failure in a lot of things I do.

Or at best, I am a jack of a few things, master of none. Barely competent. and knowing that is incredibly frustrating.

I never ever thought that the problem was with my expectations, I always blamed it on what I did. And so I would push myself more, and fail more. I would read books of people that were successful, and try to emulate what they did. Or at least what they looked back and saw themselves doing right.

The passage from Paul, read out of context, added to my stress.  It is one of those upon which the mythical protestant work ethic is based.  Work hard, gee approved b God.  Overcome, adapt, succeed. If you have enough drive – you can do anything! Just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get er done.

But the context of service there is, the diligence is focused on our relationship with God, keeping His message, the gospel correct.

Or in the words of St. Josemaria, depending on God, and welcoming His participation in our life. His work in keeping us righteous, His guidance working through us in our ministry, whatever that is, wherever it is.

Even if it is at home during a virus. …

Life is too important to do our work alone, struggling through it, trying to keep up with images that we cannot hope to attain. The stress alone will destroy our effectiveness. The times of failure, of guilt and shame, even of inactivity will shatter us.

But as we relax, as we focus on God’s presence with Him, as we walk with Him, it changes how we work, as we begin to enjoy it, even the rough parts. It becomes like a child’s play! Not that we are any less enthusiastic, in fact, we might be more so, as we depend on God’s presence, as we work with Him.

But the work isn’t the primary focus – it is all about Him….

For the Lord is with you!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Strongest People in Times of Crisis

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737Devotional Thought of the Day:
4  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT2)

What made saints, saints? What makes the cynical, skeptical world turn its head at a Mother Teresa? What made the hard-nosed Roman Empire convert to the religion of a crucified Jewish carpenter? The world did not say: “See how they explain one another!” but “See how they love one another!” The most effective argument for Christianity is Christians who are saints, lovers. The saints are the Spirit’s salesmen. You cannot argue with a saint. He would just kiss you, as Jesus did to Judas and as He did to the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevski’s parable in The Brothers Karamazov. How do you fight love? You don’t. You lose. That is, you win.

Unity does not come about by polemics nor by academic argument but by the radiance of Easter joy; this is what leads to the core of the Christian profession, namely: Jesus is risen. This leads, too, to the core of our humanity, which yearns for this joy with its every fiber. So it is this Easter joy which is fundamental to all ecumenical and missionary activity; this is where Christians should vie with each other; this is what they should show forth to the world.

I encountered the reading from Kreeft first this morning and knew it would be part of these thoughts. It hits the basic thought I have about ministry and evangelism – it is not about appealing to logic and reason – it is about loving people.

Kreeft mentions Jesus allowing Judas to embrace him, and one can think of the deacon Stephen, loving the people who were torturing and stoning him.  The stories of such saints are easy to find, even if they are hard to understand how people can love so completely!

Loving like this is hard, it requires sacrifice, It requires humility, it requires all the things that 1 Corinthians 13 discusses.

But then I came across Pope Benedict’s (aka Joseph Ratzinger) words, and the idea of how we can love others appears – we love them because we are united in Jesus. The death and resurrection of Christ, the purest love ever seen in history, unites us in a way that nothing else can. At the cross, we all have died to sin and been raised, without that sins eternal stain. All that was there to not love about another person has been done away with, all that remains of it is a shadow.

In the resurrection, we not only see the power of love, we are enveloped by it, transformed by it, we are united to it, united to the God who is love.

And therefore, unity is possible.

Therefore, there is hope.

You want to know how to remain strong in this time, know God loves you, then ask Him to help you love others.

It makes all the difference.

Lord, help us revel in Your love, help us soak it in, to the extent that loving others is a natural inclination.  † Amen!

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 131.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 133.

A Different Perspective on Death

Tomb Empty With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise - ResurrectionDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21  For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22  But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23  I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24  But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25  Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. Philippians 1:20-25 (NLT2)

Thus Psalm 23 [:4] says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because you are with me.” If this gain through death has only a small affect on us, it is proof that our faith in Christ is still feeble and does not prize highly enough the reward and gain of a blessed death, nor does it yet believe that death is a blessing. Obviously, we are hindered because the old man and the wisdom of the flesh are still too much alive in us. We should, therefore, try to attain to the knowledge and the love of this blessing of death. It is a great thing that death, which to others is the greatest of evils, is made the greatest gain for us. If it was not this that Christ obtained for us, what then did he do that was worth such a cost, yes, actually the cost of his life? It is indeed a divine work that he wrought, and it is not surprising that he made the evil of death into the greatest blessing.
For the believer death is thus already dead and behind its cloak and mask it holds no terrors. Like a slain serpent, death still has its former terrifying appearance, but now this is only a mask, for it is now a dead and harmless evil

There is an old saying that I resonate with, I fear not death, I just dear dying.”

There is some truth to that for me, partially because of health issues over the years, and the knowledge that my heart was a ticking time bomb. (I say was – because in 1998 I had two heart valves replaced.)

Even so, today, in the midst of a pandemic, we live with fear and anxiety caused by the fact that death threatens us, and threatens those we love.  It threatens in a way that we’ve not seen often in the generations alive today.

This is why my devotional reading this morning seems so important to understand.

We have to understand that death will ultimately be a blessing – for it brings us closer to seeing God face to face, and for the believer to an incredible welcome home. .  TO see God face to face, to hear His welcome, to hear the celebration thrown for us, to know we are finally where we belong.

To realize with Luther what Paul means when he writes that death has lost its sting, that the grace is no victory for death, no loss, but an incredible gain for us. (see 1 Cor. 15)  To understand what Jesus means when he says those who believe will never die.

It is hard to process these days, to take what is a theological truth, an absolute promise of God, and let it affect our heart, our soul.

Even once we realize it there, it is hard to keep that understanding, to not go back, and to fear death again. Every time we have to mourn and grieve, every time our heart is scarred by loss, we revert back to the days before we understood the promises of God, the promises found when we are united to Jesus.

I know this, even as I know what Paul talks about when he talks about ensuring death, for itis better, for him. To realize that death is better n the long run is sobering. To realize that could even lead one to desire death because it means being complete with Jesus,. To realize we do not have to meditate and pray to realize we are in His presence. Instead to look up, and see His face…

To set death completely aside, along with the suffering and brokenness caused by sin, and the fear of death.  What a blessing.

Yet it is counting on that blessing that gives us the strength and desire to stay, and minister to those who are in bondage, trying to free them, so that they too can join us in Christ. To see God’s incredible work, as He brings someone to faith, and then strengthens that faith, as burdens slide away, as relationships are healed, as we gain a glance of eternity at the altar together.

To get to that point – to come to the conclusion that it is better to live, we have to realize how incredible eternity is, we have to face the battle of fears, the anxieties, assured of the promises of God are true, that we will be with Him forever. Then we can willingly address the issue, and see the blessing of staying here.. until He calls us home.

Knowing this, we begin to really live…

Walk with Him, through the valley, and learn not to fear it, or any evil.

And become a guide, someone who can help others, helping them to deal with the fears, the anxieties and indeed, the time of death.

Lord, help us walk closer and closer with You, strengthen our faith, be with us, now and at the time when we finally come home. But help us to be there for those who are anxious and fear death, and help us to show them how it will be a blessing. AMEN!


Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 149–150.

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