Devotional 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.
Devotional 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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 I will live there with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 When I place my Temple there to be among them forever, then the nations will know that I, the LORD, have chosen Israel to be my own people.” Ezekiel 37:27-28 (TEV)
I want you to know that God has never yet punished the world more harshly than by allowing blind and ignorant leaders to exist, who destroy us by withholding the Word of God and our bread. Let the Turks be Turks. This plague surpasses them. Woe unto us for not realizing this and praying for it to cease!
On the other hand, God has never been more gracious to the world than when he granted it well-informed and devoted spiritual leaders, who supplied this Word daily and abundantly. Christendom, and every Christian soul, is born in and through the Word of God.
The whole point of justification by faith is God’s scandalous, crazy, and wonderful gift of love.
Luther’s words are scathing, brutal, and today are as true as they ever have been.
O sure, we have more pastors with higher education perhaps, more and more of my friends are getting Doctor of Ministry and Ph.D./Th.D degrees. I am going for one myself.
So why am I saying that we are in a period where church leaders are blind and ignorant?
I think it is because we are spending most of our time on things besides the gospel. We are trying to find the answers to the declining church attendance, the aging church, how to fight the decline in morality, the sociological and political jungles out there. We hear the latest Barna report,, the latest Pew Research Study, the latest from our favorite religious blogger/vlogger/podcast and we treat our parishioners to our newfound wisdom, our conservative theological acumen, or our theory on how to get our churches to grow and be relevant while staying confessionally centered.
We might even wax eloquently on the core doctrine of Justification by Faith!
Yet we forget the point of justification is to return us to God, to cause us to walk in the presence of God. To realize, using Dr. Kreeft’s words, that God is scandalous, and crazy, as He loves us!
I don’t care if your church is growing 40 percent a year, or declining as you weed out the refuse. If pastors and church leaders aren’t revealing to people the wonderful, crazy, scandalous love of God for them, their work is a curse! Whether the church is 2000 people on Sunday morning, or 24 faithful, confessional, traditional people.
We have to get back to preaching about God’s love for us broken people. It has to be our message. We have to reveal to them that love as we preach and teach, as we give voice to God’s forgiving them (a wonderful, crazy, scandalous thing on its own,) as we give them the Body and Blood to eat and drink.
Pastors, do these things – we know they bring life to our people. People, pray for your pastors, ask them to focus on revealing God’s love for you, constantly. You are in this all together, and you are not alone. For the scandalous, crazy, wonderful God who loves you, is with you! 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), 55–56.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 25.
Streaming to a Joyous Place!
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to sing!
I had a great conversation (well, we sent messages across the internet) with a promising young theologian this week. He went to the youth group here back in the day, and he asked me some questions about advent.
As we were talking about the idea that Advent is just as much about the Second Coming as Christmas, you could see his mind spinning and a grin break out as he wrote:
“The hope is that the whole of creation can finally Shabbat (that is rest)!
:” and you can wrap in that from the winter (sin) comes the new spring and the new life”
“I like it. I mostly remember the songs and candles of Advent. But it’s awesome to really dig into what the message is all about”
“That is the Christian life, isn’t it? We look to a future hope of a restored creation. The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”
He gets it, that advent is not about looking back to the past, because Christmas is beautiful and the kids in Sheep hats are cute, but advent is about looking forward to the second coming and getting excited about what it means.
The first time, Jesus came and dwelt in our presence. This time, He is coming to bring us back, so we can dwell in the Father’s presence.
You saw a description of that day when even the wilderness and desert will be glad!
Of all the cool things that will happen, I want to focus on two this morning,
Here is the first…
Those who can’t speak…
Hear the first part of verse 6 again.
“The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”
Now, I look forward to the day when not one member of Concordia needs a cane or a walker, but they are lining up to go in the bounce house after
But what I am looking more towards is when those who cannot speak sing out for joy.
Interestingly, this is not just any song, it is the song of Jubilee in Hebrew, the rejoicing when every debt is cancelled, when everything is restored. It is the most joyous of sabbaths, the greatest rest in the presence of God that could be known in a lifetime.
That is what the people that can’t sing, learn to sing.
That is what being in the presence of God, and knowing how much he loves you does. It happens when we realize that He has taken care of all our sin, when everything we’ve ever done that has hurt someone, betrayed them, crushed their spirit is forgiven, all of it. I think it will be something like this,
Free at last! Free at last, praise God Almighty I am free of sin… at last!
Or maybe more like this…
Praise God from whom all blessing flow…praise Him all Creatures ..(and let them sing it out)
If you think that was something now, imagine what it will be like in a year, when there will be 60-100 more people here?
Or what it will be like with a couple billion here, around the throne of God. All excited because Christ has returned, the walkers and canes are tossed aside, and we are singing God’s praises. And all the other blessings are being realized.
When we see Jesus, who died that we might live eternally.
That bore the cost of sin so we didn’t have to,… not that’s not right.
He bore the cost of sin, so we could be with God the Father, forever.
That’s why verse 10 means so much, and so amazes me.
10 Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
Imagine how great that procession is going to be, every person for who Jesus died for, every person healed of everything, from blindness and being unable to walk to cancer and heart diseases, and most of all, healing of the damage that sin has done to us.
Ransomed, all the debt paid off we will flood into heaven like a flash food.. the mega crowd of billions heading to see God, to worship Him, to praise Him, to hear Him welcome us all home.
This is what we wait for in advent, and get a little foretaste of, every time we hear we are forgiven, every time we hear He is with us, every time we remember what He promised here, and see it again as another person is cleansed in the waters of baptism… We experience His presence, as he takes our cares away as we realize our prayers are answered, in ways more precious than we can imagine.
It is just as Brandon noted..with one thing added in… the Trinity.
“That is the Christian life, isn’t it? We look to a future hope of a restored creation with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”
And every time Jesus meets us here, as we gather, and once again receive His Body and Blood…
This is advent, a time of now and not yet, a time where we glimpse a little of what it will be like when He returns because He has dwelt among us….and we beheld His glory, just as we will, even more clearly when He comes among us, and we dwell in the Father’s presence. Amen!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 So let’s come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let’s keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water. 23 We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer. Heb 10:25
544 The Communion of the Saints. How shall I explain it to you? You know what blood transfusions can do for the body? Well, that’s what the Communion of the Saints does for the soul.
There is a challenge today that the church needs to embrace.
One that describes us as the author of Hebrews does, in the third person plural. “Our,” “We”, “You” (the plural kind not singular.) these are words we need to restore to practice in the church.
Our faith is not an individualistic faith, it is always a corporate sharing of pain and sorrow, a sharing of joy and wonder at the grace of God.
That is why St Josemaria pictures it as an infusion of life as the Blood that is shared covers our sins as it brings life to us as a community, as a body, as the Body of Christ. For when a person is weak in their faith, the faith of the community lifts them up, comforting them and reminding them of the presence of God.
Without that infusion, life takes its toll, draining us of energy and the ability to depend on God. Without hearing others say the Lord is with you, without knowing that they are praying for you, we battle with the idea that the battle is ours, that we are alone. We need that input, we need the comfort and the encouragement we receive through the church, broken as she may appear.
“We” are the church, the people of God whom He ministers to through His word and the Sacraments. We need to be her…together.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
33 Sir, I am your slave. Please let me stay here in place of Benjamin and let him return home with his brothers. 34 How can I face my father if Benjamin isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father in such sorrow… …Yes, I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. 5 Don’t worry or blame yourselves for what you did. God is the one who sent me ahead of you to save lives. ….
Tell your brothers to load their donkeys and return to Canaan. 18 Have them bring their father and their families here. I will give them the best land in Egypt, and they can eat and enjoy everything that grows on it. 19 Also tell your brothers to take some wagons from Egypt for their wives and children to ride in. And be sure to have them bring their father. 20 They can leave their possessions behind, because they will be given the best of everything in Egypt. Gen. 44:33-45:1, 4-5, 17-20 CEV
One good deed is more worth than a thousand brilliant theories. Let us not wait for large opportunities, or for a different kind of work, but do just the things we “find to do” day by day. We have no other time in which to live. The past is gone; the future has not arrived; we never shall have any time but time present. Then do not wait until your experience has ripened into maturity before you attempt to serve God. Endeavour now to bring forth fruit. Serve God now
You may just have read the excerpts from my devotional reading this morning and thought that I am a little… confused.
After all, neither reading has anything to do with Christmas, Thanksgiving or Advent. You probably have a point, yet,please listen to me for a moment.
Far too often we look past this moment, thinking of something in the future. At least I do, and in the process I miss the work God is doing, right now, today, here where I am. Other times, I miss where I am because I am haunted by my past. (this is starting to sound a little like A Christmas Carol!) We have to hear Spurgeon’s urging us to to live in the present, we have to see what God is doing.
We see that in the in the three voices from Genesis. They all live in the moment, and find themselves acting like Jesus.
Judah, remembering how he didn’t help Joseph, is willing to lay his life down for his brother Benjamin. He lives in the moment, and acts like Jesus would (maybe for a different motive) but he is willing to take the heat, and deal with the wrath that could be poured out on his brother. Jesus couldn’t go back tot the Father without his brother either, so He took your place.
Joseph, lived in the moment as well, looking past the sins committed against him, was able to see God’s hand in bringing him to this moment, for the purpose of saving lives. Despite the pain, despite all the suffering, he was sure that God had him there, and was able to minister out of the present moment, even to those who sinned against him. Sound familiar?
And then there is the Pharoah, the guy who ministers in the present, welcoming his “new” people home, and ministering to those who were broken by the famine, and were wasting away. He welcomes them into His presence and gives them of the best that He has. He even tells them to leave all the stuff they had behind, for he will provide all they need. Again, we see that in the moment, someone acting like God, who has us leave the brokenness of our spiritually famished lives behind, giving us more life than we can ever imagine,
There is something about living in the moment, seeing those in need around us, and ministering to them. Something that allows us to be God’s person in this place, brought here in advance, to save people.
So look around, and see who is there…
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
They Didn’t Know,
But He did
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ help you to know that you will be with Him in paradise.
They Didn’t Know – 1 Cor. 2:8
I have a confession to make.
When it comes to politics, I am slightly… okay… mostly… apathetic!
I like to blame it on scripture, you know, passages like Psalm 146,
3 Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. Psalm 146:3 (NLT2)
Or Psalm 118
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9 (NLT2)
I mean –I can justify my apathy there, can’t I?
But if I am honest, it is because I have known a few politicians in my life, and I don’t understand them, or a system where what is popular is better than what is right by God’s standard.
I’ve even got
one more passage that talks about people in power, one that nails their lack of
knowledge clear. Paul tells the church in Corinth this,
7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NLT2)
saw this as well, as he looked out on those who were crucifying them and said, “Father,
forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
They didn’t know what they were doing as they crucified Jesus, and what they really did not understand was that they were doing exactly what they needed him to do/
Hear that again, in their ignorance they did exactly what God wanted them to do, what He needed them to do.
They crucified Jesus.
When Jesus forgives them, he does so with full knowledge. Not just the experience of the crucial pain of the cross, but the full knowledge of why He was hanging there. To be able to say “you are forgiven”. To be able to say to us, as we realize the depth of our sin, rise, go in peace, your sins are forgiven, sin no more…. Only to be ready to tell that to us again the next time.
Presently I am reading Luther’s little pamphlet on meditating upon the cross. It is powerful, not just in the depth of walking us through the depths of our sin, but helping us realize the love of God that causes Jesus to volunteer to bear that pain. He chose it, knowing over and over from where the Triune God inspired the Old Testament, that He had to suffer and die!
Time and time he told the apostles it had to come about, that He had to die for them, that He had to die for us.
They didn’t see it coming, the leaders didn’t, the people didn’t, and Jesus died, which would have never happened if they truly understood and lived their lives knowing He was the Son of God..
the thief realized it…
Only one man that day, dealing with the pain of his own sin, realized what Jesus being the Messiah meant. The man being crucified next him.
Hear this man’s words again,
Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
you realize how crazy this is to say?
They are hanging there, on the cross, both about to die! To die!
Hey Jesus, when this is over, can I be part of what you’ve got coming next? Please? I mean, really Jesus, and as he leans to speak to Jesus, the pain once again robs him of all His strength.
please..? Can you imagine the joy that comes from hearing Jesus response?
I am not sure if he even heard the word, day….. or maybe the word paradise.
He heard what was in between though, “YOU will be with ME”
“You will be with me”
That is why Jesus came to the cross, to be able to say those words to that sinner. To that man who spent his life doing what He shouldn’t do, and not doing what he should do. The kings and leaders who crucified him didn’t know this was Jesus’ intent. Neither did all the people who cried “Crucify Him” and mocked him.
By the prompting of the Holy Spirit, this man knew… and he heard the sweetest words.
Words that every sinner can hear. Including you and I.
Jesus says, “you will be with ME!”
And as we hear that, all else fades away.
The sin, the shame, the grief, the pain. The doubts, the anguish…. It all faded away faster than this man’s life was, for he hear Jesus’s words…
We need to hear that, even as we struggle with out own brokenness and apathy. We need to realize that all things – – including Jesus dying for our sins, works out for good, so even the ignorance of kings and leaders can, as well.
“You will be with ME!”
You will be with ME!
We indeed are with Him!! AMEN!
Let us pray….
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it. 16 But the LORD told him, “You may eat fruit from any tree in the garden, 17 except the one that has the power to let you know the difference between right and wrong. If you eat any fruit from that tree, you will die before the day is over!”
18 The LORD God said, “It isn’t good for the man to live alone. I need to make a suitable partner for him.” 7 So the LORD took some soil and made animals and birds. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give each of them. Then the man named the tame animals and the birds and the wild animals. That’s how they got their names.
None of these was the right kind of partner for the man. 21 So the LORD God made him fall into a deep sleep, and he took out one of the man’s ribs. Then after closing the man’s side, 22 the LORD made a woman out of the rib.
The LORD God brought her to the man, 23 and the man exclaimed,
“Here is someone like me!
She is part of my body,
my own flesh and bones.
She came from me, a man.
So I will name her Woman!”
genesis 2:15-23 CEV
Is there an unconverted servant or child absent this morning? Make special supplication that such may, on their return to their home, gladden all hearts with good news of what grace has done! Is there one present? Let him partake in the same earnest entreaty.
Quite early on, the name catechesis was given to the totality of the Church’s efforts to make disciples, to help men believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, thus building up the body of Christ.
Every November 1 I set up my new “devotional readings” for the year. Usually it includes a devotional work or two, a different translation of the Bible (from the Douay-Rheims to the New Jerusalem, from the ASV to the GNT and this year the CEV) and a couple of harder texts, like the Book of Concord.
This year, as I started, I was reminded of our need to care for one another, for our need to pass on our faith, to be discipled and to disciple. That would seem obvious in Spurgeon’s’ quote, taken from a discussion about Philemon, and what it means to have a church that is your home. And the Catholic Catechism makes it clear that discipleship is the work of the church.
But I see this as well in the creation of Adam, and in the command to not eat the fruit of the tree that gives the knowledge of right and wrong. We see there that even as God gives Adam a partner, he has a responsibility to her, to ensure she won’t eat of that tree.
And he fails.
He doesn’t equip her whether enough or at all, with the simple knowledge he has been entrusted. In fact, he will allow her to convince him to try. This first peer-pressured sin is in fact, a sign of his failure to take responsibility.
We need to remember we are in this together! Not just those in the church, but all people, of all backgrounds, all languages, all ages. This is who we are. James writes
19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (NIV)
This isn’t easy in our day, but it is what we are called to do, called in loving our brother and sister, our wife and children. To teach and disciple, to call back, and care for, to remind each other these simple words,
THE LORD IS WITH YOU!
and someday, rejoice together as we all realize how true it is!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 8.
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 “How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you? Could I ever destroy you as I did Admah, or treat you as I did Zeboiim? My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong. 9 I will not punish you in my anger; I will not destroy Israel again. For I am God and not a mere human being. I, the Holy One, am with you. I will not come to you in anger. Hosea 11:8-9 (TEV)
386 Don’t forget, my son, that for you there is but one evil on earth: sin. You must fear it and avoid it with the grace of God.
I recently started taking my son ot the gym. His first day, the trainer started working with him and talked about working on his core – and if he takes care of that (unlike Dad has) everything else he does would benefit him far more.
The thought was in the back of my mind as I wrote a paper last week on the Biblical theological foundations of worship. There had to be a core thought that threaded through scripture. FOr while the form may change a little from Adam’s sons times, through Abraham and Moses, through the Kingdom and into the New Testament, the core doesn’t change.
It cannot change.
That core is our struggle with sin, and more importantly, the ability to know God’s heart, and instead of fearing wrath, responding in confession, and the desire to be forgiven and healed.
A theologian would talk of this as the primacy of the Doctrine of Justification. I think, pastorally, we should talk of it as our core. Not core doctrine – but core as the place where our strength health comes from, the place that if it is swell exercised and strengthened, the rest of our spiritual nature will follow. If it is breaking down, if it is ignored, then the rest of our spiritual formation will crumble, and we will struggle, and even let our faith be minimalized and maybe disappear.
If however, we remember God’s heart, His determination and His unwillingness to give up on His people, that trust grows. If we understand the strength and power of His love, the love that raised Jesus from the dead, then we begin to trust Him, and trust Him with our brokenness.
There are exercises in the gym to strengthen our physical core. Crunches, working on certain machines, doing certain stretches. Spiritually there are exercises as well, all of them based on interacting with the love and mercy of God. Bible Study can be, as can prayer. But those things can often be focused on something other and our relationship with God, and our relationship with others. The sacraments are great core practices, as they cause us to encounter this heart of God.
Specifically, I want to address Confession and Absolution. For there we encounter God’s command to those serving you, and the power in hearing the words, “Your sins are forgiven”
You need to hear that. I do as well. We need to desire to hear that as well, so that when we do sin, we run to God, knowing how He won’t give up on us, and how He is there to heal and forgive, even to strength against temptation.
This is our core, this relationship where broken sinners can trust God enough to let Him deal with their brokenness.
So come, confess your sins. Hear you are forgiven, and strengthen your ability to depend on the God who loves you…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 976-977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 Then King Darius wrote to the people of all nations, races, and languages on earth: “Greetings! 26 I command that throughout my empire everyone should fear and respect Daniel’s God. “He is a living God, and he will rule forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his power will never come to an end. 27 He saves and rescues; he performs wonders and miracles in heaven and on earth. He saved Daniel from being killed by the lions.” 28 Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:25-28 (TEV)
Let us follow Jesus, knowing that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joyful hope that we must bring to this world. Please do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope that Jesus gives us!
There are times in life where we don’t know. Even the strongest Christian (whatever that means) throws their hands up and cannot explain what God is doing, and to be honest, we wonder if he is still there. Health issues, work issues family issues, even issues at church can get so complicated, so overwhelming, we forget that God is God. That God is our God..
And we drift into agnosticism.
We know there is a God, we know the data, but for the moment we can’t recognize Him, or His presence. We just don’t know!
We made try to hide it, ignore it, repress it, but we need to deal with it.We need to get past that stage, we need to rediscover the hope that we once had, as we realized the Lord is with us.
Except we cannot, unless we encounter the Daniel in our lives.
The one who God sends, whose faith is strong in that moment, who is able to speak for God, the one we need to hear, the One we need to be able to be in awe of, the One we need to be able to respect, the One we need to know will save and rescue us, Who will perform wonders and miracles in order to make us His own, to restore our broken faith.
We need to cry out with the boy’s father, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief!”
This is why in Hebrews 10 it tells us to always meet together, to encourage each other. For while some are Christ’s hands and feet, surely others are His shoulders, upon which we are carried, by Jesus. We need each other for this, for there are days we are Daniel, and there are other times we are the Darius of the world, testifying to the goodness of God, even though we see it second hand…
He is with us.. yet in our brokenness, we need someone else to help us see it.
God provides them!
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), 325.