Blog Archives

Your search for meaning, for happiness, for contentment.

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day!

23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people. Colossians 3:23 (TEV)

This is the definition of a vocation! A vocation is an encounter with God’s love, which gives a new horizon and a decisive direction to one’s life. A vocation is a concrete path of loving, a concrete and fundamental response, a choice of love, of making the sincere gift of self. It is the way we are to beget—to generate life, to give abundant fruit—as Jesus calls us in the Gospel of St John, chapter 15.
Therefore, a vocation is always an orientation of the human heart to find the fullness of love and to dedicate oneself to the service of love. A vocation will always imply the free and total response to love, the total giving and surrender of self for the cause of the beloved and to find the full realization of self in this free and total donation of self. Love is a fundamental decision. Love is our vocation, our dignity, our gift, and our task. ‘Love is now no longer a mere command, it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us’ (Deus caritas est, 1).

Many people are not satisfied with their lot in life.

They might not like their job or their role in their family. They might fight their role at church unfulfilling, They may find the people they interact with tiresome, antagonistic, boring. They may tire of the repetitive nature of their work or the constant changes they endure.

We change jobs, or desire too, hoping the next job will bring about the happiness we think is our right. We do the same thing with marriages, with our friendships, with our churches and the other groups we play a part in, which cannot satisfy.

We look to these outside influences to provide us what we need, and we miss the inner life, the place where peace and joy find their origin, as we walk with God. It is there, where the breath of the Holy Spirit not only brings us to life but refreshes and sustains us, that we begin to realize that one can find contentment, peace, even joy in the midst of anything we are involved in, even in our own martyrdom.

That is why we are told by Paul to see God ss the final benefactor of our work, of our toil, Joy comes when we have poured out all we are before God, submitting it all to Him, allowing Him to guide each effort, to heal each brokenness.

That is how we respond to His love, which is beyond measure> We let Him love us, and transform us. He builds in us the ability to trust Him, to depend on Him, and as we do, everything we are is transformed. And in everything we do, we know His hand is there.

So we love in return, showing that love in our families, in our work, in our churches, and as we take Christ into our communities.

You want contentment, you want joy? You want a job that has meaning? You want to know this in situations you don’t like?

Find it all in your first vocation, your first calling,

For you are a child of God.

Galindo, A. (2012). Loving Jesus in the Eucharist with Mary: The Foundation of Religious Life. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 42). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Our “enemies” and “us”, is there hope for healing?

Devotional Thoguht of the Day:

“So may all your enemies die like that, O LORD, but may your friends shine like the rising sun! Judges 5:31 GNT

12 It is foolish to speak scornfully of others. If you are smart, you will keep quiet. Ps. 11:12 GNT

12 For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. Eph. 6:12 GNT

As Martin Marty summarizes in his biography of Luther, “The benefit of faith was that it united the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. ‘They become one flesh,’ as Paul puts it. What Christ has is the property of the believing soul, what the soul has becomes the property of Christ, including the soul’s sins, death, and damnation. Faith negotiates the exchange.”

An absolute and rigid justice becomes a circulus vitiosus, a cycle of retaliations from which there is no escape. In his dealings with us, God has broken through this circle. We are unjust before God; we have turned away from him in pursuit of our own glorification and so we have become subject to death. But God waives the merited punishment and puts something new in its place: healing; our conversion to a renewed Yes to the truth about ourselves. So that this transformation may take place, he goes before us and takes upon himself the pain of our transformation. The Cross of Christ is the real elucidation of these words: not “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, but “transform evil by the power of love.…” In the Cross of Christ, and only there, these words open themselves to us and become revelation. In the company of the Cross, they become a new possibility even for our own lives.

If I looked at social media as a barometer of conflict and stress, I would be (and admit I get) very depressed, and I would lose hope.

The division and unrest I see is growing, and unless you agree with someone’s political and social views you are considered their “enemy”. There is no middle ground, and if someone tries to occupy such a place, they are insane, or accused of hiding their true agenda. The polarization is causing more stress, and everyone wants a form of rigid justice prosecuting their enemies.

A justice system that is ruled by our logic, and our rules. And we want the justice as swift and complete as it was on Sisera in the Book of the Judges. God’s enemies are ours, of course, and like the fools that Proverbs describes we do not hesitate to pass on something to judge someone on, and truly find them worth condemnaiton.

In doing so, we play God, or better, we create God in our image, refusing to acknowledge who He revealed Himself to be. We make the error St. Paul warns against in Ephesians 6 – we think we are to fight human beings and cast them down. We don’t see them as broken and needing our care, and we really don’t want to admit we are broken and need theirs!

So how do we reconcile? How do we bring people who are so angry, so hurt, so broken by others to the point where they can find the peace that comes with such a miracle as my enemy becoming a beloved friend?

it doesn’t start with our efforts to heal the other person. It starts when we realized what Pope Benedict and Martin Luther discuss. The fact that we are drawn into Christ, and in the depth of the relationship, as we are being reconciled to God, as our brokenness is exchanged for Jesus’ completeness, we find that relationship with others healed as well. It is in this transformation that I find myself able to heal, able to forgive, able to love and even sacrificially love another.

That’s our hope in this life, (and that’s but the briefest glimpse of the future!) That drawn into Christ we find life itself transformed. That with given a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25ff) and the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5-10) we find all out relationships being healed.

Our enemy is no longer seen to be that person, for we see them in Christ as our sibling.

Lord, help us to look for your healing in our own lives and praise you for that same healing being offered and available to everyone, especially to those we struggle to like/love. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (pp. 69–70). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 78–79). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Holy Sacraments: Not a Theological Construct, but an Encounter with God

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21 After all the people had been baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened, 22† and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you.” Luke 3:21-22 GNT

16  The cup we use in the Lord’s Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:16 (TEV)

7  On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. Acts 20:7 (NLT2)

10  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11  “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11 (NLT2)

Moreover, the people are instructed often and with great diligence concerning the holy sacrament, why it was instituted, and how it is to be used (namely, as a comfort for terrified consciences) in order that the people may be drawn to the Communion and Mass. The people are also given instruction about other false teachings concerning the sacrament.

There are several communion services in my life that will always come to mind. One of those had its sixth anniversary this week, as I remember a dozen, maybe a dozen and a half missionaries gathering in Macao one afternoon.

Another was my first Sunday in my journey in becoming a Lutheran pastor. Despite having been the “officiant” at the celebration for years, there was something different that day. Something that went beyond theology, beyond knowledge.

It started with hearing the elder say these simple words to people. Bod said, “take and drink, the blood shed for the forgiveness of your sin.” He said it with such confidence, such faith that each word hammered into the hardness of our hearts. I don’t remember anything else, save for one thing, as these words of God were heard, not just by ears, but by weary hearts and broken souls.

The other thing I noticed was the body language of the people. People I knew from the community, people dealing with more brokenness (I would learn) than I could ever suspect. They approached the altar, hunched over, unable to look up, the burdens of the world, and their own sin so oppressing them. And then, as they received the body of Jesus on their tongues, as they drank from the chalice or the little cups, their bodies changed. They relaxed, the stern reverence was replaced with smiles that were filled with peace, and joy.

I know no other way to explain it, except to say they encountered Christ. They were overwhelmed by His presence, His mercy, His love. And when they sang the traditional Nunc Dimittis after communion, they like Simeon, knew God’s salvation. Not as theology, not as some fact, but something that resonated with every beat of their heart.

That joy allowed them to leave the brokenness behind, it allowed them to be free of what oppressed them. One of my professors would later describe this using the word “incarnational” not restricting the incarnation to an event in the Judean hills 2000 years ago but seeing it happen here. This is what the early Lutherans meant by the sacrament comforting their frightened consciences.

And each of the sacraments does this, baptism, the Eucharist, Confession and Absolution, as we participate, as we share in life with Jesus, who brought us to life in HIs resurrection.

This can’t be adequately explained, even by the best of theologians. The sacraments aren’t something that man has the power to research, to “objectively observe.” But they bring about a healing of our souls, as the promises of God become true for us, as the love of God, in all its measureless dimensions, is revealed, As we are transformed, and that is revealed as well, the glory of God reflecting from us, as it did from Moses face.

Come, let us adore Him, for the Lord is with us. AMEN!



Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). Article 24 of the Augsburg Confession: The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 56). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

7


Why am I stuck with doing this?

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day

10 Moses heard all the people complaining as they stood around in groups at the entrances of their tents. He was distressed because the LORD had become angry with them, 11 and he said to the LORD, “Why have you treated me so badly? Why are you displeased with me? Why have you given me the responsibility for all these people? 12 I didn’t create them or bring them to birth! Why should you ask me to act like a nurse and carry them in my arms like babies all the way to the land you promised to their ancestors? Numbers 11:10-12 GNT

479         “Pray for me,” I said as I always do. And he answered in amazement: “But is something the matter?” I had to explain that something is the matter or happens to us all the time; and I added that when prayer is lacking, “more and more weighty things are the matter.”

It’s the thought of the mom as she picks up after her children or her husband. It’s the thought of the manager after he sends his workers home for the day, It’s in the mind of the secretary who has to deal with unreasonable people, guarding her boss from them. It’s the thought of the nurse, who has to care and clean up patients, who cannot care for themselves. it’s the thought of the pastor, burnt out after the holidays and yet still having to meet the needs of people in crisis. The denominational officer, trying to figure out why another church is struggling.

And we cry out to God, why have YOU stuck us here?

Why did you give these people into my care?

Why can’t these people be “normal”, why are they so needy, so unaware, so irresponsible, and why do I have ot work them, clean them up, get them back healthy, and teach them to play well with others?

If St Josemaria is right. we are going to deal with those people all our lives. There is always something broken, or some relationship that is breaking. There is always another mess to clean up, another person or church in trauma, another friend caught up in sin.

So how do we survive? How can we keep our strength

Fellowship with God, deep, intimate fellowship, and sharing that with others, so we develop a burden to pray for each other, to bring the other before the throne of God, knowing that is where they will find the peace, the rest, the healing they need.

And that includes those people we have to serve, whether those in ministry with us or those we serve.

And it is where we need to be ourselves. Because life is like a boxing match, and sometimes it seems like the bell will never ring, ending the round.

So please pray for me… and let me know what I can pray for you!

may you know you dwell in His peace!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2100-2103). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Does who I am, matter?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

21 Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich. Mark 10:21-22 GNT

498         You are writing to me in the kitchen, by the stove. It is early afternoon. It is cold. By your side, your younger sister— the last one to discover the divine folly of living her Christian vocation to the full—is peeling potatoes. To all appearances—you think—her work is the same as before. And yet, what a difference there is! It is true: before she only peeled potatoes, now, she is sanctifying herself peeling potatoes.

The rich young man couldn’t see his goal of eternal life gained because he couldn’t change how he defined himself. And so he walked away, saddened, gloomy, dejected.

The younger sister, doing such a menial task as pealing potatoes, was able to do so, she didn’t see herself as peeling potatoes, she saw her work as being with God, nseeing the work He was doing in her, making her holy.

So is the difference between the young man and the young lady simply economics, that those who are poor find it easier to respond? Or is there something else at work here?

Could it be the same question that assaults so many people today, the question that betrays our hollow lives?

“does who I am matter?”

The young man had locked his identiry in, he was inable to define himself in relation to Jesus, even though where he was in that moment could have continued eternally. Many of us do that, whether we are rich or not. We lock our identity into our jobs, our relationships, our status in society. And then, evaluating that idenity, we find it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t make any lasting change.

We see this more and more, as people jump of the corporate ladder, as they run through career after career. We see it as we burn ourselves out in the helping professions, or in the large lines when lotteries approach 1/2 billion dollars. We see it in the changing of majors.

People want an identity that matters, they want to make a difference. They want to have a significant role in life.

And a girl found such peeling potatoes. Not because of the work, not because of the significance of any role she had, but because she found had meant something to God.

That makes all the difference.

You and I matter to God, He values us, and desires that we spend time with Him, time now, and time for eternity.

He loves us enough to make sure this is possible.

So sit back for a moment, and think about the fact that you actually matter to God.

And then, go about your day, letting this define you. AMEN!


Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2163-2167). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Holiness isn’t an option, so what is its well kept secret!

Devotional Thought of the Day.

The LORD told Moses 2† to say to the community of Israel, “Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
4† “Do not abandon me and worship idols; do not make gods of metal and worship them. I am the LORD your God
! Lev 20:1-2 GNT

7 Keep yourselves holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8 Obey my laws, because I am the LORD and I make you holy.” Lev. 20:7-8 GNT

1   Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. 2  Happy is the one whom the LORD does not accuse of doing wrong and who is free from all deceit. 3  When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. 4  Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat.  Psalm 32:1-4 (TEV)

It is there in the wounds of Jesus that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. I have seen so many people
who find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him,
“Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds
and wash it away with your blood.”
And I always see that God does just this: He welcomes, consoles cleanses and loves.

Throughout scripture, we hear this theme over and over again. Be perfect, be holy, be mature, imitate me as I imitate Christ,

If you know church history, you know that there have been several seasons where this was the focus of the church. It drove the earliest monastics, it found roots in the immigration from Europe to America, we see it in the Welsh Revival and the Azusa Street revival also comes from a holiness movement that resulted as well in the formation of the Nazarene churches. and before that the Wesleyans. The Catholic and Lutheran Churches as well had their moments of pietism, often forced, guilt-driven pietism. Even the moral majority was a passing thought to see the image of holiness cast on our nation.

But all these movements, as movements, eventually lost their momentum. You can only drive holiness into your people so long before they will abandon it, the guilt and shame too hard to handle. Or again, harassed by an unreachable goal, they opt for the image of holiness, (the appearance of Godliness – see 2 Tim. 3:5) often creating a pharisaical system which focuses on some minute behaviors while ignoring others.

But the failure to maintain the appearance of Godliness, the failure to be truly holy is not an admission that we can’t be holy, that we can’t imitate Christ Jesus. Indeed, if anything, these failures should help us realize we go about being holy in a way that is the cause of our unholiness.

Our holiness isn’t about us. It isn’t about our effort, our determination, our will being broken and tempered correctly through this practice, or that book, or following these spiritual exercises. Ultimately, these things can be beneficial, if they help us understand the secret of holiness.

The secret is found in the first two readings….

Don’t abandon God…. and I am the Lord your God, I make you holy! 

There it is, the secret to holiness.

Let God do it!

Just relax and focus on walking with God. Revel in His presence, rejoice in His promise, as often repeated throughout scripture, of forgiving, cleansing, us of all sin, making our lives right, restoring our lives which were broken. Reconciling, redeeming, declaring us innocent, and righteousness. Removing the burdens of guilt and shame, all these things He does makes us Holy.. That is why God begs us not to abandon Him, not for His sake, but for ours.

As God does all this, what is left, is simply….. holy. It has been sanctified.

And if you look at the early works of the great revivalists, this freedom, this joy of being freed from the burden of our sin, would result in people restoring that which was stolen, reconciling with those they sinned against, and finding the sins and temptations of the world as what they really are, unsatisfactory, destroyers of peace.

Know my dear friend, that you are forgiven. Stay in the presence, or stay aware of the presence of God in your midst. Just rejocine in the work He has promised to do, and is doing in your life.

You will be holy, for this is what God does. AMEN!


Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 20). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Holiness is a “team sport!”

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had had the demons begged him, “Let me go with you!”
19 But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him, “Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.”
Mark 5:18-19 Good News Translation

The papists and Anabaptists teach that if you wish to know Christ and keep your heart pure, then make it your preference to be alone. Do not wish to relate to people, but separate yourself, like a Nicolaitan brother.2 This idea is a devilish counsel that fights against the first and second tables [of the Ten Commandments]. The first table requires faith and awe, which in the other commandments is to be preached and glorified for the people and to be proclaimed among the people. We are not to be fleeing and crawling into corners, but socializing with others. Thus the second table teaches us to benefit the neighbor, with whom we are to associate and not isolate ourselves. So [isolation] militates against marriage, the household, statecraft, and the life of Christ, who did not always want to be alone. His life was filled with what most resembles a riot, for the people were always crowding around Christ. He was never alone, except when he prayed. So away with those who teach, “Be glad to remain alone, and your heart will be pure.”

The phrase is used in most professions, including by ministers, teachers, medical professionals, customers service experts. It is a simple thing, that our vocation would be perfect if it wasn’t for the people we had to deal with on a daily basis! It goes like this: Being a “insert vocation” would be perfect if it wasn’t for the people!

Luther points it out often in his writing, that Christianity isn’t to be lived in a vacuum, that with the exception of retreating into our closet to pray, we need to be in community. We can’t separate ourselves from the world, creating our own castles that are impervious to others, even other Christians in other denominations.

Yet we see a preponderance of para-church organizations, from schools and universities to coffee houses and even gyms. We isolate ourselves first from the secular world, then within the church, and then hide in our own refuge, hoping that the muck and mud of the world doesn’t stain us, that the contagion known as sin won’t infect us, and that we can lead perfect little lives, protected from all harm. We even pass this onto our children, hoping they will never have to deal with the brokenness of the world.

But holiness, being set apart for our relationship with God isn’t an individual thing. We need to encourage, comfort and even confront each other, and be open to those same efforts from others. That even includes those who do not know or depend on God, fr sometimes their insights into our lives is brutally accurate. (And in hearing them, and seeing how God uses them, they may come to know Him as well!)

Holiness is best seen in the light of God’s glory, something that is found in God’s presence, a place we are never alone, a place where all those He loves are gathered, in which we dwell with Him together. God and His people, together in communion, reaching out and inviting the world to be drawn close to God as well. Celebrating in His presence, the party taking off to another level as another prodigal, and then another is brought home. As another broken person begins to experience the healing that comes as the Holy Spirit comforts us.

This communal life is neither easy to start, nor does it ever become easy. There will be times where we laugh together, for sure, be other times we cry and grieve together. There will be times when reconciliation HAS to take place, and when we forgive 7 times 70. There will be times where we have to rescue each other from hell (literally). For that is what we are about, that is what enlarging the kingdom of God is about, that is why Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified un Pontus Pilate, died, rose and ascended into heaven.

So we, all, could be one with Him.
and hear these last words, from Hebrews 10

23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.  GNT


Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 18). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Escaping the ghost of Monday’s past

Jesus asks, “can i cleanse your past? can i redeem it for you”

Devotional Thought of the day!

15  Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16  redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17  Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17 (ASV)

365         You became very thoughtful when you heard me say: I want the blood of my Mother the Church to run in my veins; not Alexander’s, or Charlemagne’s, nor that of the Seven Sages of Greece.

When human time is no longer tuned to God’s time, it becomes repetitive, boring, unbearable, infinitely long or too short and, what is worse, deadly “times.”
Economic deadlines, for instance, do not consider hunger or the lack of schools for children or the unhappy situation of the elderly. Technology produces a kind of time so instantaneous and full of images that it does not let the hearts and minds of young people mature. Political time often seems circular like a carousel where the free-ring ride is always taken by the same people.

As I read the words of Pope Francis this morning (the words in green) the phrase “redeeming the time” came to my mind.  

Too often we lose time, worrying about things like our personal economic situations, or by those in the world.  By political maneuverings, by wasting time on technological pursuits.  

Our time isn’t tuned to God’s time, and I don’t think that Pope Francis is exaggerating when he talks of such time becoming deadly.  Such time lost is dead, whether it is stolen by anxiety, or wasted in pursuit of some escape. 

It’s gone, we can’t get it back, and even if we did, would we make the most of it this time? 

Most modern translations don’t talk about “redeeming the time”, they talk about making the most of it. But looking at the word in greek, it is definitely redeeming, of buying it back, to pay the ransom to see it returned. 

That may seem impossible, we can’t go back in time, we can’t purchase the time machine.  It seems more logical, what the modern translations advising us to make the most of the time we have in front of us.  

Except that isn’t what it says.  It talks of redeeming the time, not just the present, or preparing to do so for the future, but redeeming the past.  And in context with the light of Christ, His glory shining upon us, revealing all. 

And in that glorious light of Christ’s love, we can find our pasts redeemed, the sin and unrighteousness that cause our brokenness touched and healed.  We begin to see that even there, in the past, God is able to use that past for good, because that is what He does. Redeeming the time isn’t about our making the nest of the future, it is about letting Christ has our past, our present our future.

FOr He is the God of Abraham, and Issac and Jacob, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning, and the end.  And as we allow Him to redeem the time in our lives, free of what haunts us, we find an amazing thing. 

He is with us, now….

I added in the comment by St Josemaria, this idea of the blood of the church running through our veins, rather than the blood of leaders, or the wise.  But rather the blood of the church, Christ’s blood, poured out to redeem everything, to create everything anew. That is where we begin to realize this, in those moments of sweet communion, when God simply reminds us that Jesus died…for us.

So redeemed the time… let God have it, and watch what he does with it.

Even last Monday.

God’s peace flow over you my friend…know He is with you, and has promised you great things!


question for you to consider (and even answer)
What is the challenge of letting God bring healing to your past?

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1677-1679). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Be Full of Joy: A sermon and service based on Phil. 4:4-7

Be Full of Joy
Philippians 4:4-7


† In JesusName †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ leave fill you with more joy that you can imagine!  AMEN!

Irritating tunes…

There are in life some very irritating tunes.

You know, the ones that get stuck in your head and remain there for hours?

A few years ago it was songs from the children’s movie frozen, specifically “I want to be a snowman” and “Let it go!” And anyone who has ever been to Disneyland knows how long this next song sits in your mind. Here, I will give you the first word of it… and see if you can get it…

“It’s” (a small world after all…

There are a few of those in the church as well, though thankfully the ’70s are over and we rarely sing them.

Song’s like, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy…(down in my heart) and even worse, “rejoice in the Lord always..”   (Missy please note– these songs are never to be sung here unless I am on vacation in New England and Bob is preaching…)The latter praise song, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” is just the same words over and over, and over and… you get the picture. But what made it worse was that it was called a round… so, group, a would start it, then group b, then group c, so basically you were getting overwhelmed with this idea of having to rejoicealways

and sometimes we are not in the mood!

Dang it, sometimes you just don’t want to rejoice, you know, because sometimes life… is challenging.  (What did you think I was going to say sometimes life sucks?)

And to be assaulted over and over with people saying “rejoice always” (which is how some old translations state this passage… shortens already short, frayed fuses.

One of the reasons I like this translation is passages like this, that makes it less about us, and talks of being filled with joy.
 
Things that joy needs to replace.

But if we are going to be truly filled with joy, we have to get rid of the just that is in the place where joy is supposed to be.  Heck most of us have our lives so filled with these things, that we have not room for a chuckle or two, never mind full-blown, life overwhelming joy.

The things we are anxious about, the things that our minds dwell upon that cause us great stress.  Getting rid of that junk will give us a lot of room in our lives for joy.

Then, of course, are the things we need, or that we think we need in our lives.  Those too take a lot of room in our hearts and minds.  And even if we get them, we aren’t always satisfied.  And chasing after, or hyper-focusing on these things takes up room that should be allocated for joy!

Then there are the things we pray for because we are so desperate that we turn to God. I am not sure we always do give it to Him, but we at least say we have, yet we still let the situation burn a hole in us.. And when it does, it steals the place for joy.

I could go on and talk about the guilt and shame that we live with, the things that cause us to fear death or consider the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in a way that isn’t full of joy and expectation.

For we should look at God’s returning, with the same kind of eyes that kids have, as they see presents with their names on them begin to be placed under the tree.  For Christ’s return and what happens next are described with these favorite words from all of scripture.

9 What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him;  1 Corinthians 2:9 (NJB)

And this thought should help us see the joy that God would fill us with if our lives can be emptied of anxiety, and our needs, and desperation and guilt and shame.

How did I come up with the list?
          Our conversation with God revolves around these important things

So where did I come up with that list, the things that fill us instead of the joy God would so lovingly fill us with? Where did I get anxiety, needs, despair, guilt, and shame?

From the passage of course.  Though I changed the words slightly.

Worry for anxious – the idea is to have a dueling mind, or two separate minds, at war with each other.  Some translations actually use “be anxious over nothing”.

Pray comes from the word for desire – it is to lay before God all the things that cause us despair, and then we are not just to tell God, but we are to makeGod intimately aware of our needs, so that we can trust Him to take care of them, so we can empty ourselves of these burdens, and allowing Him to gill us with joy.

He does this when we come to the realization that Jesus return is what we truly need.  We set aside our guilt and shame, or more accurately, we realize He has set it aside, thinking of the joy God has planned for in our homecoming, in our finally seeing Him face to face.

We don’t empty ourselves of these things, we need to trust God to do this, understanding that it is His desire to do so, and to fill us with joy, This is the comfortingwork of the Holy Spirit!  As He cleanses us,and fills us with God’s joy!

For as we heard Wednesday night, the prophet Zephaniah revealed the God delights in our homecoming, even more than we do.  You see the joy we are filled with is His joy, the joy God has when He sees His people knowing they are loved, and able to fully experience it. 

His joy is contagious, and His joy is found, and always has been found when He and His people are together when He’s been able to provide for them something beyond anyone’s capability to understand. or explain…

That which Paul prayed for His people and I pray for you, that emptied of all that can be replaced by joy, I pray you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. And know this, His peace will guard your hearts and minds, as you live in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

God did it again! Grrrrrr! Can He frustrate me!

Devotional Thought of the day

23 Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.   Proverbs 4:23 GNT

Be open to the night…
Pray with open hand, not with clenched fist…
Shapes loom out of the darkness, uncertain and unclear: but the hooded stranger on horseback emerging from the mist need not be assumed to be the bearer of ill…
The night is large and full of wonders…

Lord Dunsany from Morning Prayer: 12/15 Northumbriacommunity.org

For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important beings to him; even if we are sinners we are the closest to his heart.

Again I find myself sitting in my office, upset at another injustice I see.

Something that seems dark and ominous, something that I’ve got to watch someone deal with, something that just isn’t right, or in my humble opinion, Godly.

I want to react, some might accuse me of wanting to overreact.  I want to step in and make things right, to bring light to the darkness, to bring healing where there was only division and repression…. and brokenness.

Even as I go to pray about it, I want to vent my anger to God and pray that He gets angry as well, angry enough to leave His throne and come done and do something about it.  As I tried to pray, I found my anger too strong, and I tried to ask God to bless all involved. and then I moved onto my readings for the day… 

You see some of these readings above…. and I my anger shifts a little, changes a little as I realize that God did it too me again.  He frustrated my anger, my agenda, my coming to Him with clench hands by pointing these readings right at my weakness, at my brokenness, at my lack of trusting, in Him. 

I need to guard these thoughts of mine, I need to be careful of how I think, of how I respond, of how I resent injustice. I need to realize that God could work through this dark time for my friend (actually friends – I am dealing with at least three such situations.. just one more appeared this mornign) and I need ot pray that God determines how this situation should go. 

And I need to realize the people involved in causing the injustice, they too are just mindless numbers, that they too are people that God cares about, even as they are broken sinners as much as I am. I need to pray for them, not just that their hearts are convicted, but that they know God would bless them, and work in their lives.

Of course, I don’t appreciate God pointing this out, arranging these readings in such a strong and powerful way.  It’s more than a little frustrating, not to mention I feel like he’s spying on me and playing with me a little.

Then again, I am incredibly grateful that He loves me that much, that He calls me on my anger when giving into it and when I forget His goal of revealing His mercy and love.  I am grateful He makes me wrestle with Him, and He allows me to see the Holy Spirit at work.  I am grateful He shares with us His love…and mercy…and enables us to (eventually) reach out in real prayer for those who antagonize and hurt us.

This is God…who knows and cares about us.

and I am thankful for His work in our lives.   AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

%d bloggers like this: