Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12 HCSB
28. Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.
This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.10 God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.11
There is a great difference between judging sin and having knowledge of sin. Knowledge of sin does not entail the right to judge it. I may see and hear that my neighbor sins, but to make him the talk of the town is not my business. If I interfere and pass sentence on him, I fall into a greater sin than his. When you become aware of a sin, simply make your ears a tomb and bury it until you are appointed a judge and authorized to administer punishment by virtue of your office.
267 Those are called backbiters who are not content just to know but rush ahead and judge. Learning a bit of gossip about someone else, they spread it into every corner, relishing and delighting in it like pigs that roll in the mud and root around in it with their snouts.
268 This is nothing else than usurping the judgment and office of God, pronouncing the severest kind of verdict and sentence, for the harshest verdict a judge can pronounce is to declare somebody a thief, a murderer, a traitor, etc. Whoever therefore ventures to accuse his neighbor of such guilt assumes as much authority as the emperor and all magistrates. For though you do not wield the sword, you use your venomous tongue to the disgrace and harm of your neighbor.
It is amazing how much judgment we see today in the world. And equally disturbing how much we see in the church. So many people claiming to be experts regarding situations they have no intimate knowledge, of, but simply reacting to the news and rumors put out there. As so we somehow think we can judge (and prosecute or defend ) those whose situations are in the public eye.
A lot of our judgment is based on our own experiences, and on the experiences of someone who did something to us or to someone we love. And therefore, all in a similar situation we judge based on our experience, not on the facts that we don’t have access to.
Or we judge the case because of the affiliations or demographic data of the person who accuses or is accused. They agree with us, so they are the ones under attack. The other side is only loyal to their peers, therefore, since their peers are wrong, they must be lying.
A great example of this is the present situation with the supreme court nominee. I have some friends who have been sexually harassed and a couple who I have counseled because they were trying to cope with rape. I also have been involved in situations where one accused of such was the target, and they were out to hurt him. In the process of one such situation, the accuser was presented with evidence that proved her story a lie, and she confessed to it.
Been there, cried with both, was anxious with both, and the present situation has brought me to pray for those who stories are never far from my mind. And as I hear the details, as I see people share the rumors across social media, both groups of stories come to mind. The victims who no come forth, and the victims who had their lives damaged by false claims. No, let me rephrase, these situations today doesn’t just bring their stories to mind, it tears at the heart, as I remember the pain I tried to help them deal with.
Oddly enough, three of my readings this morning dealt with judgment and the notion of our judgment and condemnation of those people whom we don’t have the responsibility to judge, or all the information to judge the stories of those involved.
And then I see all those who would play God, who would decide this situation based on their own past realities, or worse, based on political issues. And my heart tears for them as well.
And then we have scripture, and the writings of Vatican II and the Large Catechism. All three warn us, they even command us not to judge. They ask us to leave it in God’s hands, something that takes a lot of faith, to trust God with what we would rather handle. It takes humility, such humility that is only found when we are in the presence of God, witnessing His glory and wisdom, which show him to both just and merciful. It takes trusting in God to set aside our own presuppositions and to be healed by our own pain.
But this is God who I am urging us all to trust in, a God who would reconcile us all through the blood of Jesus.
Trust Him, depend upon Him, leave the lynch mobs behind…
And rejoice in the presence in your life. AMEN!
Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 401). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 ,,,Pilate said to the crowd, “Here is your king!”
15 They shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to crucify your king?”
The leading priests answered, “The only king we have is Caesar.”
16 So Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. John 19:14-16
508 The Lord has the right to be glorified by us “at every moment”—it is an obligation for each one of us. So if we waste time we are robbing God of his glory.
One of my greatest temptations is to respond to my friends on the left and the right political spectrums who say (and post and tweet) news that seems to replace God with Donald, or bash him and say if only we had Hilary, if only we had Bernie. if only “they” would get their act together and think about us.
Some even talk as if the end of the world is imminent, because of the “others” being so stupid, so ignorant. As if the eschatology of the universe was completely dependent on American politics.
It is as if we are back on Pilate’s porch, willingly casting aside Jesus, as we pin our hopes to a god that is foreign to us. It doesn’t matter whether it is Trump or it is the idea of someone else needing to sit in that seat – both sides find their only hope in either Trump or getting rid of him. As if that we do away with all that is evil, all that is negative, all that is broken in our lives.
But kings and presidents, governors and judges cannot save us from ourselves, from the evil within that demands to be fed, demands to be taken care of, that demands to have our desires met and fulfilled.
Not only is that not the job description of any government official, often it is contrary to their work, especially the work God gives them as is described in places like Romans 13.
Yet we still lay aside Jesus, we still forget about God, we still shatter the commandment to not beat false witness, all in hopes.
It is time to stop, time to repent. We know that Christ died on the cross to redeem us, to save us, to bring us into the kingdom of heaven. He is our God, He is our King, Jesus is the one who presides over us. He is the one who gives us hope, who sustains us in times of trouble, and who defends us, promising nothing can separate us from his love. And may God be glorified in everything we say and post and tweet.
May we trust in and depend on Him more than we trust or distruct in those who lead us. Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2214-2216). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
May the Lord Lead Your Hearts
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, that incredible gift of God’s love, mercy and peace, lead you to share His message in a way that it spreads, and where it is heard and rejoiced in by all you share it with!
Rescue From Wicked People?
This week has been, to be honest, very trying. My patience hasn’t been all that strong, neither has been my endurance.
It has been challenging, mostly because I wonder if we truly understand the love of God, and how He works in our lives.
I would love to say the election was the cause of it, but I think it only revealed what was hidden, as many of us identified those we thought we needed to be freed, or delivered from; the people Paul asked the Thessalonian people to pray he would be delivered from,
Those wicked, evil people who are not believers.
We think we know what that means; we probably have various people in mind. Until I remind you that the word belief here is as often translated faith. So, the people we are talking about are those who do not have faith, who do not trust in God. People who do not depend on Him.
Uhm – is this too close to home for you? It is for me.
Because while I will easily say I believe in God, it is another thing to ask me whether I trust Him, or whether I truly depend on him.
Especially this week, as I have watched some of my closest friends call each other, and the people we are supposed to love and pray for, well, we haven’t done that this well in America.
Rather, we identified them as the enemy, because we don’t understand how they are different from us… until we realize they are “us.”
When it came to us
Paul is making a similar plea here in verse 1.
He wrote, “Pray that the Lord’s message will be spread and honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you!”
Which leads to a question – is the Lord’s message being spread and by us?
Or has that taken a back seat as our anxieties, and our fears about what other anxious people will do dominate us?
Is God’s message spread and glorified among us still?
Surely it can, yet there are moments where we gossip about our neighbors or fail to put things, as Luther explained, in the best construction. That’s not easy to do, it sometimes takes time, to sit with them and find out their fears, their concerns, their pains, and positions.
It takes communication, and we often damage the opportunity for it.
Can we return to the joy that we had when God’s message of grace we understood with our hearts, souls, minds and strength for the first time?
Can we see the message of God honored again, as it did when we first heard it? And then can we dare spread it to those, who like us, find themselves broken in this world?
Can we do as Paul was confident the Saints then would, doing and continuing to do that which he taught us to do?
How we do and continue to do what God commissioned
The answer is, yes.
Yes, even though we sin, we can still be restored, the awe at the love of God can be found again. It was why we remember our baptisms, where sin, all our sin, was washed away by God’s command, because of our connection to Jesus and His death and resurrection. To restore that joy of our salvation is why we gather here, to remember and reveal again the love of God through the words of scripture, and through sermons like this.
It is why we come to the rail, and receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ as we take and eat, as we remember the words of Jesus that established the covenant, as we are renewed by the gifts He gives us here.
We need this, all of us, from every demographic you can think of, from every political persuasion, we need to be refocused, revived, delivered and saved from the evil. That happens one way,
Hear again the blessing of Paul,
May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.
There it Is, there is what we need, this incredible love of God, revealed to us. Then trusting in Him, depending upon Him to save us, to strengthen us and guard us against evil becomes our nature. Doing and continuing to do what we’ve been taught through scripture becomes not only our action; but our desire. This all happens because God leads us, leads our hearts into understanding and expressing His love for us. That love, as it is revealed, causes us to trust in Him, to depend on Him, no matter what else happens.
For knowing how much he loves us, that is beyond anything. What that loves is everything, it is glorious, and wonderful, joyful and enables us to endure anything.
We’ll even realize how many people that word “us” contains, and knowing that will cause this love, this message of God to spread rapidly, and be honored and glorified.
For it contains us all, for God so loved us all, and we all need to for Him to lead our hearts into a full understanding and expression of His love.
Here, he is doing that exact thing… may we realize it. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 32(These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. 34So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings. Matt. 6:31-34 TEV
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
To speak about “heaven”, therefore, does not mean to lapse into rapturous fantasy but rather to learn to know more deeply that hidden presence that lets us truly live and that we continually allow to be masked and withdrawn from us by whatever is in the foreground of our awareness. Heaven, consequently, is above all Christological. It is not an extra-historical place “into which” we go. The very existence of “heaven” depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man and has given human existence a place in the existence of God himself (cf. Rahner, Schriften II, p. 221). One is in heaven when and to the degree that one is in Christ, where one finds the true location of one’s existence as a human being in the existence of God himself. Heaven is, then, primarily a personal reality. It remains forever stamped by its historical origin in the Easter mystery of death and Resurrection. (1)
110 hours from now, people will be shattered.
The reason they will be shattered is that the media and the social media is making this election sound like the end of the world could occur if one of the two were elected. I even see articles about no matter which are elected; the American life is over as we know it.
No matter who is triumphant, no matter who is crushed by defeat, no matter how depressing this election campaign season is, there is something far more important. There is something that neither candidate can affect. There is always an opportunity to know peace in the middle of the storm.
Jesus is clear about that in Matthew’s gospel. Your anxiety, your fear, your angst about the candidates will not change anything, from the outcome of the election to the number of hairs on your head.
You’ve prayed for God to provide you the necessities of life, your daily bread, trust Him on that. You’ve asked Him to have His will be done as well – again, this is something we can depend on, even when we don’t understand it! So think first of His kingdom, that God is in charge, that He has made you incredible promises, that those can’t be affected by who is the president of our country, the governor of our state.
Focus on God, on His love, on HIs mercy. This is why Pope Benedict XVI once wrote the passage in blue, and where I underlined it, we have to realize this. Heaven isn’t some far off place, where we will go and play golf, or play a harp when we die. Heaven is revealed as that place we are, when in doubt and pain we find ourselves surrounded with hope and peace. When we realize God is in charge, when His presence becomes so real, we cannot deny it. (Which is why the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is so critical in the life of the church!) It is our presently reality, and it has been one since Peter walked into an empty tomb, and Jesus walked through locked doors. That is what Paul talks of as well – as he urges the Colossian believers to focus their lives on the reality of heaven.
He is risen! ALLELUIA!
And therefore, we can pray and vote, and know God is with us, so everything will work out for good, because He loves us.
(1) Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional & Discussion thought of the day:
1 I mean that as long as the heir is not of age,* he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father. 3 aIn the same way we also, when we were not of age, were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world.* 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,b 5 to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.c 6 As proof that you are children,* God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”d 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. New American Bible. Revised Edition. Galatians 4:1-7
The history into which Jesus enters is a quite ordinary history, marked by all the scandals and ignominy that are inherent in humanity, all the advances and good beginnings, but also all the sinfulness and baseness—a totally human history!… We may ask: Is this the context into which the Son of God could be born? Holy Scripture answers: Yes. But all this is meant as a sign for us. The Incarnation of God does not result from an ascent on the part of the human race but from a descent on the part of God. The ascent of mankind: the attempt to bring God forth by one’s own efforts and to attain the status of superman—long ago in paradise this attempt failed utterly. One who wants to become God by his own efforts, who reaches arbitrarily for the stars, always ends by destroying himself.…
58. There are many ties between the message of salvation and human culture. For God, revealing Himself to His people to the extent of a full manifestation of Himself in His Incarnate Son, has spoken according to the culture proper to each epoch.
Likewise the Church, living in various circumstances in the course of time, has used the discoveries of different cultures so that in her preaching she might spread and explain the message of Christ to all nations, that she might examine it and more deeply understand it, that she might give it better expression in liturgical celebration and in the varied life of the community of the faithful.
In writing this post, perhaps I go where angels fear to tread.
Entering the place where politics, religion and culture interact, in that place we called life.
There is a part of me that wants to flee from any political conversation; there is another part of me that wants to call out those who are acting contrary to their relationship with God, as they criticize that candidate, or defend this candidate. For what good is it if “our” party gains the majority in Congress or the Presidency, but in the process we lose our soul, we neglect salvation, we turn our back on God?
In my devotional reading today, three times I come across the same answer.
Jesus comes to us, as we are, in our brokenness, in our broken world. As when He was born of Mary, the leadership of the world isn’t righteous, and our culture is challenged. Our nation is so immersed in immorality that we don’t even see it affecting our lives.
Instead of struggling like a man drowning, I need to see Christ here, descending to us, coming to rescue us who try to reach for the stars, or think we’ve arrived among them.
This Christ, who descended once to be crucified, is still here, (see Matt 28:20) reaching out to us who are drowning, reaching the world through the people among whom He dwells. Reaching out in every cultural context, reaching out to those paralyzed by anxiety, by doubt, by a distinct lack of hope.
Ultimately the answer is not going to be found in November, but in what we know and celebrate in Advent, as we look for hope, as we anticipate what God has promised, that we will dwell with Him, that we do dwell with Him, that we can cry out Abba!
And here His voice calm us, give us hope, and freedom as He softly says, “I am here! Do not be anxious… I with you.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Catholic Church. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
10 But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:10 (NKJV)
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21 But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!” Matthew 27:19-23 (NASB)
It may be that I am just becoming more aware of it in my own life, but I am becoming more and more concerned about the need for a Messiah figure.
Not the messiah who would save us, but the man or woman’s who sacrifice would convince us that all is okay in our world. The sacrificial victim, the one in the old testament which is described as the scapegoat – the one who is sent away, and then everything is made righteous.
Colin Kaepernick is the most recent one people would crucify. During the Olympics, there were several that gained infamy, and we would crucify them willingly. There are those who would blame and want to make scapegoats our of the BLM movement, others who simply want to blame the police. Some want to blame those who would find refuge in our country; others want to blame those who would build fences and protect the dream – by denying it to others. I could go on, as we look at how people treat presidents and presidential candidates, other politicians, and even going back to Henry VIII’s famous line about lawyers. We’ll blame teachers, parents, society, something – we have a desire to make something our sacrifice.
We want a scapegoat, we want someone to take away our problems, we want someone to blame as if that will cause everything to be alright, to be okay. Leaders and the media will do as the priests and elders did, calling on us to crucify those they point to, and so desperate for hope, we will echo their chants, share the news articles, share the meme’s without checking the truth, or considering the results.
What is often happening is what we see in the old fable called “the Emperor’s New Clothes.” We do not realize we have made something in our life a sacred cow, an idol, something to be protected and defended because we base our hope on it. We count on it for comfort; we expect that if our hope is true, we will know peace. And these goals let us down, and we come face to face with the problems, and we end up defensive and in despair.
And we want to find something else, someone else to blame.
if someone attacked our idols, if they reveal our idolatry,m our nakedness and shame, they become the perfect target. We will gladly become hypocrites, liars, and even those who cry “crucify him” to return to our former blindness, our former state of being illusioned. Our former sense of self-righteousness. The man who points out our brokenness, our sin, and what is shameful becomes the target. Real problems for sure, but the person we nail for it, they aren’t to blame. But their suffering blinds us to our own. Because their being crucified, their reputations suffering alleviates our need to deal with our real problems.
We want to turn him into another messiah, and hopefully, this time, the scapegoat won’t return, the crucified sacrificial victim won’t rise again.
We’re pretty sure he can’t – after all, he’s not the Christ.
We need to stop hiding behind our illusions, they don’t change the reality. We need to deal with the brokenness in our lives, in our families, our society, and yes in our churches. We need to stop trying to find a scapegoat, another person to crucify and instead celebrate the one that we needed to be crucified was. For the victim we needed to find, we don’t have to draft a new one. There was One, Jesus the one who was chosen and annointed by God to die for us.
He also rose from the dead.
Because of that crucifixion and resurrection we will heal from our brokenness, we are giving His righteousness to wear, His spirit to dwell within us. We are made whole, and we know His peace, a peace that we we can’t understand, peace in the middle of brokennes.
He died, and no one else has to be crucified.
He rose and all of us who know Him, who trust in Him will rise.
Even those we wanted to crucify…
Devotional Thought fo the day:
But these men pressed the king. “Keep in mind, O king,” they said, “that under the law of the Medes and Persians every royal prohibition or decree is irrevocable.” 17 So the king ordered Daniel to be brought and cast into the lions’ den.* To Daniel he said, “Your God, whom you serve so constantly, must save you.” 18 To forestall any tampering, the king sealed with his own ring and the rings of the lords the stone that had been brought to block the opening of the den.
19 Then the king returned to his palace for the night; he refused to eat and he dismissed the entertainers. Since sleep was impossible for him, 20 the king rose very early the next morning and hastened to the lions’ den. 21 As he drew near, he cried out to Daniel sorrowfully, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve so constantly been able to save you from the lions?” 22 Daniel answered the king: “O king, live forever! 23 My God sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not hurt me.b For I have been found innocent before him; neither have I done you any harm, O king!” 24 This gave the king great joy. At his order Daniel was brought up from the den; he was found to be unharmed because he trusted in his God. NABRE, Dan 6:16–24
509 To be able to judge with rectitude of intention what is needed is a pure heart, zeal for the things of God and love of souls, free from prejudices. Think about it! (1)
I will admit – I don’t have the purity of heart, and not enough zeal for the things of God, and while I try to love souls, there are days this isn’t an option.
If we were back in the days of Darius and Daniel, I can hear the FB and Twitter comments blasting this King, trying to force him to release Daniel, calling him names, and crucifying him in the media for doing what he did. Or the opposite – for not dealing with Daniel severely enough.
They didn’t see his sleepless night, his mourning, His brokenness.
If we were there, we would see someone in power doing that which we know he should not have done.
His heart wouldn’t have mattered, only his actions. His only hope was in the God Daniel trusted, only then could the king know peace. He wasn’t Darius’s God, yet. Darius would praise him, indeed, order his entire country to praise the God of Daniel
26 Then King Darius wrote to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on the earth: “May your peace abound! 27 I decree that throughout my royal domain the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared:
“For he is the living God, enduring forever, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed, whose dominion shall be without end, 8 A savior and deliverer, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who saved Daniel from the lions’ power.” NABRE Dan 6:26-28
This is a lesson for us, for our tendency to judge before we know; before we see the big picture, and the heart of the man in authority Before we realize that God is at work, as promised> We need to pray for our leaders, for the decisions they have to make, that they may not want to make. Even the decisions we disagree with, and find evil in our view.
We can only do this if our faith is in God, even as Daniel’s trust was. Only if we are convinced of His promises can we endure, or watch others endure their own lion’s den. Its not our faith in the Darius, or even in the Daniel, it is God’s reliability we are talking about here…
The God who restores things that are broken, from governments ot leaders, to our own souls.
Trust Him, know He will deliver us… and be confident in His work in you. DOing such will leave in you peace… free to love, to serve the Lord. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1938-1940). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the day:
1 A great anxiety has God allotted, and a heavy yoke, to the sons of men; From the day one leaves his mother’s womb to the day he returns to the mother of all the living, 2 His thoughts, the fear in his heart, and his troubled forebodings till the day he dies– 3 Whether he sits on a lofty throne or grovels in dust and ashes, 4 Whether he bears a splendid crown or is wrapped in the coarsest of cloaks– 5 Are of wrath and envy, trouble and dread, terror of death, fury and strife. Even when he lies on his bed to rest, his cares at night disturb his sleep. 6 So short is his rest it seems like none, till in his dreams he struggles as he did by day, Terrified by what his mind’s eye sees, like a fugitive being pursued; 7 As he reaches safety, he wakes up astonished that there was nothing to fear.
Sirach 40:1-7 (NAB)
I cast all my cares upon You. I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet
And any time I don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon You (Kelly Willard)
307 Pray resolutely using the words of the Psalmist: “Lord, you are my refuge and my strength, I trust in thee!” I promise you that he will preserve you from the ambushes of the “noontide devil” when you are tempted and… even when you fall, and when your age and virtues ought to have proved solid and you should have known by heart that He alone is your Strength. (1)
Anxiety is nothing new. People in every era are plagued or blessed by it. Obviously, the writer of Sirach was well aware of it, as were Solomon and David, So have been men and women of God throughout the ages. The most beloved hymn of Luther, “A Mighty Fortress” reveals his dealings with anxiety, His need for a safe place.
It can and should be used as a blessing, rather than the source of paralysis. It can be what drives us to seek peace, rather than dwell in fear and confusion, and it can result in a deep faith, dependence and confidence in God that is truly supernatural.
But to see stress as a blessing takes time, and the ability to be patient with ourselves, knowing God is patient.
When I see this work, it happens something like this.
1. I enter into a situation where stress is high, or just as likely, something I say or do causes the stress to elevate.
2. My mind starts to project what the horrid result will be (my mind is quite skilled at this!) and how to minimize pain and damage and drama. If I let my mind get into this anxiety, the anxiety will increase geometrically, with a decrease in anything practical.
3. The option is to realize the anxiety is a simple signal; you can’t do this on your own. It is a time to pray; it is time to seek the refuge and the sanctuary that is being in the presence of God. To trust in and depend on God, for He is faithful.
We have to realize His promises are not impotent but driven by His love and mercy, they are true. When Jesus asks us to lay our burdens at God’s feet, to cast our cares ( Psalm 37:5, Ps. 55:22, Mt. 5:25 , 1 Cor 7:32, Phil. 4:6 , Heb 13:-6. 1 Peter 5:7 do you want more verses to assure you of this?) upon Him. When we do so, this is what Sirach is talking about when he mentions us reaching safety and waking up astonished that there was nothing to fear.
As anxiety begins, it is a signal of our need for God’s peace, of our need to remember that God is our refuge, which in Him we are safe.
This is the Lord who responds to cries begging for mercy, who is here to heal the brokenhearted, to free those crushed by life.
So feeling anxious about the political actions of the day? Feeling frustrated and unsure of the future? As you begin to worry, as it begins to get confusing, run, knowing God’s love and peace are where you are to dwell, for He is your refuge. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1239-1243). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21 The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:20-21 (TEV)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46 Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47 And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48 You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48 (TEV)
145 You must never treat anyone unmercifully. If you think someone is not worthy of your mercy, you should realise that neither do you deserve anything. You don’t deserve to have been created, or to be a Christian, or to be a son of God, or to have the family you have…
If you are hoping for me to justify voting for your preferred candidate, you might want to stop reading now. But I pray you continue to read, and think through the Bible verses above, the quote from St. Josemaria, and the words I write. Struggle with them, doesn’t dismiss them.
You might get angry; you might say what I am saying isn’t realistic, that I don’t know how evil the “other” candidates are, and how your candidate is the only hope we have.
That doesn’t matter. I think, no, I know God well enough to know He will keep His promises no matter who is elected.
What I am concerned about is how your heart, your soul is doing, and what this election will do to it. Will you so harden yourself, will you be so affected by those who would have you live in fear and even hate the other candidates, that you forget you have been given the grace that would lead you to love each of the candidates?
You have been made a new creation, you have been counted righteous, you’ve been given the Holy Spirit, and are reminded by word and sacrament to imitate Christ Jesus, even as the Holy Spirit transforms you into His image. (see 2 Cor. 3:16ff)
Which means you are called to love those you can see, in this case, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Trump, Mr. Sanders. People who were created in the image of God, people who Christ died for on the cross, even as He died for you.
Look at the Gospel readings from Mathew, and the call to love your enemies. Look at the first reading, where St. John tells us we are made to love, and if we don’t love those we see, how can we the God who made them, whom we can’t see?
This isn’t easy, I understand this, and I struggle with it. I personally don’t like the positions of any of the candidates, and I am tired of making a decision based on the “least of all evils.” Possibly because I can’t be sure which is the least?
But if I give into the fears, the anxieties, if I read the materials all over the internet, and sent to me, if I engage in the hatred and fear of those I don’t like, the biggest damage I do is not to my country, but to myself, and to those whose lives I will impact.
For I will have lost the ability to love, to trust God enough to love those that aren’t lovable. I will have lost the ability to show mercy, and to trust God for promises like Romans 8:28. And I will have lost my understanding of that which David so clearly explained.
1 Whoever goes to the LORD for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty, 2 can say to him, “You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust.” 3 He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers and all deadly diseases. 4 He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you. Psalm 91:1-4 (TEV)
So learn to love these people! Desire what is best for them, that they would know the love that will give them peace. When it is time, you will know how to vote, and you will know that no matter who wins, God is at work.
Pray for them all, and place their care in the hands of a God who showed you mercy, and as you do, that mercy will be revealed, and in this time where the country is going ballistic with anxiety and angst, you will dwell in peace.
Lord, have mercy on us sinners!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 707-709). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
But there is one thing, my dear friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 10 The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up. 11 Since everything is coming to an end like this, what holy and saintly lives you should be living 12 while you wait for the Day of God to come, and try to hasten its coming: on that Day the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. 13 What we are waiting for, relying on his promises, is the new heavens and new earth, where uprightness will be at home. 2 Peter 3:8-13 (NJB)
You have asked me for a word of hope: what I have to offer you has a name: Jesus Christ.
64 For a terrified conscience cannot pit our works or our love against the wrath of God, but it finds peace only when it takes hold of Christ, the mediator, and believes the promises given for his sake. Those who dream that the heart can find peace without faith in Christ do not understand what the forgiveness of sins is nor how it comes to us.
65 Peter (1 Pet. 2:6) quotes the words from Isaiah (28:16), “He who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Hypocrites therefore must be put to shame, for they trust in their own works and not in Christ to receive the forgiveness of sins. Peter also says in Acts 10:43, “To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (1)
I’ve seen a lot of people looking for hope recently, for something to believe, something to trust in that will make a difference. Some are looking for it from this candidate, others from that candidate. One man is pushing a translation of the Bible as his hope, that nothing else matters but knowing it is the true Bible. Another is pushing for the return to a morality that he was taught in his youth. Some look for hope to a bottle, or a pill, or some kind of love or pleasure. One church leader is even spouting off that the hope for the church is that church people need to have more children!
Such looking is what the quote in blue is talking about when it uses the term “terrified conscience”, or to use something more common to us today, being paralyzed by anxiety. Whether we admit to knowing about the wrath our actions earn, we know they aren’t right. They don’t satisfy; they cause us to live in emptiness, even if we can quiet the guilt and shame we feel. And the places we look for hope, or at least an escape from anxiety, require more and more of our focus, more and more of our dedication. Theses things, which a theologian would call an idol, a false god, enslave us.
We need to cast them off, to realize how much of a dead end they are. To toss them aside, realizing they are hindrances. The Lutheran Confessions are right when they call for the humbling of those trusting in their idols, depending on what they run to to relieve anxiety. Being relieved of the falsehood of our idolatry is never easy, sacred cows don’t want to be ground up into hamburger. (Note: I am serious here because I do believe there is a demonic influence that would make such attachments and addictions painful to remove)
But that is what repentance is, the literal change of our mind/heart/soul. It is God freeing us from such idolatry, it is God entering into our life and doing what we cannot do, as Christ our mediator brings us to repentance; He brings us into a relationship where His righteousness and holiness is our identity, as our sins are removed from us. That doesn’t make life easier now, for being righteous and holy are contrary to the world as we perceive it.
But there will be a day where our righteousness will be at home when we can see God face to face, as forgiven, holy people who belong in His presence.
This all because of Jesus, and His coming to us, living in us, dying for us, rising from the grave, ascending into heaven, where He intercedes for us now…..as the Father is patient with us.
This is why the Pope points to Jesus as our hope.
This is why Lutherans talks about trusting, about having faith in Jesus…
Lord, have mercy on us sinners and help us to know the hope we have in you.
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 191). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.