A devotional thought for your day:
20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NLT)
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
659 If you had presence of God you would remedy many things that have apparently “no remedy”.
You need to hear these words.
They are critical for you to hear, not just with your ears, but with your heart, your mind, and into the depth of your soul. They make the difference in your life….
“The Lord is with You”
If you’ve ever attended a Lutheran liturgical serve, or a Catholic Mass, or even some Anglican or Orthodox services you will hear these words repeated several times throughout the service.
Do you ever wonder why? Are we just saying this as a form of greeting, or in order to mark a transition in the service?
Or is this what church is supposed to be doing, helping you realize you dwell completely in the presence of God! That the Holy Spirit has brought you to that place, in that moment to realize you aren’t alone, That God wants you there, and will do anything to make it possible for you to be there in His presence.
It might be that it is a time to be still and know God is your God.Maybe it is time to celebrate the freedom of Jubilee, when God erases every debt you incurred by your sin and unrighteousness, maybe it is time to offer a cup of water to someone who is physically or spiritually thirsty and dehydrated. Maybe it is to receive that cup of water.
As St Josemaria notes, it is this presence of God that remedies that without remedy, that heals relationships to shattered to be healed. It is the fulfillment of the greatest of prophecies, the very name attached to Jesus, Immanuel – God with us. It is the promise of the last words He tells the apostles as he ascends to heaven.
It makes the difference in our lives, and incomparable difference, for the peace that comes realizing and depending upon it is beyond anything we can express.
A peace that is there and starts to impact you, as you realize their truth.
The Lord is with You!
(and yes – and also with m)
Lord, have mercy upon us, reveal to us the presence of your Spirit, cleanse us of sin, and help us dwell in your peace! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2767-2768). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
57 Then they shouted loudly and covered their ears and all ran at Stephen. 58 They took him out of the city and began to throw stones at him to kill him. And those who told lies against Stephen left their coats with a young man named Saul. 59 While they were throwing stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell on his knees and cried in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” After Stephen said this, he died. Acts 7:57-69 NCV
This is the perpetual characteristic of the true church: it not only experiences suffering and is dishonored and held in contempt, but it also prays for those who afflict it and is gravely concerned about their perils.[i]
It is a necessity that we are reminded that Spiritual Warfare is not battling against flesh and blood, rather, the flesh and blood is what we are called to do battle on behalf of, to help free them from what would keep them away from the gospel.
Yet so much of our literature, so much of our training, so much of our attitude is about defeating the person, bringing them to submission, We have so bought into a competitive lifestyle, that it impacts and drives our ministry.
If we are that competitive if we see our spiritual warfare as against those we differ with, how we will nourish the faith and desire we need to pray as Stephen did?
How will we learn to plead for those who do evil as Moses, Abraham, and Paul would? How can we begin to imitate Christ, who asked the Father to forgive those who mocked, stripped, bet and tortured Him, even as He died to secure their freedom from sin?
We need to develop this characteristic that is found in Christ Jesus. We need to develop it not just as a measure of our holiness, but for their sake. As Luther said, we need to be concerned about the perils that the people who oppose us will face, especially the peril that would come if they never find out about God’s love.
This may sound imprudent, or impossible, It may seem that it is only for saints and the holiest of us, but holiness is not an inbred characteristic. Nor is the patience and compassion that this kind of ministry requires. Which should give us the key to the ministry. It isn’t about us being holy enough, it is about realizing the compassion and love of God show to us! It about trusting in God’s promises more than we fear them, or are shamed by the contempt and dishonor they would throw at us,
It’s the result of walking with God, of sharing in His glory, of realizing the love we treasure would free them.
It would bring about reconciliation.
And when it happens, it is amazing to see, it is wonderful and incredible to see
And so needed. It is our ministry, to walk with Jesus as He seeks and saves the lost.
Lord Jesus, help us love them as you love them. Help us desire that they would know you mercy, that they would experience your compassion and love, that they would find themselves sharing in your glory, as you claim them as your own. Lord, have mercy on us all. AMEN!
[i] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, Vol. 2: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 6-14. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 2. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.
Doubting? Go Ahead!
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you, that any thoughts of doubt and hesitation is simply set aside, as Your Lord says, “Go in My Name” AMEN!
A Measure of Doubt/Hesitation
At first, I don’t think we understand it. It doesn’t make sense.
Here the apostles are, standing there in the presence of Jesus, the one who died in front of their eyes, and who was raised from the dead. They had seen him walking, eating, teaching, with the holes in his hands, and they have seen the gaping wound left by the spear.
And as he stood in front of them, some doubted. They wavered, they hesitated. They doubted.
It doesn’t really make all that much sense to us at first. How could they doubt, they were in the presence of God! They were overwhelmed, and couldn’t answer the question, “What does this mean?” because they could quite process the resurrection itself.
Jesus reaction is interesting. He doesn’t confront them as sinners, and He doesn’t comfort them in the place they are.
He simply tells them, Go back to what is their “normal life” and while you are living, make disciples of everyone and anyone.
For men who were doubting, men who were hesitating, it is an interesting directive. One that we need to hear today as well.
Unbelief or Doubt?
As we look at this, I think we need to be clear about what these disciples, these followers of Jesus were experiencing.
It wasn’t unbelief or disbelief. It was doubt, it was a word that means to hesitate in commitment or action, it was to waiver, or be paralyzed in the moment because you don’t know how to act.
To think of it in a positive way, it’s like that moment when you are told you are one, husband and wife, and the pastor gently prods you to kiss your wife for the first time.
“My wife?” Uhm – who is that… I mean – I am really married now? Ahh – there she is! And everyone laughs as the kiss is much too quick, or far too long!
Or it’s like that moment when you receive news that your life is changing… and you don’t even know how to begin processing it, yet you must act. You might even be ready to go through the motions, but what are you doing?
He is risen! He is risen indeed… and that means we have risen indeed.
So what? What happens next? What am I to do with this?
How does the resurrection of Jesus, and His ascension, change my life 2000 years after the fact?
The Answer? Go!
Jesus answers that question, “All authority in heaven and on earth is mine. Therefore, it is time to go…
Go and disciples of people from every walk of life, from every culture, from every demographic statistic there is, that can be used to divide people. Disciple, not just making converts, but a continuing process of revealing to people the promises of God that will be and are given in their baptism, and continuing to reveal to them not just the God’s laws which are commanded, but the blessings that are promised in commands as well.
Go and do this, and here is where we see the Trinity’s authority given to us, just as it was given to Jesus by the Father.
Next month, I get to act on President Stoterau’s behalf, installing the Rev. Mark Jennings as the pastor of Peace, Pico Rivera. My responsibility, my authority, is very limited, yet I will be acting on our District President’s behalf. When God says disciple them, baptize them, teach them to keep my covenant, we have all the authority found in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit to do so.
Which is amazing, if you think of it! God has transformed us to the extent that He entrusts us, just as He did the eleven disciples! Disciple people, walk with them as Jesus did with the eleven disciples, as much as the eleven disciples did with people like Stephen and Barnabas, Priscilla and Aquilla, Phoebe and Mark.
How does that affect our doubt, our hesitation, to know that we are backed by God on this ministry of reconciliation we have been given?
This incredible, glorious, majestic, merciful, loving Triune God has called us, and is transforming us, and sends us out to minister to believers and unbelievers alike! Revealing to them the work of God, done in their baptism, and the relationship God defines in the New Covenant, the same relationship that He promised in the Old.!
And as we make the sign of the cross, as we remember our baptisms, we remember how His plan and work, from before the foundation of the world, to the cross and to Pentecost has been to disciple us.
The Promise… I am! With you
If you are still doubting, if you are still hesitant, if you think you don’t have what it takes to disciple another person, to point them to the promises of baptism, to share and remind them of God’s gift of life, and the blessings of living in relationship with Him, hear these last words,
And be sure of this, I AM with YOU Always, even to the end of the age.
God in three persons, blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit! They have kept their promise and come and made a home with you.
You aren’t alone, you aren’t powerless, God, who gives you His name, is with you. When you are hesitant, even doubting, know that when God says “go”, He is also saying, “I am with you!”.
He loves you too much to stay away.
So let’s go… and disciple each other and our world. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. 1 Timothy 4:12b-16 (NLT)
207 An indispensable requirement in the apostolate is faith, which is often shown by constancy in speaking about God, even though the fruits are slow to appear. If we persevere and carry on in the firm conviction that the Lord wills it, signs of a Christian revolution will appear around you, everywhere. Some will follow the call, others will take their interior life seriously, and others—the weakest—will at least be forewarned.
It doesn’t matter whether I am a 52-year-old pastor, or a 19-year-old teaching Sunday School to a class of 25 2nd=8th graders. There is a point when you approach burnout.
Been there, done that, and it seems taken out on a lease on an apartment at that address at times. I’ve seen others there as well, and some crash and burn, and others persevere, not by the strength of character, or a stubborn will. For those things cannot last through burnout. There is something more, something internal, yet foreign. Something, dare I say it, supernatural, that sustains them.
It’s not just a matter of personal faith, but rather, the reason that we can have faith, that we can trust, that we can depend on the Lord.
Paul tells his young apprentice to keep focused on reading scriptures, using the word of God to encourage and teach them. As odd as this seems, it is a prescription for dealing with burnout. For there is something empowering when we see people receive that strength. Paul urges this young man to throw himself even more into the ministry, which seems counter-intuitive. Yet, if we focus on the work of God, we encounter Him, we find the Holy Spirit who strengthens and preserves us.
We see God is faithful, and because of His promises, we see people’s lives changed, as they are delivered from darkness into light, as we see their burdens lifted, and as we do, not only are we amazed, we find the perspective that enables us to endure.
St Josemaria speaks of the same thing as he talks of a faith that speaks with constancy about God. Sure, it isn’t as dramatic a change as some would prefer to see, but the change is far deeper, as people will come alongside in service. Others will grow deep in their appreciation of God’s love. Witnessing these things assures us that our burnout is not in vain and that we can endure, for the cost is worth it.
Assured of that, the burnout loses its grip on us. We still may be tired and weary, we may wonder if the trials will ever end, but that is not comparable to knowing this….
The Lord is with You!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1073-1077). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
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)
97 Renew each day the effective desire to empty yourself, to deny yourself, to forget yourself, to walk in novitiate census, with a new life, exchanging this misery of ours for all the hidden and eternal grandeur of God. (1)
Since teaching through Colossians a couple of years ago, these words in red above seem to resonate with me more and more. I have written about them before, and will probably do so again.
I think they are critical for us to understand, this idea of our “real life”, a life which seems hidden, a life which is easily overlooked and forgotten, a life that is found at the throne of God.
THat’s where we belong, it is our eternal life. The life that began when God circumcised our hearts, cutting away the sin and unrighteousness as He baptized us. That was the conversation in the previous chapter in St. Paul’s letter to these saints.
But in chapter 3 he gets to the impact of that cleansing, the difference it makes in our lives today, and every day that will come. He talks of our eternal life as our real life, our reality. He urges us to set our hearts on this dance with God the Father, Son and Spirit. The dance we’ve been invited too, and see glimpses of, even if our mind cannot clearly picture it.
If our mind cannot, our hearts and soul can be set on this. For our hearts are better at knowing we are loved, knowing we are forgiven, and being able to accept the mysteries that our minds can’t fathom.
But as our hearts settle there, we dwell in the peace of God, we lose ourselves, yet find our life in Jesus. For everything changes, from our priorities, to our relationships, from what we “need” to how we view those around us.
So today, think about the glory of heaven and come to realize with your heart that not only do you have a place there… you are already in His presence…
and rejoice in that peace!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 556-558). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for a day just before the beginning of Lent
25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)
938 Try to live in such a way that you can voluntarily deprive yourself of the comfort and ease you wouldn’t approve of in the life of another man of God. Remember, you are the grain of wheat of which the Gospel speaks. If you don’t bury yourself and die, there will be no harvest.
As I read these words, my thoughts wander from thinking of the mansions of the mega church preachers, to considering many of the luxuries I have. From (self)-righteous indignation to guilt and shame.
Added to the latter is a number of people asking me, as they do every lent, about whether it is necessary to give up, or fast from something for the days of lent.Some people want to give up bad habits, or things they’ve been told are good for you. Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Facebook, Talking about politics. Others sacrifice a meal, and even use the money saved to give to others in need.
And then, as Lent brings about Easter, the fasting ends, the habits return, the sacrifices stop and comfort returns.
What if the change that we seek in our Lenten time were to become a lifelong change? What if the sacrifices became our way fo life? What if we chose to give up something that impeded our relationship with God, and the sacrificed caused us to depend on Him more?
Which brings up a question – do we plan and try to give up the things that we know distract us from God? Is this even a desire in our lives? Or do we simply go, day to day, stuck in those habits, feeding those desires, and allowing ourselves to burn out spiritually?
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, can we grow in our devotion to God? Can we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual growth? Can we go to those who care for us spiritually and ask for direction and prayer as well, confident of God working through the gifts He gave us for this very purpose?
This may not be as easy as pledging to give up steak on Friday, but it will benefit us… of this I am sure.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2177-2180). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of The Day:
33 “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a bowl;p instead, he puts it on the lamp-stand, so that people may see the light as they come in. 34Your eyes are like a lamp for the body. When your eyes are sound, your whole body is full of light; but when your eyes are no good, your whole body will be in darkness. 35Make certain, then, that the light in you is not darkness. 36If your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be bright all over, as when a lamp shines on you with its brightness.” Luke 11:33-36 TEV
Constantine the Great, having written with great respect to St. Anthony, the religious about him were greatly astonished. “Why,” said he, “do you feel astonished that a king should write to a man? Be astonished, rather, that the Eternal God should have written down his law to mortal men; yea, more, should have spoken to them by word of mouth in the person of his Son.” (1)
God does not want
a house built by people,
but faithfulness to his word
and acceptance of his design.
It is God himself
who builds the house
but of living stones
marked by his Spirit.
It is a blessing for parents of toddlers, this truth that out of sight, out of mind.
Yet it is true for us as adults as well, and then can become a curse if we aren’t careful. For the longer our eyes are taken off of something, the easier it is for us to forget and even neglect that which was once all important.
We can forget Him, if not completely, then enough to obscure who He is, what He has instilled in us.
His peace, His comfort, His mercy, His love.
And what it means to live life in reflection of that love. What Pope Francis calls “His design”, what He wills, the plans He has laid out for us. The more we neglect seeing Chirst in our lives, the more sin reigns, the more it makes sense, the more it offers false comfort, quickly fading imitations of joy, and quickly tires us out. A lack of seeing Christ leasd us to a life we cannot be satisfied with, on that quickly turns toxic, as we do what is right in our own eyes.
We need to regain this vision of Christ, we need to let His light enter through our eyes, to contemplate, to think about, to become enlightened to the depth of His love for us, His people, His family. We need to realize that not only did God love us enough to guide our lives with His law. but that He revealed us the love in and through Jesus.
He is our light, He is our life, and our thoughts need to be infused by the presence of our God. Not as in a rote behavior, or religious obligation, but as our very life. With the joy that comes from walking with One whose love for you is proven over and over.
So fill your eyes with Him! Fill your mind with those things that we praise Him for, things that are true, noble, holy, just, pure, lovely, sacrificial, (see Phil.4:8)
He is with you!
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. Print.
(1) Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. 36Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. 37For there is nothing that God cannot do.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.” And the angel left her. Luke 1:35-38 TEV
18 “Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see. 19 “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! 20 “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.
Revelation 3:18-20 (MSG)
The second (step to learning mental prayer (1) ) means to place yourself in his sacred presence is, to reflect that God is not only in the place where you are, but that He is, after a most particular manner, in your heart, nay, in the very centre of your soul, which He enlivens and animates by his divine presence, being there as the heart of your heart, and the spirit of your spirit; for as the soul, being diffused through the whole body, is present. (2)
Wednesday nights, we’ve been looking at the incarnation for something unique, as we find in the night’s darkness that is shattered by the glory of God, the reason we love Him with everything we are. As we learn why our heart, our soul, our strength and our mind cry out for his love.
Francis de Sales wrote something quite similar, which appeared in my morning devotional readings. Teaching a lady about prayer, he commented as you see above. An intimacy we each have, because of the incarnation. Just as Mary’s womb bore Jesus, just as He became incarnate there, so too does he become incarnate in the very center our soul. He comes into us, makes Himself home, so incredibly home that He intertwines himself into who we are.
Think of this, as through Mary’s umbilical cord shared her and his blood, so too our life and his life circulate within us because He is there.
That is how He “enlivens (the old quicken in the Creeds) and animates us by His presence. He clothes us, He heals, He corrects and comforts.
All because he is there, in your heart, in the depth of your soul.
He’s there, knocking at the door to you and me…for we are the people he loves. Read that second quote again, and hear His knock….and His desire to be incarnate, to be entwined in your heart and soul, to be your life blood.
May you answer, as Mary did – “may it happen to me as you have said…”
(1) The first step is simply to that God is everywhere, and in everything.
(2) Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (NAB)
23 Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, 24 knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 (NAB)
277 You ask me, “Why that wooden cross?” And I quote from a letter: “As I raise my eyes from the microscope, my sight comes to rest on the cross—black and empty. That cross without a corpus is a symbol; it has a meaning others won’t see. And I, tired out and on the point of abandoning my work, once again bring my eyes close to the lens and continue. For that lonely cross is calling for a pair of shoulders to bear it.” (1)
It is Friday, and I am sitting in my office, trying to get my act together, to prepare an inspiring sermon. I’m tired, my allergies are not helping! Neither is a sore back. I want to whine and complain and go home and escape into a television show, or more likely a book.
And I know even those who aren’t tired are counting down the hours until the work day is over, and then get that rush of energy which signifies that it is the weekend!
O wait – the laundry needs, to be done, the garage cleaned, the …..
The energy drains and we are back to being tired.
As I was reading this morning, I was reading the book of Colossians, lots of good rich teaching in that work of Paul. Could have written about anything from preaching and baptism to the fact we dwell in and for Christ. IN fact, I was thinking about writing on the incredible song of praise that starts in 1:15, until I got to Josemaria’s writings, and the quote in blue above.
“Tired and abandoning my work….”
Uhm, yeah – I have not only been there, I am there.
And the ministry waits… and yet the cross has no body…
Will I bear my cross?
Part of me wants to say no, I’m too tired. I hear the invitation to bear the cross as one demanding more sacrifice.
Then I remember the other cross, the one where I am there, and His body has taken it up. There love is revealed in all of its fullness, where I find hope beyond belief. Where joy is the focus, not the shame (see Heb 12:1-3) Where I am invited to die with Him, that I may live with Him.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether my work is writing a manuscript from which to preach from, or listening to a co-worker, or a friend. “Whatever you do” Paul reminds us – all of it do in God’s name, for His glory, knowing we have already been guaranteed a reward of all of eternity, sharing in His glory.
To run to bear our cross, to embrace the work, even the suffering is not just a challenge, it is an opportunity to experience God, to know His presence that sustains us. For while we were nailed to a cross with Christ, He is with us, as we bear our cross.
Knowing that, the work takes on a new meaning, a time of contemplation, a time where His peace overwhelms my brokenness, my tiredness.
God is with you, share the work with Him, as a child shares their work with their dad.
Have a blessed Friday!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 735-738). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.