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Christianity doesn’t make sense… and it shouldn’t!

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

27  God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. 28  He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. 29  This means that no one can boast in God’s presence. 30  But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and God has made Christ to be our wisdom. By him we are put right with God; we become God’s holy people and are set free. 31  So then, as the scripture says, “Whoever wants to boast must boast of what the Lord has done.”   –1 Corinthians 1:27-31 (TEV)

Christ is not just a Head all pierced and wounded; he is the Ruler of the whole world. His dominion does not mean that the earth will be trampled under foot, but that that splendor will be restored to it that speaks of God’s beauty and power. Christ raised up the image of Adam. You are not just clay; you extend beyond all cosmic dimensions to the very Heart of God. It is not the one who is scourged who is degraded, but the one who scourges; not the one spat upon, but the one who spits; not the one put to scorn, but he who puts to scorn; it is not pride that raises man up, but humility; not self-glorification that makes him great, but that union with God of which he is capable.

Adoration places us in a ‘Paschal situation’. It is an encounter with the infinite love of God revealed in Jesus Christ and which is made present under the consecrated species. God reveals Himself without condition. He leaves man helpless in the face of the marvel of His manifestation: an all-powerful God Who makes Himself so small, so poor, under the appearance of bread.

You stand there or kneel there, and for a moment, all else falls away.

From the world’s view, it is a piece of stale bread and some really cheap wine. It is a moment the world would pass by, and pass by quickly.

It doesn’t make sense, but then so little of Christianity makes sense. At least from the world’s perspective. The King who serves, the Healer who is hurt, the Sinless one, bearing all sin…

As Benedict XVI noted, the humble end up being glorified, this little piece of wheat (?) and wine end up bieng a feast more meaningful than anything, That cup of water poured over one’s head, something that cleans away every sin, every bit of injustice.

This fact, that in the world’s logic Christianity, is not logical, is an incredible blessing. Here is why,

What has the world’s logic actually accomplished? When has its wisdom brought about peace? When could it heal a broken heart or a tortured soul?

When has it made a difference, in view of death?

And yet, giving someone who trusts in Christ, the bread and wine, the BOdy and BLood of Christ can overwhelm them with peace. Hearing a pastor lead mourners through Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer can bring peace in the midst of tears at a funeral. Hearing that your sin is forgiven, yes, THAT sin is forgiven, and that told by a man God put in place to tell you that, in that very moment.

Those things make a difference, no matter how the logic can’t explain it.

God is with you.. and that, someday, is the only thing that sustains us.

And oh, how is sustains us.!

Lord Jesus, help us realize that it is okay for Your logic to be beyond us.  Help us to accept that Your ways are not ours, not do we get to judge you based on our limitations.  Instead, help us to rely on Your promises, Your presence, Your love. AMEN!! 

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 52). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 6–7). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

The Proper Distinction/Tension of Knowledge & Experience

photoDevotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

4  “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! 5  Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6  Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. 7  Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. 8  Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. 9  Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.   Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NAB)

The experience of the beautiful love of God in a personal and communal encounter with Jesus Christ is the engine of Christian creativity for the announcement of the Good News.

Second, justifying faith apprehends all those things not as simple history, nor only insofar as they are in themselves true in general, but in such a way that it specifically includes the person of the believer in that promise of grace, so that each believer apprehends and receives Christ in the Word and the Sacraments with true confidence of the heart as given personally to him, and applies them to himself individually. And though this faith is often attacked by various temptations and of itself is weak and languid, yet it surely is faith by which each one specially or warmly21 believes and trusts that sins are forgiven him by God for the sake of Christ, that he is received into grace, [and] that he is adopted into the sonship of God. Jn 1:12; 3:15–16; Ro 1:16; 3:22; 4:16, 23–24; 5:1–2; 8:35, 38–39; 10:4, 9; 1 Ti 1:16; Mt 9:22; Lk 7:50.

In the last forty years, we have often heard people warn against trusting experience and emotion.  We can’t trust them, not our heart.  We need to have a logical approach to scripture, one clearly documentable, tried and true. 

On the other hand, our forefathers often talked about the frailty and insufficiency of human reason in regards to faith. Luther even mentioned this in his training of the youngest in the faith, explaining that it is not by our reason that leads us to faith, for it cannot.  It is spun around, confused by Satan and his minions, challenged by our self-interest and the sin that so easily ensnares us.

So, if we can’t trust our experiences/feelings or our intellect/knowledge, how can we be sure of our salvation?  How can we be sure this isn’t all some dream or some deviants scam?

Simple – we let Him work in both.  We let Him give us the mind of Christ, we let Him change our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh where the Holy Spirit dwells.

We keept them in tension, for it is using all of that and more that we love God, and receive and this message of salvation, this relationship God gives. Melancthon makes it clear, it simply isn’t about knowledge, yet knowledge confirms the message is true.  It does include the heart and soul, for that is where relationships are found, that is where love is noticed and that is where the joy of being loved begins. 

Moses refers to the same thing, as he talks about these words being committed in our hearts. ( the NAB using words instead of commands, for Moses is talking about the entire LOGOS – the entire covenant – not just the terms that bind us)   The entire thing, yet he also knows that is not enough, so he gives us ways to bring them to mind, talking about them, putting them in conspicuous places like the entrance to our homes, our hands, and right between our eyes. 

For we need to know God is our God, there is no other, we need not put our hope and trust in any other hands, including our own.  Rather, we need to let God minister to every part of us, and through every part of us. 

Seeing that, freed from guilt, from worry, we dwell in such peace that loving Him, treasuring His love and work in our lives becomes our life   Alife where our hearts and minds work together, loving Him, and through Him, loving those the world considers unlovable.

This is our blessed life, our entire life in Christ.

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.

Chemnitz, Martin, and Luther Poellot. Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

Feelings or Reason: Which do you trust? Why?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NLT)

27  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.   John 14:27 (NLT)

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
6 What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  (1)

For fifteen years or so, I’ve been hearing that we are in a post-modern world, and along with that, a post-Christian society.

Instinctually, I have questioned both claims. Especially the claim that the church, that Christianity is somehow past its course, that it no longer appeals to people. I would contend that it is not the church people have gone beyond, but the presentation of the church that is dependent solely on reason, that appeals to a logical and systematic view of our beliefs.

Nearly a generation after Dobson’s popular book suggesting that we can’t trust our emotions, a new generation is realizing what Luther taught so long ago, that we can’t trust our reason either.  We hear it when they talk of not wanting religion but a relationship.  We see it when they say they love our Jesus, but not his church.  We see it when books like the Case fo Christ doesn’t have the appeal that it had 10 years ago, or Evidence that demands a verdict had 25 years ago.

A generation that bashes an emotional appeal to “come to Christ” is finding out the logical presentation doesn’t create a deeper faith, but often a rather hollow one.  Holiness doesn’t come because of reason, or because of emotion.  Nor can righteousness be measured by either one.  (Maybe we should stop with our generalizations condemning or applauding those options?)

Holiness comes as both our emotions/feeling and reason/logic are sanctified.  It is not a Venn diagram of where they intersect, but the entirety of both, as God comes to us, cleanses us of sin and all that is not right, and sets us apart to walk with Him, as He guides us.  He is both our majestic Lord, and our loving Father. 

It is He who keeps us, guards us, our hearts and minds, in this relationship that is completely dependent, even at the most intimate levels, at the most broken points of our lives, where we realize that both our emotions and reason fail, and are nailed to the cross.

Thye both have to be killed off, and they both have to be raised from the dead, with Christ, in Christ, focused on Christ, in awe of His love, dependent upon Him, cleansed by Him and humbly guided by Him.  

It is then that our prayers are alive, that our desire to worship grows, that we aren’t focused on religious things as tasks or obligations, but rather as blessings, opportunities to see what really matters.   It is here where revival happens, where brokenness is healed. It is this place where sin is set aside, because we begin to see the glory of God, not just as something distant, but something that we are drawn into by the Holy Spirit. This is repentance and renewal. 

This is life in Christ.

Our life.  TO love Him with our reason and emotions, with our heart, soul, mind and strength, because He came and loved us.

This is the work of God!

AMEN!

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Blessing of Anxiety….?

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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.

Our Logic and Reason: Can We Trust Them?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
2  The LORD Who are you to question my wisdom with your ignorant, empty words? 3  Now stand up straight and answer the questions I ask you. Job 38:2-3 (TEV)

11  When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. 12  What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me. 13  Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (TEV)

I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith. In this Church, He generously forgives each day every sin committed by me and by every believer. On the last day, He will raise me and all the dead from the grave. He will give eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. Yes, this is true!

I am not sure if it was written in the 70’s or early 80’s, but James Dobson once wrote a book called, “Emotions:  Can you trust them?”.  Extremely popular, it was one of the books that rocketed him to celebrity status in the evangelical world.   And in questioning our hearts, we learned that these emotions easily deceive us.

It’s been 30 years since i read it, but I think we need a sequel to the book.   Specifically, asking the very tough question of whether we replaced our emotions with what we perceive to be our logic, our ability to reason.

I am not talking about outside our churches, although that might be an interesting study.  I am talking about inside the church.  We have tried to divorce our feelings from ourselves, and the church has been lifeless because of that.  We extoll those who present the faith logically, who try to show, step by step, the logic of scripture.  (Side note:  It is not surprising that as Dobson downplayed emotions, exegetical preaching – verse by verse – became “the” way to preach.  Exegesis is good, but it can be blind to the gospel)

But is our intellect, our reason, our ability to be logical all that reliable?  Or does it have the same frailty as our emotions?  Can you actually divorce the two?  The biggest question we need to be asking ourselves is the same question Job was asked, who are we to question God?

You might say that you don’t, that everything you listen to or teach or preach is in complete accordance with God’s revelation.  That your brand of theology is the correct version, and you are sticking to it, come Hell or high water.  That everything else is heretical or heterodox or mysticism or pietism or legalism, and you are contrary to all that crap.

At which point, you have sinned, and placed yourself in the place of God.

Get it straight, even as your emotions can betray you, so can your logic.  That is why John tells us that if we deny our sin, our brokenness, the truth is not in us, we are liars.

That is why we need Christ, that is why we need Him to come to us, His presence revealed and know by hearts and minds in word and sacrament.  Not just emotionally, not just logically, but present here, now, overwhelming us with His righteousness, with His mercy, and with His peace.

That is why we need the Spirit to transform us, to conform us to the image of Christ, and to the will of the Father. That is why we need to lay aside all things, and set our eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, of our life.

It is then, Paul tells the church in Rome,

2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:2 (TEV)

Be still and know He is God, let Him be your place of rest, and safety, and let Him transform you.  This is the hope you need, that those around you need as well. That He will reconcile our broken reason and our broken emotions to Himself, and gives us life.

AMEN.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained, WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “The Third Article: On Becoming Holy”.

Is God Reasonable or Logical?

Devotional Thought of the Day: God, who am I?


1  So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. 3  And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.Romans 12:1-3 (TEV)

ANOTHER TEMPTATION is to prefer head-values to heart-values. That should not be the case. Only the heart unifies and integrates. Intellect without a sense of piety tends to divide. The heart unites ideas with reality, time with space, life with death and with eternity. The temptation is to dislodge intellect from the place where God our Lord put it. He gave it to us so that we could clarify faith. God did not create human intelligence so that we could set ourselves up as judges of all things. It is a light that has only been lent to us, a mere reflection. Our intellect is not the light of the world; it is simply a flash for illuminating our faith. The worst thing that can happen is for human beings to let themselves be dragged along by the “lights” of reason. They easily become ignorant intellectuals or carefree “sages.” The true mission of our minds is to discover the seeds of the Word within humanity, the logoi spermatikoi.  (1)
On vacation, so a different set of devotions may appear for the next few days.  I left my normal devotional book in my office, and so I picked up Pope Francis’s book off my kindle – and came to this passage.

It addresses far more clearly that I something I have long thought.

We’ve somehow disconnect the heart of our faith, preferring the reason of faith.   We hear “logos” and reduce it to logic, to human reason, and make the “logos” of God submit to our ability to process it, to analyze it, to dissect it and categorize it.

This despite the numerous passages, scripture that remind us how God’s ways are not ours, how His thoughts are beyond ours.

The result is staggering!  Children of the enlightenment, of the age of reason, we consider ourselves judges of everything.  We judge manuscripts, ignoring the 99.996 percent consistency, but that gives us the right and authority to judge which texts are to be heeded, and which we can dismiss.  On the other edge of the spectrum, we build from scripture a legal system that cares less for mankind, but raises the system we produced to God’s writ.   There is no mercy, confession and absolution becomes a duty, not a sacrament (we even consider ourselves lords over the sacrament!)

The struggle is to dismiss the heart, if we cannot create cardio-eunuchs, we are least circumcise our heart until it is smaller than the Grinch’s. We let reason drag our Christianity behind it, as Pope Francis said.

Faith is like loyalty, like volition, a matter of the heart.  It is the relationship, both with God and with those who live life in our midst, or we in theirs.  Faith is a verb, better translated trust, and the trust we have in God supersedes our knowledge.  Just as a young couple in love will not be reasonable in their parent’s eyes when it comes to establishing a home and finances, there are times our trust and love in God will seem unreasonable and even foolish to those around us, and even us.  We will dare to love our enemies, we will forgive those whom logic demands eye for an eye.  We will sacrifice our desires and preferences in order to see people come to know God’s love, and to love Him in return.

We realize that God has planted, as Solomon wrote, eternity into the hearts of mankind.  As Francis wrote – the seeds of the Word.  That capitalized Word is not logic, it is not reason as man understands it. It is Jesus Christ, the one who came and suffered and died, and rose from the dead (which of these is “logical” by man’s standard?

Does our intellect have its place?  Sure!  Can academic theology have its place, a role in helping us understand the love we know?  Yes, but it is a servant, not a guardian.  It is a tool, not the foreman.

The great commands, and the Great commission bear that out – we are to love, God and our neighbor, we are to make disciples, not converts.  We are to proclaim God’s grace, that mercy and peace that is ours because He loves us…. Even though it doesn’t really seem reasonable….

Let us learn well, but let us trust and love the Lord, and may that love govern our reason.

Amen.

 

(1)      Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 27-28). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

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