Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Impressed by their bold belief, he said, “Friend, I forgive your sins.” 21 That set the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing. “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemous talk! God and only God can forgive sins.” 22 Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and said, “Why all this gossipy whispering? 23 Which is simpler: to say ‘I forgive your sins,’ or to say ‘Get up and start walking’? 24 Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both… .” He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: “Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.” 25 Without a moment’s hesitation, he did it—got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way. 26 The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”
Luke 5:20-26 (MSG)
God’s patience calls forth in us the courage to return to him, no matter how many mistakes and sins there may be in our life.
Doubts and hesitations justifiably trouble those who feel they are spoken to by God as Gideon was. “Why is it,” comedian Lily Tomlin asks, “that when we speak to God we are said to be praying but when God speaks to us we are said to be schizophrenic?”
Gideon, however, pursued the conversation with the angel of the Lord—testing the situation to see if it was real. We can do the same—think about it, wait, ask God to help us know if the speaker was himself or our own self.
There’s a new show, where a man receives text messages from God detailing his role in other people’s life. Though he is the son of a pastor, he struggles to believe in God, so these messages, well, he struggles with the messages, and the idea of a benevolent, loving God. A few years back there was another show with a similar twist, called Joan of Arcadia, and in a like manner, the young lady struggled with the idea that God would talk specifically and directly to her.
Lili Tomlin has a point, we will struggle to believe we are sane (and other people will as well) if we believe that God is talking to us.
But we need to hear Him, we need to hear His voice, as He talks to us. We need to begin to trust in Him and to have faith in Him, and you can’t do that unless you are listening, (and along with Gideon, asking to Go to help us discern whether it is truly God, or just our heart speaking)
Listening to God isn’t easy, and discerning that it is Him is challenging. He speaks to us through His word, and through His sacrament, but this is delivered through others voices, through others hands. through others lives. And He speaks to us in prayer, which is more than just a monologue of our laying our burdens down.
So how do we start, listening to God?
I would say it starts with hearing one of the most important things we can hear, what the man lowered through the roof heard.
My friend, I forgive your sins!
The Lord, who will judge all of Creation, forgave your sin.
You have to hear that and know that no-one, not even you, has the right to judge you as guilty of them. You have to hear those words, spoken with so much love, “I forgive your sins!”
Hearing God starts there. It opens up for you a great big can of healing (as opposed to the great gig can of whoop-#*& your think you deserve), it opens up the door to where God dwells and draws you in from the darkness of sin, shame, and the need for self-justification or self-pity. And in His presence, as you are welcomed into His glory, you get to hear the next message from God.
I am the Lord your God, and you, you are my people.
Start hearing these two messages, let them sink deeply in your soul, and your will begin to hear and clearly understand God.
Lord Jesus, as you did for the blind, open our eyes to see You, and as you did for the deaf, heal our hearing so we can hear Your words, spoken in love, that our sins are forgiven, and that we are in a relationship with You. ANd then help us to list, as you talk to us, thorugh the words You’ve given us, through Your sacraments, and through the people You bring into our lives. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 Arise, O LORD, in anger! Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice! Psalm 7:6 (NLT)
A few days ago I wrote about mercy. A disclaimer, I was struggling with the topic myself. In at least 3 cases, I was trying to figure out how to respond mercifully, and yet honestly. Try to seek reconciliation, and pursue what is right and just.
After reading that day’s blog, and a couple of tweets, a good friend asked how we are to balance justice and righteousness. In fact, she asked me to write on it.
Darn it, now I have to think it through!
That’s what real friends do – they help drive home the lesson God is trying to teach you! And so my friend did for me….and others helped.
Tough question, not just because of the thought needed, but to face the answer, I don’t want to face.
I just want to pray with David the top quote from Psalm 7. Bring JUSTICE! Trash my enemies. Get rid of those who are my adversaries! Whether they be ISIS/ISIL or whether they be… well, God knows who I am struggling with presently. Anf I find myself too often wanting revenge rather than justice. Revenge is never justice; it is a judgment against some in my favor. It is, therefore, contrary to justice.
I thank God for some other friends that study the Bible with me a couple of Thursday mornings a month. We looked not only at Psalm 7:6, but the verses before and after in the chapter.
If we are to hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness AND show mercy, we need to find the point where both are valid. In the Psalm, as we discovered, there is the answer.
1 I come to you for protection, O LORD my God. Save me from my persecutors—rescue me! 2 If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion, tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done wrong or am guilty of injustice, 4 if I have betrayed a friend or plundered my enemy without cause, 5 then let my enemies capture me. Let them trample me into the ground and drag my honor in the dust. Psalm 7:1-5 (NLT)
Developing a heart that desires justice and mercy starts with examining one’s own heart, and one’s behavior. Knowing how easy our heart can deceive us, we do what David does, we don’t examine it. Rather it is in prayer we beg God to examine it. We welcome His judgment, and the means He will use to bring about in us humility. The humility needed to answer a call to holiness; the humility needed to trust God to make things just, to make things right in our lives. The humility to know we need His mercy, we must depend on it.
For otherwise, a call to the purest form of justice will see us judged.
We need to be examined, cleaned, healed.
Foremost of us, this process of being refined will be painful. It will be difficult; it will be filled with grace, applied to the darkness, most sin-dominated areas of our lives. That grace will sting at first, but will soon turn sweet, and joyful.
It is then we can thirst for justice, and to love mercy. Mercy for our enemies, adversaries and those who we see being unjust. Our being refined will counter that as we realize that God’s justice, at this point in eternity, is still synonymous with other words.
Those things are just and right, and exactly what the Great Physician ordered.
Lord, have mercy on us all! AMEN!