Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (TEV)
83 Faced by all those men without faith, without hope; by minds desperately near the borders of anguish, seeking for a meaning in their life, you found your purpose: Him! This discovery will permanently inject a new happiness into your existence, it will transform you, and present you with an immense daily hoard of beautiful things of which you were unaware, and which show you the joyful expanse of that broad path that leads you to God.
There are times where the actions of people affect us. Times where evil or unjust actions cause us to struggle, to even despair and sink into depression. Some of us are more susceptible to this than others, as we do not understand how in the world they justify their actions.
This kind of trauma can paralyze us, make us ask unanswerable questions, we can even begin to doubt God, for how can he allow this level of brokenness, this sin to dominate and evil to flourish. As we ask these questions, out hearts and souls receive hit after hit, even as we try to determine if this is the time to fight, or flee.
I hate to say it is “natural” to enter such struggles but after 50 years, I find that I don’t have the strength to avoid such, nor the power to overcome the tendency to be so affected. Simply put, you can’t care for people, you can’t try to love them without opening yourself up to such burdens, to such struggles.
So how do you cope?
St. Josemaria and St. Paul agree. The answer is to look to Jesus, to find our purpose is Him. They agree that our relationship with Jesus is so precious that we can look to Him and discover the greatest joy. This is the same joy that Jesus saw as he walked to, and was nailed to the cross.
Looking to Him, finding our life our breath and very being located in Him, allows us to see that our trust in Him is true. He will sustain us from the beginning to the end, it will reveal to us the incredible vastness of the love of God, and we will experience it more as we see ourselves as part of His story.
That’s what I need to know, that is why we need to go to the cross when we are feeling this way. Our hearts and souls and minds need to understand what happened when God baptized us when God drew us to Jesus and united us to His death and resurrection, When God declared us righteous, cleansing us of sin, and declared we are His children. We need to allow His presence to dominate our awareness, to let, for then His peace settles over us. Assured He is our fortress, we can then begin to respond in love, and in prayer for those who actions or words drew us deep into despair.
This is what we need, to focus in on Jesus, and be forewarned, it isn’t easy. Satan will buffet us all the way. This is where the communion of saints is so precious, for their testimonies in scripture and in the millennia since demonstrates God’s faithfulness. This is where the sacraments and the word of God come into play, ministering to our hearts, souls, and minds, bringing the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Here is our hope and joy are restored, renewed, here in this sanctuary we call the presence of God, for know this my friends, “the Lord is with you!”
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 571-576). 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 fo the Day;
24 “Then the servant who had received one thousand coins came in and said, ‘Sir, I know you are a hard man; you reap harvests where you did not sow, and you gather crops where you did not scatter seed. 25I was afraid, so I went off and hid your money in the ground. Look! Here is what belongs to you.’
26 “ ‘You bad and lazy servant!’ his master said. ‘You knew, did you, that I reap harvests where I did not sow, and gather crops where I did not scatter seed? 27Well, then, you should have deposited my money in the bank, and I would have received it all back with interest when I returned. Matthew 25:24-27
We must then, Philothea, increase our contrition and repentance, as much as possible, to the end that it may extend to the least and remotest consequences of sin. St. Mary Magdalen, in her conversion, so utterly lost the contentment and pleasure she had found in sin, that she never more thought of it. And David protested not only that he abhorred sin, but also all the ways and paths of it. In this point consists the renewing of the soul, which the same prophet compares to the growing young of an eagle. (1)
536 Receive. It’s not a lack of respect. Receive today precisely when you have just got over that “bit of trouble.” Have you forgotten what Jesus said? It is not those who are well but those who are sick who need the physician.
There was a time when I thought those who preached “hellfire and brimstone” were those who missed the point of preaching. I’ve also seen where those who preaching nothing but the benevolence of God also seem to miss the point. Both extremes are wrong, yet as I’ve grown more experienced in ministry, I am coming to realize they both also have a good ingredient to preaching.
The problem is not that they are entirely off, the problem is they are unbalanced. If you combined the most severe legalist preaching that causes people to despair, and the preacher who only talks of how blessed we are, you would actually have a fairly competent sermon!
As I was reading the passages this morning, this came into focus again. The words in blue, from the writings of St Francis de Sales, point out our need to treat sin and the temptation that leads to it as that which is the most revolting thing we encounter. Whether it is a temptation to gossip, or the being jealous, or the temptation to forget prayer and praising God, these things we have to learn to hate.
We need to see the damage it causes, to how we view ourselves, to how we interact with others, to the rest that we would find, if we realized we dwell in Christ’s presence.
We need to find sin revolting, we need to hate temptation more than a 9-year-old hates cooked broccoli!
For it is in comparison to that, that we stand in awe of God’s grace. That we find salvation so sweet, so wonderful, so…. alien to who we are as sinners. You and I, we are the servant who fails his master, who doesn’t use what God gives us, what God blesses us with each and every day. We need to realize that and hear the disappointment and grief…..
and then, we need to hear the mercy. For mercy is given to sinners, not to those who are holy. Souls who need renewal have known the grief and sorrow and condemnation of sin. We don’t need to dwell in the guilt and shame forever, but we have to admit it is there, that we have failed, and we need to confess that sin, trusting in the promise of grace and mercy.
And as we do, we will desire to know the mercy, as we recognize it is our life in Christ.
And the power of sin, shattered at the cross, will be shattered in our lives as we are united to His cross once again.
(1) Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1296-1298). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race;5 the light shines in the darkness,and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:3-5
Money can buy many things, but not the spirit of selflessness and service. That can, perhaps, be borrowed for awhile from other countries, but when it is lacking for any length of time in the whole organism of a nation, its achievement stands on feet of clay, and its collapse is in the long run inevitable. (1)
It is amazing how many people make promises that would give us hope. A new product will change our lives, a new investment program will ensure comfort in our retirement, a politician will make our communities thrive again.
What these ads are telling us, whether we realize it is or not, is that we are impoverished. That we don’t have the ability to truly live life to its fullest, because we lack this essential ingredient.
This is true for individuals, for churches, communities and our country. These advertisers, selling everything from caffeine, bacon and beer to pecan-pumpkin flavored bleach and political candidates are telling us, “you don’t have a life”, or “your life, such as it is, sucks.”
What they don’t realize, is the only essential in our lives, is Christ… and that changes everything… for it creates life.
Pope Benedict in one of my readings this morning, noted that declining countries are those who are lacking people who are willing to work the people to serve in our nursing homes and hospitals, who will take on the hardest roles where personal sacrifice is called for daily. We import people to work in those areas, rather than raising up our children and the children in our communities to make a difference. They may be imported from other states, or other countries – but imported they are.
It is not hard to see a correlation between that and the death of churches in communities. For as the church dies, the amount of people who follow Christ – not just into heaven, but walk with Him, imitating Him, living as He did – for He himself brings life to us, and defines it as He lives in harmony with the Father and the Spirit, even as He calls us into that relationship.
This is our identity, this is our life, this is what it means to be His people, and for Him to be our God. To be the children of God who love as we are loved, who lay aside our lives for others, that they would be reconciled to God. That they too would be able to share in God’s glory, that they would know and be united to Jesus.
This is why scripture points out that true religion is caring for the widow and orphan! It points out that the sheep are welcomed into heaven because they served (even though they didn’t realize they were serving!) We see that in the Augsburg Confession as well, as it talks of obedience and good works as the effect of knowing God’s love. It all starts with His love, and the result of that is a love that brings us to serve each other.
So if we want to see our church or our country renewed, it starts with knowing Jesus, with knowing the love and mercy of God which transforms us into people who serve, and even suffer, as Christ did – for the joy set before us, knowing the love of God for HIs people, of whom we are a part.
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 Thought of the Day:
Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” 31 But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all spoke similarly.
The Agony in the Garden. 32 *Then they came to a place named Gethsemane,i and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”j 33 He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. 34 Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” 35 He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; 36 he said, “Abba, Father,* all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” 37 When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 *Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.k The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” 39 Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. 40 Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. 41 He returned a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. 42 Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.” Mark 14:30-42 NABRE
They have confused renewal with comfort. To give a small but concrete example: a religious reported to me that the downfall of his monastery began very concretely with the declaration that it was “no longer practicable” for the religious to rise during the night to recite the nocturnal office. But that was not the end of the matter. The religious replaced this uncontested but significant “sacrifice” by staying up late at night to watch television. (1)
As I read Pope Benedict’s words this morning, they stung.
Have I done so? Have I justified my own comfort, my own desires, in such a way that I claim it is really about renewal and revitalizing my dependence upon God, and how that is practiced in life?
I had already realized something that I hadn’t seen before. Peter had already denied Jesus three times, prior to being questioned. He denied him in the garden, as his need for comfort outweighed his desire to have fellowship with God.
I’ve been there recently (Thursday and Friday), with a schedule so overwhelmed I haven’t taken the time I usually spend with God, praying, reading, meditating and journaling/blogging (my blog is just my journal, the coalescing of my thoughts, reading and a lesson). I said Thursday I would catch up with it later, but by the end fo the day, I passed it on to Friday and Friday to this morning.
Oddly enough, a friend had shared with me on Wednesday how devastating a similar experience had been. I would say I caught it before it was too late, but it was too late, when I sought my own physical comfort before quenching a physical thirst. Denying the time I desperately need with God. I missed out, and while God still used me, and I still saw His glory in the lives of those around me, I also experienced some spiritual emptiness, and my experience with God’s glory became more like an outsider looking in, than as a participant, one invited to share in it.
It is all too easy to fall asleep in the garden, to adjust our time to provide enough “rest and relaxation.” (or to become like Martha and avoid that time because of our “work”) To view our time in prayer and meditation on God’s love as a duty, and not the incredible holy blessing it is. For to take that time – to set it apart to pour out our hearts, and to listen to Christ’s heart poured out for us, that is a blessing, a foretaste of heaven, a time to realize His presence; to experience the peace that is beyond understanding.
To let Him guard and heal our hearts and minds.
Lord, Have mercy on us, and don’t let us fall asleep on you, or seek our comfort more than your face. Spirit, help us, lift us to see the blessings, to experience the glorious presence of God in our lives, and see Your work in Your Church. AMEN!
(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 Thought of the Day:
26 This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28 So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30 That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31 If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32 But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:26-32 (TEV)
109 There is an enemy of the interior life which is both little and silly. Unfortunately, it can be very effective. It is the neglect of effort in one’s examination of conscience. (1)
For this reason private confession should be retained in the church, for in it consciences afflicted and crushed by the terrors of sin lay themselves bare and receive consolation which they could not acquire in public preaching. We want to open up confession as a port and refuge for those whose consciences the devil holds enmeshed in his snares and whom he completely bewitches and torments in such a way that they cannot free or extricate themselves and feel and see nothing else but that they must perish. For there is no other greater misery in this life than the pains and perplexities of a heart that is destitute of guidance and solace.
To such, then, an approach to confession should be opened up so that they may seek and find consolation among the ministers of the church. (2)
Growing up in the 1970’s there was a lot of talk of renewal, and movements which facilitated various renewals. There was a call for liturgical renewal, retreats that offered times of personal renewal, parish and congregational renewal, and the movement which was known as the Charismatic Renewal.
Each form of renewal brought promise, sometimes delivered, sometimes frustrated.
Then in the 90’s we replaced renewal with revival, and then revitalizatiom.
Now it seems that renewal, either personal, congregational, across a denomination, or across the entire church has been tossed aside. We’d rather close churches, and start something completely new. We’d rather give up on people whose faith has become dormant, and focus on new conversion. Or worse, offer hope to those churches and people, not through the renewal of their spirit, but through returning to the forms that left them dried, weary and with a withered faith.
How will these new lives survive when their new churches hit 20-25 years old (the age when some skeptics say churches begin to die) What will happen to the faith of these people who are guided toward the dry, repetitive faith that caused their churches to dwindle?
Or is there an option?
Could it be found in these words from Paul about the examination of our hearts and souls? Could it be in letting confession and the examination it offers fall into disuse we have hindered renewal/revival in the church, and if the church is not renewed, neither is the world?
What joy have we prevented people from knowing, what joy and peace could we offer them, simply by helping them realize their need for forgiveness while assuring them it is offered? What joy and peace have we neglected giving our people, what guilt and shame do they bear, not knowing they bear it without need?
We talk of wanting churches to grow, in number, faith and practice, yet we do not offer them the basic respite the psalmists craved, and rejoiced and rested as they received it.
What if we offered them a real chance to examine themselves, to consider their lives, to cry out for deliverance, to cry out in hope? What if our words assured them of God’s mercy, of the forgiveness He years to give, of the love He would assure them they have?
Our people need to examine themselves, knowing that they are doing so to find their freedom in Christ. To know that doing so will bring them life, as God sets aside all that would inhibit their life, and transform and make them Holy. For that is what absolution, that is our cleansing.
That is renewal, that is revival, that is life being restored to those who are weary and worn, broken and devastated.
May we, and our people cry out for the Lord’s mercy, knowing He who provides it is faithful.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 589-591). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 6: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 31-37. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 6, pp. 297–298). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Reforming and Revitalizing the Church, and the Soul
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)
Hence, true “reform” does not mean to take great pains to erect new facades (contrary to what certain ecclesiologies think). Real “reform” is to strive to let what is ours disappear as much as possible so what belongs to Christ may become more visible. It is a truth well known to the saints. Saints, in fact, reformed the Church in depth, not by working up plans for new structures, but by reforming themselves. What the Church needs in order to respond to the needs of man in every age is holiness, not management.
760 Here is a thought that brings peace and that the Holy Spirit provides ready-made for those who seek the will of God: Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit—“The Lord rules me, and I shall want nothing.” What can upset a soul who sincerely repeats these words?
2 Good works follow such faith, renewal, and forgiveness. Whatever is still sinful or imperfect in these works will not be reckoned as sin or defect for the sake of the same Christ. The whole man, in respect both of his person and of his works, shall be accounted and shall be righteous and holy through the pure grace and mercy which have been poured out upon us so abundantly in Christ.
3 Accordingly we cannot boast of the great merit in our works if they are considered apart from God’s grace and mercy, but, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31). That is to say, all is well if we boast that we have a gracious God. To this we must add that if good works do not follow, our faith is false and not true.
It is not a day that goes by that I don’t receive some offer from someone to teach my church how to come alive. As well as some advice on what that looks life. Some say you will see unprecedented growth, others say that you will become more like the church in the past, others say they guarantee the church will give more. Some even suggest that the church will be more multi-cultural or multi-ethnic. All tis two can be yours with a complete set of spiritual Ginsu knives (helpful for circumcising the heart of course) Heck, there are other that talk about bein the cause-driven church. If your church promotes the right cause, if it is involved in feeding the hungry, helping people choose life,, if it is involved in missions, and everything will be perfect. There are even missions societies, and non-profit ministries all geared to helping you manage your church.
Yet we know better than this, we know that individual renewal doesn’t come from some slick portfolio, or some manaed duplication of what worked somewhere else. Even Pope Ratzinger noted that the plans of some in church leadership is needed, for such are nothing but facades. It doesn’t matter whether the façade is new, or old.
Renewal happens as we see the transformation that happens when we trust in God’s work renewing us. It happenns as mercy flows over us, as the Spirit provides us with peace. As we descrease and Christ increases in us, Paul says something similar when he says it is not I that lives, but Christ that lives in me. And as individuals in the church grow spiritually, as they are renewed, as they are conformed to the image of Christ, it is the church that is renewed as well. We sacifice all that we are, and find out who we really and truly are.
It is as we hear the promises sin the gospel and in the proises made in the sacraments. Promises we need to know because God’s law, shows us how broken we are, how in need we are of such healing.
Renewal comes from abiding in Christ, walking with God, knowing, simply put that He is with you always, even to the edge of the age.
 Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 241). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1769-1771). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edi
 Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 315). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional THought of the Day:
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 7:21-25 (NLT)
344 For a son of God each day should be an opportunity for renewal, knowing for sure that with the help of grace he will reach the end of the road, which is Love. That is why if you begin and begin again, you are doing well. If you have a will to win, if you struggle, then, with God’s help, you will conquer! There will be no difficulty you cannot overcome!
I have read that Luther advised us to remember our baptism every morning as we prayed, and every evening as we prayed before sleep. There is a reason for it, to strengthen our knowledge and trust in God, because each day has its own evil, because we will be tempted and fail.
Though some would deny it, the miserable battle Paul identifies above in the Christian goes on daily. If we examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11) We must deal with the misery of the guilt and shame we bring upon ourselves, as we fail, as we sin. As I write this, I am listening to the music from Les Mis, and the song where Javert commits suicide. Why? Because he knows the war between justice and mercy. He can’t imagine a world where mercy trumps justice, where love and grace triumph over the law. Such is Paul’s world – the misery he refers to, the danger to the journey towards love that Escriva mentions as well.
We remember our baptism at night so that we can est in peace, knowing God is merciful, and promised to forgive us.
We pray in the morning, remembering and being thankful as well, knowing that this rebirth and renewal will mark our day. That we will expect to see God’s work in our day, in our lives, in our interactions.
For without such, our struggle becomes impossible, we forget that there is no condemnation when we are found in Christ. Instead there is peace, and healing, and assuredness that the Holy Spirit is working there, We would believe that sin or temptation could separate us from the love of God, that God is limited, and can’t make even the sin we repent of work out for good, for those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.
It is as Paul taught Titus:
“But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8 This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.“ Titus 3:4-8 (NLT)
But this is a truth we need throughout our days, the truth of being reborn in Christ, of being forgiven, of being shown grace.
that is the way to a victorious Christian life…. to realize our need for the gospel… in our lives, and the hope of it for those around us as well.
Lord have mercy on us sinners!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1356-1359). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? I have cried desperately for help, but still it does not come. 2 During the day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer; I call at night, but get no rest. Psalm 22:1-2 (TEV)
“When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood, Support me in the whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay. ” (1)
There are days when I could be easily convinced that our present time is more oppressed than any other time in history. The traumas and tragedies just seem to keep coming, the days and week just seem to bring more people, dealing with more pain. It doesn’t matter whether the trauma is natural (i.e. getting older, physical or mental illness) or self-inflicted, or the oppression caused by another. (the latter two relate to the damage of sin and narcissism/self idolatry) The trauma exists, the pain is real, the tears and groans all too.. overwhelming.
If I look at the hymns of the past – whether the Psalms in Old Testament times such as Psalm 22, or hymns across the ages, I find the same weariness, the same brokenness, the same tears, the same despair.
And the same answer.
A God whom those who cry out to in despair, find themselves worshipping, praising, adoring, as they find rest, peace, and yes healing in God. I am not saying these battles are easy, or quick, for they never area. But the darkness that seems to hide God’s face, the overwhelming flood that seeks to destroy us, will not stand against God. It can’t, anymore than the gates of hell can hold against Christ’s incarnation. Even though there are days where it may feel like we cannot go on, it is God’s love that will sustain us.
For God has not hid himself, He always will be there, for He promised to, and His presence will sustain us.
The Psalm quoted above finds the one who questioned God’s presence finding resolution and finding God’s presence. Here is where the Psalm ends:
22 I will tell my people what you have done; I will praise you in their assembly: 23 “Praise him, you servants of the LORD! Honor him, you descendants of Jacob! Worship him, you people of Israel! 24 He does not neglect the poor or ignore their suffering; he does not turn away from them, but answers when they call for help.” 25 In the full assembly I will praise you for what you have done; in the presence of those who worship you I will offer the sacrifices I promised. 26 The poor will eat as much as they want; those who come to the LORD will praise him. May they prosper forever! 27 All nations will remember the LORD. From every part of the world they will turn to him; all races will worship him. 28 The LORD is king, and he rules the nations. 29 All proud people will bow down to him; all mortals will bow down before him. 30 Future generations will serve him; they will speak of the Lord to the coming generation. 31 People not yet born will be told: “The Lord saved his people.” Psalm 22:22-31 (TEV)
Likewise – rejoicing in the work of Christ, the hymn resolves,
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
May you find His faithfulness, His righteousness, His peace sustaining you this morning.. for it is there – and it always has been.
God’s peace is yours – because He has born our sorrows, our griefs, our sins, as He walks with us. For that is how Jesus, who was crucified for you, ministers to you as you journey with Him.
Even on Mondays.
(1) 2nd and 3rd verses of “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand”
- The Tomb is Empty? Yeah! He is Risen and The Lord is With us! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Worship for Barren and Empty Souls (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Meditation on Psalm 116 ~ Br. Scott Brown, Postulant (orderofpreachersrcc.com)
- Will Jesus find us trusting Him? (Evangelical Catholic Evaluation V) (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the day:
I write a lot about broken people – and even about broken churches. One of the reasons is there seems to be an endless supply of them. And every time I think I am completely healed, or those I minister to are, life comes along and seems to break us again. It really doesn’t, but boy does the agony, and the pain, feel like we are broken again.
St. Paul reminds us what it is like to be broken, even as he reminds us of our being made whole….
3 There was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and dissipations; we lived then in wickedness and malice, hating each other and hateful ourselves. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour for humanity were revealed, 5 it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit 6 which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life. 8 This is doctrine that you can rely on. I want you to be quite uncompromising in teaching all this, so that those who now believe in God may keep their minds constantly occupied in doing good works. All this is good, and useful for everybody.
Titus 3:3-8 (NJB)
Obviously the way we were, – very broken- you can’t but read that and realize that Paul is describing people traumatized and torn by sin. As much their own sin ( which we don’t like to face at all ) and the sins of those around us, and even the sins of those who went before us. To be blunt – life being broken sucks!
Yet, God doesn’t – He won’t leave us there. I absolutely love the description of baptism in this and those two words:
Rebirth – being born again of water and of spirit – taking what is dead, and giving it new life.
Renewal/Restoraton – to make brand new! (and it seems like He has to do this daily – sometimes hourly)
It changes everything – our brokenness – no longer is there – though it may appear that way, though it may cause us to struggle,. That is why Paul urges us to keep teaching this – without any compromise – because our hearts need to trust in God’s doing this, more than in the circumstances in which we find ourselves! We are healed – by His stripes ( see Isaiah 53) God hasn’t abandoned us, He has rescued us and we can and do praise Him as the One in Psalm 22 does, as we realize we are not abandoned – we are His!
Living in view of that is different than living broken as well…. for our thoughts become less and less about ourselves – and more about others who are broken. We begin to do good works because He is working in us. This is a promise long awaiting prior to Christ – God’s great plan – which so many testitfied to – but one of my favorite promises of it is found in Ezekiel:
36:25 I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols. 26 I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. 27 I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws, and respect and practise my judgements.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NJB)
God has done amazing things to those He has cleansed – as He fulfills a promise to take our weary broken, anxiety laden hearts, and transforms them into His own image….
As we cry, “Lord, Have Mercy” may we trust that He has done what He said He would do! AMEN!