10 For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being. Job 12:10 (NLT2)
First, God loves everything. Second, everything loves God. The second is as true as the first. Acorns grow into oak trees because they are in love with God. That is, they seek (unconsciously) their own perfection, which is a participation in some of God’s perfection. An oak tree is more perfect, more Godlike, than an acorn. An acorn is not satisfied to be an acorn, because it wants (unconsciously, of course) to be more like God. God is the magnet that draws all the iron filings that are creatures closer to Himself. That is why everything moves. It is seeking its own perfection, which is a reflection of God’s perfection. Everything moves out of love of God.
There are people who will not acknowledge God, yet they are drawn to Him. The aspire to be like Him, much as young children might want to be like their parents. There is a part of us that longs to excel, to be good at something, anything. To be the best, to be the expert, to know more, do more, be responsible for more.
It is actually a drive to be like God. To be perfect. Using the old Army slogan, to “be all that you can be.”
Kreeft indicates that this is actually a love of God. It may be a little warped, it may lead us into sin as it did Adam and Eve. It may surface as false pride and even self-idolatry. Often it reveals itself as a desire to supplant God, even as a young man may try to be the alpha dog in his family.
Sin often masquerades as light, which means it must have a kernel of truth in it. We want to be like God, whether we acknowledge His existence or not, because we are made in His image. And that drive, corrupted by sin, leads us to rebel against what He has planned for us.
The drive is not sinful, the pursuit of perfection is not wrong. It just needs calibration, and focus as we imitate Christ, even as Paul and the apostles were transformed into doing.
Redeemed, reconciled, adopted, revived and renewed, that drive is to see God at work within us, leaving Him in control, leaving His wisdom as our guide, and our norm. This is how we are to live , in Him, perfected.
In communion with Him, this hunt for perfection leads us to fall to our knees, to allow Him to remove our imperfections, to cover our failures, to even erase our sins.
This is revival, when our desire for perfection finds its fulfillment in a relationship with the Lord who created us, and in the death and resurrection of Jesus, recreates and perfects us.
Come Holy Spirit, make Your presence known as You fill our hearts, renewing our lives. AMEN!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 102–103.
Come Back to Me
And Never Be Forsaken
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace and peace of God assure you that you will never be forsaken, that He will always be with you!
Why not End at verse 16? –
As I looked at the reading and started to plan out the sermon, I was tempted to shorten the reading from Isaiah by last few verses.
After al, the primary focus of my message is verse 16, and the promised actions of God, as He rescues and guides us, and promises to never, ever forsake us.
So why not drop verse 17-21? Why not just focus on the positive part, and leave these verses behind?
But those who trust in idols, who say, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned away in shame. 18 “Listen, you who are deaf! Look and see, you blind! 19 Who is as blind as my own people, my servant? Who is as deaf as my messenger? Who is as blind as my chosen people, the servant of the LORD? 20 You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it. You hear with your ears, but you don’t really listen.”
That is some pretty serious stuff, these warnings against trusting and depending on something besides God. We have to hear those warnings, we have to realize our need for God to act, for God to get to us, for God to rescue us, to get to the goal, that we will find that we have come back to God.
Remember the Call
Remember, that is the call…as we’ve looked at for a couple of weeks now, this idea that it is time to “come back to God” to be reconciled to Him.
We know this is God’s desire, that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all come back, that all are transformed.
We see this attitude, this desire in verse 14-15, where God cries out, where God, in his desire to be with us, flattens mountains and gets rid of rivers and pools in His desire to get to us.
Quick side note – this isn’t God crushing the idols as some might suggest. I’ve read enough of the bullshit out there saying that the corona pandemic is God crushing idols we’ve set up. Idols like athletes, movie stars, finances and other things we chose to trust in, instead of turning to God.
But in verse 17, those idols still exist, and some people still choose to trust in them. They aren’t the big idols as much as the things we turn to when stressed, the things we “can’t do without”. Idols that we even unconsciously cling too – the things that pull us from God. We have to release them – otherwise, we will simply replace them.
Back to the desire of God, this is His greatest desire – to see us return home like the prodigal did, as the Holy Spirit grants us repentance and transforms us! We have to realize that this is His ultimate goal, so great is His love for us.
Which makes it even more… challenging, if we reject His presence, if we continue to choose to place our trust in other things. He’s not going to force us to walk with Him. But nothing will be able, nothing is able to separate us from His love,
Nothing has been since the cross.
For that is when God flattened everything, to make it possible for us to have come back to Him. He made it possible by coming to us, and drawing us to Him, as He was raised up on the cross, and united us to Him there – so that in being united to His death,w e would also be united to His resurrection.
Look at this power of this promise…
In verse 18-21, Isaiah’s words challenged those who still were blind and trusted in idols, because they didn’t have too. People who were blind were those that Jesus led on the new path, those He guided on an unfamiliar way.
The way of grace, the way of complete forgiveness, the way where the darkness of sin is shattered by the light of His glory, the light He brings us into. Where we had stumbled and tripped by temptation fell into sin, that too is now smoothed over, as our sin is cleansed.
And never ever will He abandon us, or forsake us!
We need to realize that – that God who came to us, that we could have been found to come back to Him – even as we were blind, He promised to not forsake us! How much more so now that He’s invested the Body and Blood of His son into our lives!
This is the message of lent – the love of God which draws us back to Him, through the cross of Christ. That we can leave the emptiness and isolation, the blindness behind, for God will be with us, and guide us.
Or more precisely, as He is revealing Himself, cleansing us, healing us, we realize that God is drawing us home,
and throwing us a feast…
Come Back to Me
and Be Happy
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so real in your life that you now true joy and happiness!
What am I thinking?
As I looked over the reading for tonight, the one word I would choose to describe my emotions was “mad”.
The only problem is I couldn’t figure out was whether I was mad as in angry at God, or mad as in insane. I honestly don’t know.
This isn’t right, to have this place of peace so empty, so devoid of smiles and laughter, of even the tears that come as we find it easy to lay our burdens down.
It has been a hard day, our preschool “chapel” time was just Susan, three teachers and myself. Looking forward to tonight, with just a few of us here, was difficult.
I so want to share the Lord’s supper with every person possible!
And as I looked at the sermon schedule, planned months ago, based on readings set in place decades ago…. I realized I was supposed to preach on happiness.
Come on God, what are you thinking?
And the madness elevated to another level.
But look at the verse again,
Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God. Romans 5:2 (CEV)
So are happiness comes from more than this life, it comes from looking forward to sharing in the glory of God forever….
We know we will be happy then… but what about now?
The process of suffering?
Paul continued this passage… now please remember this was planned months ago… don’t blame me – I am just the messenger…
3 But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. 4 And endurance builds character,
How in the world do we gladly suffer through a pandemic, through watching people whose anxiety levels are maxed out, who are challenged beyond our ability? I know that a lot of you aren’t worried by the virus, as much as you hurt for those who you love whose lives are more impacted.
Some of you will understand what I mean when I say that watching people suffer, watching them struggle is harder often than struggling ourselves.
And yet, the saints I know who are my age and older, have seen God work through wars, and earthquakes, through sickness, and economically challenging times, and they know God will be with us in these times. God will be there with our laughter, and with our tears.
And His presence will give us hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.
For that Hope is found in the presence of God, a presence we can faintly see now, but will see in all its glory one day.
This is why He calls us back to Him, to give us this hope as we realize how …. beyond words His promises are.
In times like these, we need to be able to focus, to realize how much God loves us. That is how we find the strength to get through. That is why Paul goes from hope – the right to explaining why we have hope.
All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. 6 Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. 7 No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. 8 But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.
Romans 5:5-8 (CEV)
We need to hear that right now, that even before we knew God’s love, back when we were even more rebellious and sinful, GOD LOVED US.
And if he loved us then, He certainly has not given up on that love, or the mercy that sustains us, and calls us back to Him, even in the deepest depth of sin….
He still calls us to come back to Him,
He still will forgive us when we ask
He will still throw a feast for us, as we come home.
He loves us, the children who finally realize our need for Him…
That is how we find happiness in the midst of trauma, tragedy, and yes pandemic.
That is how we gladly embrace our suffering, knowing He is here…
This is our God… who loves us…
And happy are all He calls to His feast.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 “No longer will the sun be your light by day Or the moon be your light by night; I, the LORD, will be your eternal light; The light of my glory will shine on you. 20 Your days of grief will come to an end. I, the LORD, will be your eternal light, More lasting than the sun and moon. 21 Your people will all do what is right, And will possess the land forever. I planted them, I made them, To reveal my greatness to all.
Isaiah 60:19-21 (TEV)
It isn’t God who must change but the person. This is the obvious goal of prayer, and that is the reason why prayer is the privileged place of exile where the revelation is given, that is, the passage from what one thinks of God to what he truly is.
It is an exodus of purification where we are led by God through the dark night of the exile on the way to the contemplation of his face.
Then, we finally will be changed and transformed into the likeness of Him.
Often it will be an act of real humility and creaturely honesty to stop what we are doing, to acknowledge our limits, to take time to draw breath and rest—as the creature, man, is designed to do. I am not suggesting that sloth is a good thing, but I do want to suggest that we revise our catalogue of virtues, as it has developed in the Western world, where activity alone is regarded as valid and where the attitudes of beholding, wonder, recollection, and quiet are of no account, or at least are felt to need some justification.
Before we explain the Lord’s Prayer sequentially, we must first counsel and entice the people to prayer, just as Christ and the apostles did.2 First, we are obligated to pray because God has commanded it. Thus, we heard in the commandment, “You shall not take God’s name in vain,” that God’s holy name should be praised, called upon, or prayed to in every need. To call upon it is nothing other than praying
It may help to remember these words of Thomas à Kempis in The Imitation of Christ:
“Of what use is it to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy; but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God?”
I am hoping you made it through the incredible quotes above, looking forward to finding out where this incredible joy is found. What the “Re” is… are you ready for it?
Yes, you read that right, there is an incredible joy when the Holy Spirit gifts us with repentance. It is freeing, it lifts burdens, it is that wonderful mysterious transformation that God works in us.
It is why Luther urges us to prayer, reminding that this commanded, not for God’s sake, but for ours. For it is in that transformation that we experience that mercy and love of God that causes the repentance to occur.
Repentance, this transformation, finds us with the ability to bhold, wonder and remember the presence of God leaves us stunned, and sometimes, unable to speak, because the grace of God is so wonderful, because it so sets our hearts at ease, our mind cannot proceed. Repentance leaves us in awe, for the work the Holy Spirit crafts turns causes us to reflect and resemble Jesus , something that is beyond our ability to conceive of..
That is why Pope Francis talks of this change in the way he does. As we go from our thoughts and our visions of what a god should be, and it is revealed to us, who God is. He is the One who loves His people, and repentance is that process where experiencing that love changes everything, for it changes us.
Lord, help us not fear this work of Yours that is repentance. Help us to embrace it, to revel in it, for it is an experience where Your love is so manifested in our lives. When we are struggling with sin, grant the desire ofr repentance. in Jesus name. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 258). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
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. 255). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
A Pastor Parker Parable/Devotional Thought of the Day
6† The LORD said to me,
“I have a greater task for you, my servant.
Not only will you restore to greatness
the people of Israel who have survived,
but I will also make you a light to the nations—
so that all the world may be saved.” Isaiah 49:6 GNT
12 At that time you were apart from Christ. You were foreigners and did not belong to God’s chosen people. You had no part in the covenants, which were based on God’s promises to his people, and you lived in this world without hope and without God. 13 But now, in union with Christ Jesus you, who used to be far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God. 17† So Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to all—to you Gentiles, who were far away from God, and to the Jews, who were near to him. 18 It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father.
19 So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God’s people and members of the family of God. 20 You, too, are built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets,f the cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself. 21 He is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord. 22 In union with him you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through his Spirit Eph. 2:11-13,16-22 GNT
In the Year of our Lord 1985, a classic movie came out. It told the story of 5 high school kids, the janitor and their vice-principal. What was supposed to be a day of punishment ended up to one of the moments that would become life-changing, and something they, or those who watched the movie, would never forget.
The Breakfast Club, the Brain, the Jock, the Preppy/Glamour girl, the Bad Boy, and the nonconformist. Each in their own world, and yet each of them a goyim, an outsider. SOmeone viewed with as much disdain as we might view the refugee or illegal immigrant today.
Throughout the movie they would struggle with each other, they would argue, cry, laugh, and bond together. Despite the stereotypes, despite the angst, despite the suspicion, they would come to know each other, and what the Vice Principal meant for evil, God would use for good. You even have a great picture of the transformation God works in people, through people, as Ally Sheedy’s character is transformed. Not that the others weren’t transformed, given hope, and started on the journey of healing. But her transformation was more visible.
It could be a parable of the New and Old Testament Quotes above, a prophecy of the work and its fulfillment, as Christ links us to His suffering and death and we rise from that death, as one. No longer alien, no longer the outcast, all welcome in the presence of the Father.
This is something we need to continually learn in our lives. It is something we continually have to be aware of as we encounter people that seem different that us. THat in Christ, we are meant to be one people, and we can trust God more than give into the fears and stereotypes. We can welcome those looking for help, those in trouble, even those who sins were as blatant and evil as they can get. God can redeem them, God can transform them. That is why Christ came and died…to set us free, to transform us, not into rule following robots/clones, but into the people of God, as diverse as the parts of a body.
Lord, help us look past stereotypes, not just we have of others, but those we have of our own lives. Help us to know Your presence, and Your love for all whom You are calling to be Yours – even though they might not know it. AMEN!
This is the power of Christ at work in His people, even those who are on detention for their sins
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 Where there is no vision the people get out of hand; happy are they who keep the law. Proverbs 29:18 (NJB)
2 Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and mature. Romans 12:2 (NJB)
958 You have a big problem; but if such things are approached properly, that is to say, with calm and responsible supernatural vision, the solution is always to be found.
Yesterday I attended a class on the relationship between stress and weight loss/gain. Some of the things in the course were quite interesting. others were, hmmm, more challenging to hear, as they led down different paths.
But the first words were about the inavoidability of stress, of problems that we will encounter. It’s there, and there are natural bio-chemical, hormonal reactions to stress. ANd the natural reactions to stress are fight or flee, both kicked into high gear by the rushing hormones that fill our blood stream and affect every muscle and organ in our body.
Stress is unavoidable, brokenness, grief, guilt, shame, worry, all cause this, and more besides. And the toll of such stress over the years is an horrific list of thigns from heart disease and cancer, to forms of mental illness.
Techniques were offered. Breathing, mediation, Tai Chi, Yoga, Visioning. Lacking was anything about prayer, meditative on scripture or on the sacraments. ( Which is odd considering the weight loos program is under the asupices of a Roman Catholic Hospital, administered by an order of nuns. )
For I have found that in the presence of God, when I realize that He is my fortress, the protesction from the trauma of the world (and my own internal trauma as well), that I can begin to relax, that I can begin to hand over the causes of my anxiety.
It is as the Proverb says above, that without that vision, we get out of hand. In other translations, we cast off all restraint, and then, we perish. But when we treasure (for that is what heep means) this revelation of God’s love, of His mercy and healing, we know a joy that is only found in the most perfect peace.
But how do we get there?
It was odd, at the end of the presentation, the last slide included the presenter’s fvorite word. Metanoia a word she knew as change, the change of our mindsets, our way of processing life. You could see her light up as she talked about it.
So I asked if she knew the “other” translation of the word. And then shared with her the word often it is translated into in scripture.
Not the repentance seen in movies, the guilt and shame producing feeling that comes from someone pointing out your guilt and shortcomings. But the kind of transformation seen in Romans 12 above, the very work of God renewing our minds. The work of Holy Spirit in our lives, brinign comfort and healing to our broken hearts and souls. Reminding us that there is no need to beat ourselves up over our sin, rather as 1 John 1:9 says, confessing ti to God, knowing He will cleanse us of all of it, and all injustice.
All of it.
The end of this, the end of seeing/envisioning God, revealed in all his love and mercy in scripture finds us at peace, at home in the presence of God, a place where the anxieities and stress of life may exist, but are so dimiished as we know GOd will bring us through them.
As He has for all who depend, who trust in Him.
Heavenly Father, help us be aware of the Holy Spirit’s work within those who have faith in You, and depend on what You have promised to do and provide for us. Grant us, repentence, the renewing of our hearts and minds and souls, so that we can dwell in the peace You intend for us. We pray this in the name of Jesus, who made this all possible at the cross. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3886-3888). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
devotional thought of the day:
20 Herod was afraid of John because he knew that John was a good and holy man, and so he kept him safe. He liked to listen to him, even though he became greatly disturbed every time he heard him. Mark 6:20 GNT
The biblical term shalom, which is usually so translated, implies much more than the absence of armed conflict; it means the right order of human affairs, well-being—a world where trust and friendship prevail, where neither fear nor want nor treachery nor dishonesty is found. Yet the song of the angels first lays down a precondition, without which there can be no lasting peace: God’s glory. This is the message of peace at Bethlehem: peace among men results from God’s glory. Those who are concerned about the human race and its well-being have to be concerned about God’s glory first of all. God’s glory is not some private concern, left to the personal choice of the individual; it is a public affair. It is a common good, and wherever God is not honored among men,
9 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in trouble; my eyes are tired from so much crying; I am completely worn out. 10 I am exhausted by sorrow, and weeping has shortened my life. I am weak from all my troubles; even my bones are wasting away. Psalm 31:9-10 GNT
We are all like Herod.
And even as I say that I prove it is true.
I recoil at the thought, I am not as evil as he was, I console myself. But yet, if someone is preaching about my sin, I am disturbed, I am very uncomfortable, I feel like he’s laid my brokenness out there for everyone to see. I may even be a bit pissed off, and wanting to strike back as the pain of having my brokenness revealed causes that.
Which is hard when I am the
But there is something comforting as well, I like listening to the promise that even thoguh I have sinned, that there is the possibility, the potential of being forgiven, of being healed and made whole. I may think I am not ready for it, but I need to know it is there.
I need to cry out with the Psalmist for God’s mercy, and I need to know He will answer. I need to know there can and will be peace.
I sandwiched the quote from Pope Benedict in between the gospels for a reason. There is our key to why Herod (and we) like the presence of God and God’s spokesperson in our lives.
The Glory of God which leads to peace, and the promise of that peace. For while we see God’s glory as something to be in awe of, even scared of, for those who know Him, for those who listen to Him, that glory has another name.
That name is “love” and “mercy”, It it glorious that God is compassionate, sympathetic, and in Christ, even empathestic to our brokenness. For while Jesus didn’t sin, He bore the wieght of that sin, and its wrath on the cross. Revealing that glory is something that leaves us unexplainably at peace, knowing God can cleanse us and heal us.
Will we let Him, how much more do we need endure of our brokenness before we shall?
Praying that it not be long… but rather we would find ourselves at home in His glory, experiencing His love, and dwelling, finally at home in His peace!
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. 409). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” 38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
John 18:37-38 (NLT2)
Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter. In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I wish I could have seen the body language and tone of voice of Pilate when he asked, “What is Truth?”
Was it from exasperation? Did his non-verbals betray a sad sense of fatalism or sarcasm? Did he really want to know the truth, but feel that his search was so in vain?
He was face to face with God’s revelation of the truth, and couldn’t see it. He heard it, but he didn’t realize it.
Approximately 1500 years later, Luther was struggling with the truth as well. He found the truth, and the mercy it promised so much like chasing after the wind. What he had been taught obscured it, to the extent that he knew deep despair and depression.
The hammering of the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg wasn’t a call to arms, it wasn’t the equivalent of the first shot of the American Revolution, it wasn’t a cry for the downfall of the Roman Catholic Church.
It was a plea to examine what was believed, and compare it to scripture, in the hope of finding out the truth of God’s love.
My denomination celebrates this day, and I am not sure I do. I don’t regret the work of Luther, Melancthon, Chemnitz and their brothers, but I do regret the necessity. And I, even more, regret that we’ve lost the focus, that the events surrounding Luther’s search for and finding grace are lost in the triumphalism, in the “we’ve shown them.”
You see, in my mind, the reformation should still be about redirecting us to the mercy of Christ, and to the fact we need it. It should be about the hope we who are broken find in the healer. It must be about Jesus.
That is why the first thesis read.
Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
To remember the beginning of the reformation means we remember the call to a life of repentance.
And that means we have to admit where we are wrong and be willing to be questioned regarding our presuppositions, about our theology and practice. We have to accept the invitations to discuss where we have obscured Jesus, and be willing to repent.
That is reformation, that is putting Christ first, and seeing Him at work, redeeming and reforming His people.
Luther, M. (1996). Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the power and efficacy of indulgences: October 31, 1517 (electronic ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.