Devotional Thought for this Day:
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12 So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)
“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.
Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.
Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.
It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.
It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.
It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.
Preach on Joy! That was our call…
Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.
That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.
The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.
Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.
THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…
My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 12–13.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 64.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! 4 “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the LORD is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. 5 But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6 “The LORD knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men. “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.” 7 So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul. After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, 1 Samuel 24:3-7 (NLT2)
You became a bit frightened when you saw so much light, so bright that you thought it would be difficult to look, or even to see. Disregard your obvious weaknesses, and open the eyes of your soul to faith, to hope and to love. Carry on, allowing yourself to be guided by God through whoever directs your soul.
I have to admit that I am more than a little hesitant writing this blog this morning. Yet I have seen to many people who believe in God who struggle to live in the peace God has given them.
Fear, anxiety, anger, even hatred have done this damage to people’s souls. And as I see those emotions pouted out on social media, my heard aches. People look for scapegoats to blame for hurt they even struggle to identify. We look for that one person, or that one group that causes our pain.
David knew that pain. Heck, it wasn’t just projecting his problems on King Saul, Saul was out to kill him. He was hunting him down, and David had to live off the land, and dwell in caves. People who helped him were punished, and rewards were out for his life, and those who served beside him.
And yet, as he tweaks the king, (when he could have assassinated him) he feels guilt. He knows the pain, the betrayal, and et, part of him knows he should not have even tweaked the king….
As I read this, I wondered what it would be like, if we had that much respect for our leaders, that we bathed them in prayer rather than mocked them, or critiqued them and spewed hatred at them behind their back? What would happen if we treated them as we wanted them to treat us? If we didn’t use their actions to justify our own.
What would happen if we loved them as Christ loves us?
This is the kind of light we struggle with entering , this glorious love of God that takes away sin… This is the glory that realizes God’s at work, somehow, in all of this. This is the kind of trust, that comes from knowing God. Not just knowing about Him, knowing Him.
That will change us, even a it impacts the country.
For if we enter into a time of revival, it will not matter who wins the election.
Lord, reveal the work of the Holy Spirit in this world, Help us to trust you more than we fear, more than we are hurting, more than we have learned to hate…and heal us . AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 As Jesus was leaving, he saw a tax collectorq named Matthew sitting at the place for paying taxes. Jesus said to him, “Come with me.” Matthew got up and went with him.
†10 Later, Jesus and his disciples were having dinner at Matthew’s house.r Many tax collectors and other sinners were also there. 11 Some Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other sinners?”
12 Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. †13 Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.” Matt. 9:9-13 CEV
Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too.
In the readings for the course I am in, I am finding great hope for the church, even the church in the United States and Europe. The times are similar to the times when great revivals broke out in our past, when people began to worship God, abandoning all else.
The statisticians and consultants will tell you different, but their projections of based on recent trends, and on philosophies that place the future of the church in the hands of the pastors, and those who train and equip them. If it is up to us, this indeed may be the post Christian and post church era. THinking about it more, no not maybe – it is.
But what is our downfall, can be turned into the very thing that will bring revival to our land. For when we fail, maybe some will call us back to what brings revival.
This is the time when our faith, that wonderful gift of depending on God for everything in life becomes reality. When in the despair of the storm, we reach out to the Lord who is with us, and He leaves us in awe, as the storm obeys His commands.
It is when we realize that Matthew, that we can join Jesus on His mission to heal the hearts and minds and souls of people, (and when we realize that includes our hearts and minds and souls) that movement in the church happens. When we grieve over our sins, and are comforted by the power of the Holy Spirit, who draws us into God’s presence.
This is what Matthew’s gospel is talking about, when it says that Christ came to invite sinners to be His followers. As the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus, the church will stop its slumbering, it will stop its decline.
Not because of great preaching, but simply revealing Christ. Not because of powerful praise bands or stunning choirs, but because we simply begin to experience the grace of God, poured out on us, and knowing the relief, the joy, the power of God’s work, we invite other sinners to join Him, depending on Him, and letting all else, including sin, drop to the side.
We are at a point in the church’s life in America where we will realize that our perfect liturgies, our dynamic programs, our logic and theology, our programs won’t grow the church, nor stop it from dying.. The only thing that can is the Holy Spirit, healing sinners by drawing them to Christ Jesus. And those sinners depending on Him. ANd that includes you and I.
Heavenly Father, stir us sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit, to respond to Your invitation follow Jesus, to walk with Him. Help us to welcome the Spirit’s healing our hearts, souls and minds, and not just ours, but those in our community. We pray this in Jesus name! AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the day:
“I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.* 17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.* 18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.*”
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 NLT
2 But who will be able to endure the day when he comes? Who will be able to survive when he appears? He will be like strong soap, like a fire that refines metal. 3 He will come to judge like one who refines and purifies silver. As a metalworker refines silver and gold, so the LORD’S messenger will purify the priests, so that they will bring to the LORD the right kind of offerings. 4 Then the offerings which the people of Judah and Jerusalem bring to the LORD will be pleasing to him, as they used to be in the past.
Malachi 3:2-4 (TEV)
814 Ask Jesus to grant you a Love like a purifying furnace, where your poor flesh —your poor heart—may be consumed and cleansed of all earthly miseries. Pray that it may be emptied of self and filled with him. Ask him to grant you a deep-seated aversion to all that is worldly so that you may be sustained only by Love.
There is a part of me that fears to pray as St. Josemaria suggests.
There is so much to lose, so many things I cannot see apart from myself. Yes, those things include not only what I perceive as the pleasures of life (and are not) and the miseries of my existence.
Could I deal with that radical of a change in me? Could I allow myself to be defined not by broken heart (in my case, both physically and figuratively) but spiritually as well? How can I allow God to take the scar, many of which I find a perverse pleasure in, knowing I somewhat survived them, and not just remove them, but heal the damage they have done?
St Josemaria describes it well as a furnace, for the heat and pain it will take to separate us from these things which haunt us is intense. How do I let Him remove all this, and the sin which so easily ensnares me
How do I find the strength to pray this?
How dare I?
What if he doesn’t answer the prayer? What if He does?
As Malachi points out – how will we endure it?
I think St Paul has the answer, it is not found in us, but in the promises God has made to us, promises He stands behind, promises that are coming true in our lives, even if we do not see it.
It is in those promises, in His making us holy, that we find comfort and learn to trust Him. In those promises, we find the strength to work, to hear Him in a way our soul resonates with what He is doing, to nor fight against His purifying our lives.
You and I, we need this, we can’t continue to live in our brokenness, even if we have gotten used to its stench. The life that God provides, cleansed, purified, holy, is beyond our comprehension. We see it here and there, our souls thrive on it in the moments we experience it, at the communion rail, deep in lament, in the middle of serving others, As God purifies us, as He applies the heat and we cling to Him, these moments we are aware of Him grow… and we begin to desire them more.
So pray for God to refine you and purify you. Pray for me as well, and I pray we all will realize the blessing of walking with God. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3357-3360). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a
At the dawn of the third millennium not only are there many peoples who do not yet know the Good News, but there are many Christians who need the Word of God to be re-announced to them in a persuasive manner so that they may concretely experience the power of the Gospel.
Many of our brothers and sisters are ‘baptized, but insufficiently evangelized’. In a number of cases, nations once rich in faith and in vocations are losing their identity under the influence of a secularized culture … The Church, sure of her Lord’s fidelity, never tires of proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and invites all Christians to discover anew the attraction of following Christ. (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, 96)
The history of Evangelization across the centuries witnesses that the great missionaries were also great people of prayer, more specifically that they were authentic adorers. Indeed, the Eucharist is ‘the source and the summit of the Christian life’ (Lumen gentium, 11), and the ‘source and summit of all evangelisation’ (Presbyterorum ordinis, ).
608 Against those who reduce religion to a set of negative statements, or are happy to settle for a watered-down Catholicism; against those who wish to see the Lord with his face against the wall, or to put him in a corner of their souls… we have to affirm, with our words and with our deeds, that we aspire to make Christ the King reign indeed over all hearts… theirs included.
The church pictured above has been empty for decades. The doors are bordered up, and voices have long been silent. There is no prayer offered, not voices lifting up praises as the realize the love and mercy of God,
There are other churches just as lifeless, even though the bodies are in them, even though voices can be heard, their words empty, vain. They try to make things better in life, they try to either legislate it or inspire people to behave, to live inspiring, meaningful lives. Some consider themselves traditional (or faithful) and others claim to be progressive and socially active.
And they are as empty and lifeless as St Anne’s.
They have been, “baptized, but not evangelized.”
They’ve been made part of the church, but they haven’t experienced the love of God. They haven’t learned to sit in silence and contemplate how much God desires to be with them, to guide them through life, to fix their brokenness, to forgive their sins.
So they put God on time out, reaching out to him the least amount of times they feel necessary, or reaching out to Him when there is trouble or trauma.
The priests in Jesus day were like that, they knew the scriptures, they put their trust in the promises that were theirs because they were circumcised, but the idea of talking with God, interacting with God, being guided by God, those were all missing.
But they heard the gospel, and they were changed.
And so can our people, our pastors, and priests, our ministers, our worship leaders. They can experience the breadth and width, the height and depth of God’s love.
They can realize they are loved, and adore God, not forced or manipulated, but simply adore Him – because He loves them. And their prayers and their worship will rise louder and stronger, and it will impact more and more.
Lord, reveal yourself through those who serve you, to both the church and the
Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 3–4). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2579-2582). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:20-25 (NLT)
997 Absence, isolation: trials for your perseverance. Holy Mass, prayer, sacraments, sacrifices, communion of the saints: weapons to conquer in the trial.
Growing up, there was a sense that church was an obligation. In fact, there were days called “holy days of obligation.” To miss going to church on these days was considered a sin.
But I never asked why it was a sin, I was just told it was, and I responded as everyone does when forced to do a task, I rebelled. Didn’t go, and even if I did, I wasn’t really there, I wasn’t really particpating. So even if I was there, I really wasn’t.
The one thing I never asked was why we were obligated, and if I had, I am hoping the answer would have been what we see above in Hebrews 10. There God makes clear that we are welcome there, and there we find encouragement to endure until Christ returns.
We need to be with each other, we need to be celebrating God’s presence together, we need to share as those who receive His mercy. (this is why I am so in favor of having the Lord’s Supper weekly, if not offered more frequently!)
For there together, we find God keeping His promises – reconciling that which was torn apart, healing that which is broken.Bringing together that which was isolated and fitting into the place it fits in His body. We were created to experience life in community, as part of something that endures, that is sustained, that grows healthy and strong.
As we realize that this is not an obligation of force, but one of need, our hearts change.We begin to treasure what church brings, we see it as a time that is holy, set apart as a time for us to find rest, and refuge, forgiveness, and the awareness of God’s presence in our lives. A presence confirmed as others tell us His peace is with us, that He is with us.
As we realize this church goes from being more than an inspiring message, or uplifting music. The gathering of people we realize is something sacred, the place they occupy becomes holy, it becomes a moment where heaven is revealed.
It is what we desperately need, it is what those around us need……and so the more we go, the more we realized we needed to….
For this is why we were made…. to live in peace with God and each other. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2315-2316). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
9 *But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.10 Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people; you “had not received mercy” but now you have received mercy! 1 Peter 2:9-10
A single hour of quiet listening to the word of God would often be more effective than whole days of sessions and discussions, and a moment of prayer would be more effective than whole stacks of paper, for it is not only what we do that makes us effective. Sometimes the impression arises that behind our hectic hyperactivity there lurks a paralysis of faith, since in the last analysis we have more confidence in what we ourselves contrive and accomplish.
47 For this reason, too, Paul asks, Since we are called according to the purpose of God, “who will separate us from the love of God in Christ?” (Rom. 8:35).
48 This doctrine will also give us the glorious comfort, in times of trial and affliction, that in his counsel before the foundation of the world God has determined and decreed that he will assist us in all our necessities, grant us patience, give us comfort, create hope, and bring everything to such an issue that we shall be saved
For a decade or more, I have the phrase post-modernism adapted and used to describe a weak church, and so developed phrases like “a post-Christian society” or living in a “post-church society.”
I will agree that the church seems to be less “effective” from a business perspective, at least in areas where it was thought to be very “effective” for decades. Among those of European descent, among those who were upwardly mobile and driven to live life better than their parents did.
But calling us post-church or post-Christian is wrong, for it presumes that the society we are discussing knew the riches they had in Christ, that they were recipients of the grace and mercy, the peace and love of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,
And then walked away… not just from the church, but from the love of Christ the church was there to help them explore, to be at their side as they in awe, encountered God revealed to them.
To call this society “post-Christian” means they walked away from what St Peter describes as leaving the darkness for a wonderful light, that they abandoned being God’s people, and recipients of the mercy that would bring healing and hope to shattered souls. I don’t see people doing that; I see them walking away from meetings and discussions, from stacks of paper describing programs, and from a church that ministered only to their sense of logic, and couldn’t continually keep them in awe.
That which they may have walked away from, did it give them comfort in the midst of suffering, did it bring them a sense of God’s peace that goes beyond explanation and understand? If so, why would they have walked away from it?
So what is the answer? Perhaps it is to evangelize the church first, what is called the New Evangelization in some circles. To teach people that God does answer a cry for mercy, that He hears their prayers, that he will offer them comfort and peace. As this is taught, as it is revealed through His word, and through His sacraments, then the church will naturally evangelize again.
Teach them about Christ,God incarnate, God crucified and raised, God who comes near, and stays. God who listens and comforts, who guides and gives meaning to life. Who walks beside them in this lonely life.
It may sound too simple, but simple doesn’t mean wrong, nor does it mean ineffective. It means that we communicate and reveal the love of God to those who need it, in the church and presently outside it.
It is time to give people the hope of sharing in the glory of Christ, in the presence of Jesus.
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.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.