The Relationships of Christmas Past
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus convince you of the healing that is indeed happening in your life, and in the lives of those you knew in Christmases past…
I can imagine, as Judah stands before the brother he does not recognize, the heartache that he feels. His heart and soul flashbacks to the look in his father’s eyes when they told him of Joseph’s death. Of watching his dad weep for months,
How it must have ate him up, even though he knew his brother probably wasn’t dead, but simply a slave somewhere.
Still, he had to look down, and see his father, wracked with tears, and live with his father’s overprotective nature toward Joseph’s younger brother, the only joy this broken man had…
Judah then considers having to break the news to his father, that his other son would be lost to him as well. His heart breaks, as guilt and shame have so weakened him, he realizes he can’t go back, he can’t watch his father die, because of the sin he has committed.
Surely he is haunted far more than Bob Marley or the most of the ghost of Christmas past ever could.
Our Relationships of Christmas Past
For many of us, the holidays are a challenge. We miss many dear friends and family. Some are memories form our youth, like those we looked up to have past away, some of them decades ago.
Others are missing for a different reason.
Maybe we didn’t sell them into slavery, but the effect is much the same. We never, ever, want to bump into each other, for the sin that divides us is too grievous. Like Judah, thinking of the pain he caused his father, (not even thinking of Joseph) we can’t live with it. I can’t imagine bearing up with that kind of pain for decades…
Or can I?
I think back to the relationships of Christmases past, and know the absence of lives that brought joy, people I had fun with, that won’t be there this year without a miracle. If I think about it, I understand all to well the pain that Judah felt, as he considered going back to his father,
I could easily share in the words of Judah,
33 Sir, I am your slave. Please let me stay here in place of Benjamin and let him return home with his brothers. 34 How can I face my father if Benjamin isn’t with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father in such sorrow.
As we regret the past, as we wish we, as we pray like Judah did, as we grieve over the damage of our sin, we hear God respond, “no…”
It is hard to hear God answer no…
So hard we don’t always hear, “my son, that is not necessary….”
But our Brother can..
It is actually impossible to take care of what we’ve broken and shattered. We can’t take the place of the joy, we can’t somehow sacrifice the life we have to restore that which is broken.
But that isn’t why God says “no”
He says no because He had already taken care of the sin that caused Judah’s grief, and anxiety. The brother he thinks dead, he is standing before. What his and his brother’s sin threw away, the love of their Father is now going to be restored.
This is the moment that is the perfect example of Advent. We stand before the King who is about to be revealed, trying to do with our guilt and shame, trying to figure out how to face the eternal consequences for our actions. How can we face God our father, when the relationships of our past mean our brother, our sister, isn’t going to be with us? It is as this moment we understand the power of Advent and the greater moment of Christmas…
We really need to hear what God has already said, we need to hear it with all our heart and all our mind, and all our soul.
“Let it be done for you as you believe. By Jesus’ command I tell you, Your sins are forgiven, and what was done for evil, God will use for good. This is promised in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!”
The Relationships of Christmas Present
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, that broken relationships you deal with today are healed.
A Quick Review of the past
Last week, we looked at relationships of Christmas past, and we walked in the footsteps of Judah and his brothers. We saw the desire, and the inability to make up for the sins we’ve committed against others.
We had to see the only hope to deal with the guilt, the shame, the separation was to put it into God’s hands.
So now we come to the Relationships of Christmas Present…
In this moment!
Instead of walking in Judah’s footsteps, we have to exchange them for Joseph’s and deal with the pain of relationships in the present, those relationships that will not be celebrated at Christmas, because sin has again divided us.
Not our sin this time… “theirs!”
You know who I am talking about, every one of us has someone who, if they walked in the room right now, we would not want to interact with them. We may not be angry at them, we may not be burying our resentment, or at least we tell ourselves this. But the pain is there. The heartache, and the discomfort when they walk in the room.
If only we could see them, as Joseph saw his brothers, if only we could weep at the division between us, if only we could ask them to “please come closer,” and urge them as he did, “don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for hurting me this way,”
If only our grief caused by their sin was able to be dealt with in that way!
If only… we could love more than we hurt…
if only… the relationship meant more to us… than our pain.
My God, there are days where I wish I had the strength of Joseph’s faith…
But I do not…and if I read scripture right, neither do any of you.
The Key To Healing Relationships of Christmas Present
There is only one way to be able to generate that much strength, that much desire to see things “made right” in the relationship with us, that someone shattered. It is walking in Joseph’s steps and seeing what God has done, not in their life, but in ours.
That is where Joseph looks and sees God at work in His life. He sees God at work, as He promised to be, making everything work for good for those who love Him, those He’s called to be His own people.
It isn’t so much that we make the decision to love them, that we will ourselves to give up the pain and the hurt, that we willingly just give Jesus the resentment and pain.
It fades away, in the light of His glory, it fades away as we see the manger, and realize He is with us, it fades away.. as we see the cross, and realize He lived and died and rose again… because He loves us.
and there, in that moment, we find ourselves, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, going to those who’ve sinned against us, with tears in our eyes, saying,
It is I, your brother, don’t be afraid, don’t be upset with yourselves, God is at work here…
And then be amazed, for the peace of God which passes all understanding envelops you all, and guards your heart and soul and mind. AMEN!
The relationships of Christmas Future
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace mercy and peace of God enable you to see the result of God reconciling us all into Himself.
The Journey Past and Present
This advent we’ve already looked at the Relationships of Christmas Past, those times where we have not been there, the times where our sin has dramatically impacted relationships, much as Judah and His brothers betrayed and sinned against Joseph.
And we saw how Christ did what Judah could not do, taking on the punishment we deserved. Knowing that gave us hope for the relationships we broke in the past.
Then we looked at the Relationships of Christmas Present, and saw the relationships shattered by the sins of others.
We saw Joseph find the grace that comes when we realize God is at work in our lives, and that all things work out for God, even the things that people planned ot hurt us.
Now we get into the look for relationships in our future.., including those of the past and present. It is the hope to which each of the previous weeks pointed to, it is the hope of advent, it is the hope that parable of scrooge pointed to as well – relationships healed by the power of God
What the King has in mind
When the news gets to the Pharaoh and his leaders that Joseph’s brothers had come, the reaction is amazing. Here is how it reads, “When it was told in the palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, the king and his officials were happy” But “happy” is then seen in the reaction – “go get them, I will give them the nest of everything. They can eat and enjoy it all!”
That sounds more like the meaning behind the Hebrew there… which ranges from “it was very good, to delightful. Pharaoh was excited = you see his reaction – give them the best Joseph – the best of whatever I got!
That’s a picture of heaven, not the getting the best stuff, but the excitement of the Pharaoh is the excitement that God has, in seeing us “come home!” It is the regathering, the people that matter to God, His people whom Jesus died for, finally ending up where they belong!
It’s that joy we need to see tonight, the joy of God as He sees us as we are in Christ – reconciled together.
That is why Pharaoh includes this instruction as well, “They can leave their possessions behind,”
The more we understand God’s delight, His joy for His people to dwell in His presence, the more this makes sense. We don’t have to bring all the baggage we carry in this life!
Pharaoh provided everything they needed, just get in the chariots and come!
This is what God does for us, providing everything we need to dwell with Him, not just during the hard times of this life, but for eternity.
But the excitement – go get the people – bring them!
This amazing Pharaoh is as much a picture of God our Father as the Pharaoh 425 years later will not be!
I Must GO – His Son is really alive!
Up to this point in the story, Jacob has been distressed and depressed. And when the moving chariots get there, I love his reaction,
“My son Joseph must really be alive, and I will get to see him before I die.”
It reminds me of Joseph’s words,
26 And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! 27 I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Job 19:26-27 (NLT2)
What makes the difference here is the interaction, Jacob will see his son, Job will see God, we will encounter Jesus,.
A son, once thought dead is found alive, and not only is he alive, but he is reigning and sits at the right hand of the King, Jacob’s life changed dramatically.
Just as Jesus has risen, and not is He alive, He reigns at the right hand of the Father, our lives have changed, reconciled, restored. He is truly risen!
Therefore, We ARE RISEN INDEED,
And when we see Him every relationship will be healed, will be made whole, as all dwell with the Lord, who has forgiven our sins, and united us all in the death and resurrection of Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional Thought fo the Day
18 Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. 19 Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!20 You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago. Micah 7:18-20 (NLT2)
The text (Joel 2:13) commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.
I hate watching hospital shows, whether it is E.R. in the old days, or Gray’s Anatomy or any of the clones today. I actually thought I found one I liked, the ads said the guy did medicine the right way, and I have to admit, it was interesting the first couple of shows. I thought it might be a nicer version of “House.”
But as with all of them, they eventually get to the episode featuring the patient with Marphans, and it gets too personal.
Back in the ’90s, I had a cardiac arrest and had to have CPR performed n me for 15 minutes, then resuscitated 5 times with a defibrillator. And though I have no memory of when they said clear and shocked me, my body still feels it when I hear those words on a television show.
It is painful to face my own mortality again.
And yet, that same pain renders me thankful for the lady who performed CPR, and for the paramedics and doctors who shocked me back to life.
As I’ve talked to others like me, there is often a different outlook on life. Because we’ve experienced death because we know how fragile life is, life is different.
Spurgeon understands this spiritually, in order for us to grieve over sin, we need to take it ot the cross, to look on the body that was beaten, pierced, and hung on a cross. We need to understand of all those executed in history, Jesus could have stopped the entire charade and made it right. We need to hear the words of Jesus on the cross and realize His entire life was aimed at this very moment.
He chose not to.
He chose to die that you and I could know the wonder that amazes Hosea. The amazement that God overlooks our sins, the compassion that causes Him to be faithful to promises made centuries ago, but to keep those promises for you and me.
I wonder if we can ever appreciate that sacrifice unless we see it in face of our grievous sins. Can we truly appreciate that love, unless we come face to face with our jealousy, our gossip, our desire for the things of others, or our lust, or desire for revenge? Or simply our desire to play God, and create idols of our own choosing?
You see that in Acts 2, when the people who thought they were good, who thought they were God’s people (and were) realized that they had killed the Messiah. You see it in Paul’s encounter on the road, in the myriad of stories where people encounter Jesus or the apostles, and realize how far they have fallen, and then are picked up, dusted off, and the prodigal is no longer the prodigal, they are a son of God.
You need to realize what you were, not grieve over it, but to rejoice in what God is doing to us, and to look forward to the day when that work is complete.
Rejoice, your sins, which were as dark as night, causing you to decay like a corpse, those sins are forgiven because of the death of Christ. And because He is risen, so have you.
Rejoice my friends, rejoice.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 This is the message which he told them to give to Isaiah: “Today is a day of suffering; we are being punished and are in disgrace. We are like a woman who is ready to give birth, but is too weak to do it.
King Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went to the Temple, placed the letter there in the presence of the LORD, 15 and prayed, 16† “Almighty LORD, God of Israel, seated above the winged creatures, you alone are God, ruling all the kingdoms of the world. You created the earth and the sky. 17 Now, LORD, hear us and look at what is happening to us! Isaiah 37:3,14-17 GNT
To focus on entering new life with Christ requires that we take a stand as to who we are in this new life, that we identify with the Christ-life in us and against the sin still present in our selves and that we settle in our will the question of who we intend to be. This is what it means to “count [ourselves] dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
Pray: Talk to God about the two lives, two streams of awareness and power, mingling together. Ask God to show you what you need to know about how to untangle them and choose more to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
As I read the section from Isaiah this morning, the despair the Hezekiah described struck home. Against his enemies he felt too weak, all Israel seemed to weak. The graphic comment about a woman in labor who cannot, and surrenders to the weakness seems all too similar.
Our enemy is just as powerful, though not a horde, or a arm y can roll over us. It is far too integral to us, this old life of sin. It seems to wrap around us like one of the strands of DNA, unable to be separated from the other, Defining ourselves without the sense of brokenness we care too weak to defeat seems illogical. Like Paul that strand of sin, winding through our being causes us to do what we do not want to do, and prevents us from doing what we desire to do, what we know pleases God.
Theologically we know we are called to be holy, set apart to live life in the glory of God. Practically we find ourselves struggly, and even getting to the point where we give up the fight, where we are unwilling to fight anymore. Sin becomes the norm, again.
In the midst of the weakness, in the midst of despair, Hezekiah does something as outrageous as it is incredible. He enters the temple, he goes and places the letter from his oppressor in the presence of the LORD. He goes into the Holy of Holies, the place a priest awas allowed only once a year, and begs the LORD to look at their situation. The place where high priests could die because of their sin, he walks right in and says, “God, Look at this, help us! We are too weak, we have to have Your help!”
In the Holy of Holies, there he finds hope…
This is huge for us, as we need to realize that we can enter the presence of God almighty with that much boldness, setting aside everything that would restrain us. (see Hebrews!) That place where Hezekiah entered? It was the place of ultimate mercy, the place forgiveness, the place where the blood would be shed.
The place we need to abide, to dwell with God. The place where sin is separated from our DNA, for it was killed off to bring us to this place. The place where we know God rescued us no from the Assyrians, but from that which haunts us, our guilt, our shame, our brokenness, our sin.
The struggle within fades in the presence of God, when we realize His work to defeat it as the cross, and in our baptism, and everytime we take and eat His body, and drink His blood, testifying to the blood out, to cover our sin, to His death for us.
The struggle is still there, and until God complete the work He began is us (Phil. 1:6) we will struggle against this foe… yet that struggle is dealt with, not by our own strength, but simply by being in the place where God is with us…Overcoming it isn’t about 30 seconds there, but learning to dwell with Him (see Col. 3:1-3) To dwell in His presence in the darkest moments, to dwell with Him as He addresses our brokenness.
To know He, the LORD is with us!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 I felt secure and said to myself, “I will never be defeated.” 7 You were good to me, LORD; you protected me like a mountain fortress. But then you hid yourself from me, and I was afraid. 8 I called to you, LORD; I begged for your help: 9 “What will you gain from my death? What profit from my going to the grave? Are dead people able to praise you? Can they proclaim your unfailing goodness? 10 Hear me, LORD, and be merciful! Help me, LORD!” 11 You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy. 12 So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. LORD, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever.
Psalm 30:6-12 (TEV)
In the movie Gandhi, the young Indian lawyer and a white clergyman are walking together on a boardwalk in South Africa, contrary to its laws at the time. Some brutish-looking young white men threaten to harm them, but the ringleader’s mother calls from a window and commands him to go about his business.
When the clergyman exclaims over their good luck, Gandhi comments, “I thought you were a man of God.” The clergyman replies, “I am, but I don’t believe he plans his day around me!”
A cute point, but beneath it lie beliefs that make it difficult to take seriously the possibility of divine guidance. One of those beliefs is that we are not important to God. But we were important enough for God to give his Son’s life for us and to choose to inhabit us as living temples. Obviously, then, we are important enough for God to guide us and speak to us whenever it’s appropriate.
There he was, in the village, doing things that boggled the mind of those who knew Him. Teaching in ways that were simple, yet profound. The reports of the miracles that He had done were overwhelming, there was too much evidence to deny that this man who grew up in their midst was a divinely empowered prophet, and perhaps more.
But they rejected Him, their unbelief robbing Him of the opportunity to do something, anything in their presence. The one who drove out demons, the Lord who healed so many, who raised people from the dead, was tuned out, turned away, unable to help the people He loved.
It is the same thing in David’s psalm, as David describes being safe in God’s presence, too terrified because he couldn’t find God, no matter how hard he looked. And the pastor walking with Gandhi, who failed to see God’s intervention, which even the lawyer/philosopher was able to discern.
This is far more common in the church that we think. We know so much about God, that we reject Him from being our God. We are familiar with Jesus, but we fail to be united to Him, we fail to interact with Him in a way that is, for lack of better word, intimate, We fail to have the communion with Him, we fail to depend on Him, and we think He is hidden from us.
He is not hidden, or if He is, He is hidden in plain sight.
So how do we end this rollercoaster ride that David describes? How do we grow in our discernment of God’s presence, of His love and mercy being poured out on us, as He promises it will be? How do we constantly stay aware of God, seeing Him as He reveals Himself to us?
warning: this answer may piss you off
You cannot. You are as human as David, or the pastor Gandhi encountered.
This is not something we can accomplish by the force of our will, just as we cannot live a life that is not impacted by our sin. Trying to do so will only result in feelings of guilt and shame, and even more lack of awareness.
I am not saying that we cannot grow in awareness, and more importantly, grow in our ability to trust in God when we can’t see Him. We can learn to search Him out, knowing where we can find Him, rather than just dwelling in the moment we lost track of Him.
This we can do, especially if we have friends around us, able to encourage us when we struggle. For that is part of what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
But even more, we have to learn from the story of the prodigal, we have to trust that God wants us home, we have to know we will be welcomed home. God wants us to realize His presence in our lives, not just as an observer, but as an active participant, empowering us, encouraging us, correcting us, and yes, comforting us.
He’s promised to do all that and more, and in our weakness, we realize how great that promise and that strength is.
So relax, look around, and realize He is your God.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
the devotional thought of the day:
For this is what the LORD says: “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you” —this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “I will restore you to the place I deported you from.” Jeremiah 29:10-14 HCSB
4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Titus 3:4-6 HCSB
In the first quote above, the one from Jeremiah, there is an amazing and well-known quote. “For I know the plans I have for you” —this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope!
But is even more amazing, give the context of it.
I’ve heard a lot of people quote this passage when they get into hard times, or when they don’t know what is coming next. But that isn’t the context. Which is why it is even more amazing.
God’s not giving a future and a hope to those who are His spiritual superstars, not the heroes of the faith either. The context is those whose sins are so shameful, so repugnant, so evil that God had to lead them into captivity.
The people in context were banished, they were broken, they were dominated by seeking after their own welfare, and indeed, their own pleasure. They were in the midst of being disciplined, discipline as hard as any faced in scripture. They lost their home, their country, and all the things they counted on to tie them to God. The temple – gone. The sacrifices – gone. The land promised to Abraham, Issac and Jacob.. gone.
Because of their sin.
And yet they were given a promise, a future, and a hope. The assurance that when they ceased being the prodigal, God would still be there. The promise of reconciliation and restoration, when the time is complete.
Like them, there are sometimes that we become dominated by sin, when we are as broken when we deserve to be punished and disciplined, and worse, we deserve the wrath of God. We deserve the same kind of treatment that He poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues He poured out on Pharoah and Egypt, the justice He poured out on the people of Noah’s time.
Yet for us, even as for the exiles, there is a future and a hope. There is a God who promises He can be found, and when He finds us. He pours our something incredible on us.
His Spirit, the Holy Spirit who washes us clean with the word and the water. Who revives and regenerates our broken lives, who renews our strength, so that we don’t faith.
This is the promise you received as God baptized you, as He claimed you as His. When He declares that we are healed, cleansed, His people.
This is the promise of a future and a hope that we’ve been given.
Rejoice in it! Remember it! Celebrate it! Hang on to it, when things are challenging, when you life is broken, when you find yourself yielding to temptation and sin, and despair…
He has promised you to cleanse you, guaranteed by the cross. AMEN!
Devotional Thoughts of the day:
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 HCSB
317 What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! Dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.
It’s Monday morning, and another work week stands before us.
What are you going to do with it? Where are you going to spend the assets you have? What can you do, that will give the greatest return on investment?
I dare say St. John had a similar question in mind when he penned the words about Christ that we have come to know as his gospel. And in the quote above we see his priority, that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.
That was John’s bottom line (and the Holy Spirit’s bottom line as well) That we would know Jesus, trust and depend upon Him, and thereby receive the life He desires us to have. A life lived with Him, a life lived in His presence.
This is Jesus greatest investment, as He invests in us…
And while it is the time I invest in this, what I really invest is my brokenness. The struggle I have with sin, (especially when I don’t struggle with it) the guilt and shame, the hurts and pains, the resentment, the fear, and anxiety.
Those are my investments, the things I have to learn to zealously invest them into my relationship with Jesus, the return on investment is rest from them, a rest in the glory of God, a rest that comes from knowing I am loved.
He heals us, in ways beyond our hearts’ imagination, because the brokenness He will heal goes deeper into our soul than we are willing to explore. But that is what St. Josemaria is talking about when he tells us to have zeal for the affairs of our soul, for our internal lives. Letting God sink deeper into our lives that butter sinks into a hot waffle. It is scary and wonderful, What we need to invest… is the stuff that kills off our life. It is the stuff we need to be removed from our lives, and Jesus will…. with great joy and care… cut it away. ( See Colossians 2:11)
That is when our faith is living and working, when we allow God to deal with our brokenness, all of it, as He forgives our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness, and we can live….
And be sent out, for we are broken people who are finding hope and healing in Jesus, and helping others heal….
Lord have mercy on us, and help us invest our brokenness in your mercy and love… and heal us, dear Lord!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 820-824). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought for our days:’
9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” 14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” Mark 7:9-15 (NLT)
9 We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people, whom God made like himself. 10 Praises and curses come from the same mouth! My brothers and sisters, this should not happen. James 3:9-10 NCV
79 I will not stop repeating until it is deeply engraved in your soul: Piety, piety, piety! For if you lack charity it will be for want of interior life, not for any defect of character.
As I have talked to people since the Las Vegas shooting, as I have read articles, posts and tweets about it, one question is asked over and over. It is the same question that was asked after the Sandy Hook or Florida shootings, or the bombing in Oklahoma City, or even 9/11.
What defect is there in those who commit such horrors, what kind of evil lurks within them? What dysfunctional part of their nature causes such evil?
And two questions follow those:
“Can we stop this from happening again?”
And the question we are afraid to ask,
“Am I capable of such evil?”
Most of us would believe we aren’t capable of that level of evil, of creating such trauma, such horror. If you asked the Pharisees of Jesus day, they certainly didn’t believe they were capable of such evil; they were too holy. Sure, a little sin here, a little lie there, some unforgiveness and pride, even a smattering of gossip. But real evil?
Nah, not us. We’re the good guys, remember?
If that isn’t our attitude, the contrary position we take, seeing every moment in our lives as proof that we make Hannibal Lector and Hitler look like simpletons when it comes to evil. We believe our character to be broken, our dysfunctionality beyond salvation, our defects to irreparable.
We see the passage from Mark, and we know that there is something within us to cause such horror, we hear James and wonder how we can gossip or lie or brutally treat someone one moment, and sing A Mighty Fortress or say the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostles Creed the next.
Well, sin is pictured several times (including James 5) as an illness, a sickness, a disease that has weakened us. Yes, we are responsible for our thoughts, our words, our actions, but at another level, we are incapable of living life free from the bondage in which sin grips us. It is more than just a defect or dysfunction, this sin that so easily ensnares us.
I think St Josemaria points out the answer, as he mentions our interior life. Our struggle with sin as Christians is because we don’t understand what it means to dwell in the presence of God. It is that interior life, that time that we spend living in Christ, resting in His presence, being transformed by the Holy Spirit that provides the love we need to love others, and to love and adore God.
This isn’t some exercise in finding God, it doesn’t take a pilgrimage around the world, though there are places where realizing He is there is easier, like in a church as they celebrate the Eucharist, or in a gathering of people singing His praises. He is with you on that sleepless night as well, or in the heat of the moment, when you want to respond in anger, or in pain.
The interior life is simply living and recognizing the presence of God, and hearing His voice.
So call out to Him, give Him your burdens, pray that He will help you, confident of His promises too….especially when it is dealing with temptation, or with the ghosts of the past.
The Lord is with you! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 495-498). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Days
Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. 4 Christ is your n life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory. 5 So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. 6 These things make God angry. n 7 In your past, evil life you also did these things.
8 But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. 9 Do not lie to each other. You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before. 10 You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God. Colossians 3:3-10 NCV
3 My Father—talk to him like that, confidently—who art in heaven, look upon me with compassionate Love, and make me respond to thy love. Melt and enkindle my heart of bronze, burn and purify my unmortified flesh, fill my mind with supernatural light, make my tongue proclaim the Love and Glory of Christ.
“Hallowed be thy name.”
What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, God’s name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.
5 How is this done?
Answer: When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy lives in accordance with it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives otherwise than as the Word of God teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!
Paul’s words are difficult in verse 5, these words we hear as commands, as Law.
Put all evil things out of your life…
This sounds easy – that is until Paul defines it, then defines it more.
How are you doing with that? I pray you are doing better at it than I am.
It is a battle. A battle not between Good and Evil with Evil being those opposed to us, it is a battle inside each of us, to turn away from the evil we, to embrace good. But even this battle is a paradox, for we cannot do this by our own strength or will-power.
When we believe we are the masters of our spiritual development, when we believe we can put all these things out of our life by ourselves, we’ve fallen back into the trap of the evil one. Yet that is what we hear often when we read this passage, it is what our pride focuses upon.
What does it miss… the embrace of Christ as He died, that embrace that continues through His death to the resurrection. The beginning of life in Christ, and the being MADE NEW AND ARE BECOMING LIKE THE ONE WHO MADE YOU.
This is what St. Josemaria is talking about, as he points out a part of the Lord’s Prayer. It is God who makes us new, it is God who changes us, it is God who separated us from evil and our sin, and is our hope for staying disconnected from it. (that is not to say He is responsible if we return to it!) Therefore it is our prayer, our begging God to do what we cannot, even as we realize that He has not only promised this, it is His desire.
It is our need.
And it is how we let go of the evil that has bound us, as we adore our Lord for what He has done and is doing. We don’t actually create the separation, we don’t broaden it even, we just leave it behind as the light of the glory of God. His love revealed and realized draws us away from the life we had before.
We can pray for this, that God would do His work. Not that He wouldn’t do it if we don’t pray, but that as we pray we would realize God is at work, already doing this to us. This is what Luther was getting at in the small catechism. We pray this to know what God promised to do, and so we can realize it is being done.
It is being done, let us continue to pray we see Him doing it!
 From the Small Catechism: edition from Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 242-246). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A Devotional Thought for the day:
Foolish people don’t care if they sin, but good people want to be forgiven. Proverbs 14:9
486 That big young man wrote to me saying: “My ideal is so great that only the sea could contain it.” I answered: “And what about the Tabernacle, which is so ‘small’; and the ‘common’ workshop of Nazareth?” It is in the greatness of ordinary things that He awaits us!
When a pastor is ordained, or perhaps is installed in a new church, we often make grandiose plans, and have visions of the church growing, and becoming stronger, We (and our people – that’s why they called us) envision our churches overflowing with people, with ministries that meet the need of every demographic in our community, and even impact the world through the missions we support.
What is often overlooked is the simple things, the things that are needed, the common work of a pastor or priest. The sacramental things that make the greatest difference in a person’s life. Not a great difference, the greatest difference, even though we may also need to teach them about it along the way.
THis great work? This simple thing that will radically change their lives? For a Lutheran pastor, it is these words,
“Let it be done for you as you believe! In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus, I forgive you all your sins! In the Name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!”
For a Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican priest the words are different. The Baptist or Evangelical pastor may simply say, “you’re forgiven”, without backing it up with the formal language. These words of forgiveness are heard in church service during a baptism, or as we celebrate the Lord’s supper in confessionals, in the pastor’s office or out having coffee. They are said at the bedside of someone who is dying, and while counseling the prisoner in a jail.
It is the simple work of ministry, something we need to hear, something we know we need to hear. Ordinary perhaps, but as those words are heard, as they are understood in our heart, soul, and mind, shame and guilt are swept away as the sin is removed. We are reminded of God’s love for us, and the relationship Christ’ death on the cross secured and guaranteed for us. We might even find the strength and hope needed ot ask forgiveness from that relative we hurt or the friend we accidentally betrayed.
Most pastors and priests will never preach to thousands at once. Most of us won’t baptize a hundred in a day. We would love to see that of course, but the best thing we can do is found in what we can do for you…. to tell you of a God who loves you so much that He would forgive you of all your sin, and has. Who would do so in such a way that you would learn to run for forgiveness, that you would desire it, that you would rejoice when you hear it.
This is ministry, real ministry, a ministry which heals and restores and leaves you full of joy and peace.
So come talk to us, hear the words you need to hear, “you are forgiven of all your sins, (and yes – that one as well!)
See you soon!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2126-2129). Scepter Publishers.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT)
323 Anyone who hides a temptation from his director shares a secret with the devil. He has become a friend of the enemy.
3 With regard to the time, it is certain that most people in our churches use the sacraments, absolution and the Lord’s Supper, many times a year. Our clergy instruct the people about the worth and fruits of the sacraments in such a way as to invite them to use the sacraments often. On this subject our theologians have written many things which our opponents, if they are but honest, will undoubtedly approve and praise.
There is no hope, no chance to correct the wrongs, no chance to fix that was broken, the person thought. So they had one of two easy solutions, Ignore the problem, or run and hide from it. either way, the damage increases, and the help needed to overcome the problem is ignored.
If this was a medical issue, (and yes people ignore and hide from them) most of us would come alongside the person and urge, even beg them to seek help. If it was an addiction, we might risk their anger and do the same. But how many of us are going to take such an action on something that is far more critical, the spiritual health of our friends and family? How many of us would even think to suggest absolution, the ministry, and sacrament of reconciliation, if someone was sharing their battle with guilt and shame?
St. Josemaria’s words are harsh, that when we hide our sins, when we don’t confess them, when we don’t ask for help in dealing with them, we effectively align with Satan, and we accept the bondage of guilt and shame which will paralyze and haunt us.
That’s pretty serious, and after 20 years of ministry, and seeing the problems that unresolved guilt and shame brought upon people, upon their family and friends, I concur. All we do when we ignore sin, or when we isolate ourselves from others because of it is fall, to trust in Satan’s deception.
Confession and absolution, the hearing that God does forgive us because of Jesus’ work on the cross, that free us from that bondage, it starts the healing of brokenness that would otherwise crush us. It is liberating, it brings about both incredible joy and incredible peace.
It’s time to stop ignoring our sin, or hiding from others as the sin and guilt tear our souls apart.
God loves you and wants you to know, He desires to cleanse you of it all, to restore your soul, to mend the broken hearts. He wants us to encourage each other to know this, to hear it from those entrusted to speak on His behalf.
Come, know the peace of God, and rejoice in the freedom Christ’s blood bought you!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1526-1527). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.