Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. 9 I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. Micah 7:8–9 (CEV)
11 Our people defeated Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and the message of God. They were willing to give up their lives. Revelation 12:11 (CEV)
It is comparatively easy for most of us to do something difficult for a day or two, but it is less likely that we will be faithful to our resolution for a month or two. And very few indeed will sacrifice comfort and ease for years on end—unless they are deeply in love, real love.
It is the herd of elephants that are in the room.
It is the sin in our lives, the sin that so easily ensnares us, breaks us down, isolates us from people.
We know that God is our light, but yet sin still has a grip on us. We are afraid to admit it, afraid to tell our pastor/priest, afraid to tell them, even though we know they are there to help us realize we are forgiven.
We would rather bury it, deny it, act as if it wasn’t there. Pastors make this easier, when we talk about “their” sin, rather than yours (never mind ours) And in this false comfort, we will glide along, oblivious to the crap we surround ourselves with, and praying, not for forgiveness, but that it never comes to light.
In the midst of this, we have Micah’s words that will encourage us to face the discipline of God. Words that encourage us to endure His anger, the pain our betrayal caused. To do so, knowing it is temporary, to endure knowing that the One who is angry WILL COME TO OUR DEFENSE!
He will make things right! He will declare us righteous. His anger will pass, (it was at the cross) and He is making us new.
The Blood has been spilled, poured out for us to take and drink, as we eat His Body. We have His word, His promises that tell us how the Spirit is the guarantee of His dealing with our sin, and restoring us.
This is our hope… if you are struggling with sin, even you are feeling God’s discipline, know He is dealing with it. Know He loves you, and the proof is that discipline that precedes the healing.
And dwell in His peace.
Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 105.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Many of them believed his message and were baptized, and about three thousand people were added to the group that day. 42 They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers. 43 Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. 44 All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. 45 They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. 46 Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, 47 praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.
Acts 2:41-47 (TEV)
16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray. (1)
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
8 How is this done?
Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever. (2)
Lord, since eternity is Thine, art Thou ignorant of what I say to Thee? or dost Thou see in time, what passeth in time? Why then do I lay in order before Thee so many relations? Not, of a truth, that Thou mightest learn them through me, but to stir up mine own and my readers’ devotions towards Thee, that we may all say, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. I have said already; and again will say, for love of Thy love do I this. For we pray also, and yet Truth hath said, Your Father knoweth what you have need of, before you ask. It is then our affections which we lay open unto Thee, confessing our own miseries, and Thy mercies upon us, that Thou mayest free us wholly, since Thou hast begun, that we may cease to be wretched in ourselves, and be blessed in Thee; seeing Thou hast called us (3)
The question is asked less of me now than in was in the 80’s or 90’s, and I am not sure whether that is a good thing or as I fear a bad thing.
In the 90’s I heard it more from college students and young couples, perhaps because their children asked it, “do I have to go church?”, “why do I havvvveee to gooo to chhhhhurch?” Or the “can’t I just worship God in the forest, or at the beach, or playing my music?”
Somewhere along the line I think the answer was changed from the real “why” to simply, “you have to”, and as we often do, we find excuses. The same of course goes for prayer, or for confessing our sins, or reading the scriptures. Even for pastors. Ask yours what he was reading this week, that wasn’t done for preparing for church or a Bible Study. (If you don’t want to embarrass them I have a friend named Rich that would be more than willing to!
Some say that we go to church/pray/commune/confess for God’s sake – that we go to serve. That is a crappy reason! It’s been seen as a crappy answer for a long time! It has a partner in crime, the reason that says we go to be served! (since it is all about us you know!) I would use a more guttural term for that one.
We don’t go to church so that someone “gets something” or is benefitted, Neither do we pray or study the scripture for its benefit. When we use them, we set ourselves up to fail, for often, if we get anything out of church, it is subtle, and takes a while to process and see the effects of going? We see ourselves struggling with the same thing, fighting the same anxieties. And who really believes that God is somehow “helped” by our presence, as if church wouldn’t be as glorious without our presence?
So then why do we go?
If it’s not because we HAVE to?
If it’s not because we benefit?
If it doesn’t benefit God?
It is because church, like prayer and communion is about the encounter. Any benefit is secondary to that encounter. God and His people, those being reconciled and healed, coming together as one body. It is that encounter that is life, it is, in every sense, a foretaste of our eternal life WITH God, and the angels, archangels, and all the community of heaven. That’s why the early church met, not just on Sunday and for a special few on Wednesday nights, but daily in the temple. They prayed together, they ate together, the worshiped and celebrated the Eucharist, and in doing so, encountered God and they encountered His people, even as they were being added daily….
That is why the sermon isn’t the best point, the gathering that begins in the passing of the peace, and flows through communion is. That is where we come face to face with the God who draws us to Himself. Note, I said draws US. Not the individual, not you and I. He draws US, and gives us a serenity that allows us to drop everything as we encounter God, and His people.
It is this encounter we need, it is this moment that transcends everything, God, and man, this is the life.
This is why… this encounter… this being with God.
This is what it means to be His church, the one’s whom the Father calls, by lifting Christ high, and drawing us to Him.
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 346). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. Article XIII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. The Small Catechism -: Article III
(3) Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)
41 “When a foreigner who lives in a distant land hears of your fame and of the great things you have done for your people and comes to worship you and to pray at this Temple, 43 listen to his prayer. In heaven, where you live, hear him and do what he asks you to do, so that all the peoples of the world may know you and obey you, as your people Israel do. Then they will know that this Temple I have built is the place where you are to be worshiped. 1 Kings 8:41-43 (TEV)
20 Some Greeks were among those who had gone to Jerusalem to worship during the festival. 21 They went to Philip (he was from Bethsaida in Galilee) and said, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” John 12:20-21 (TEV)
I really do believe that a serious danger of losing the way threatens those who launch out into action—activism—while neglecting prayer, self-denial, and those means without which it is impossible to achieve a solid piety: receiving the Sacraments frequently, meditation, examination of conscience, spiritual reading, and constant recourse to our Lady and the guardian angels … Besides, all these means contribute in a way that nothing else can, to making the Christian’s daily life a joyful one, for from their hidden riches flow out the sweetness and joy of God, like honey from the comb.
All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (2)
This post started out as a discussion point, based on a conversation yesterday. The question then was, can a unbeliever pray to God, and can a Christian pray with, instead of for, a unbeliever, or someone who believes in some other deity. (including themselves)
But even as I am writing this, and pulling out the quotes above, I am convinced the question is not whether they can pray. Rather, the question is why people do not, including those who should know the blessing of prayer. For many know the promises of spending intimate time, whether a few minutes or hours or a weekend in prayer.
Finding relief from burdens, finding confidence in God’s presence, even in the midst of adversity, hearing God’s voice and knowing the comfort His presence brings. Learning to understand what brings Him joy, and crying with Him over those who do not hear Him. Just spending time with Him.
Prayer is important enough that Solomon dedicated the temple where God put His name, in order that His people would know nothing, especially their own sin, could separate them from His love. He set aside an area for what is noted above – that those who heard of them but were not God’s people (yet) could pray, That they cold recognise the desire for eternity that was in their hearts, was placed there so they would seek Him! That even those, like the Gentiles (term for people not in a covenant relationship with God) could ask to see Him. That Samaritans and prostitutes and tax collecters and everyone would know HIs desire – that they would be drawn to them.
That they would be His people, that they would become the children of the Father, the brothers and sisters and friends of Jesus.
They would converse with God. That they would share His life, and He would share in theirs. No, that He would be theirs. This is what prayer is, the dialog of those in a special, intimate relationship. God and His people.
It may scare us at first, it usually does. Gideon was afraid, as was Isaiah. David was when he realized his desire gave way to sin, and that meant he would alienate the Holy Spirit. The idea of intimacy with God may be scary, but not if we realize that this is His idea, that this is the scope of His work.
Anyone can call out to God, even if all they know is what general revelation speaks of, as the heavens and earth declare His glory. That cry can be a simple save me, or Lord, I need to know you are out there. And we can pray that with them, for we know the difference it makes in our life.
And we should pray, dear fellow believers. Whether it is simply because we know God commands and encourages it or because we are coming to realize that mercy and love that He has for us. It may start out as an exercise, a discipline. It will turn into a life…. a life walked in/with Christ. A life we all need, desperately, a life of prayer that becomes a joy.
A life that sustains us….and causes us to weep for those who do not know it….yet.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Friends of God (Kindle Locations 502-506). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 419). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
devotional thought of the day
3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT)
The cheerfulness you should have is not the kind we might call physiological—like that of a healthy animal. Rather, it is the supernatural happiness that comes from the abandonment of everything, including yourself, into the loving arms of our Father God. (1)
“Going to confession isn’t like heading off to be tortured or punished, nor is it like going to the dry cleaners to get out a stain, Pope Francis said in a morning Mass homily.“It’s an encounter with Jesus” who is patiently waiting “and takes us as we are,” offering penitents his tender mercy and forgiveness, he said April 29.. ” (2)
I see it far too frequently, the idea that going to church, or Bible study, or as Pope Francis was talking about, Confession and Absolution is somehow a Christian’s “duty”. To look at these blessed events as duty is a spiritual error, to teach it as such is simply wrong. To teach people they must, they have to do these things – is of the gravest error, for it changes their perception, and indeed robs them of the joy David expressed in the pslams, when contemplating going to the temple, when David rejoiced even at the thought of it.
You see all these events, they are not duties, we are not obligated to, in the normal sense of the word. If we use obligated, it is in the same sense that we are obligated to find treatment for a serious wound, or a broken leg.
We look around – and see our needed of healing, our need of having the things we have screwed up royally fixed, the relationships mended, and in Christ – there is our only hope. Our only hope, the only way we can be delivered from the mess we are in, is by Christ – so what hope is there, if we turn our back on that hope?
We are little children, devastated that we have broken that which should be cherished, and we should find the joy that comes from watching our Father patiently make it like new (or replace it) because of His love for us. Such is the ability to abandon all our fear, all our anxiety, all our grief and shame, for our Father is hear, and all is abandoned as He brings us comfort and peace.
It is that encounter- with the presence of Christ. in the worship service/mass, to realize He is patient with us, not willing destruction – but complete transformation, complete rebirth, complete renewal.
Such is the nature of spending time doing what some call “Christian Duty” or Spiritual Disciplines. Reading the Bible, Prayer, Worship, Gathering with other believers, and yes confessing our sins and hearing Christ speaking words of forgiveness and restoration. To speak of them as duties or disciplines reduces them in people’s minds to being about us, our work, our efforts, our accomplishments, our excercises.
Rather than encounter with Christ, a glorious, freeing, encounter with the One who loves us, who calls us His beloved, His friends… the children of God.
So next time you think about doing these things – realize Who you will meet – and in joy – rush to Him, abandoning all that would restrict your joy together.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1539-1541). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- I Have Decided, to Follow Jesus! (Controversy? Not so much…) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- It’s Not About Calling the Qualified, or Even Qualifying the Called… it’s about revealing Christ. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Gravity and God’s Grace…. (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day… and please discuss!
“You need interior life and doctrinal formation. Be demanding on yourself! As a Christian man or woman, you have to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, for you are obliged to give good example with holy shamelessness. The charity of Christ should compel you. Feeling and knowing yourself to be another Christ from the moment you told him that you would follow him, you must not separate yourself from your equals—your relatives, friends and colleagues—any more than you would separate salt from the food it is seasoning. Your interior life and your formation include the piety and the principles a child of God must have, to give flavour to everything by his active presence there. Ask the Lord that you may always be that good seasoning in the lives of others.” (1)
Over the centuries, one of the great issues for the church is how to encourage spiritual growth in the people of God. How to get encourage them to live lives filled with prayer and worship and both meditation on God’s word, and the indepth study of it. There is no doubt to the benefit of such interaction with God and His word, yet how do we do it? Add to this the theological discussion about the proper use of God’s law and gospel, and the issue gets further complicated. We have been told – and can make the case for from scripture, that we aren’t supposed us Law (rules with threats of active or passive punishment/reward) to motivate behavior within the church, but rather – receiving the incredible grace of God should result in our actions changing – as God works the change in us.
This is true not only for private spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, devotional study, and being involved in gatherings with other believers, but also things like evangelism, serving the needy…
The above quote is walking on the fence – primarily because of how people read the word “obliged”. If obliged is read as to mean you are blessed if you do, damned if you do not, then it becomes law. THe problem with using the law to motivate the behavior that should be natural to a Christian is that compliance is achieved through fear or greed – the positive or negative reward is why the act is being done. (Some would say – at least its being done – and the ends justify the means.) That form of compliance is often short-lived as well – for the reward diminishes over time, and what was once done with enthusiasm and excitement fades. (This btw is why I believe when the end result of becoming a Christian is the “reward of heaven”, people will soon lose interest – becoming a Christian is about Who we are in heaven with, and Who walks with us here)
But if obliged is something different – an inner compelling to love as a reaction to love, if Christ’s charity to us, to humanity is so overwhelming as it is, then we are compelled the same way a piece of wood is swept away by a river’s current – and the discipline is something internal, natural, the norm, not the goal. The spiritual growth simply becomes part of us, as we are swept along in Christ – the disciplines become part of who we are, rather than what we do.
Yet that still begs the question – how do we introduce these things to the new believer, how do we encourage and train, guide and pastor people, and indeed fellow pastors, in such beneficial and grace filled things. And how do we encourage it in our “mature” believers, those who have done without for so long, yet see themselves as “faithful”. How do we encourage and teach this to those who see no great need for indepth prayer and meditation?
How do we cause them to fall into the river of Christ’s charity and become swept into a life, lived fully in relationship, interacting with God, not just on Sunday morning (or the occaisonal Sunday Morning..) but as part of their life…
For that matter – how do leaders find the motivation to let Christ sweep us away..?
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1722-1730). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devitional/Discussion thought of the Day:
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning; Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit. “Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NASB77)
“Say slowly and in all earnestness: Nunc coepi—now I begin! Don’t get discouraged if, unfortunately, you don’t see any great change in yourself brought about by the Lord’s right hand… From your lowliness you can cry out: Help me, my Jesus, because I want to fulfil Your Will… Your most lovable Will!” (1)
It is amazing how God can use the simplest of things to create lessons for us. For the last week, I have been putting eye drops – more like a gel in my eyes to counteract the effects of a eye infection. I push the kell through a tube and into my eye, and then wait.. I never knew how long three minutes could be. Then 10 minutes later – another eye drop and more time waiting, eyes closed. Five times a day.. I repeat this – and now, 8 days later, my eye is a little less affected by light.
Change can take forever, especially when it is for the good.
Thirty years ago, we became a culture that sped up. Things like microwaves and cordless phones and the first remotes for our 13 channel televisions came out. And patience as a virtue became ever more rare, and ever more valuable. Back then – being connected to the internet (remember Prodigy) meant you could communicate online and the speed of 2 letters a second…with a good connection! Now with Smart Phones and testing with wireless routers and all the other changes, our attention spans and our patience is even more…. rare. ( sit at Jack and the Box drive-thru for 4 minutes with a five year old if you want to see what I mean!)
Change is needed in our lives, but not often the kind of transformation we think. The kind that is spoken of in Romans 12 – the transformation of our minds This is known another way as well – the churchy word “repentance”. Scripture talks often of that change – as we are transformed into the image of Christ – the work that God does in our lives and the lives of those around us.
But sometimes, this transformation is very slow in appearing. In fact – it will not be fully revealed until Christ’s return. (see last Sunday’s sermon blog) The challenge is not to look at ourselves – not to grow in despari – but to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, cry out to Him, meditate on His love and sacrifice. You may not see the difference, but others will! And take this thought in closing…. it is not you that completes the work – look to Him and keep looking…
“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1550-1553). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.