Some thoughts for the day
11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Hebrews 5:11-14 (NLT2)
The contemporary moral climate does not favor a faith as tough and fibrous as that taught by our Lord and His apostles. The delicate, brittle saints being produced in our religious hothouses today are hardly to be compared with the committed, expendable believers who once gave their witness among men. And the fault lies with our leaders. They are too timid to tell the people all the truth. They are now asking men to give to God that which costs them nothing.
Our churches these days are filled (or one-quarter filled) with a soft breed of Christian that must be fed on a diet of harmless fun to keep them interested. About theology they know little. Scarcely any of them have read even one of the great Christian classics, but most of them are familiar with religious fiction and spine-tingling films. No wonder their moral and spiritual constitution is so frail. Such can only be called weak adherents of a faith they never really understood.
But this I say for myself: I am also a doctor and a preacher, just as learned and experienced as all of them who are so high and mighty. Nevertheless, each morning, and whenever else I have time, I do as a child who is being taught the catechism and I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc.  I must still read and study the catechism daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the catechism—and I also do so gladly Luther’s introduction to the Large Cathechism
Essentially, there are two components in the care of your own soul: God’s word and prayer. The first is the means of the Holy Spirit to sanctify your soul and body. The second is your response; the result of your sanctification, you could say
It took constant effort to keep ourselves in some semblance of peace when we were seeking fantastic goals that were constantly frustrated, setting off the afflictive emotions of anger, grief, fear, pride, lust, greed, jealousy, and the other capital sins. As the false self diminishes and trust in God increases in the night of sense, our energies can be put to better purposes
There was a lot of richness in my readings this morning.
Some of it seems caustic, and the context of Tozer and Luther’s quotes were far more so that what I cut and pasted here. words 50 and 500 years ago still sting, because the church still faces the same challenges it did then, and even back when the church was young, and the Book of Hebrews chided believers for not maturing in their relationship ith God.
Part of me, reading this, wants to figure out to save the church, to find a way to preach so powerfully that the church just finally wakes up and grows up! (It doesn’t help that I’ve been listening to Keith Green music for the last week!) Gosh, if only there was some way to get us all fired up for Jesus!
Luther’s got the idea, echoed by Senkbeil and Keating. Before I see God transform my people and my community, I have to see Him, and allo him to circumcise my heart, to cut away those emotions Keating identifies, as well as the sin. Only the Holy Spirit can remove sin, and its minions—guilt and shame. That is why Luther would go back to basics, to the Prayer, to the word of God, to the Creed, to be reminded of these things that God is doing. That is why Tozer would point people to the heavier classic works of Christianity – not for theological training, but to ask the hard questions. The questions that help us take up and bear our crosses–the truth that we desperately need Jesus.
Not just to remove the stain of sin….
But to walk with us, to be with us,
For then life is sanctified, and our energies are put to a better purpose… for God has removed what isn’t us.
That is the way we become more dedicated, and yet expendable. For what happens to us is not as important. We are expendable because we realize our walk with God is greater than our self-preservation. The more God cuts away that which is not us, the more He recreates us, the more we long for eternal life, and yet the message we communicate becomes a message that convinces people that we walk with God.
Not because of the eloquence of the words, but because we depend God in this life, we know how He provides, and that means more than anything. That is why, despite struggles with sin and doubt, we keep coming back to Him, we keep wanting to hear His voice, and we realize that anyone who knows this can replace us, for the remarkable thing is not that we are witnesses of His glorious love, but the love that we have witnessed. A love that goes beyond anything we’ve known…
A love that changes everything, and mostly changes us.
Expendable simply means that love means more to us than life, because that love is eternal… and it is life.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 380.
Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 243.
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 140.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
He also broke in pieces the bronze snake that Moses had made, which was called Nehushtan. Up to that time the people of Israel had burned incense in its honor. 5 Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; Judah never had another king like him, either before or after his time.
2Kings 18:4-8 GNT
14† As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way, the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15 GNT
Very well, let it happen in God’s name, except that I make this friendly request: if you want to have my books at this time, do not, on pain of death, let them hinder you from studying the Scriptures themselves
The Bronze Serpent, once a tool crafted and used by God’s command to bless the people of God, to provide them a source of healing, this incredible, miraculous tool had turned into an idol. People worshipped it, prayed to it, honored it.
And for the sake of the people, Hezekiah destroyed what had become an idol.
Luther saw the same potential in the books he had written, that people would take those books and value them above scripture itself. He feared the idea that people would spend more time in his books than in scripture. It terrified him.
I think today he would either be the first to burn the books which bear his name, or rejoice that they are gathering dust on the shelves.
Things that are supposed to point us to Jesus, that are simply signs or foreshadows of the Lord coming to us, loving us, cleansing and healing us from the damage sin has caused in our lives.
And w become dependent, we place our faith in these tools, rather than in the one they point to. It may be a building, a pastor’s blog, ( or the pastor himself!) a youtube channel of sermons, or books. In some cases, it might be a translation of the Bible, or a collection of hymns we have grown up with, or even the liturgy. It might even be the denomination that you thought was as Biblical and orthodox as it gets.
These things point us to Jesus, they can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring us comfort, but we can’t depend upon them, we can’t make them our life.
It is that point when we being to depend on them more than realizing that they only point to God, that we’ve turned them into an idol. ANd that is when, like the bronze serpent, or Gideon’s ephod, they need to be destroyed.
What will help is realizing what the item or person did in the first place. They focused our attention on Jesus, they informed us of God’s loving care for us. As we look to Jesus, as we find peace as we realize the dimensions of His love, these idols will fade away.
As they should.
And realize this, even in the moments you miss your idols, the Lord is with you.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 121). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. 7 But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, 8 he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (NJB)
1 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3 For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.” 4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
Romans 15:1-4 (NLT)
I cannot sufficiently admire the ardour with which this counsel was put in practice by St. Louis, one of the greatest kings the sun ever shone on. I say a great king in every kind of greatness. He frequently served at table the poor whom he maintained, and caused three poor men almost every day to dine with him, and many times eat the remainder of their pottage with an incomparable love. When he visited the hospitals, which he frequently did, he commonly served those suffering from leprosy and ulcers, and such as had the most loathsome diseases, kneeling on the ground, respecting, in their persons, the Saviour of the world, and cherishing them as tenderly as any fond mother cherishes her own child.
856 Spiritual childhood demands submission of the mind, which is harder than submission of the will. In order to subject our mind we need not only God’s grace, but a continual exercise of our will as well, denying the intellect over and over again, just as it says “no” to the flesh. And so we have the paradox that whoever wants to follow this “little way” in order to become a child, needs to add strength and manliness to his will.
What a challenging concept St. Josemaria brings out in the words in blue above.
It is challenging enough to bend my will to make sacrifices that I do not want to, but the truth is, I can do that without putting my mind and soul into it. You can force yourself to do just about anything, but to submit how you think – how you feel about it, now there is a challenge.
if we change how we act, but resent doing so, or are apathetic at best, how does that benefit? Doesn’t that attitude, that state of mind rob us of doing our best – and even going beyond to help those in need? And the action is torturous to us.
We can bend the will, but what we really need is what scripture calls repentance, (see Romans 12:1-3), the transformation of our mind. What Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 3:15ff as the Spirit changes us as we gaze upon Christ, what is echoed in Hebrews 12:2-3 as well, as we journey without eyes set on Christ.
This is what King Louis, one of the few Kings that was labeled a saint knew. It was for joy that he entertained the poor, and cared for the lepers, cherishing those in whom he saw his beloved savior. That changes our mind, which drives our will for the love and joy involved, rather than with resentment. Then sacrifice, and submission becomes an incredible joy, even as it was for Christ! For to help those who need encouragement is our vocation, our doing what we are created to do. As our mind is submitted to Christ’s, and His mind and attitude becomes ours, the greatest joy is when we bring our enemy to the Father, seeing them reconciled to Him.
It is then nothing else matters, for we realize that our self-interest, our burdens, our anxieties stop us from knowing the greatest joys, from seeing God in His glory, as He dwells with us.
Lord have mercy on us, and constantly remind us that our lives are in You! AMEN!
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1975-1978). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
devotional/discussion thought of the day?
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. 17 Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. Philippians 3:10-17 (NLT)
33 We should concern ourselves with this revealed will of God, follow it, and be diligent about it because the Holy Spirit gives grace, power, and ability through the Word by which he has called us. We should not explore the abyss of the hidden foreknowledge of God, even as Christ answered the question, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” by saying, “Strive to enter by the narrow door” (Luke 13:23, 24)
325 Fight against the softness that makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of tepidity … and, in the words of the Scripture, God will vomit out the lukewarm.
Sometimes the question is phrased as you see above, “Do I have to pray, read the Bible, go to church, etc. ?”. Other times it is more a defensive statement, “I have a great relationship with God and therefore I don’t have to…” Or perhaps the most dangerous version, “God will understand that I have other priorities….”
As a pastor such questions and statements are the horrific omens, they are the symptoms of life that will be soon going through a kind of spiritual cardiac arrest. One that will be haunted by guilt and shame that will be easily tempted to some form of idolatry, to put faith in something else. That idol will fail eventually, that dream and desire will not satisfy, and the comfort of a lukewarm faith will cause us to fall asleep.
I don’t say this simply as a diagnostician, or simple as a pastor who is tired of observing it and picking up the pieces. I say it as one who struggles with it, as well. I who wants to pass on my morning devotions and get to “work.” I so want to bypass my examination of my life and praying that God would help me not just repeatedly come to being sorry and apologetic, but to move from contrition to the transformation that is true repentance. I want to grow in overcoming the sin that so easily ensnares me, and I want to help you do the same.
All three quotes above talk about this – from the Lutheran Confessions which tell us to stop trying to probe the hidden mysteries of God, the things scripture doesn’t mention and theologians argue and write about. We must instead focus on the love and mercy that God does reveal. What a wondrous thing it is to know how deeply God loves you and me! What an incredible thing to think of the cross, and how that love was revealed, in an act so merciful that it staggers the mind. He died for us, and we live with Him! There is our focus!
St. Josemaria echoes it in his plea that we all don’t get lazy and careless in our spiritual life, that with Paul we forget what is behind us, what is history, and try to possess, to understand, to hold onto the fact that Christ has united us to himself. To begin to understand how much we are loved, and what it means to be united to God in Christ’s death and resurrection, to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.
The answer to an apathetic faith, to a personal or parish/congregational malaise, is quite simple. We need to understand the wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is for us, experiencing the love of Christ which is too great to completely understand with our hearts and souls and mind. Even so, as we begin to explore that love, we come alive, and the power of God is revealed in us.
So you and I, yes we need to pray, and to spend time contemplating what scripture reveals, we need to gather together to hear of this love, to receive the sacraments which are tangible gifts showing that love.
Not because it is law, not because if we don’t, we shall be punished, but because these things are what nourishes our spiritual life, and what makes us aware that God is with us!
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 838-839). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and tell others that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If we declare that Jesus is the Son of God, we live in union with God and God lives in union with us. 16 And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17 Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18 There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21 The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.
1 John 4:13-21 (TEV)
282 Practise a cheerful charity which is at once kindly and firm; human and supernatural. An affectionate charity, knowing how to welcome everyone with a sincere and habitual smile, and how to understand the ideas and the feelings of others. In this way, gently and vigorously, and without concessions in matters of personal morals or in doctrine, the charity of Christ—when it is being well lived—will give you a spirit of conquest. Each day you will be more eager to work for souls. (1)
5. We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man’s relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: “He who does not love does not know God” (1 John 4:8). (2)
He chose to stay there. He had to stay there. He had to absorb their hatred and return love in its place. They physically tortured Him, and He called on God the Father to forgive them anyway.
One of his followers said, Imitate me, as I imitate Christ!
Are you ready to do that? Are you ready to face hatred head on, and meet it with love? Are you ready to surrender your pride, your rights, your position or reputation, your family and even your life, if that is what is needed, that your enemies and adversaries could be afforded the opportunity to be reconciled to God the Father through Christ?
Some would say we aren’t supposed to put ourselves in the place of Jesus, that there is only one mediator. That God can’t expect us to love like He did, that such is not possible for sinners such as we are.
And so they refuse to love their neighbor, nevermind their enemy.
We can’t do that anymore, it is so contrary to what Paul talks of, when he talks about our being united to Christ’s death and resurrection, when he says we can use grace as an excuse for not trying to restrain the sin in our lives. (For Lutherans, check out Article VI of the Augsburg Confession)
There is a new life in Christ. There is the life in the Spirit; there is the life breathed into us, when we were spiritually dead, dry bones.
But this life is one that begins in the sacraments, as the word of God results in God taking root in our lives. It is encouraged in prayer, and in times of devotion, those times of quiet awe and adoration when we realize He is God, and He is here… It is a life where any fight is not over power or authority, but a fight to see people reconciled to God, rescued and healed from the damage of sin and hell.
To see their hearts turned to God, to see them be drawn to the cross, for there we have found hope, for there we have found life.
This is our ministry, whether pastor or priest, deacon or any other servant of God. Yes, it takes great faith, great trust in God, that He will raise you from the dead, that He has given you this life, He has given us the Holy Spirit to comfort and empower us and transform us into the image of His Son.
In this faithful life, we come to love our brothers who we can see, and so demonstrate our love for God our Father.
This is the baptized life. Don’t accept any other ….
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1144-1148). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Catholic Church. (2011). Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions: Nostra Aetate. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1 (Phillips NT)
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)
280 If you lose the supernatural meaning of your life, your charity will be philanthropy; your purity, decency; your mortification, stupidity; your discipline, a lash; and all your works, fruitless. (1)
Every so often I find my e-mail and Twitter filled with advertisements or advice for being effective, for improving your impact, Ways to ensure you have meaning in what you do. Go through this program, master these five trips, follow your passion, it seems like everyone has somewhere between three and twelve things to become successful in life.
Josemaria Escriva encourages us to one thing – a simple thing. To enjoy God, to be set apart to Him, to adore Him as you realize that He cares for you, that He loves you. Without it, all of our other actions, our sacrifices, our suffering, our prayers and worship and dedication to orthodoxy, is worthless.
To be blunt, if we live apart from the love of God, if we ignore his presence, we could be Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Martin Luther, John Calvin and St Augustine rolled into one, and we would have wasted our lives.
Yeah – living supernaturally, living dependent on God, having an intimate relationship with God is that important.
Ultimately, without it, nothing else matters, nothing else is worth it. With it, everything becomes an incredible blessing.
This is why baptism matters because God makes you His own as He baptizes you. That is why the Eucharist, Communion, the Lord’s Supper should be CELEBRATED, for the feast is God and man, together. The same can be said for our times talking to God, hearing His voice, meditating on His word and simply resting, confident and secure in His presence.
That is where the peace comes from that we need to know if we are to survive the grind of life. It is where our healing comes into play, where lives are reconciled, where we find that we are God’s work of art.
It is where we find that reality isn’t based on our emotion or our logic, but on His love and what He reveals to us because of that love.
St Paul is clear to the church in Corinth of this very same point – that without the love of God, even it doesn’t matter what we do, we have no value, no worth. But knowing that love? It transforms us and causes us to do that which is amazing, we can bring God glory.
So don’t set aside your time with Him, enjoy it, savor it, relax and have fun with your Father. Everything else will then fall into place.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 745-746). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.