Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 16 but do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (TEV)
350 In addition to being a good Christian, it’s not enough to be a scholar. If you don’t correct your rudeness, if you make your zeal and your knowledge incompatible with good manners, I don’t see how you can ever become a saint. And, even if you are a scholar—in spite of being a scholar—you should be tied to a stall, like a mule.
Given how many times St Josemaria referred to himself as a donkey, I can’t but think this was one of the lessons he had to be taught over and over.
Which gives me hope, because it is one I need to learn over and over.
A little knowledge and a heart full of zeal and wonder of God’s love can be a very dangerous thing. And the more the knowledge, the more danger you can do, as you bring forth that knowledge with the force of projectile vomit.
It is hard to temper the zeal, it is hard to govern the rate that we explain these great things we have learned. I get that, and sometimes it is the very zeal that leads to a charisma that attracts people, for it is special to see someone who really believes, fired up about the love of God.
Unfortunately, the very fire that burns within us can rage and burn out of control, damaging the very people we try to help, and those around It is not intended, it is not because we lack sincerity, but it is because we are not aware of the people we are trying to reach, we don’t hear them, we don’t’ bother to find out where they are at.
And we need to take that time. We need to find out where they are so that our message shows them the love of Christ, not just describes it. As Peter, one of the original models for saying things before his mind engaged warns us, we need to give the reason for our hope with gentleness, and with respect.
Of course, it doesn’t help that as while I write this post, I am having to live its lessons out. But isn’t that the point of this? That God’s words and those who went before can help me deal with those in life I would love to correct, and correct quickly and forcefully?
They need to know the love and mercy of God, but I do as well. I can never lose sight of that fact, and zeal can be tempered by love, and our knowledge by humility, acknowledging that all knowledge and wisdom comes from God, and should be used to glorify Him
Lord, give us hearts that care for those who stray from you but give us the peace, the wisdom and patience to go alongside them and show them you love and mercy, which is at work sanctifying us. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 889-892). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 Bodily fitness has a certain value, but spiritual fitness is essential both for this present life and for the life to come. There is no doubt about this at all, and Christians should remember it. It is because we realise the paramount importance of the spiritual that we labour and struggle. We place our whole confidence in the living God, the saviour of all men, and particularly of those who believe in him. These convictions should be the basis of your instruction and teaching. 1 Timothy 4:8 (Phillips NT)
282 Paradox: Sanctity is more attainable than learning, but it is easier to be a scholar than to be a saint.
I have been having the same conversation recently with a couple of friends. Both were asking about how Christians growth.
And as I talked with them a question started to grow in my mind. Do we even know what spiritual growth looks like?
If we cannot define it, how can we make it a priority in our own lives, and how can we lead others and help them grow and mature in their faith? As I look at my mail, and the various Bible Studies, Sermon Series, and other materials offered for sale to help me guide and shepherd my congregation, it is rare than the material is geared to help them grow, at least grow in more than knowledge.
For the record, I would use two words to describe spiritual maturity, dependence, and expectation. ( Or if you want to use “churchy” words, faith and hope. )
Dependence is simply trusting in God. It starts with trusting Him to save us from our sins and thereby giving us eternal life. But our dependence upon Him only begins there. We need to depend on Him in every moment of the day. We need to depend on Him when everything is… screwed up. We need to depend on Him when change occurs, or when He calls us to take on some mission, or reach out to people.
There isn’t a part of our lives where we don’t need to depend on God. To trust Him that all things work out for good for those who Love Him, who are called according to His purpose. This is especially true as we try and deal with our failures, our brokenness, our sin.
Expectation is what the other measure would be. What do we expect God to do in our lives, and what do we expect afterward Do we expect Him in our lives, do we expect Him to keep His promises, do we look forward to the day when He comes again? Do we base our lives on these expectations?
Those are the areas we need to grow in, to mature in, if we are to be spiritually mature.
It seems counter-intuitive, for most see maturity linked with freedom or independence. But with spirituality, true maturity comes from realizing that God is God, and we are His people. That means we expect Him to care for us, even as He cared for Jesus. That means we realize He is wiser and has promised to care for us, and depending on that care.
That is why being holy is so challenging, even though it is so easily attainable.
What area of life is the hardest to trust God with?
What expectations should you have of God, that you don’t think of often?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 747-749). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42 Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.“ Matthew 10:41-42 (MSG)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35 And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36 I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38 And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39 40 Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)
617 You found yourself with two books in Russian, and you felt an enormous desire to learn that language. You imagined the beauty of dying like a grain of wheat in that nation, now so arid, which in time will yield great harvests of wheat. I think that those ambitions are good. But, for now, dedicate yourself to the small task and great mission of every day, to your study, your work, your apostolate, and, above all, to your formation. This, since you still need to do so much pruning, is neither a less heroic nor a less beautiful task. (1)
Back when I was in college, my dream was to be a great preacher, someone whose words would inspire thousands, not because of me, but because they would point ot Jesus, and bring people peace. Or I would think of teaching pastors on the mission field or doing many incredible things for the kingdom of God. (the examples of the speakers in chapel didn’t help this – they all were “superstars” in ministry who urged us to do great things for the kingdom.)
Looking back, my great desire to win the world for Jesus didn’t always include the guys I lived with or the guys across the hall who we often tangled with over silly immature things.
I will be honest, some days when I think my ministry is in a rut, or too taxing, I wonder about newer greener fields of harvest, with more workers and more opportunities to see God at work. For a moment, I forget that God planted me here for a reason. Then a trauma pops up, and I am back to work.
I guess that is one of the blessings of the place where I serve now – they keep me so busy I can’t plan grandiose visions and get too caught up on the harvest is greater in another field. Our community has come together where we do cry with anyone who cries, we do express joy with anyone who joy. And this means we know when someone is thirsty, we know when someone is broken… (including me)
So I understand what St Josemaria is saying about vision, what he is saying about the call we believe we have in the future. SOmetimes that vision is truly from God, sometimes those dreams and desires are sincere and possible.
But they can’t get in the way of people you are called to serve today, the people God has put in your life to give hope to them (and therefore to you ) today.
See that one there, he needs a cup of cold water. See her over there, she needs someone to hold her hand, and help her be still and know that God is her God. See that one, they need…..
And God has appointed you and I to be there for them. This is His vision for today…..even as He’s given you dreams of the future…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2610-2615). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for a day just before the beginning of Lent
25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)
938 Try to live in such a way that you can voluntarily deprive yourself of the comfort and ease you wouldn’t approve of in the life of another man of God. Remember, you are the grain of wheat of which the Gospel speaks. If you don’t bury yourself and die, there will be no harvest.
As I read these words, my thoughts wander from thinking of the mansions of the mega church preachers, to considering many of the luxuries I have. From (self)-righteous indignation to guilt and shame.
Added to the latter is a number of people asking me, as they do every lent, about whether it is necessary to give up, or fast from something for the days of lent.Some people want to give up bad habits, or things they’ve been told are good for you. Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Facebook, Talking about politics. Others sacrifice a meal, and even use the money saved to give to others in need.
And then, as Lent brings about Easter, the fasting ends, the habits return, the sacrifices stop and comfort returns.
What if the change that we seek in our Lenten time were to become a lifelong change? What if the sacrifices became our way fo life? What if we chose to give up something that impeded our relationship with God, and the sacrificed caused us to depend on Him more?
Which brings up a question – do we plan and try to give up the things that we know distract us from God? Is this even a desire in our lives? Or do we simply go, day to day, stuck in those habits, feeding those desires, and allowing ourselves to burn out spiritually?
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, can we grow in our devotion to God? Can we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual growth? Can we go to those who care for us spiritually and ask for direction and prayer as well, confident of God working through the gifts He gave us for this very purpose?
This may not be as easy as pledging to give up steak on Friday, but it will benefit us… of this I am sure.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2177-2180). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 On the Sabbath we went out of the city to the riverside, where we thought there would be a place where Jews gathered for prayer. We sat down and talked to the women who gathered there. Acts 16:13 (TEV)
14 And this Good News about the Kingdom will be preached through all the world for a witness to all people; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (TEV)
799 What amazes you seems quite natural to me: God has sought you out right in the midst of your work. That is how he sought the first, Peter and Andrew, John and James, beside their nets, and Matthew, sitting in the customhouse. And—wonder of wonders—Paul, in his eagerness to destroy the seeds of Christianity!
St. Josemaria’s words this morning about Paul get me to thinking.
Paul encountered God on the road, as he was journeying to do damage to the church. Paul would then go where he knew to go to persecute, but with a different purpose. Now he was there to bless, to share the mercy, the love, the very glory of God. The knowledge once used to persecute those who trusted in God was now transformed, and being used to bless them, and enlarge their numbers.
This is the work of God.
People don’t seek Him out as much as He seeks them out.
I’ve seen this in my own life, the very thing that torments me, that causes anxiety and pain, that has required so many surgeries over the years (Nost to change batteries) and odd hospital trips had caused me to often me angry with God, to question “why me”, to doubt.
It has also led me to be able to minister to others, to be able to seek them out, even when withdrawn. It has enabled me to minister to the nurses and occasionally the doctors who are over worked, overwhelmed and dealing with their own anxieties, their own problems, their own challenges. They needed someone there, and God brought me there, and everything seemed to work right.
It is amazing to see God encounter us, and then lead us to encounter others. It sometimes seems far beyond coincidence, and it is, these are divine appointments. SO don’t sweat the change of plans, He’s directing your day!
So look for God in your day, and look for those he’s sent you too…
Rejoice the Lord is with you!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1840-1843). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 “Worship no god but me. 4 “Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5 Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals. Exodus 20:3-5 (TEV)
1 The LORD said to me, “Go again and show your love for a woman who is committing adultery with a lover. You must love her just as I still love the people of Israel, even though they turn to other gods and like to take offerings of raisins to idols.”
Hosea 3:1 (TEV)
441 You are hurt by your neighbor’s lack of charity toward you. Think how God must be hurt by your lack of charity—of love—toward him!
I have sat with many people who are angry, who blame God for the pain and brokenness in their lives. Living with such pain, they get mad at God; they will claim it is His fault, or that He has abandoned them, they strike out at Him.
My temptation is to try an answer for God before they are ready to hear the answer or defend the God who needs no defense. Thankfully, He is patient with me, because He is not willing for them to perish.
And I think we need to see that, this God who is patient, this God who is merciful, this God whose goal is reconciliation and restoration.
We need to see a God who hurts when He is betrayed, who hurts when people are unfaithful, and who embraces that pain to provide an opportunity for those who hurt Him to experience again His incredible love, His limitless mercy, and the abundance of peace.
Yeah, we can hurt God, we can turn our back on Him. He hurts when our pain our anxiety, and the pressures of life seem to drive us away from Him. When we hurt so much, we ignore His presence, and refuse to let Him comfort us. He is there, hurting with us, trying to comfort us anyway, trying to heal us, trying to get us to listen, to be still and know He is God.
So how do we minister on behalf of a hurting God, to people who are hurt? As He does, with great patience, comforting them, allowing them to know they have a refuge, a place to rest, and when they are ready, revealing that to be no less that God Himself.
He is with them, He is with us, AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1086-1087). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought for the weekend:
16 He replied to him, “A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many. 17 When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited, ‘Come, everything is now ready.’ 18 But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves. The first said to him, ‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 The servant went and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out and still there is room.’ 23 The master then ordered the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled. 24 For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.’ ” Luke 14:16-24 NABRE
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 2:2-3 (NLT)
I’ve got to work! I’ve got responsibilities! I’ve got family obligations! (Though what obligation a newlywed has to his wife… or wait – nevermind!)
Following Christ doesn’t have a simple agenda. It can’t be planned out a month in advance. There are times it means that after a hard day’s work, you spend the night helping a neighbor, or helping (with love) to that obstinate, pain in the ass relative.
There will be long days, days where plans are changed, days where things are moved around. Days where our devotions may not happen when we want. There might even be a day when we have to miss church, not to go to a ball game, but to help a hurting person.
The temptation is just to skip it that day, to pick up tomorrow what we should have done today, and just push it all back a day. Been there, done that. One year – my read through the Bible – which should have gone November 1 to October 31st, well – I gave up mid-February as I was already a month behind! Guilt and shame set in, because I wasn’t giving God the proper response He deserved. I wasn’t a good disciple, and I wondered if I was so weak, why would people follow me as a pastor?
But I didn’t understand discipleship – and I didn’t really understand the purpose of devotional time, and that misunderstanding gave me the ability to set it aside, to declare it inconvenient. An inconvenience somehow excused the necessity, because the ministry was more important than devotions, or work projects were, or family and family…uhm… obligations.
I realized sometime in that year that I missed the reading, and the liturgy I entered into every morning. I realized I didn’t “do” devotions to prove that I was devoted to God! (Sometimes we do it to prove to Him, and sometimes just to prove it to ourselves.) I can’t prove my devotion, and too be honest, as long as was my motivation, I would falter and fail.
Devotional time is not about proving our devotion as if providing us improved us. I need my devotional time – because it proves His devotion to me. I need to know that, I need to know the love that won’t let me go, I need to be convinced that I can run to His arms, depending on a mercy that promises to forgive my sin, and cleanse me from the sin of a world that could crush me.
This is my time with my Father, to hear of His love, His mercy, His desire to rescue me from the brokenness of my life.
And so, if life made me miss, I get back and make it up, savoring the little steps I take with Him, as He points out a little more of the height, the depth. The width and breadth of His love for me, and for my people, and for the community of humanity.
I need this time, which comes all together as I write a blog, or a sermon, or just worship and pray. I desperately need it, so much so I can’t count it inconvenient to miss, I consider it theft, and do what I can to get what God would give me back….
You too need a time like this, not just to read, not just to pray, but to realize the blessing of God; that is in your life. No, that is your life.
Start simple – and as you begin to be in awe – add a little more….. and become hungry to know more and more of this Lord of life.
For this is His mercy… the mercy we sinners cry out for…
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
“There are some who pass through life as through a tunnel, without ever understanding the splendour, the security and the warmth of the sun of Faith” (1)
As I read this little quote this morning, my mind goes back to the study I did yesterday, for Sunday’s sermon on the gospel reading which is found in St. John 5:1-18. It is the story of the invalid man -whom Jesus heals, after Jesus asks him, “do you want to be made whole?” An incredible story!
What struck me while I did my research was the comments and references to the passages throughout church history. Early on, the church Father’s talked about how this story represents Christ coming to us, and even before the man is ready to face the change of a new life, Christ gives him that new life. It is a picture of the miracle down to each of us in our baptism.
Then I moved into the reformation, and the enlightenment. The use of the passage changed, now it became a source for “doctrine”- especially regarding the divinity and humanity of Jesus. ( Albeit I have less “sermons” and letters to churches from that era). There are a couple of exceptions- such as Newman. But for the most part, in order to focus on the deep theology, they overlook the incarnation of Christ into this man’s life. They miss His passion, and the healing- which is a type of the very healing Christ does in each of our lives. We can miss Christ coming to us, we can miss His presence, His healing, and the peace and security Jesus brings us, who dwell in pain.
I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting to, in this little quote. Do we see Jesus – do we see the beauty of His love, and the beauty of the relationship that He builds with us, as we learn that we can trust Him, and how much we can trust Him. Or do we see the minutae – the stuff about Christ, the things that are beyond our comprehension – not because we are so small, but compared to knowing Him, they are! I can’t think of any of the unknown things of Christianity, the stuff that academic theologians often get distracted by, that is more glorious, more profound, than what has been revealed to us, in Christ.
And that’s the point.
So for today, think, meditate, and be still and know – all the thoughts, the meditations, the knowledge focused on knowing the Lord Jesus, who has come into your life to make you whole…..
(1) Escriva, Josemaria
- It’s Not About Calling the Qualified, or Even Qualifying the Called… it’s about revealing Christ. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- I Have Decided, to Follow Jesus! (Controversy? Not so much…) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Hear His Voice, Know He Knows You, and Follow Him! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Us and Them…. both granted by God repentance to life! (justifiedandsinner.com)