For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NLT2)
6 “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah 56:6-7 (NLT2)
In times of extraordinary crisis ordinary measures will not suffice. The world lives in such a time of crisis. Christians alone are in a position to rescue the perishing. We dare not settle down to try to live as if things were “normal.” Nothing is normal while sin and lust and death roam the world, pouncing upon one and another till the whole population has been destroyed.
Paul says, “While we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11). Thus, according to his view, the passion and resurrection of Christ are going on all the time. They are always present and not limited to an historical moment. It was rather an historical moment which introduced the eternal values of the cross and resurrection into the whole of time. We participate in Christ’s divine life through baptism and the other sacraments. As a consequence, we must learn how to express the risen life of Jesus rather than our false selves in our conduct and relationships.
We also believe, teach, and confess that no church should condemn another because the one has fewer or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other has, when otherwise there is unity with the other in teaching and all the articles of faith and in the proper use of the holy sacraments,
I’ve heard people talking about the “new normal” in relation to both COVID and the price of gas. Just get used to things being broken, and hardships, for life is different now. Get used to the new morality, or at least how it is being re-defined.
And the church hears these things and marshals its people to go to war at the ballot box, and on Social Media. I’ve even heard that such times will find us allied with folk we shouldn’t be allied with, for politics and apparently faith makes strange bedfellows.
And once again the Church has entered the wrong war, and is using the wrong weapons.
Because of that, it is losing the war for control over public opinion, and far, far more importantly, we aren’t even in the battle for people’s souls. We are letting them be destroyed, and dare I say, the church is even helping by destroying people’s faith.
Tozer is correct, and we must realize that we always exist in crisis. Add to that the idea of Keating, that our way of battle is not promoting ourselves, but dying to self, that Jesus may be seen, instead of us. That those who are baptized become the evidence of Christ’s death and resurrection. That must be our strategy, that must be our missional value.
How about this for a mission statement for a church?
Making manifest Jesus’ love, by dying to self!
This is how we see our real enemies, sin, self-centeredness, and Satan defeated.
Our weapons are simply, the early Lutherans identified them as all that is necessary for church unity.
Teaching people what they need to know about Jesus, and sharing Him through Baptism, Absolution and the Lord’s Supper.
Each of these sacraments helps us see how we died to self and have risen in Christ. Each shows us the love and mercy of God. They do so for they are commissioned by Jesus to deliver that promise.
You want the world to change? You want everyone to do what is right? You want to win the war we are in?
Know Jesus, experience His love poured out on you… share that victory with others, seeing them freed from what Christ has freed you- not from – but to… to share in the glorious love of God.
For that … should be what we consider normal.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
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), 223.
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), 516.
“Pay attention, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget you. 22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” Isaiah 44:21-22 (NLT2)
For if Christ by the touch of his most innocent flesh has hallowed all waters, yes, even all creation, through baptism, how much more has he by the same touch of his most innocent flesh and blood sanctified every form of death, all suffering and loss, every curse and shame for the baptism of the Spirit, or the baptism of blood!
Perhaps we can understand Jesus’ identity as the Son of God more clearly by thinking of him in terms of the revelation of the Trinity. That revelation affirms what the mystics of all religions have intuited: that the ultimate nature of infinite being is love. God, the ultimate reality, the absolute, in a way beyond our comprehension, is a community of persons. As the Father has life in himself and pours it into his Son, and they rejoice in it together in the procession of the Holy Spirit, so the Son who has life in himself, shares the divine life with the whole human family through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and invites everyone to the banquet of eternal life.
There are days I need to go back, and think through who God is. If I don’t understand that, there is no way I get through life.
Buddha supposedly said, “Life is suffering.” In the 1980s, someone revised it a little, saying, “Life’s a *itch, and then you die.” Without knowing God, without knowing HIs heart, these fatalistic statements are all there is….
But if I can process who Jesus is, how the God-man dynamic works, I can’t say I understand, but I begin to know… God wants me to know He loves you… and even me. As I realize that God, that Jesus came to us… with one purpose, to gather us to the Father. That here, HIs cross provides that point were everything heals, become holy, becomes healthy.
Theology doesn’t unlock every deep thought, every mystery of the faith. But it gives me enough understanding where I can see the importance of what is experienced. Luther’s comment about baptism not just make us holy, but making holy even every minute of suffering and death is like that. Christ’s death changes it all…
And allowed us to be returned to God…
He never forgot about us. He could not!
ANd on a Monday, this is the message I need to experience…. even if I can’t understand how or why…
Jesus is God, He’s come… and therefore, you are never forgotten!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 142.
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), 220.
1 “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or raise his voice in public. 3 He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. 4 He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.” Isaiah 42:1-4 (NLT2)
How does this come to pass? Surely, it comes to pass when you hear that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has by his most holy touch consecrated and hallowed all sufferings, even death itself, has blessed the curse, and has glorified shame and enriched poverty so that death is now a door to life, the curse a fount of blessing, and shame the mother of glory. How, then, can you be so hardhearted and ungrateful as not to long for and love all manner of sufferings now that these have been touched and bathed by Christ’s pure and holy flesh and blood and thus have become holy, harmless, wholesome, blessed, and full of joy for you?
Oh, how can we get men and women around us to realize that God Almighty, before the beginning of the world, loved them, and thought about them, planning redemption and salvation and forgiveness?
When divine love overflows from the interior life of the Trinity into our hearts, it immediately confronts our false selves, and we experience conflict. A struggle arises between this pure goodness—sheer giving—and the ingrained possessiveness, aggressiveness, and self-seeking which are so characteristic of us in our present condition. Thus, at the very heart of life is the challenge of sacrifice; of dying to our present condition in order to move to a higher level of life. This can only happen by letting go of the false self. Suffering and death are not enemies, but doors leading to new levels of knowledge and of love
Tozer’s question (in green) annoys me.
Primarily because the church today, including me and mine, does not ask it enough. THere are days I am not sure we care enough to ask it.
We need to ask it—and we need to find the answer.
My thought is that we need to find the answer first. We see signs of it in both Luther’s and Keating’s writings from my devotions this morning. They both talk about the impact of Christ’s presence and love in our lives. That as Jesus touches our wounds, our brokenness, they take on the same rich holiness that His wounds did on the cross, and at the resurrection.
And seeing His glory all of life and even those pains and torments become blessings.
For through them, we reach out to Him in our despair, and He lifts us up, and heals us. They become contacts points for His knowing His presence, for we don’t look for it at other times. This allows us to sacrrifice our pain, our resentment, our thirst for justice, all that which feeds our basic desires for self-preservation.
The freedom that follows is that which Isaiah prophesied would happen because of God’s chosen Servant, whom we know is Jesus. That prophesy’s subject is what Tozer wants to know how to communicate.
I think the only way is to make the church so aware of what it has… for a church that knows God thinks about them, cares for them and loves them.
If we know that, we can’t stop talking about Him, trying to help others receive the blessings of seeing HIs presence revealed to them.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 141–142.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
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), 218.
15 But what could I say? For he himself sent this sickness. Now I will walk humbly throughout my years because of this anguish I have felt. 16 Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! 17 Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins. 18 For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness. 19 Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next. Isaiah 38:15-19 (NLT2)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ lays hold on us with all the authority of sovereign obligation. It says that the Christian church is to go and make disciples—to go and make disciples of all nations. The moral obligation of the resurrection of Christ is the missionary obligation—the responsibility and privilege of personally carrying the message, of interceding for those who go, of being involved financially in the cause of world evangelization
“Pray! For hope no longer lies in arms but in God. If anybody defends us against the Turk,18 the poor children who pray the Our Father will. Our wall and firearms and all the princes will probably leave the Turk untouched. I told the master builders too, ‘Dear Sirs, why are you spending so much time building? Unless prayers build a wall that declares that angels surround you with protection, your wall is worthless.
As I am pursuing a doctoral degree in worship, talking to people has been interesting.
They think this is a music degree, that it has to do primarily with the instruments I play, and the songs I have written.
My breakfast with a friend this morning was an experience of worship as much as when I pick up my guitar and play with our liturgical band on Sunday morning. As we talked about the brokenness we’ve witnessed (and went at the side of others!) As we talked about where God has guided us on very unique tracks to where we serve, him in the public sector, me in the church, there was a sense of what Hezekiah talked of in the scripture passage from Isaiah above.
We’ve experienced it all, the need to be humbled, the oppressive anguish, the discipline (corrective action) taken, I have had the challenges to health, he’s witnessed others experience them, and we’ve seen God deliver us from it all.
Sharing that is worship. Appreciating, even being in awes of how God has guided us is praising and glorifying God. I left a little less tired, a little more able to expect to see God’s work today, a little more determined to pray before the actions I know are coming, and less time building the walls which cannot protect me.
Tozer talks of a sovereign obligation to be missional—that because of the resurrection, we must share the hope born from experiencing God. I agree there is a need for that action, but I don’t think it is as much a moral obligation as we think of obligations, something done in repayment of something that has benefited us. Rather, it is as a subconscious spiritual compulsion to love those we are sent into the midst of, for surely God has done sent us into these places.
Surely singing is part of this, how this attitude is formed, how it buries itself deep in our sub-conscious, along with hearing the word of God and receiving the sacraments. The Holy Spirit uses all of this to form us in a way where the life of worship is just part of who we are. We struggle with it of course, allowing sin and the brokenness we observe to distract us temporarily us from our life in Jesus. Even then, God is at work, delivering us, calling us back, and getting our attention.
And because of that, with Hezekiah and all who have been re-born in baptism and faith, we worship Him. In sanctuaries, and our homes, and even over breakfast at Polly’s.
God is good.. and He is with us!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 419.
For the LORD is our judge, our lawgiver, and our king.
He will care for us and save us. Isaiah 33:22 NLT
Lord, we’re too selfish, busy doing our own thing. Give us a spirit of love, of unselfishness, of willingness to pay any price for the sake of the gospel. Do it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Every Christian, by virtue of the grace of baptism, has the vocation to oneness with the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Everyone needs some kind of practice in order to accomplish this vocation. Obviously, a rule of life cannot be as detailed for those living in the world as it is for people in a monastery. But everyone has to build his or her own kind of enclosure as far as one’s duties allow, by setting aside a certain amount of time every day for prayer and spiritual reading
I wish we all were the evidence that God answered Tozer’s prayer, that every person in every church would pay any price for the sake of the gospel.
That happens when revival, true revival, occurs. There is no more manipulation or guilt or system that has tremendous results. There is simply not enough time during revival to study what happens and duplicate it!
But revival has a cost.
It costs to develop a heart that does things for Jesus’ sake, and not to “gain” something from Him.
When a person finds themselves made one with God in Christ, that price has been paid, the investment has been made as God marks them with His name – as He takes “possession” of us. He is our judge, lawgiver and king.
THe problem is when people hear those titles; they think of God’s condemnation, and the legalistic tendencies that some church members and pastors, and that God wants to ruin and rule each of our lives. They see that as the “cost” and an extremely high cost at that!
But that is a horrid understanding of what it means for God to be those things for us. We must understand those words, in view of His mission, expressed in the next line-He will care for us and save us!
That happens when we hear Keating’s encouragement to spend time with God. To take the time out to just sit and listen and hear the Spirit tell you of Christ’s love. It is not law to spend that time, we need it! It helps us become the people who love like Jesus, who show mercy like Jesus,
We need time to be one with God, to dance with Him. To get to know this God who loves us, so that we can truly experience our vocation as being one with Him!
In doing so, we finally begin to understand who we are… the children of God.
…the children God cares for…
And then revival happens, and churches truly grow as people and granted repentance and are transformed in Baptism. (see Ez. 36:25ff)
Lord, help us to desire to spend the time with You we need! AMEN!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
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), 215.
An Inventory Our Blessings
What Means Something
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12–14, 2:18–26
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the Grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus demonstrate to you that your life, in Christ, has meaning!
- A man at the end of his wits!
Solomon, the wisest man in the world’s history, had a severe problem. He is the Teacher of all of Israel, as well as the ruler of that country at its absolute greatest point.
He has riches; he has power; he has a level of wisdom that is beyond anything anyone has ever imagined. The leaders from all over the world come to him for advice.
And He is exhausted, mentally, physically and, most the critical—spiritually.
He is at the ends of his wits, hear His own words from our Old Testament reading:
So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world. Ecclesiastes 2:20 New Living Translation
I am not anywhere near Solomon’s intellect, nor do I run a nation. But I’ve known the despair he is discussing. I’ve known it when I was in the administration at Pepperdine. I’ve known it pursuing my Ph.D., and during and after covid, as I look at the church at large, and at Concordia, I’ve known it.
And I’ve been delivered from that despair, time after time.
- Does Devotion to a cause mean anything?
There are two different issues that cause Solomon to fall into this deep despair.
The first he described in verses 13-14 of chapter 1,
13 I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. 14 I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.
I don’t care how smart someone is, or they think they are, there are limits to a person’s intellect, and to the point of which they can apply that intellect.
We hate that we are limited, but it is what it is. We are now different than Adam and Eve, wanting to know it all, and why!
When we let that frustrate us, when we let pride mix with curiosity, it drives us to know as much as God knows, rather than trusting Him.
The effect when it becomes an issue of pride is devastating, for it is sinful, a lack of trust in God. And when we declare it is not worth it, when we declare it meaningless, we dive into despair!
- Does Hard Work mean anything?
The second issue Solomon has is with his hard work. He hated it, for He could not see a long-range benefit. He wrote,
18 I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. 19 And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! Ecclesiastes 2:18-19
Have you ever felt like that?
It is as if Solomon knew his heir would shatter the Kingdom by listening to foolish advisors! That is exactly what happened!
Solomon’s son would shatter the promise given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. That those actions would lead to captivity.
Something you worked hard on, invested your life in, wanted to see come to fruition, only to realize that you won’t be able to make it continue after you are gone…
That insight can cause great despair, and as often as Solomon says life is meaningless, he complains about the difficulty of the job even more than He complains about how meaningless it all is!
And there are days like that—maybe it isn’t because you are about to retire, or move on, maybe it is that things at work, or at home aren’t working the way you thought they would, and you wonder if anything will ever change…
And it doesn’t.
Without God’s presence, everything we do, everything we think and ponder, is meaningless. With Solomon, we move from despair to hating where we are in life.
For our attempts to understand leave us without knowing what matters, and our work only makes a difference for a moment, if that.
- Recognize What God is doing and will do!
Two weeks ago, we heard the gospel story about Martha and Mary, and that Mary was drawn to listen to Jesus, and it was good, what had meaning.
Martha was moving towards Solomon’s despair. Whereas Mary was content, receiving the grace that Jesus poured out with every word.
Solomon comes to that conclusion in verses 24 and 25.
“24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?” Ecclesiastes 2:24-25
He figured it out!
You can’t enjoy anything apart from God.
You cannot find joy or meaning In life, without Christ in your life!
This means that the answer to finding life’s meaning, and joy in that life is revealed
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT2)
In that same way, Jesus promises this at the end of Matthew’s gospel. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NLT2)
Jesus came and lived and died and rose for one purpose, to live with us, both now and for eternity!
As we sit in His presence, he gives our minds something to think, to dwell on that means something—we are loved.
We are cared for…
Jesus does so much for us! From cleansing us of sin and its companions of guilt and shame. That includes our times where we forget to trust Him and enter seasons of despair. Or when our pride crashes our lives spectacularly. God cleans us up.
But that is only the beginning.
God makes every part of our lives holy. That means He sets it all aside for a purpose. He gives it meaning. And that meaning is the key—to walk with Him.
That is when our thoughts have meaning, because God is involved in them with us, sharing the moments, sharing the time.
HE makes it all happen; He gives us all the meaning and the joy that goes with it.
That is what the Christian faith is all about, helping us realize what God has done to become an intimate part of our life.
For that makes our life have all the meaning there is in our lives.
And then that life has meaning and incredible joy, and a peace that passes all understanding, even as Jesus guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Three different times, I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Co 12:8–10. NLT
When the doctor’s (Luther) wife exclaimed, “How can people be so wicked and defile themselves with such sin!” the doctor said, “Ah, dear Katy, people don’t pray,” and then he added, “I think if God had commanded women to take on every man who happened along and in like manner commanded men to take every woman who came by—in short, if things were the opposite of what they are—people would earnestly have sighed for the institution of marriage.
Our lofty idealism would argue that all Christians should be perfect, but a blunt realism forces us to admit that perfection is rare even among the saints. The part of wisdom is to accept our Christian brothers and sisters for what they are rather than for what they should be.…
The Gift of Understanding reveals what is hidden in the major truths of Christian doctrine. The Gift of Understanding perfects, deepens, and illumines faith as to the meaning of revealed truth, adding new depths to the mystery to which we consent. For instance, it could be some aspect of the Holy Trinity or the greatness of God. It could be the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It could be the infinite mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In other words, it is not merely the affirmation of something we believe and assent to. A characteristic of the Gift of Understanding is that it provides a kind of living experience of the mystery.
Luther’s wife and Tozer would have gotten along well! Both of them could voice their frustration with people who don’t mature in Christ, who still struggle, and sometimes embrace the sin that defiles them. Tozer had to remind himself and the church that Christians aren’t perfect, not even the holiest of us.
This doesn’t mean that we use some trite phrase to excuse the sin and unrighteousness that we should have set aside! “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven,” is one of them, which seems to allow for Christians to have the freedom to go and sin some more!
Nor do I think we should use what Luther jokes about, a kind of reverse psychology/spirituality that encourages people to feast on their sins till they make them sick to their souls. That didn’t work when my dad tried to teach me the evils of drinking, it won’t work with sin either. Luther’s point is that it wasn’t the sin, it was that whatever is labelled good – whatever is encouraged, our sinful nature will rebel against it!
For me, the frustration of this is one of my weakest points. I am not the most patient person, and I hate seeing myself or others endure the consequences of our own sin and sin nature. TO watch this over and over, to watch people make bad choices for themselves over and over, leaves me dry, worn out, burnet out.
Oddly enough, that is when God works the best.
That is when those blessed sacramental, incarnational moments occur.
It is when people begin to live in the mysteries, especially the sacramental ones, where they experience the love and acceptance of God so profoundly that they (and their pastor/friend) are in awe, and lose the ability to talk.
Those are the moments when we realize how sufficient, how effective, how precious the grace of God is.
I only wish I could say with Paul that I always treasure my weakness, that when I experience them I know something astonishing is about to take place. I wish I could say that, and it is a lesson that is being taught to me, over and over and over…
And Jesus never fails to amaze me, as those moments that impact others come out of moments of my most profound ineptness, weakness, and sense of failure. In those moments, when God’s grace is so manifest – the spiritual growth is amazing as its lack was disturbing.
He is here! He is God! He is guiding and caring for us!
and in that, I can rejoice, and find rest, and praise Him.
I pray the same for you! And then I will rejoice in what God is doing in our lives. That is our moments of weakness, and in our moments of frustration with other’s weakness, we can remember God is at work… and He is creating masterpieces of our lives.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 415.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
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), 209.
15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. Psalm 17:15 (NKJV)
18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)
Against both of these errors we believe, teach, and confess unanimously that Christ is our righteousness neither according to his divine nature alone nor according to his human nature alone. On the contrary, the whole Christ, according to both natures, is our righteousness, solely in his obedience that he rendered his Father as both God and a human being, an obedience unto death.
Then there are the men who are good but not great, and we may thank God that there are so many of them, being grateful not that they failed to achieve greatness but that by the grace of God they managed to acquire plain goodness.…
Every pastor knows this kind—the plain people who have nothing to recommend them but their deep devotion to their Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they all unconsciously display. Without these the churches as we know them in city, town and country could not carry on. These are the first to come forward when there is work to be done and the last to go home when there is prayer to be made. They are not known beyond the borders of their own parish because there is nothing dramatic in faithfulness or newsworthy in goodness, but their presence is a benediction wherever they go.
Yesterday was one of those days I am glad I am a pastor. Not because of anything I did, but simply because I saw everyday people ministering to others as Jesus would have done. 5 different situations, 4 of them in my church, and one of them in a church I am trying to help, showed me the kind of people that Tozer’s quote describes.
People in ordinary walks of life, who blessed others, and thought nothing of it. Their deep trust in God resulted in a “unconscious display” of the Holy Spirit’s work! THere wasn’t 1000 conversions, or a hospital filled with people who were healed. A young couple were helped with some challenges, a handicapped lady found peace during a medical procedure, a young man was encouraged in his preparation for seminary, an church elder asked for help in caring for their pastor, I see it in a daughter, who honors her mom by caring for her in ways beyond description, and a grandmother, energized and active in her two grandchildren’s lives. There are more stories, none of them “heroic” yet all of them living a life that is being transformed by the Holy Spirit as they look to Christ, as they depend on His work in declaring them righteous and holy. They are my version of Hebrews 11, the group we can talk about by saying, “by faith they….”
This is what it means for Jesus to be fully God and fully man, He has the ability to connect the sacred and the secular, the holy and profane, so that there can be this kind of change. He makes us righteous, He makes us Holy, He works through us!
These people are the church, they don’t ask “What Would Jesus Do?” but are evidence of “What did Jesus do!” His ministry thorough them is obvious, because of what God is doing in them.
It is a wonder to behold, and therefore, I rejoice.
I need more days like yesterday… or maybe, I just need to open my eyes more
God is work in wondrously common ways, through people who simply trust in Him. I pray I see His work in and through you, as you see His work all around you!
Article 3: The Epitome of the Formula of Concord; 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), 495.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015). 7/27/2022
Thoughts to draw us closer to Jesus on the cross
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:56-57 NLT
The man who does not prefer the evil of death to the evil of sin loves God his Father but little. God has ordained that this evil be brought to an end by death, and that death be the minister of life and righteousness.
The voice of unbelief says, “Yes, I’m a believer. I believe the Bible. I don’t like those modernists, liberals and modern scientists who deny the Bible. I would not do that for the world. I believe in God, and I believe that God will bless.” That is, He will bless at some other time, in some other place and some other people. Those are three sleepers that bring the work of God to a halt. We are believers and we can quote the creed with approval. We believe it, but we believe that God will bless some other people, some other place, some other time—but not now, not here and not us.…
If we allow the gloomy voice of unbelief to whisper to us that God will bless some other time but not now, some other place but not here, some other people but not us, we might as well turn off the lights because nobody will get anywhere.…
Some may look at the title of the blog and expect I will try and condemn all the sinners out there.
It is to you that I write this, wondering why you have given up the true battle against sin. The battle that was won at the cross, where every peson created
Especially those who commit “those” sins, the ones that we bash because they aren’t our sins.
Sin is sin, and it has the power of the covenant law behind it, and all who sin are accursed. Every single one of us deserves condemnation.
Which is why Luther would prefer to deal with death that sin. At least death is temporary!
Because of Christ, the evils of death and dying are temporary. There is something that is free of sin on the other side, and it frees us from the guilt and shame on this side, too.
For the conservative – that is our only victory against those who deny scripture. Our victories aren’t won by arguing against them, winning battles of logic, or at least engaging in it. Those aren’t victories. They are all losses, because of souls that walk away not knowing the mercy of God, and not seeing it in action.
I think we have taken the attitude that Tozer describes, it isn’t time for revival, or it is happening over there in Africa, and over there in South America. We’ve believed the lie that we are in a post-Church culture, and that we cannot win the battle against evil. And so we turn off the lights, or at least encourage others to turn off the lights, and give to those places who might have a chance.
To fight this, the church has to recover the vision of Christ, who came into a world that was totally in darkness… 400 years without a prophet. An empty temple, and only the illusion of being the people of God. It is time, in every era, it is the place, for God would redeem us all, and this gospel is for you and your household, your extreme legalist neighbors and the liberal progressive ones as well.
It is not time to shot out the lights. It is the time to reflect the light of Christ, which will shatter the darkness…
It is time to rescue people from the curse of sin.
It is the time to see the Spirit poured out here and now.
It is time..
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 130.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me.
5 Let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones. Let me rejoice in the joy of your people;
let me praise you with those who are your heritage. Psalm 106:4-5 NLT
The ninth Fruit of the Spirit is Self-control. Self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is not the domination of our will over our emotions. It is rather our awareness of God’s abiding presence and is the result of the infusion of God’s steadfast love. Hence our former compulsive reaching out for security, affection and esteem, power and status symbols ceases.
The others, however, who are not so callous and dissolute but would like to be good, should not absent themselves (from the Eucharist), even though in other respects they are weak and frail. As St. Hilary has also said, “Unless a person has committed such a sin that he has to be expelled from the congregation and has forfeited the name of Christian, he should not exclude himself from the sacrament,” lest he deprive himself of life.
Keating’s words are powerful, for they recognize the truth.
If self control is a matter of will-power, I might as well give up now. There are too many points where self control is overwhelmed. The desires we have will eventually break us down and overwhelm us. Hunger and Lust are two examples – if we feed them to often, or not enough, they will dominate us, wanting to be fed, or fed more. Other desires include a need for recognition, a need to be valued. That is where security comes from – the position of having meaning, knowing we are needed in a place, by those around us.
Simply put, if we are needed, our place in life is secure.
The problem is when we feel we aren’t needed, then all our desires run rampant, and we become open to addictions of every sort.
Keating makes self-control focus not on man’s will-power, but the infusion and enlightment that comes as the Spirit inswells in us. No longer do we need to be needed, for we know God has a place for us. We no longer need to be valued by the world, because again – He shows us our value as He sends Jesus to the cross, and to the altar. THe more aware of HIs presence in our lives, the less we are needy for others to recognize us.
Hence the Psalm’s cry, for God to come nearer, for God to include us. It is a cry for that security, that recognition, for the need to be valued.
Luther nails it as well, in describing who should come to the Lord’s Supper. It is the life-hack for those who are empty, broken, feeling worthless, and therefore are out of control. There reconciliation and rehabilitation happen, as God lovingly pours peace into our lives. That is why Luther welcomes believers who are struggling. In fact, he encourages them, reminding them they are the reason the feast exists. He quotes Hilary saying this is where we find life! Even as our life began anew when we were baptized, so we find renewal as the Father gives us Christ’s body and blood.
This is who we are, this is our security, that God Himself has paid the highest cost to make us HIs own people, and brings this reminder to us as often as we are drawn to HIs altar. This is where healing happens, and reconciliation, and where peace is poured out – because we are valued by God. It is where we know best the presence of God, the presence that floods through us and helps us realize – nothing comes close to feeding us like this.
Lord, help us to find our life in You, as we receive Your body and Blood frequently. And may our desire for these moments grow, and overwhelm all other desires as You provide for all our needs. AMEN!
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), 195.
Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar”, 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), 473.