The Church and the Irony of its Worship!

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. 2  I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. 3  I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 (CSBBible)

Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician……
The second thing that is necessary in order to reap great fruit from Communion is, the desire to receive Jesus Christ with the view of loving him more. Gerson says that at this banquet none are satiated but those who feel great hunger.

WE thank Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast remembered Thy congregation, and has set for us, who are upon the earth, a holy table, and instituted this blessed Sacrament. We thank Thee, Thou only Sacrifice for our sin, that Thou Thyself art our Paschal Lamb, and that Thou givest us Thy body to eat and Thy blood to drink, by means of which Thou sealest unto us the riches of Thy grace. Yea, Lord, the bread which we break is the communion of Thy body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of Thy blood. What shall we render Thee for this Thy goodness, in which Thou drawest so near to us, and by which Thou establishest such a divine and heavenly fellowship, in which we are united with Thee and the blessed Trinity?

I do not think the church has grown significantly in the area of worship since Tozer wrote the words in purple. I think worship has become even less efficacious, less potent. The church is less aware of the presence of God, and therefore worship takes on a whole different flavor.

I am part of a church fellowship that is liturgical. I am doing my doctoral studies at a university that is not, that follows what is called “free worship”, not bound to a hymnal, yet still bound to its own traditions, forms and what it includes or does not. What is ironic is that the liturgical church body keeps experimenting with worship that is more like the “free worship” of the Baptists, while the Baptists are looking at regaining the liturgy of ages past.

As I watch these struggles, I am caught between laughing at the irony, being horrified by the lack of opportunity to experience the love of God, and having my heart ripped out by the world that doesn’t know to cry with the psalmist.

My only answer for the dilemna is simple – to allow the people of God to feast!

We need to get back to God feeding them, nourishing them with His word, and with the sacraments that are His “visbile word”. The bread and wine that He has promised are given and shed for us, the feast the de Ligouri (a Roman Catholic Priest) and Loehe (a Lutheran Pastor and Professor) speak of so eloquently.

It is the feast for beggars, it is the meal given to those who are desperately hungry for a justice that isn’t blind, but is merciful. A blessing that leaves those crying out to God, in awe at His work in our lives.

It is from receiving such a gift that worship resounds. Done frequently, the expectation causes voices to sing and pray with conviction. After the reception, like Simeon, the people of God, having experienced the love of God which saves us, cry out with the sweetest joy.

Worship needs to be revived, but as Christ’s presence is preached from the scriptures, and the Sacraments are lovingly administrated, worship is generated without thought.

God is with us!

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 225- 226.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 132–133.

Many Messengers, One Message! An Easter Sermon on 1 Cor. 15:1-11

Many Messengers, One Message
1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Jesus! Son! Risen Savior!

May your gift from God today be more confidence in this message – that Jesus died for your sins, He was buried, and he was raised from the Dead!. And therefore, you are risen in Him! AMEN!

Simple Message!

I came up with an illustration for this morning’s message that would be perfect! It would illustrate the idea of many messengers, one message, it would drive home.

Only one problem, we can’t do it because of social distancing!

Too bad!  We could have defeated the most frustrating team-building exercise in history if only social distancing weren’t an issue!

We could have beaten the classroom game, “telephone!”

You see, the message I would start on this side of the room with would be simple.

“Alleluia! He is Risen!”

And I am 99.9 percent sure that when the message gets over here to Brian, he tells it to me… I will be able to reply. “He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! and therefore…. Therefore…

That message would be remembered!

Remembered like it was in the days following the Resurrection and Pentecost!

Peter shared what he witnessed, the rest of the discipled shared what they witnessed, 500 others would share it, and James, and then by all those sent out with the message. (remind me to talk about that later!) And finally, Paul would encounter the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus…. And it would change everything!

The Message Obscured

There are two reasons teams fail at the telephone game.

The first is that the message is too complex, too complicated.

The second is that the message has absolutely nothing to do with the people passing it.

Let’s say the message is that “Woodworth Cadillac was acquired 46 years ago, and was nominated in 2011 for the Time Dealer of the Year.”  That’s a pretty prestigious nomination! It is a great car dealership. But none of you know where it is!

So if we used that sentence in the telephone game, it would be obscured by the third person it was communicated to.

It is a complex sentence, and except for the Parkers, no one in this church knows the DeLuca family.

If there is a reason the church doesn’t grow in this time and in this place, it is because we make other messages more critical. We talk about politics, and social issues, and sports.

I am not just talking about this church. I am talking about churches in general, so people think that church is nothing more than another location for questionable news and views.

The problem with the church today? It has sinned! What Paul identifies as “most important, and what has been passed on to us” has faded into the background.

We can’t do that anymore!

We have to pass on what has been given to us.

Not because it is an obligation, but because we know the difference it will make in someone’s life, to know God loves them this much.

A simple message…

Alleluia! HE IS RISEN!

  • But, ALLELUIA! HE IS RISEN!

And therefore… I AM RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

Paul continues on,

10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results.

It doesn’t matter to Paul whether he is an apostle, a pastor, an evangelist. The results are what matters.

God pours out the grace, and there are results, and he will claim this,

yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 11 So it makes no difference whether I preach or they preach, for we all preach the exact message you have already believed.

If 20 people lined up to get baptized here this morning, I would not care if Bob brought them, or Tom or Doug or Gerry. There would be 20 people brought here to know God’s love, and that is worth rejoicing over!

It doesn’t matter which one of us God used!  We would have 20 new people to share God’s love with.  It doesn’t matter if they are 4 or 14 or 84 or 94! It doesn’t matter what ethnicity they are or what sins they were delivered from by Jesus!

This message which you already believe, they need to come to believe! That because Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grace, they are being saved. They have been separated from their past and future sin.

Just as we are…. They are saved by the blood of Christ, made alive through the power of the resurrection.

  • This is the Message

This is our message, the one passed on to us and entrusted to us. Not just for us to keep and ponder, but to pass on to those around us.

It meets the two criteria I had for establishing something that could be easily spread and kept correct in the telephone game.

  1. It is simple.  “Alleluia, His is Risen.”

And it concerns you, for, “He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! And therefore We Are Risen indeed, Alleluia!”

Twelve me, some women, 500 people saw then and changed the entire Mediterranean Basin in 50 years. Keeping the message simple and showing people how it affected their lives.

Now the test, I want you to spread it from there to here, from the east to the west!  AMEN!

It is not preaching unless…It is not worship unless…

Come and see the wonders of God; his acts for humanity are awe-inspiring. Psalm 66:5 (CSBBible)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26 (CSBBible)

When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

When somebody inquired whether a person [under the papacy] would be saved if he had not embraced this teaching of ours, he [Martin Luther] replied, “I really don’t know. God might have had regard for his baptism. This could do it. Even so, I have seen many [monks] die with a crucifix held before their eyes [as was then customary]. In spite of everything else, the name [of Christ] proved to be effective on their deathbed.”

When Jesus comes to the soul in Holy Communion, he brings to it every grace, and specially the grace of holy perseverance. This is the principal effect of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, to nourish the soul that receives it with this food of life, and to give it great strength to advance unto perfection, and to resist those enemies who desire our death.

Most of my college professors were focused on reading, studying, and preaching the Bible verse by verse. That is called exegetical preaching. Exegesis is the art of drawing the message from the text. All the professors taught this way,  except one, my preaching professor. He would criticize me to no end, saying that “unless you preach the gospel, you may have given a good message, but you haven’t preached. And that gospel requires you to bring them to the cross. (Doug Dickey, multiple times in 1984-1986. He wanted you to include God’s grace, God’s love, God’s mercy, and if you didn’t – back to the library you went until you did!

I think that needs to be a rule, not only for preaching but for worship. We need to bring the people of God to the cross – We need to be there as well! Oh, do those who preach and lead worship need to come to the cross! We need to see with the Psalmist – the wonders of God as He acts on our behalf!  We need to see Him take on death and destroy it!  We need to see Him triumphant over our sin! That is why the Lord’s Supper explains the giving of Christ’s Body and His Blood shed for us! The entire service needs to focus there to journey with the cross throughout the week! 

The cross needs to be there; the sermon and the sacrament need to draw us to Jesus! Look at the monks Luther describes, as they die, they just wanted to focus on the crucifix, to be in awe of God’s love for His people.

Can you preach verse by verse and still proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? I believe so, but will the cross and the resurrection be your primary focus? The same question may be asked to those who preach topically,
who do a series on marriage or faith. Or those who preach from the pericope, the rotation of verses over 1 or 3 years. You must go to the scriptures, see how they point to Jesus, and work on that passage until you figure out how!  The same as the worship service is formed, how does each song, each reading, each prayer draw people into Christ and make them more aware of His love! Of course, the decision on whether to offer commune fits there as well! Where else is the work of God as manifest at that moment, as people commune with the Body and Blood of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)

It is not preaching unless Christ crucified is revealed, nor is it worship if we are not brought to that cross in awe and celebrate that death was for us. This is why we gather… this is the refreshment given. It is time to celebrate!

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 125.

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), 87–88.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 224.

how to change church….

Devotional Thought of the Day

32  All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33  The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34  There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35  and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. Acts 4:32-35 (NLT2)

To be 100 percent positive would be as fatal as to inhale steadily all your life without exhaling. You can’t do that.…
When the Church inhales the Holy Spirit she must exhale everything that is contrary to Him.

Our evangelizing vocation asks us to cultivate the humility of being stewards, not masters, who assume the reproach and contempt for the cross of Christ in our daily work, in the service of the Son of God who went before us along the way.

The church, in its early days, must have been something to see in action! To watch people, who found unity in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, live out that unity sounds incredible! As you go through history, similar times have
been documented. The church reacted to being freed from hell and the dear of death with unbelievable generosity.

That spirit is the result of lives where the Holy Spirit has breathed life into them. Where a constant diet of God’s presence, of His mercy, of celebrating His love changes them. It is then the church becomes stewards of life and of everything God has given them. As stewards then, their reward is in an investment result that provides the Lord great joy. This investment is a reaction to the blessing of God! It is not a reaction made in fear of salvation but because of the joy of being saved!  Rather than attempting to win God’s favor, one recognizes that they are in God’s favor because of Jesus. This is the life in Christ, the life where the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer, within the church.

That life embraces the challenge; it embraces even martyrdom as Stephen did, knowing that God will use it for good! It, therefore, doesn’t require a triumphant spirit; it doesn’t act condescendingly to those who are unbelievers or of another belief.  This life in Jesus shows them love and desires; as God does that He transforms them.  We are stewards of everything, our assets, our words, our very lives. 

It gives out the gospel because that is all that it has… for that is what it has been fed…and everything else is being expelled. The nicer way to put it is exhaled, but that which is not of God is expelled!  This is the only way to grow the church – to give them Christ, and watch the change He works in them!

The implications of this are huge, for instead of the church focusing on modifying sinners’ behavior, it needs to instead feed them on the love and mercy of Christ. It needs to take the gift of grace and assure people it is theirs, despite the sin that had them bound. Repentance is more the transformation of the heart and mind now cleaned than trying to force yourself to do good. This is our blessing!

This is our life, in Christ!

Lord Jesus, You desire that all are drawn to You. Help us bring them there, as they are, and rejoice with them as they realize that Your resurrection from the dead brings them to life in You.



A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 121.

We Could Not Die Eternally… So He Died: A Good Friday Sermon Worth Reading on Saturday!

We Could Not Die Eternally
So He died…
John 19:28-30

In Jesus Name

May the Death of Jesus prove to you the love of God!

  • Do we “get it.”

You have come here or are watching online because it is Good Friday. Hopefully, that means you know a little about Jesus and why we have a wooden thing hanging over a thing that looks like a table.

Your knowledge has to go deeper than that… and it has to go deeper than he died to pay for your sins.

That is important, but it is the first step on a journey. Perhaps it is better to picture it as having the door opened and being invited into a home built just for you.

What the cross opens up for you is amazing.

A.W. Tozer explained it well,

That life in the Spirit that is denoted by the term “deeper life” is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory may be. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God-consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing.[1]

This is what the cross opens up to us, a life that is acutely aware of the presence of God, and that awareness leaves us in awe, but not in terror.

We know we are welcome.

  • Sin Exists

This is not to say our sin is meaningless. It would take the death of Jesus to atone for it.

Our sin is severe; it is not just waived away as if it was meaningless. The hurt and pain it causes are real. Very real. We can’t just dismiss it, saying that it is dealt with.

We must realize what it could have cost us.

Everything.

We could be heading to hell, the place we deserve, because we chose to separate ourselves from God. We may think it a little sin, or we may know it is a humongous sin.

It’s real, it is no joke, and it is what the death on the cross saves us from, as Jesus took on the burden of all our sin….

Jesus once told the apostles and Peter that the gates of hell could not prevail against the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. In saying that He was saying what comes at the cross, nothing can keep the sinner from being saved, from being rescued, for Christ has broken the power of sin and death.

But what happens next… what does this mean…

How do you make sense of His brutal death?

Especially when he could have stopped it, with the snap of a finger?

  • This is love – we couldn’t

This is what it is all about! This ministry that we have here focuses on the cross, not as the most important thing, but as the entrance into that.

Just as baptism, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper are pipelines of grace, so is the cross a point of grace, the light that shines in the darkness – drawing us to Jesus.

This is the point of God’s love.

He couldn’t let us die eternally; that was not His plan.

We couldn’t die eternally…. So He died…

This is what grace is… this is what love is…

This is God’s desire to spend eternity with you.

Trust Him; he laid it all on the line… so you would know you are loved.

AMEN!


[1] A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

The Early Morning of the Cross: A sermon on Mathew 26:36-47

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

We could not.. so He did!
So Go Ahead and Rest?
Matthew 26:36-47

Jesus! Son! Savior!

May you find in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ God’s grace and experience true peaceful rest!

  • What was Jesus’ Body Language

I wish I was there in the garden.

I wish I could see and hear Jesus as he came back for the third time, and found the disciples asleep, and said,

“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

Was Jesus angry, resigned, disappointed?

Did his voice betray His emotions? Was He so tired and anxious he couldn’t control his feelings?

As importantly, how did the apostles hear this?

How much did they realize that a few days later, they would be guaranteed a rest…

  • They Could Not, Neither Can We!

If there ever was a night for Jesus to be frustrated with the apostles, it was this night.

It starts off with two apostles fighting like 4-year-olds about who gets the best seat, the one next to Jesus. DaVinci thought John won the argument – for he is pictured next to Jesus in his painting of the Last Supper. They argue, and Jesus teaches them a lesson by bending down and washing their feet.

The evening gets worse as Peter once again says that his will and intellect are better than Jesus’. Nope, I am not going to let you care for me, Jesus. Nope, no way in…what was that?  Err… Uhm.. let me re-think that….will you, please, and wash not my feet but everything while you are at!

Then that thing with Jesus, but if you heard the first gospel tonight, which apostle thought he was capable of betraying Jesus? That hit me this week in preparing; each of the disciples thought they could possibly be the one who would betray Jesus…

Sounds like guilty consciousness!

Hmm… I wonder how many of us would have asked?  If you think you would not have, a straightforward question.

Have you betrayed him today? Have you chosen to sin or simply overlooked that what you are doing is sin?

Then you should have said, “is it me, Lord?”

As if that wasn’t enough, they kept falling asleep when the Lord Jesus needed their encouragement.

Finally, after He tells them it is okay to rest… they will run away, deny him and stay their distance.

I am not trying to make you feel guilty, but I want you to understand this… you are not any better than James or John, Peter or Matthew.

We could not avoid sin… and knowing that means we need to rely on the message that has been shared all Lent long.

We could not…so He did…

  • Go Ahead and Rest

With all that, hear Jesus’s words again,

“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

I choose to hear this given the theme. Jesus looks on us weary, broken, crushed by sin, and unable to save ourselves and says that we can rest because He was treated as a sinner by sinners.

What we cannot do, He did, staying awake through the anxiety, through the pain, enduring the wrath of God, and enabling us to dwell in peace.

How stunning it is to hear Him tell us to rest in that case! How grateful we can be for what He has done!  How grateful for what He was doing this night and into the darkness of the morning!

This is the love that makes a difference in our lives! The love that would intentionally do what we cannot because of our sin.

But because He did, we can experience peace, the purest peace, and the love that goes past all understanding.

We need to know this… especially when we are weak, when we are so weary, we can barely focus.

He has not abandoned you or me.

He chose to love us… and do what we could not.

….

SO let’s find that rest, as we let Him once again cleanse us from sin and all unrighteousness, and celebrate as He gives His Body and Blood to sustain us.

Thoughts on the day before the cross: You don’t have to settle for a “victorious Christian Life!” There is something far better!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8  I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 9  No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. 10  For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. 11  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:7-11 (NLT2)

The deeper life has … been called the “victorious life,” but I do not like that term. It appears to me that it focuses attention exclusively upon one feature of the Christian life, that of personal victory over sin, when actually this is just one aspect of the deeper life—an important one, to be sure, but only one.
That life in the Spirit that is denoted by the term “deeper life” is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory may be. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God-consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing.

I have known a few dark times in my life… to be honest, more than a few. I’ve done enough battling wondering why crap happens to me and those I care about. The Psalms explain many of those dark days. matter of fact your can’t praise God, if He wasn’t the one who delivered you from dark days. Such is Psalm 16, as you can’t help noticing the depth of the writer’s pain.

So when I see posts about being victorious, or claiming that life is “better’ with Christ, that everyone in Christ is an overcomer, I take a step back, and want to hear how they are saying this, and how they define victorious, or what it means to overcome.

I resonate deeply then with Tozer’s words, there is something far deeper in life than simply winning a victory or a battle. There is something far deeper, and far more meaningful.

Realizing the presence of God, whether life is victorious or not! Knowing His promise that even if we die, we shall live..

That is more than enough…

Whether life is great or life sucks, the presence of God is going to be there for you. Not to change the situations, but to change us… much as the psalmist described… chaging our focus, remidning us of the promises.

That presence means everything… and I have known it, even the midst of suffering.. (though somedays – need reminding)

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Thoughts 2 days before the cross..

How do you communicate this?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5  Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6  He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7  And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7 (NLT2)

This is the way our Church wants us to be today: men and women freeof compromises, unprejudiced, free of ambitions, and free from ideologies, in other words, men and women of the gospel and only the gospel.

It was not an easy task which the Church faced.… To carry on the work of a man who was known to have died … to persuade others that this man had risen again from the dead and that He was the Son of God and Saviour: this mission was, in the nature of it, doomed to failure from the start. Who would credit such a fantastic story?…

Have you ever needed to have your mind and heart jump-started?

Tozer’s words (in purple) did that for me this morning, and then Pope Francis’s words resonated with them. We have to be gospel-centered people. We have to carry on the work of redeeming the world, the work that Jesus is sending us, just as the Father sent Him.

Imagine being the women sent to proclaim the good news to the disciples!  I am pretty sure they didn’t need to be told to remember – I think the angel’s words would have burnt into the heart, soul, and mind.

“He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead – just as He said would happen!

How do you explain that to those who saw Him tortured and dying on the cross?  Who heard nails driven through his wrists, who saw the spear pierce His side, as the water drain from His taxed lungs, and the heart emptied of the blood that was left…

How do you find the words to make them believe this?

How do we truly believe it, not just as a historical event, but as something that has more impact on our lives than anything else?

Over the next 5 days, I have to preach 4 sermons, all geared to helping people know, to help them dwell upon their union with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. To know they were drawn to Him at the cross, united to Him there through their baptism.  To know He came to them at the celebration of the Eucharist. To understand the intimate fellowship that God wants with His people.

How do we lay everything else aside? How do we communicate this to people who live compromised lives? People who are struggling with realizing their own prejudice? (or being accused of it!) How do we open the eyes who are driven to ambition to gain…what exactly?

To be honest, I cannot compete with all of that, and the greatest preacher doesn’t have any greater chance than you and I. I have to tell them about Jesus. We just have to do it, with lots of prayer, before, during, and after Jesus is talked about. Not praying because it will make us successful, but because it will remind us to depend on the Holy Spirit. For it is the Spirit that will cut open their hearts and open the opportunity for healing.

Let’s remember what the angel told the ladies – and let us go tell all who would follow Him that Jesus is alive! He has risen, just as He said!

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 114.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Thoughts 3 Days before the Cross

Devotional Thoughts for these days

49  When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” 50  And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear. 51  But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:49-51 (NLT2)

How then shall we deal with our problems? First, expect them so you will not be taken off guard. Second, realize that every live body of Christians has its troubles, from Christ and His apostles to the present day, so yours are not unique. Third, pour in copious amounts of love, the best lubricant in the world. Love will reduce friction to a minimum and keep the whole body working smoothly and without injury to its parts.
Where does this love come from? The love of God bursts forth from the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Malchus was his name. A slave of the high priest, one of those brought along
for his muscle. We know this from John’s gospel. John informs us that it was
Peter who took a swing at him and hit him in the ear. (Peter was not a skilled
swordsman!)

An enemy.

Someone ready to do violence to Jesus and His followers.nd Jesus walked up to him and healed him.
Let that sink in; think about it.

Jesus healed Malchus. The man whom the church (as Peter represents) attacked
and brutalized, Jesus healed.

Yes! Peter was afraid! Yes, the man was out to do Jesus and the disciples
harm. Yes, Peter thought he was defending Jesus,

Peter attacked, Peter caused damage to the man. Jesus healed him.

The church today acts more like Peter than we think. We are so afraid of
tribulation, persecution, the world on the attack trying to kill us or
disempower us.

So we launch pre-emptive attacks. We shouldn’t, our fear should be overwhelmed
by our faith, but we do.

The question is, can we see Jesus heal the damage we have done? Can we see
and rejoice in His bringing healing to where we, his followers have spiritually
and mentally mutilated people?

We need to be… we need to grow in faith, and be like the deacon who didn’t
hold Saul or his minions responsilbe for his death. We need to reach out to
those in Nineveh, or like the Naaman the general. We need to love them, and the
only way to do that, is to see Jesus’ love for us. For then we can plea, with a
heart they can see, that they be reconciled to God. That they can see Him heal
them of all unrighteousness.

The gospel is glorious, because Jesus heals Malchus, and restores Peter. For
God so love the world…


A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).


Thoughts 4 Days prior to the Cross…

Thoughts for Monday on Holy Week:

7  No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8  But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NLT2)

To know God, this is eternal life; this is the purpose for which we are and were created. The destruction of our God-awareness was the master blow struck by Satan in the dark day of our transgression.
To give God back to us was the chief work of Christ in redemption. To impart Himself to us in personal experience is the first purpose of God in salvation. To bring acute God-awareness is the best help the Spirit brings in sanctification. All other steps in grace lead up to this.

When the loving Shepherd,Ere he left the earth,
Shed, to pay our ransom,
Blood of priceless worth,—
These his lambs so cherish’d,
Purchased for his own,
He would not abandon
In the world alone.

Ere he makes us partners
Of his realm on high,
Happy and immortal
With him in the sky,—
Love immense, stupendous,
Makes him here below
Partner of our exile
In this world of woe.[1
]

St Paul wrote that the leaders of the world would not have allowed Jesus to
be crucified if they knew the plan of God. The irony is that He had to face
death in order for that plan to be effective. His crucifixion was not just to
pay for our sin.

Tozer explains it well; it is not just to pay for our sins that Jesus died.
It was to impart Himself to us, and the Spirit’s best work is to help us be
acutely aware of the presence of God.
This is what the church has to get
back to, to help people be aware of how God wants to be involved in our life,
to be intimately involved in every part of it. To be able to bring healing,
peace, comfort, and meaning to life as we work, empowered and guided by Him,
together in ministry.

This is where Holy Week is such a blessing, to spend more time at the place
where God grabs our attention. He draws us back to the cross, to the altar, to
the place where we let Him wash our feet and feed us the Lord’s Supper. It is
there we find the blessing that de Ligouri talks about, the fact that Jesus
never leaves us, that He is a partner in our exile.

Realizing this desire for not just a relationship with Jesus, but a deep
intimate one causes devotion to Him and dependence on Him. This isn’t about
being weak and broken and needing the healing that does come in Christ. It is
about what that leads to… what God has planned for us,

to know Him.

Lord, may this Holy Week give us the opportunity to gather around your
altar, to contemplate you sacrifice, and to know Your desire for us to be yours
.


A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

[1] Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 210.

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